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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Talking in circles: A mixed methods study of school-wide restorative practices in two urban middle schools
by Brown, Martha A., Ph.D., Florida Atlantic University, 2015, 394; 10154934
Abstract (Summary)

This mixed methods, multisite case study examined the relational ecology of two urban middle schools that had adopted school-wide restorative practices (SWRPs) and the changes that occurred as a result of the reform initiative. The study was conducted in two Title I middle schools in the Oakland Unified School District in California. A positive relational ecology existed in these two urban middle schools which was built on the interacting and interrelated themes of relational trust, being heard, a relational-based, student-centered culture, and a commitment to the principles of social justice. The positive relational ecology created a strong foundation upon which change could occur at the organizational, individual, and pedagogical levels. Various structures within the schools, including circles, instructional leadership teams, student councils, and peer mediation, created space for teachers and students to be heard and empowered, which subsequently facilitated change and growth for many administrators, teachers, and students. High turnover, lack of initial and ongoing training, and the development of quasi- or non-restorative processes jeopardized program fidelity. Findings revealed that in these restorative schools, relational ecology and change were inseparable, and that they moved and influenced each other. A positive relational ecology created an environment that enabled leaders and staff to feel safe as they embarked on the journey of change. Changes in the ways that members of the school communities related to each other on a daily basis provided additional motivation to continue the change effort, and these changes then in turn strengthened the relational ecologies. Findings of this study are significant and have implications for schools and school districts, policy makers, and teacher and leader education. Future research should include longitudinal, mixed methods studies that assess the school culture before and after implementing SWRPs, as well as experimental or quasi-experimental designs that compare restorative and non-restorative schools. Such studies may provide more empirical evidence that links healthy relational ecologies to student achievement, less teacher turnover, decreased conflict, and healthier communities, thereby strengthening the case for rejecting punitive and discriminatory zero tolerance school discipline policies and adopting restorative justice in education instead.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Burnaford, Gail
School: Florida Atlantic University
School Location: United States -- Florida
Source: DAI-A 78/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Middle School education, Multicultural Education, Pedagogy, Education Policy, School administration
Keywords: Organizational chagne, Restorative justice, School culture, School discipline, School reform, Zero tolerance
Publication Number: 10154934
ISBN: 978-1-369-10019-8
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