Violence and lack of emotions negatively affect academic and social development of pupils at elementary school and causes them to develop antisocial and aggressive behaviors, depressive symptoms, and poor academic performance. Youth violence and lack of emotions are considered harmful behaviors that in most cases starts early in life and may continue in the adult life. The elementary pupils that lack emotions or have violent behaviors will always show aggression characteristics such as bullying, punching, slapping, and frequent use of stationery or other portable sharp tools as weapons.
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Many researchers have developed informative prevention and promotion programs through their researches such as the social and emotional learning (SEL) and are setting specific for school setting. Students learn in collaboration with peers and teachers and family encouragement. Students’ emotions can enhance or impede their academic performance, commitment, and working ethics. This is because the emotional status determines the relationship an individual develops towards others and affects self-esteem and self-control. Consequently, relationships, self-esteem, and self-control directly affect how an individual learns and acts.
Individuals with inappropriate or violent behaviors lack emotions and cannot fully explain the reasons for displaying those behaviors. It is also difficult for other people to correctly deduce these behaviors. Because of these difficulties, methods have been developed to examine why these people display these inappropriate behaviors. Various procedures have been developed to examine the contributors for behaviors displayed by a person severe cognitive, violent, and communication difficulties and are collectively referred as functional behavioral assessment (FBA). FBA also focuses on determining the reasons for the occurrence of certain behavior in a manner that directs the development of intervention strategies that can effectively.
Following the FBA is the social and emotional learning (SEL). It is the most appropriate evidence based strategy for inappropriate behavior intervention. SEL is important for promoting social-emotional competencies that influence well-being; better academic performance; prevent certain adverse clinical and psychological symptoms associated with poor youth development; increases ability to work well with others, practice acceptable behaviors self-awareness, social awareness, responsible and reasonable decision making, self-management, and relationship skills. FBA and SEL are the most suitable assessment and problem solving approaches respectively.
Evidence, Cause, and Effects of Violence and Lack of Emotion
In the United States, approximately 38% of public schools report at least one incidence of student violence to the police department. A statistical research carried out in 2003 reported that 10% of teachers in city schools, 6% in the suburbs, and 5% in rural schools reported to the police department of student-inflicted injury (Benson, 2006). A nationwide survey conducted in 2007 reported that 5.9% of the 9-12 graders carried small weapons such as clubs, knives and pistols to school and 7.8% of the students reported to have been threatened or injured by such weapons (Durlak et al., 2011; Benson, 2006). In the same study, 12.4% of the students fought within the school premises12 months prior to the study.
Social, emotional, and moral and academic status of a student strongly affect teaching and learning in schools (Zins, Weissberg, Wang, & Walberg, 2004). A student cannot learn alone but rather in collaboration with peers and teachers, which has to be enhanced by family encouragement. Students’ emotions can enhance or impede their academic performance, commitment, and working ethics. This is because the emotional status determines the relationship an individual develops towards others and affects ones self-esteem and self-control. Consequently, relationships, self-esteem, and self-control influence how an individual learns and acts. In this regard, schools and parents have an important role of promoting positive relationships and emotions (Elias et al., 1997).
However, some students lack emotions and promote negative relationships through violent behaviors despite the presence of teachers and parents in their lives. Lack of social emotions competence causes them to become less connected to teachers and peers as they progress with their elementary education (Learning First Alliance, 2001). In a national survey carried out in the United States on 148,189 students in grade 6-12, 29% noted that their schools provided an encouraging environment for them. An analysis carried out on its sub-samples indicated that 29-45% of each sub-population had social competences such as conflict resolution skills and empathy (Benson, 2006). This outcome indicates that elementary schools provide inadequate social skills thus impending students’ academic performance and future social development. For instance, Klem and Connel (2004) note that 40-60% of high school students are chronically disengaged from school. This disengagement is noted to gradually develop from their elementary-schools period.
Other studies have indicated that approximately 30% of high school students engage in at least one inappropriate behavior such as youth violence, suicide attempts, substance abuse, and sex (Eaton et al., 2008). All these inappropriate behaviors have been linked to poor academic performance. In both elementary and high school levels, inappropriate behavior and academic performance affect one another reciprocally. This is because, once inappropriate behavior disengage the student from school, the student would perform poorly in his/her academics. Subsequently, this would discourage academic commitment and eventually shift the student’s focus to non-school activities promoted by the inappropriate behavior. A cycle results where the more the student engages in problem behavior, the poorer the academic performance becomes, and eventual dwindling morale shifts personal commitment away from school.
Collaborative classroom strategies and effects
Individuals with inappropriate or violent behaviors cannot fully explain the reasons for displaying those behaviors. Additionally, it is difficult for other people to correctly deduce these behaviors. Such difficulties necessitated development of methods to examine why these people display these inappropriate behaviors. For instance, functional behavioral assessments (FBAs) examines the contribution of the person’s cognitive and communication impairments (McIntyre, n.d.). FBAs are primarily derived from investigatory procedures for orientation and behavior analysis. They involve conducting ethnographic experiments, data collection, evaluation of the effects of environment variables on certain behaviors, and deriving appropriate behavioral inferences based on the data. FBA also focuses on determining the reasons for the occurrence of certain behavior in a manner that directs the development of intervention strategies. Addressing such reasons helps the affected individuals to change their behaviors and meet the social needs.
In a classroom setting, the inappropriate behaviors of students disrupt the acquisition and retention of instructions; teachers are thus often required to manipulate the conditions and events that follow the inappropriate behavior (Durlak et al., 2011; McIntyre, n.d.). In most cases, teachers use verbal reprimands, suspensions, isolation, and detention of the culprits. Various FBA experiments indicate failure of these approaches to teach or instill appropriate behaviors to the affected students (McIntyre, n.d.). The experiments suggest that such approaches only make the students to respond to the consequences of their actions but do not inform the student of the reasons that made them to misbehave; accordingly, the do not instill knowledge that can help the student develop good behaviors (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2007). This led to the development of classroom interventions that aims at identifying the causes and purposes of misbehaviors, thus foster implementation of strategies to learn replacement behaviors.
Inappropriate behaviors of students may appear similar but each case may have different causes and serve different purposes. Using approaches of FBA, teachers and parents can understand or differentiate the causes and functions of the inappropriate behavior in related cases and thus help them to develop effective intervention plans that reduce or eliminate those behaviors. This enables the caregivers to replace the problematic behavior with acceptable one(s) that serve the same or new functions. In this regard, FBA is a practical approach that occurs within a specific condition to serve a specific function.
Experiments have shown that students change their behaviors only if the intervention mechanisms effectively and efficiently address the target problem to produce desired results (McIntyre, n.d.). This strongly involves the identification of the cause and purpose of the misbehavior that includes the detection of what the student gains, controls, or avoids (students perceived benefits) by displaying those behaviors. The detection of these factors provides sufficient information that is essential to come up with effective instructional interventions. In this regard, FBA is not a punitive mechanism but a problem solving plan that affect more than the behaviors. For instance, it limits the creation of conflict between the teacher and student and does not affect the performance of the student negatively when compared with approaches such as suspension and isolation.
FBA also allows the identification of specific social, cognitive, affective, and environmental factors that could be playing the secondary roles in the occurrence of the displayed behavior thus provides for broader perspective analysis. The broad perspective allows for better understanding of the problem and thus allows the construction of intervention plan that addresses each of the wide ranged contributors. Therefore, FBA is the foundation of better intervention process. Educators have been urged to prioritize and utilize evidence based strategies to achieve these anticipated results from students (Durlak et al., 2011). Considering the fact that inappropriate behaviors such as youth violence and lack of emotions are one of the greatest contributors of poor social development and academic achievement, the most appropriate evidence based strategy that is universal in application is the social and emotional learning (SEL). This is because the SEL has been documented as the most effective problem solving approach for enhancing success in the academic and social aspects of the students following the correct FBA (Elias et al., 1997).
Intervention: Social and emotional learning
Research that led to the development and acceptance of SEL approach highlighted the importance of social-emotional competencies for influencing well-being and better academic performance and lack of these competencies is associated with multiple social, academic, and personal difficulties (Eisenberg, 2006). It is also evident through clinical and psychological research that certain adverse clinical and psychological symptoms associated with poor youth development can be prevented by implementing SEL in schools (Greenberg et al., 2003). The mechanism of SEL entail promotion of social and emotional competencies and reducing the risk factors that impede youth development i.e. mechanisms that facilitate protection and positive adjustment in youth development (Durlak et al., 2011; Guerra & Bradshaw, 2008).
SEL enables the students acquire valuable competencies that enable them to recognize and manage their emotions, set positive goals that they pursue till they are achieved, create and manage positive relationships, become affective, and develop and display acceptable behaviors. SEL manages to mold these competencies in students because it focuses on the achievement of five interrelated goals that include self-awareness, social awareness, responsible and reasonable decision making, self-management, and relationship skills (Durlak et al., 2011; Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, 2003). Once an individual develop these competencies, he/she eventually adjusts academic performance positively. SEL has been studied to simultaneously influence positive adjustment of academic performance and promising social behaviors that include reduction of emotion distress and risks of encountering social problems and improved grades and test scores (Payton et al., 2008; Durlak et al., 2011). It is also evident that SEL competencies changes individuals’ response i.e. from being controlled by external/environmental factors to state of responding and acting to internalized values and believes (Durlak et al., 2011). For instance, in school setting the SEL competencies would enable the students’ responds and act to social and educational strategies as directed to personal believes, values, and talents, which enhance better academic performance and youth development.
It is important to note that youths with better academic performance and youth development cannot develop violent behavior or lack emotions. Additionally, those with violent behaviors or lack social emotions can undergo SEL and replace the inappropriate behaviors with SEL competencies. This can be effectively achieved if evidence based assessment approach (FBA) is used to identify the cause and purpose of the problem. Most scholars of students academics and behaviors have helped to build a consensus through their researches that educators, parents, and policy makers have an additional responsibility of developing the social and emotional status of the students that will improve the prevailing conditions that include academic proficiency, ability to work well with others that entail developing the social and emotional skills, practice acceptable behaviors, which are also competencies of SEL. Thus, the use of SEL in elementary schools helps students to learn to behave in a manner that satisfy the needs of all the affected parties (i.e. the students and teachers/parents) by providing desired outcome. Therefore, evidence based approaches FBA and SEL are the most suitable assessment and problem solving approaches respectively for students that lack emotions or with violent behaviors.