Addressing challenging behaviours of students in school classrooms: beyond the learnt theories and models

Megan Adams, Sindu George

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


In Australia, it has been reported that approximately 20% of preservice teachers (PSTs) do not enter the profession and between 8-30% of graduate teachers leave the profession within the first five years (Weldon, 2018). Australia’s position is not an isolated case; retaining a quality teacher workforce is of global concern. The retention of teachers is complex and multifaceted. Longstanding and more recent studies indicate that challenging student behaviors in classrooms is a key reason for PSTs to leave the profession. There are limited studies that focus on understanding the types of behaviors that PSTs find most challenging, and there is limited direction that provides the necessary support by understanding PSTs concerns, attitudes, and overall perceptions about challenging behaviors. Therefore, there is an urgent need to understand PSTs’ perspectives regarding working with learners in classrooms displaying challenging behaviours, and to be responsive to their needs.
The current paper discusses findings from a longitudinal mixed method study from Victoria, Australia. Beginning in 2019, successive cohorts of PSTs completing the Master of Teaching course have been surveyed. The conceptual model of ‘engagement through partnership’ (Healey, Flint, & Harrington, 2014) was drawn upon to understand how to best support PSTs as they transition into the teaching profession. The PSTs were invited to provide examples of the type of behaviours they would consider as highly challenging and may make them leave the profession. Over three successive years, response to the survey were over 50% N = 210 (2019), 156 (2020), 128 (2021), and 116 (2022). There were four main categories reported which would contribute to PSTs leaving the profession.
The quantitative survey measured the PSTs’ perceptions, specifically their efficacy, concerns, sentiments, and attitude related to addressing challenging behaviours of students in schools, using Expectancy–Value theory (Eccles et al., 1983) as the overarching theoretical framework. Subscales from two established scales were adapted and the validation process along with the preliminary findings are discussed. The higher rating of PSTs’ positive attitude and lower rating on sentiments were the common trends from 2019 to 2022. Despite their higher efficacy, the participants were highly concerned about their knowledge and skills to address the needs and demands of learners displaying challenging behaviours and the associated workload. Findings have implications for ways to be responsive to PSTs perceived needs and to direct changes for planning and implementing the curriculum for initial teacher education courses.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventInternational Conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education 2022: Transforming the Future of Education: The Role of Research - University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
Duration: 28 Nov 20221 Dec 2022


ConferenceInternational Conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education 2022
Abbreviated titleAARE 2022
Internet address


  • challenging behaviours
  • school classrooms
  • preservice teachers
  • theories and models

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