The intention of this action project was to set up a Professional Learning Community (PLC) in a school with teachers who were interested in inculcating the practices and principles of Restorative Practice (RP) in their classrooms.
My intention in forming such a PLC was to establish, explore, evaluate and maximise the use of RP in participants’ classrooms. I wanted to investigate its impact of such engagement on relationships, teaching practices and approaches, and how it could offer a stimulus for whole school change. This action research strategy involved twelve actions, many of which evolved iteratively over two cycles. The constructivist approach adopted was appropriate as this work emphasises the importance of working towards a shared construction (an RP school) which can provide the basis for future action (implementation/institutionalisation plan); co-constructing meaning through dialogue, stories, and experiences (assisting a restorative paradigm shift needed). The research methods of journals, focus groups and restorative circles (semi-structured group interviews) served this qualitative research approach.
Our investigation found that the implementation of RP did improve relationships. It promoted empathy and encouraged teachers and students to work together. It developed emotional literacy skills among the participants. Participants gained a sense of ownership over behaviour. There was a change in approach to misbehaviour that had a positive effect on learning and on teachers’ feeling of well-being. The evidence shows that improved relationships often had a positive impact on the work ethic within the classroom. Teachers enjoyed working as a solution focused community of teachers, it helped to reinvent and enhance their best practice through the sharing of ideas. The evidence also showed that the implementation and positive impact of RP is process. It is something that requires repeated, structured and reflective engagement, such as that offered by our PLC.
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