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Teaching Social Skills as a Proactive Discipline Management Strategy: Experiences of Selected Secondary Schools in Bulawayo Metropolitan Province, Zimbabwe

Abstract

The study examined how secondary schools use proactive teaching social skills strategy to maintain discipline among learners in Bulawayo Metropolitan Province. The study was ingrained in interpretive paradigm, adopted qualitative approach and employed a case study design. Purposive sampling technique was used to select four secondary schools and participants who comprised two education officers, four school heads; four school counsellors, twenty members of the disciplinary committee, forty prefects and four school development committee chairpersons. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews and focus group interviews, and were analysed thematically. The study established that learners were taught social skills during guidance and counselling lessons and club sessions which were part of the co-curricular programmes offered in schools. It was found that the topics taught during the teaching of social skills included conduct, relationships, community involvement; decision-making skills, communication skills, drug and substance abuse, career guidance, stress management, honesty and integrity, conflict resolution, assertiveness, self-awareness and health issues, among others. The study also revealed that some learners were engaged in community activities to reach out to underprivileged members of the society. The results further indicated that the teaching social skills strategy was effective because it taught learners to be responsible for their behaviour and contributed to the reduction of unbecoming behaviour cases in schools. Nevertheless, the teaching social skills strategy faced constraints mainly from some teachers' and parents' negative attitudes towards social skills activities. The study concluded that the use of proactive teaching social skills strategy yielded positive results as schools exposed learners to multiple activities that contributed to the modification of learner behaviour which created a safe teaching and learning environment. The study recommended that schools should intensify the training programmes for teachers and parents to positively influence their attitudes towards the teaching of social skills in order to reinforce positive behaviour among learners.
American Journal of Educational Research, 2018, Vol. 6, No. 12, 1636-1645
Available online at http://pubs.sciepub.com/education/6/12/8
©Science and Education Publishing
DOI:10.12691/education-6-12-8
Teaching Social Skills as a Proactive Discipline
Management Strategy: Experiences of
Selected Secondary Schools in Bulawayo
Metropolitan Province, Zimbabwe
Lwazi Sibanda*
Department of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, National University of Science and Technology,
P. O. Box AC 939-Ascot-Bulawayo, Cnr. Gwanda Road/Cecil Avenue, Zimbabwe
*Corresponding author: lwazi.sibanda@nust.ac.zw
Received September 20, 2018; Revised November 01, 2018; Accepted December 18, 2018
Abstract The study examined how secondary schools use proactive teaching social skills strategy to maintain
discipline among learners in Bulawayo Metropolitan Province. The study was ingrained in interpretive paradigm,
adopted qualitative approach and employed a case study design. Purposive sampling technique was used to select
four secondary schools and participants who comprised two education officers, four school heads; four school
counsellors, twenty members of the disciplinary committee, forty prefects and four school development committee
chairpersons. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews and focus group interviews, and were analysed
thematically. The study established that learners were taught social skills during guidance and counselling lessons
and club sessions which were part of the co-curricular programmes offered in schools. It was found that
the topics taught during the teaching of social skills included conduct, relationships, community involvement;
decision-making skills, communication skills, drug and substance abuse, career guidance, stress management,
honesty and integrity, conflict resolution, assertiveness, self-awareness and health issues, among others. The study
also revealed that some learners were engaged in community activities to reach out to underprivileged members of
the society. The results further indicated that the teaching social skills strategy was effective because it taught
learners to be responsible for their behaviour and contributed to the reduction of unbecoming behaviour cases in
schools. Nevertheless, the teaching social skills strategy faced constraints mainly from some teachers’ and parents’
negative attitudes towards social skills activities. The study concluded that the use of proactive teaching social skills
strategy yielded positive results as schools exposed learners to multiple activities that contributed to the modification
of learner behaviour which created a safe teaching and learning environment. The study recommended that schools
should intensify the training programmes for teachers and parents to positively influence their attitudes towards the
teaching of social skills in order to reinforce positive behaviour among learners.
Keywords: discipline management, proactive, secondary schools, strategy, teaching social skills
Cite This Article: Lwazi Sibanda, “Teaching Social Skills as a Proactive Discipline Management Strategy:
Experiences of Selected Secondary Schools in Bulawayo Metropolitan Province, Zimbabwe.” American Journal
of Educational Research, vol. 6, no. 12 (2018): 1636-1645. doi: 10.12691/education-6-12-8.
1. Introduction
The incidences of untoward learner behaviour reported
in schools worldwide have resulted in extensive research
by various scholars in a bid to find out the causes of such
behaviour and develop suitable intervention strategies to
assist teachers to effectively manage their classes during
instructional delivery. Considering the prevailing situation
where emphasis is on human rights and children’s rights,
the world is turning more towards proactive strategies of
upholding discipline in schools. A proactive response to
discipline is in direct contrast to prevalent reactive
practices for managing behaviour which encompass corporal
punishment, loss of privileges, detention, reprimands, and
fines [1]. Nonetheless, disciplining learners has demonstrated
to be a huge task for schools especially in using punitive
versus supportive disciplinary strategies [2]. Current research
studies pertaining to discipline strategies, however, have
shown that punitive strategies seem to be of limited worth
in enhancing responsible learner behaviour and should be
substituted by proactive and interactive discipline practices
[3,4]. Accordingly, without school-wide discipline plans,
schools will continue to rely on reactionary methods,
such as suspension, which have been found to impact
negatively on offending learners as they are removed
from productive learning environments [1]. As a way of
providing quality learning atmosphere and promoting
learner and teacher safety, schools put much emphasis on
American Journal of Educational Research 1637
effectively managing and reducing learner discipline problems.
It has been observed that learners’ accomplishment in life
and academic success are most effective when minimal
behaviour problems exist in schools [5]. Disruptive learner
behaviours may hinder the teaching and learning process.
It is, therefore, the responsibility of the school administration
to provide an environment that is both physically and
emotionally safe for teachers and learners. Thus, the
unbecoming behaviour of learners, results in school
personnel spending a lot of time and resources dealing
with learner discipline issues [6]. Hence, it is essential that
disciplinary measures adopted by schools should teach
learners self-control or self-regulation based on a contract
that binds the teacher and learners together so that
learning can be more effective. Such proactive methods
should instil responsibility in learners to ensure that
appropriate behaviour is manifested in the teaching and
learning environment [3]. Consequently, there is need to
find out how schools employ teaching social skills as a
proactive strategy to manage discipline.
2. Background
Many countries worldwide have embarked on a paradigm
shift in terms of maintaining discipline in schools. It has
been observed that because of lack of knowledge in
effective discipline intervention strategies, most teachers,
in an attempt to manage learner behaviour, resort to
reactive approaches that focus on immediately terminating
challenging behaviour through aversive consequences [7].
Studies have revealed that teachers repeatedly use verbal
reprimands, negative stares, threats, time-outs, and physical
force or restraints to suppress challenging learner behaviour
[8]. Although these reactive strategies are easy to use and
can help to control ill behaviour among learners, the
strategies have proved to be ineffective [7]. A study
conducted by [9] in United States of America (USA) has
revealed that despite of their nationality, all learners who
participated in the study perceived punitive discipline
strategies to be related to distraction from schoolwork and
shaping their feeling towards their teachers [3]. Hence, in
an effort to reduce inappropriate learner behaviour and
improve academic achievement, many schools globally
have initiated proactive, positive approaches, in place of
reactive, punitive ones [5].
One such proactive approach is teaching social skills to
learners in order for schools to create safe and effective
learning environments. Social skills can be defined as a
range of interactive behaviours that enable an individual to
relate with others in ways that result in positive
interactions [8]. To elaborate further, social skills are
proactive strategies taught to learners to ensure that they
obtain the necessary skills required to function socially in
society, for example, anger management, conflict resolution,
empathy, problem-solving and many others [10,11].
Learners with discipline problems are often rejected by
their peers and do not have the opportunity to learn
appropriate social skills through normal peer interaction
[12]. These learners often turn to disruptive or acting-out
behaviour. Providing them with the opportunity to learn
and practice social skills can break the negative interaction
cycle [13].
Research commissioned by the Welsh Government
in 2008 has indicated that learners who participate
in decision-making enjoy enhanced self-esteem and
motivation, gain important personal and social skills. Such
learner involvement leads to better relationships, more
relevant and effective learning. Thus, resulting in learners
and adults working together as partners to ensure that their
school provides the best possible learning environment
for all. In such a scenario, learners are involved in their
own learning, and feel that they have a stake in their
learning community [14]. Reference [15] confirms that
assisting learners learn how to get along with others is
a crucial strategy in building a caring and safe school
culture. While many learners come to school with
some social skills already in place, most learners benefit
from direct teaching of appropriate social skills, such
as thinking before acting, listening, establishing and
maintaining relationships, dealing with feelings, accepting
consequences, and dealing with peer pressure. Reference
[16] concurs that proactive schools recognise that just as
academic skills can be taught, so can appropriate social
skills. These schools incorporate social skills lessons into
their daily activities and routines. They emphasise civility,
and they model the qualities they want to develop in their
learners.
It is imperative to note that some learners require
individual interventions to address their social skills
deficits. Social skills instruction is most effective when
approaches chosen are tailored to meet the learner’s
individual needs. Individual skills that require attention
are identified and prioritised by the teacher. The teacher
then uses a structured teaching process with the learner.
Teaching the learner to produce social behaviours is not
enough. The focus of social skills instruction must be the
generalisation of learned social behaviours across settings,
time, and behaviour [10].
Consistent modelling, teaching, and reinforcement of
positive social skills, is an important part of successfully
encouraging positive social behaviour among learners,
helping to enhance learners’ self-control, respect for the
rights of others, and sense of responsibility for their own
actions [15]. This, therefore, suggests that teaching social
skills to learners like academic subjects will make learners
conscious of the importance of good conduct. Hence,
schools will experience minimal cases of ill-behaviour.
As a way of maintaining discipline, [17] further advises
that schools should provide multiple opportunities for
learners to apply skills of social and moral problem-solving
and responsible behaviour. Such opportunities should include
class meetings in which classroom and school-wide
problems are addressed; meaningful learner government
activities (for example, helping others in the community);
programmes and activities for conflict resolution, peer
mediation, service learning, and cooperative learning; as
well as sports and extracurricular activities.
In the United States of America, a variety of programmes
and strategies have been developed to assist learners in
finding alternative ways to deal with discipline and
behavioural issues. These programmes are delivered in a
proactive, preventative approach to classrooms or small
groups of learners [10]. These interventions that help
learners with emotional/behavioural disorders and social
skills deficits have potential to significantly improve
1638 American Journal of Educational Research
school-wide behaviour and safety [18]. Reference [19]
give Resolving Conflict Creatively Programme (RCCP) as
an example of a social-cognitive intervention in which
learners are taught conflict resolution through modelling,
role playing, interviewing, and small group work. The
fifty-one weekly lessons are used to teach skills such as
communication, listening, self-expression, cooperation,
recognising the value of diversity, and countering bias.
Training is an essential component of RCCP programme.
Teachers receive training and on-going support to
facilitate their integration of concepts and skills into the
existing curriculum. In addition, school administrators,
support staff, and parents receive training in conflict
resolution techniques consistent with those imparted
to teachers. A selected group of students receive peer
mediation training.
Reference [19] further maintain that a comprehensive
review of research reveal that the social-cognitive
approach used within RCCP was effective for all age
groups of learners in reducing crime, anti-social behaviour,
and conduct problems. Specifically related to RCCP,
results were promising when the teachers received a
moderate amount of training and assistance, covered half
of the lessons or more, and had a low number of peer
mediators in their class. Learners in these classes were
significantly less hostile. Furthermore, learner pro-social
behaviour increased, as compared to learners in classrooms
where teachers taught fewer RCCP lessons and relied on
relatively more peer mediators.
The issue of teaching conflict resolution skills is critical
if schools are to successfully manage the behaviour
of learners. Conflict resolution is an important feature
of both personal and inter-personal relations. Conflict
resolution ends disputes before they lead to physical
fighting. The most common type of conflict amongst
learners is inter-personal, which is conflict between two or
more people. These conflicts may take the form of
put-downs (insults), teasing, fights, turn-taking problems,
and conflicts regarding playground opportunities, access
to or possession of materials, and even academic work.
These conflicts arise especially from bullying, and the
conflicts can escalate rapidly if they are not negotiated or
mediated [20,21]. As a result, learners should be taught
compromise and collaboration. These skills will help
learners to develop into well-balanced human beings who
can resolve conflict without resorting to violent actions [20].
In the most comprehensive evaluation of conflict resolution
to date, [13] reported that conflict resolution and peer
mediation have been successful in reducing school
suspension and improving maintenance of discipline in
schools.
In Zimbabwe, the United Nations Convention on
Child’s Rights of 1989 and the Constitution of Zimbabwe
of 2013 guidelines are observed by schools when employing
discipline strategies. Through the Ministry of Primary and
Secondary Education (MOPSE) schools are encouraged to
adopt proactive discipline management strategies as they
deal with learners’ untoward behaviour. To ensure that
schools manage learners’ behaviour problems as expected,
MOPSE has provided to all schools Permanent Secretary’s
Policy Circular Number P 35 of 1999 which originated
from Statutory Instrument 362 of 98 as a guide on how to
deal with discipline issues [22].
Regardless of the efforts made by MOPSE, some
dissatisfaction has been heard from various stakeholders
proclaiming that the safety of learners was not certain in
schools as they were repeatedly subjected to punitive
discipline strategies [2,4,23,24]. In view of the concerns
raised informally by a number of stakeholders and media,
there is no clear evidence as to how schools use teaching
social skills as a proactive strategy to manage the
behaviour of learners. It is in light of the foregoing debate
that this study envisioned to examine how the teaching
social skills strategy is used to manage discipline in
selected Bulawayo Metropolitan Province Secondary
Schools.
3. Research Question
The study was guided by the succeeding research
question:
How are secondary schools employing the teaching
social skills strategy to manage discipline in Bulawayo
Metropolitan Province?
4. Objective of the Study
The objective of the study was to examine how secondary
schools employ the teaching social skills strategy to
manage discipline in Bulawayo Metropolitan Province.
5. Methods
The study was entrenched in interpretive research
paradigm because of its strengths that come from its
naturalistic approach where a researcher understands the
motives, meanings, reasons and other subjective experiences
which are time and context bound [25]. Qualitative
approach was embraced as it assisted the researcher to
make sense of, or to interpret, phenomena in terms of the
meaning participants bring to them [26]. A case study
design was chosen because it exposed the researcher to
in-depth understanding of the phenomenon understudy
within its real-life context through interaction with the
participants in their natural setting [27,28]. The participants
who composed of four school heads, four school counsellors,
and two education officers, twenty members of the
disciplinary committee, forty prefects and four school
development committee chairpersons were purposively
selected as a study sample. Data were gathered using
semi-structured face to face interviews with school heads,
school counsellors and school development committee
chairpersons, and focus group interviews with members of
the disciplinary committee and prefects. The data were
coded, transcribed and thematically analysed to answer the
research question [28].
To enhance the credibility and trustworthiness of the
results of the study, the researcher audio recorded
interview sessions to ensure precise reflection of the
participants’ opinions, transcribed interviews verbatim and
presented thick descriptions of the data from multiple
sources [29]. As for ethical considerations, the issues of
consent, honest, privacy and confidentiality, as well as
American Journal of Educational Research 1639
protection from harm were considered by the researcher in
data collection, management and reporting.
6. Results
Developing the learner holistically is one of the
schools’ mandates. This could be achieved if learners
are exposed to various social skills. Exposing learners
to social skills has a positive impact on learners’
behaviour. Hence, the teaching of social skills is one of
the proactive strategies that contribute positively to the
maintenance of discipline in schools. The participants’
views on this proactive discipline management strategy
are presented under respective sub-themes below. The
participants were coded as follows: SH1-SH4=School
Heads, EO1-EO2=Education Officers, SC1-SC4=School
Counsellors, SDC1-SDC4=School Development Committee
Chairpersons, FGDC1-FGDC4=Focus Group interview for
Members of the Disciplinary Committee and FGP1-FGP4
=Focus Group interview for Prefects.
6.1. Teaching of Social Skills in Schools
The participants were asked to give an overview of how
social skills were taught in schools. In response, most of
the participants concurred that the teaching of social skills
in schools was done mainly through clubs and guidance
and counselling lessons. Some of their responses are
presented below.
SH1: The teaching of social skills is done either
through clubs or through guidance and counselling
lessons. They do a lot on how to deal with different
behaviours in guidance and counselling lessons.
SH2: I think teaching of social skills is done in a
number of ways; there are guidance and counselling
lessons which cover a lot of ground concerning social
skills. There are also some clubs such as public speaking,
debate and quiz clubs, and drama club where the learners
dramatize what is happening at home, for example,
domestic violence, how to deal with it and who is affected,
such issues.
SH3: Social skills are done through clubs, for example,
Boy Empowerment Movement (BEM)/Girl Empowerment
Movement (GEM) club that is what they concentrate on,
they do things which will benefit them in terms of
behaviour, in terms of life, they also engage in community
activities. At one time they mobilised the community
around and cleaned the environment and of late they took
part in cleaning the market situated at the shopping centre,
this activity was organised by the local business person.
The members of the disciplinary committee were also
asked to give their opinions regarding the same question
and their responses echoed the same sentiments with those
of school heads. This is what was said,
FGDC1: The teaching of social skills is done through
guidance and counselling lessons, and public speaking.
FGDC2: The teaching of social skills in the school is
done through clubs e.g. junior police, junior air cadets,
Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, grassroots soccer club, HIV/ADS
club.
Responding to the same question, the school counsellors
were also in agreement with the views of school heads and
members of the disciplinary committee. For instance, they
responded as follows,
SC1: Social skills are taught through guidance and
counselling lessons, at assemblies and also through clubs.
SC4: Social skills are taught under guidance and
counselling lessons. I think it is important for learners, we
always emphasise as the guidance and counselling
department that it does not have weight to teach the
learner to be an engineer yet that learner does not have
social skills and will be rejected by the society. So you
should build an individual who is holistic who will be able
to integrate into the society and be able to make decisions
which society expects. Social skills are also taught
through clubs, e.g. AIDS club, Interact club, Sesikhathele
club, Scripture Union, etc.
SC2: The teaching of social skills is done but it has not
reached much advanced level. Yes, learners at advanced
level are taught communication skills and in guidance and
counselling there are topics covering that, e.g., the
attributes of “Ubuntu” humanity. It is also taught through
clubs e.g. Interact club, BEM/GEM club and many other
clubs. Though we feel we should be doing more so that all
the learners are involved in the clubs.
On the same issue, the prefect participants’ responses
concurred stating that,
FGP1: Social skills are taught through guidance and
counselling lessons and through clubs, e.g., Interact Club,
BEM/GEM. Some facilitators are also invited.
FGP3: The teaching of social skills in the school is done
through clubs, peer education and during guidance and
counselling lessons.
The SDC chairpersons were also asked to give their
observations on the same issue; it is evident from their
responses that a few had an idea on how social skills are
taught in schools. Their answers to the question are
presented below.
SDC1: I think social skills are taught during lessons.
SDC2: Social skills are taught through clubs like
debate club, culture club, and many others. All learners
are encouraged to be a member of at least one club in the
school.
SDC3: I am not sure how the teaching of social skills is
done at the school.
SDC4: It is not done that much.
Regarding the same question, the Education Officers’
responses were in support of the majority of other
participants’ responses. Thus, their responses are presented
below.
EO1: Other areas that are not covered in the academic
subjects is mainly through guidance and counselling and
also addressed by other stakeholders who come in to
schools, invited by schools to address learners.
EO2: Well, it is taught through guidance and
counselling lessons and in the clubs as well because in
these clubs learners are exposed to some challenging
tasks that they have to sometimes sit down as a group and
work on and then make presentations.
Nonetheless, participants’ responses revealed that schools
experienced challenges in implementing the teaching
social skills strategy to maintain discipline. Data showed
that the attitudes of some teachers and some parents were
barriers to implementation of teaching social skills strategy.
Examples of participants’ responses are as follows,
1640 American Journal of Educational Research
FGDC4: The teaching of social skills sometimes
depends on the attitude of the teacher because the
learners might want to attend social skills activities but
the teacher might want the learners to focus on the
academic subjects because learners are not examined on
the social skills, so it is a big challenge.
FGDC2: Some parents might not appreciate the value
of social skills because of bias they have towards
academic subjects. As a result they discourage their
children to take part in club activities.
It is evident that selected schools used the teaching
social skills strategy to maintain discipline. This is done
mainly through clubs and guidance and counselling
lessons. It emerged that all learners are encouraged to be
members of at least one club in the school so that no
learner is left out. It was also mentioned that learners are
involved in community service which stimulates a sense of
responsibility on learners. As learners participate in such
activities, their behaviour is moulded. Thus, selected
schools notice the importance of developing the social
attributes of learners in employing teaching social skills
strategy to maintain discipline.
6.2. Topics Included in the Teaching of Social
Skills
For the schools to effectively maintain discipline, it is
essential that they identify appropriate topics to be taught
to learners as they apply teaching social skills strategy.
This will make learners realise the value of being involved
in social skills activities at the same time shaping learner
behaviour in a positive way. The participants were asked
to give an insight into the aspects that were included in
teaching social skills in schools. It emerged from the
participants’ responses that various topics were covered to
equip learners with social skills. Examples of participants’
responses are as follows:
SH1: At times they look at personal grooming and
relationships since they are now at the adolescence stage.
How to handle their emotions at adolescence stage, love
affairs which they engage in, they talk about pregnancies,
we will be equipping them on what they should do when
they are sexually active.
SH2: We focus on communication skills, drug and alcohol
abuse, career guidance, decision-making, relationships,
domestic violence.
SH3: The aspects taught include conduct, survival skills,
relationships, community involvement and decision-making
skills among others.
The members of the disciplinary committee also concurred
with the school heads when they said,
FGDC1: We teach them team work, responsibility, good
decision making, negotiations and critical thinking, stress
management, health and life skills, honesty and integrity.
FGDC2: They are taught interactive aspects, that is,
how to interact effectively with other people, tolerance,
self-sufficiency, relationships, self-esteem and many others.
FGDC3: The issues taught include self-control,
communication skills, conflict resolution, and relationships.
FGDC4: I think mostly we are focusing on the social
side, life issues like relationships, e.g., talk about abstinence,
health issues, leadership skills and communication skills,
community involvement.
On the same question, the school counsellors’ responses
were also similar to those given by other participants.
Their responses are given below.
SC1: We teach them decision making, conflict resolution,
communication, negotiations, assertiveness, relationships,
stress management.
SC3: We talk of decision-making, assertiveness,
self-confidence, self-awareness, community involvement
and many others.
SC4: They are taught decision-making, assertiveness,
judgement, relationships, health issues, e.g. sexual
reproductive health, communication skills, conflict resolution.
It is also evident from the prefect participants
responses that they are in agreement with what was said
by the majority of the participants. They indicated that,
FGP1: The issues included are health issues, drug and
substance abuse, decision-making, relationships.
FGP3: The aspects included are self-esteem, how you
present yourself, communication, conflict resolution,
relationships, community involvement and decision-making.
FGP4: The issues included are relationships,
communication, career guidance, tolerance, decision-making,
leadership skills and many others.
Some chairpersons concurred with most of the participants’
responses, while others were not informed about the issues
included in the teaching of social skills.
SDC1 explained, the aspects that are included are: risk
management, conflict resolution, communication, and
health issues, and I attended the workshop with the head-
boy and head-girl where these issues were discussed.
SDC2 agreed, the aspects that are focused on include
public speaking, health issues, moral values, relationships,
decision-making, tolerance and community involvement.
However, both SDC3 and SDC4 did not know the aspects
included in the teaching of social skills. SDC3 admitsI
am not sure of the aspects that are included in the
teaching of social skills.
The responses of both Education Officers show that
they are in consensus with the responses of the majority of
the participants. For instance, EO1 acknowledged that
the issues included in discussions include crime reduction,
drug and alcohol abuse, health issues, stress management.
EO2 buttress the view when she confirmed thatthey are
taught conflict resolution, sexuality, relationships, and
decision-making skills.
The information given by the participants reveals that
learners are exposed to a variety of topics during the
enactment of teaching social skills strategy to maintain
discipline in schools. The implication is that if learners are
informed through these topics, they will be encouraged to
maintain good conduct in schools.
6.3. Participation of Learners in the Teaching
and Learning of Social Skills
In any learning situation, for any teaching and learning
activity to be effective, learners should be at the forefront.
This also applies to the teaching of social skills where
learners are expected to be active participants so that their
behaviour is shaped positively through active participation.
In the light of this, participants were requested to give
insight on how learners participated during the teaching
and learning of social skills. In response to the question,
American Journal of Educational Research 1641
most of the participants agreed that learners were actively
involved in the social skills activities. The evidence of
their responses is given below.
SH1: Learners are actively involved, learners open up,
actively participate, and they learn a lot from the lessons
because they no longer have aunts at their homes whom
culturally would discuss such issues with them. You will
be surprised by the knowledge that they have and some of
the questions they ask, and I would say at this stage I
would not talk about such things.
SH2: Learners are actively involved because it is not as
stressful as academic subjects. They really enjoy it.
In their responses to the same question, the members of
the disciplinary committee supported the school heads’
observations. They said,
FGDC1: Learners are very much free when performing
the activities; this helps them to open up because the
atmosphere will be relaxed.
FGDC4: Learners participate actively especially
depending on the methods used. For example, members of
the Interact Club would ask for donations and they would
go to Mpilo Hospital and other institutions to distribute
their donations to the needy. They become involved in
community activities.
Regarding the same issue, the school counsellors’
answers also reiterated what came out from other participants.
For example, this is what was said,
SC1: Learners are physically involved and they are
participative, actively involved. They also actively participate
in the clubs.
SC2: Learners are quite active, though there are some
who still need to improve on the aspects of confidence,
there are some of our learners who lack confidence
especially during guidance and counselling lessons.
Whilst we use English when communicating with learners,
we also encourage teachers to use vernacular so that
every learner will be in a position to participate.
SC3: Learners actively participate through activities
like drama, poems. They also do research because we
have the internet we ask them to go and find out how
certain things are done in different places. Again they do
community service, they do community dialogues, like the
other time we called the nurses, church leaders, some of
the parents and school leavers to come and teach learners
how certain skills are done. They really actively participate
during these activities.
SC4 explained, learners are very participative especially
in sexual reproductive health. They like to understand
issues that affect them in life. The fact that we no longer
have aunts and uncles who would talk to them, you would
find that some are worrying about the developments which
take place in their bodies, you just tell them that it is just a
passing phase; it is just a growing up stage. So they love
these lessons.
The responses given by prefect participants pertaining
to the same issue indicate that they were also in accord
with other participants’ responses. Thus, FGP2 acknowledges
thatlearners are actively involved in social skills activities.
FGP3 adds learners are sometimes allocated
assignments which they research on and make presentations.
They are very active during social skills activities.
However, the use of teaching social skills strategy to
maintain discipline in schools has been hindered by some
challenges. For example, FGDC4 lamented, in the
teaching of social skills to the learners, I am worried
about time on the part of the learners, because of the load
that the learners have. Sometimes the learners do not have
enough time to fully participate in social skills activities.
The data presented above indicate that learners are
actively involved in the teaching and learning of social
skills. It emerged from the participants’ responses that
vernacular language is used during the teaching of social
skills activities to encourage every learner to actively
participate. The participants also mentioned that learners
are involved in community dialogue where members of
the community with expertise are invited to schools to
share their experiences with learners. At the same time
learners are given an opportunity to ask questions on
social issues. Another important aspect which was raised
by the participants is that during the teaching of social
skills, schools play the roles of traditional aunts and
uncles who would culturally teach learners some of the
social skills at home. Such social skills are now taught in
schools because some learners are orphans who live alone
at home. Schools teach learners these social skills so that
all learners get proper guidance. The cited data prove that
there are good practices in selected schools in the execution
of teaching social skills strategy to maintain discipline.
6.4. Effectiveness of Teaching Social Skills in
Maintaining Discipline in Schools
The participants were asked to express their views on
the effectiveness of teaching social skills as a proactive
discipline management strategy. The responses that were
given by most of the participants show that the strategy is
an effective tool of maintaining discipline in selected
schools.
SH3 attested, teaching social skills strategy is effective
because it teaches learners to be responsible for their
behaviour or actions.
SH4 concurred, this strategy is very effective as it
teaches learners self-control. Some cases of indiscipline
have reduced in the school because most of the learners
will be occupied in clubs during their free time.
The members of the disciplinary committee also
supported the school heads’ views on the effectiveness of
teaching social skills strategy. This is what was said,
FGDC1: The teaching social skills strategy is very
effective because we see some of those who have left the
school coming back into the school to now share with
learners whatever they learnt. Involvement of learners in
social skills also keeps learners occupied instead of being
idle, and loitering around. That is, it minimises cases if
indiscipline in the school.
FGDC4: The strategy is very effective because we
realise that learners who have left this school with those
skills they have been able to integrate well with
communities anywhere in the world.
In agreement with other participants’ responses were
the school counsellors. SC2 confirmed the strategy is
quite effective, it has brought good results.
SC4 explained, I think this one I will scale it number
one of them all, this strategy is very effective because
someone who has social skills is willing to learn, he/she
actually finds the reason to learn but someone who does
1642 American Journal of Educational Research
not have the social skills is problematic, you correct them
in one aspect and tomorrow it will be the other. So I feel
teaching of social skills is the best as we witnessed its
positive results.
The prefect participants also echoed the same sentiments
as other participants.
FGP1 explained, the strategy is effective in the sense
that the learners get to know what is good and what is bad.
They know what they have to do and what not to do. It
prevents them from misbehaving.
FGP4 corroborated, the teaching social skills strategy is
effective to a greater extent in the sense that through the
carrying out of these activities one gets to make sound
decisions so by virtue of that, I think it is effective.
The SDC chairpersons also viewed the teaching social
skills strategy as effective in maintaining discipline in
schools. Their responses were in consensus with other
participants’ views. SDC2 acknowledged that the
strategy is quite effective because it teaches children to be
responsible for their behaviour.
SDC3 added the strategy is effective because it
promotes positive discipline in the school.
The Education Officers also expressed that the teaching
social skills strategy was effective in maintaining
discipline in schools. Their views were in accord with
other participants’ responses.
EO1 explained, the strategy is actually very effective
because learners are empowered with skills on how they
can solve problems they encounter in life; and this has
reduced the cases of unbecoming behaviour in schools.
EO2 concurred, I think the strategy is effective; actually
it helps us to produce a disciplined self-reliant and
positive thinking community.
The data presented above show that the application of
teaching social skills strategy to maintain discipline in
selected schools is effective regardless of the challenges
encountered during the implementation process. The
responses also revealed that as schools employ the teaching
social skills strategy, they relate to other strategies such as
guidance and counselling, code of conduct, communication
and behaviour modelling. It came out that learners are
taught social skills during guidance and counselling lessons.
In addition, the issues emphasised during the teaching of
social skills include good conduct which reinforces the
adherence to school rules and regulations; communication
skills which is crucial in conflict resolution and behaviour
modelling where learners are encouraged emulate good
behaviour as they interact during club sessions.
7. Discussion
The teaching of social skills is paramount to the social
development of the learner. Schools are expected to
inculcate these skills to learners so that the learners are
developed holistically. The teaching of social skills
contributes to shaping the behaviour of the learner
positively. According to [10] the goal of social skills
instruction is to teach socially acceptable behaviours that
will result in better acceptance by classroom peers and
their teachers. Hence, this section discusses the findings of
the study pertaining to the use of teaching social skills
strategy to maintain discipline in selected schools.
Concerning the execution of teaching social skills
strategy to maintain discipline in schools, the study
established that learners were taught social skills during
club sessions which were part of the co-curricular programmes
offered in schools. The finding concurs with [13] who
affirmed that providing learners with the opportunity to
learn and practice social skills can break the negative
interaction cycle. Thus, if learners are kept occupied and
remained focused on what they would be engaged in
during the club sessions, their behaviour would be moulded
positively. Social skills activities result in learners spending
most of their time confined to productive activities. The
social skills activities influence learners to take up the
responsibility of their behaviours. According to [12]
learners with discipline problems are often rejected by
their peers and do not have the opportunity to learn
appropriate social skills through normal peer interaction.
Consequently, such learners should benefit from the social
skills programmes offered by schools. The involvement of
learners in social skills would help those learners who
would have faced rejection by their peers to restore their
relationships with their peers.
The findings of the study also indicated that social
skills were taught during guidance and counselling lessons.
This finding is congruent with [16] observation that
proactive schools recognise that just as academic skills
can be taught, so can appropriate social skills. Reference
[16] further mentions that these schools incorporate social
skills lessons into their daily activities and routines. They
emphasise civility, and they model the qualities they want
to develop in their learners. Furthermore, the results of the
study concur with [15] which concede that consistent
modelling, teaching, and reinforcement of positive social
skills, is an important part of successfully encouraging
positive social behaviour among learners. This includes
helping to enhance learners’ self-control, respect for the
rights of others, and sense of responsibility for their own
actions.
As for the topics included in the teaching of social
skills to maintain discipline, the study found that the
aspects taught included conduct, relationships, community
involvement; decision-making skills, communication
skills, drug and substance abuse, career guidance, stress
management, honesty and integrity, tolerance, conflict
resolution, leadership skills, negotiations, assertiveness,
self-awareness, health issues, and moral values among
others. The findings of the study are in accordance with
the revelations found in literature that while many learners
come to school with some social skills already in place,
most learners benefit from direct teaching of appropriate
social skills, such as thinking before acting, listening,
establishing and maintaining relationships, dealing with
feelings, accepting consequences, dealing with peer
pressure, problem-solving, conflict resolution, self-control,
communication, negotiation, sharing, good manners, stress
management, and decision making [15,30].
Regarding the participation of learners in the enactment
of the teaching social skills strategy to maintain discipline
in schools, the study found that learners were active
participants during the teaching and learning of social
skills. The results of the study revealed that whilst English
was used as medium of instruction in schools, teachers
were encouraged to use vernacular when teaching social
American Journal of Educational Research 1643
skills so that all learners participate. It also emerged from
the findings that learners opened up in sharing information
probably due to the fact that most of them no longer had
aunts and uncles at their homes who culturally would
discuss such issues with them. The results of the current
study are in line with the views of [31] which affirms that
schools should use classroom activities and lessons to
explore and discuss empathy, personal strengths, fairness,
kindness, and social responsibility. The involvement of
learners in such discussions builds their confidence hence
minimises behaviour problems in schools.
The study established that learners were engaged in
community activities to reach out to underprivileged
members of the society. In addition, it came out from the
study that learners participated in community dialogues
where they would interact with community members with
certain expertise and share their experiences. This helped
learners to develop a positive attitude towards other
people which in turn would contribute to moulding the
behaviour of the learners positively. The results of this
study correspond with what was found in the reviewed
literature where [15] agrees that helping learners learn
how to get along with others is a key strategy in building a
caring and safe school culture. The findings also concur
with [17] who states that schools should provide multiple
opportunities for learners to apply skills of social and
moral problem-solving and responsible behaviour. The
findings therefore confirm that secondary schools in this
study used participatory methodology in the teaching and
learning of social skills which allows learners to reflect on
their behaviours. Thus, the reflection on the behaviour by
learners results in positive change of behaviour which in
turn enhances maintenance of discipline in schools.
Another pertinent aspect which was raised in this study
is that during the teaching of social skills, schools play the
roles of traditional aunts and uncles who would culturally
teach learners some of the social skills at home. Such
social skills are now taught in schools because some
learners are orphans and live alone at home. Teaching
social skills therefore gives all learners an opportunity to
get proper guidance.
As for the effectiveness of teaching social skills
strategy in maintaining discipline in selected schools, the
study established that the teaching social skills strategy
was very effective because learners were empowered to
make sound decisions in solving the problems they
encountered in life. It was also found that the teaching
social skills strategy encouraged learners to become active
members of the society and responsible citizens. The
results of the study also revealed that teaching social skills
was effective because it taught learners to be responsible
for their behaviour and the strategy contributed to the
reduction of cases of unbecoming behaviour in selected
schools. The findings of the current study confirm the
observation by [20] that the teaching of social skills helps
learners to develop into well-balanced human beings
who can resolve conflict without resorting to violent
actions. The study also found that teaching social skills
was effective because it helped to produce disciplined,
self-reliant and positive thinking members of the school
community. The findings of this study also support what
was revealed by [10] that social skills are taught to
learners to ensure that they obtain the necessary skills
required to function socially in society. It also came out
from this study that the involvement of learners in social
skills kept the learners occupied instead of being idle, and
loitering around. The findings of the current study concur
with what was found in literature as revealed by [13] that
conflict resolution and peer mediation have demonstrated
some success in reducing school suspension and improving
maintenance of discipline in schools.
It further emerged from the findings that as selected
schools use the teaching social skills strategy in
maintaining discipline, learners were exposed to guidance
and counselling, taught good conduct, communication
skills and encouraged to emulate good behaviour as they
interact during club sessions.
Nonetheless, the findings of the study indicated that the
schools understudy experience hurdles in employing the
teaching social skills strategy to maintain discipline. The
results of the study showed that some teachers had
negative attitudes towards the teaching of social skills. It
came out from the findings that some teachers discouraged
learners from attending social skills activities because they
wanted learners to focus on academic subjects which were
examinable. The study also found that some parents did
not appreciate the value of social skills because of the bias
they had towards academic subjects. It also came out from
the study that the execution of teaching social skills
strategy to maintain discipline in schools was hindered by
the problem of time. It was found that sometimes the
learners did not have enough time to fully participate in
social skills activities because of the workload. The
findings of this study concur with what was revealed by
literature that afterschool programmes tend to have high
staff and learner turnover which can be a challenge for
implementation of intervention programmes [32]. Thus, as
pointed out in the findings of the study, those teachers
who have a negative attitude towards teaching of social
skills would not bother to attend social skills activities as
club patrons because they might view it as waste of time,
hence, the learners will not be guided by teachers during
club activities. It is possible that those learners who
are discouraged by teachers and parents might avoid
participating in social skills activities as they will be
concentrating on academic subjects. As a result, the use of
teaching social skills strategy to maintain discipline in
selected schools will not be fully realised.
8. Conclusion
The study examined how secondary schools use
proactive teaching social skills strategy to manage
discipline. The study established that learners were taught
social skills during guidance and counselling lessons and
club sessions which were part of the co-curricular
programmes offered in schools. It was also found that
the topics taught during the teaching of social skills
included conduct, relationships, community involvement;
decision-making skills, communication skills, drug and
substance abuse, career guidance, stress management,
honesty and integrity, tolerance, conflict resolution,
leadership skills, negotiations, assertiveness, self-awareness,
health issues, and moral values among others. The study
indicated that learners were active participants during the
1644 American Journal of Educational Research
teaching and learning of social skills. It emerged from the
findings that learners opened up in sharing information
probably due to the fact that most of them no longer had
aunts and uncles at their homes who culturally would
discuss such issues with them. It came out that whilst
English was used as medium of instruction in schools,
teachers were encouraged to use vernacular when teaching
social skills so that all learners participated. The results of
the study further showed that some learners were engaged
in community activities to reach out to underprivileged
members of the society. Additionally, the study revealed
that the teaching social skills strategy was very effective
because learners were empowered to make sound decisions
in solving the problems they encounter in life. The
findings also indicated that the teaching social skills
strategy was effective because it taught learners to be
responsible of their behaviour and contributed to the
reduction of cases of unbecoming behaviour in secondary
schools. Nevertheless, the social skills strategy faced
constraints mainly from some teachers’ and parents’ negative
attitudes towards social skills activities. Furthermore, it
came out that sometimes the learners did not have enough
time to fully participate in social skills activities because
of the workload.
In spite of the challenges encountered by the schools,
the study concludes that use of proactive teaching social
skills strategy yielded positive results in selected schools.
The exposure of learners to multiple activities resulted in
reduction of untoward behaviour cases among learners. As
a result, the various activities employed by schools
contributed to the modification of learner behaviour which
created a safe teaching and learning environment. The
study recommends that schools should intensify the
training programmes for teachers and parents to positively
influence their attitudes towards the teaching of social
skills in order to reinforce positive behaviour among
learners. The study also recommends that the Ministry of
Primary and Secondary Education should come up with a
policy which enforces the teaching of social skills in all
schools so that the behaviour of learners can be contained.
As for further research, the study recommends that
another study should be conducted in private schools since
the current study was conducted in public schools.
Competing Interest
The author has no competing interests.
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... Mukiri's (2014) study indicated that in Kenya, prefects enhanced maintenance of discipline to a greater extent as they modelled positive behaviour to other learners. Furthermore, Sibanda's (2018) study revealed that in Bulawayo, learners were encouraged to emulate good behaviour as they interacted during club sessions and co-curricular activities. Thus, the cited authorities disclose that positive behaviour modelling is an indispensable strategy in maintaining positive discipline in schools. ...
... The findings of the study also support the results of Mukiri's (2014) study in Kenya which revealed that prefects enhanced maintenance of discipline to a greater extent as they modelled positive behaviour to other learners. The results of the study are also in line with Sibanda's (2018) findings in Bulawayo where learners were encouraged to emulate good behaviour as they interacted during co-curricular activities. ...
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