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Applications of Restorative Practices to Education

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 2112 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Restorative practices is a phrase that has been thrown around the educational field more recently but a lot of people are still unsure what it means or why it should be used. One part of education that has always been there is the unsaid trust between a student and a teacher as well as with families. This trust is what allows the student to learn from the teacher and the family to feel comfortable to send their child to school. This trust is often unspoken off until something serious happens such as correcting a misbehavior or a poor grade on an assignment. Even more so are minority and low income students who are entering the relationship somewhat jaded and not having any trust. One place that trust is often tested is when we look at how schools respond to behavioral infractions. Restorative practices are a way to focus on how to treat children as people and to be creative in providing consequences outside of the traditional realm.

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Often times in schools that serve primarily minority or low socioeconomic status students, there is a high turnover rate and many of the teachers have less than five years experience. With the lack of teaching experience also comes with a lack of experience in addressing, handling, and providing consequences to students who misbehave for fear of “hurting them” or breaking the trust. A part of building the trust both in the classroom and school requires the entire community working together, not just one administrator or teacher. In prior behavior management systems for schools, there was one person who issued all consequences with no follow up or addressing of the root cause of the issue, often times, just issuing an in school or out of school suspension.

Restorative practices involve the entire school community working together every day to address the impact and cause of the behavior as well as to “restore” the relationship. (Fisher, Frey, & Pumpian, 2012]. There are a few major principles of restorative practices that go into implementing this into a school:

* Trying to foster understanding of the impact of the behavior

* Seeking to repair the harm that was done to people and relationships

* Attending to the needs of victims and others in the school

* Avoiding imposing on students intentional pain, embarrassment and discomfort

* Actively involving others as much as possible. (Costello, Wachtel, & Wachtel, 2009, p. 52]

These restorative practices work to rebuild trust between teacher and student as well as work to determine the cause of misbehavior. The key to restorative practices is that all participants work to find and solve the root cause of the issue, not just the immediate action that occurred. An example of this is when a student curses in class. At the surface level, a disciplinarian would be inclined to suspend the student for cursing. But through restorative practices, the root cause which could be a family member passing could be discovered, the student accepts responsibility and apologizes and ends up in a treatment facility to help them more past the grief. Often times, students are unaware of the cause of a behavior both from a teacher and student. Restorative practices allow for there to be a dialogue between teacher and student to address the behavior and mutual next steps. These conversations keep the focus on the behavior and how to change rather than a student believing that the behavior or consequence was given subjectively. According to the book, Restorative Practice Meets Social Justice, “A community and the relationships necessary to sustain a community must exist before they can be restored. Restorative justice becomes nothing more than “edubabble” if it is seen as a strategy or program rather than a conceptual framework or a lens which you view your world. The infrastructure, systems, operations, and instructional practices must all be designed to build a community and then restore it when something goes wrong. There must also exist a belief, a home that you as a stakeholder in this community can make a difference and have a say in the workings of this community if buyin is to take a place. Without buy in, there is no investment, without investment there is no community, and without community there is nothing to restore.” (Anthony, H. N., & Antonia, I. L. (Eds.), pg. 156). One of the biggest struggles with restorative practices is the buy in and commitment from the teachers and staff. Because restorative practices are nonconventional, it is important to trust the process. Often, teachers get disgruntled if they believe that there isn’t a specific consequence to a behavior and instead a conversation that may or may not lead to a consequence.

  When exploring why restorative practices have begun to be implemented in schools, it is important to understand the perception that students and families. The study Racial and ethnic minority high school students’ perceptions of school disciplinary practices: A look at some Canadian findings discusses the perceptions that different students have and the possible implications of that. The study found that racial/ethnic minority students are much more likely than white students to perceive discrimination as it relates to teacher treatment, school suspension, and use of police by school leaders. Restorative practices take these perceptions and work to remove them. The conversations that exist within restorative practices are meant to address the harm that was caused and also create a plan moving forward. Another thing restorative practices do is give the student and victims a chance to accept responsibilities for actions as well as to have a voice in the process. Rather than just punish students, restorative practices work to teach students about accepting their actions and the impact their actions had on others.

  One type of restorative practices that have had a positive on both student behavior and academic achievement is the use of restorative circles. Restorative circles, also known as just circles, work by teaching students how to communicate and explain their point clearly. Circles are implemented by having all participants stand in a circle so that each person can be seen. A circle provides the notion that all people are equal and the teacher is not a facilatator but instead a participant of the process. Circles can be used to build relationships, academic purposes, and also to repair harm when it has occured. From a behavior perspective, students and teachers are both able to express their feelings, opinions, and consequences of their actions while listening to others and not being judged.

 Traditionally, most educational systems have used a more punitive approach to discipline. A student has had a specific behavior such as bullying another student, they were given some type of suspension, and told to return in a few days. Restorative practices instead work to try to find the root cause and bring the people together so that they can work out their differences. According to the article Keeping Kids in Schools: Restorative Justice, Punitive Discipline, and the School to Prison Pipeline, “It has been consistently documented that punitive school discipline policies not only deprive students of educational opportunities, but fail to make schools safer places.” Punitive discipline does not address why a student had the misbehavior and how to properly change for the future. In addition, punitive discipline only perpetuates what students often know which is action then consequence, it doesn’t matter why.

So often a student does not connect the reason for a suspension or continues the behaviors at home thus making a suspension useless. Instead, restorative practices have the participants address what happened and how it can be fixed or repaired. Punitive discipline policies often increase future disciplinary problems and lower academic performance. On the contrary, school based restorative justice models work to increase accountability, restitution, and restoration of the overall community.

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The school to prison pipeline is how prisons are built in communities whose 3rd grade reading levels fall below a certain level, more often in low income and minority populations. It is also said that a higher rate of behavioral suspensions can cause a student more likely to end up in jail or prison. Working to change the school to prison pipeline is very challenging but is very possible. One way to work towards increasing student achievement and ensuring that students are prepared for the demands of the world is through restorative practices. Often times, teachers provide consequences for students without understanding the root cause of a behavior. For example, a student may act out in class when called on and such a teacher provides a detention or verbal redirect to address the misbehavior. With restorative practices, the student and teacher would sit down afterwards and answer a few questions regarding what happened, who was affected, and what can they do to move forward or fix it. The student learns how their behavior impacted the teacher and vice versa. Both parties are able to explain their position and work towards a resolution that works for all.

 Restorative practice, even though have been around since the 1990’s, are still a very new concept. Because this is fairly new, it is a foreign or abstract topic for many including students, families, and teachers. Restorative practices also asks people to shift their thinking from consequence to how can a problem be fixed. For minority and low socioeconomic status students, there is a level of trust that is broken when it comes to direct punitive consequences that is not effective and in fact perpetuates the behaviors more. Restorative practices work to rebuild that trust between teacher, student, family, and schoolwide behavioral expectations. When implementing the school wide improvement plan and focusing on student behavior, one important factor is to not only address behavior antecedents but focusing on relationships as a critical part of education.

Works Cited:

  • Anthony, H. N., & Antonia, I. L. (Eds.). (2017). Restorative practice meets social justice : unsilencing the voices of “atpromise” student populations. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com
  • Frey, N., Fisher, D., & Smith, D. (2013). Restorative practices. Principal Leadership, 14(4), 56-59. Retrieved from https://search-proquest.com.www2.lib.ku.edu/docview/1477417378?accountid=14556
  • Johnson, K. (2012). Building better schools not prisons: A review of the literature surrounding school suspension and expulsion programs and the implications of such programs on the lives of racial and ethnic minority students. Dissertations & Theses Global. (1326334686). Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.www2.lib.ku.edu/docview/1326334686?accountid=14556
  • Gonzalez, T. (2012). Keeping kids in schools: Restorative justice, punitive discipline, and the school to prison pipeline. Journal of Law Education41(2), 281-336.
  • Rowe, Claudia. “In School Discipline, Intervention May Work Better than Punishment.” The Seattle Times, The Seattle Times Company, 24 Jan. 2015, old.seattletimes.com/html/education/2025538481_edlabrestorativejusticexml.html
  • Wearmouth, J., & Berryman, M. (2012). Viewing restorative approaches to addressing challenging behaviour of minority ethnic students through a community of practice lens. Cambridge Journal Of Education, 42(2), 253-268. doi:10.1080/0305764X.2012.676626


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