Male learner's experience of aggression in school during the intermediate phase
Empirical studies have documented aggression in children as a typical, normal developmental phenomenon, characterized as having the highest levels of aggression between the ages of two and three, and gradually declining by early childhood. However, the escalating levels of aggression by children within the teaching-learning environment, as emphasized by the media, crime statistics and relevant research studies, presents an apparent incongruence. This propelled the need to address aggression as experienced by male learners in school during the Intermediate Phase. Masculinity was an important lens in contextualizing male learners’ experiences of aggression to help explore and describe to what extent, if any, male learners do experience aggression in school during the Intermediate Phase. A qualitative study with a phenomenological approach, within the protocol of ethical procedures and measures of trustworthiness, was conducted to explore and describe male learners’ experience of aggression in school during the Intermediate Phase. Twenty-seven middle-childhood male learners aged 9 to 11 from grades four to six from three primary schools in District D14 in Lenasia participated in the process of phenomenological interviewing in one-on-one semi-structured interviews. An interpretive data analysis by means of Tesch’s open-coding systematic process proffered the following findings: Firstly, Intermediate Phase male learners described aggression using concrete examples of their lived experience and these experiences of aggression translated into verbal and physical aggression as the ‘fight instinct’. In addition, these experiences of aggression indicated male learners’ middle-childhood developmental stage and their experience of aggression as a feeling of anger and a justification of their aggressive behaviour. Secondly, male learners’ experience of aggression in school during the Intermediate Phase formed a cycle of aggression with a focus on the role of school authority in the management of aggression and resolution of conflict, where male learners’ experienced gangs and bullies as provocation for them to behave aggressively in return, and gender identity and gender roles were constructed and interpreted within the framework of the Sex Role Socialisation Theory. Thirdly, Intermediate Phase learners made suggestions in managing their own and others’ aggression in terms of self-regulation, morality and religion. Whilst masculinity is an elusive and ambiguous concept, the manifestation of aggressive behaviours by male learners within the context of the adapted definition of masculinity as a negotiation of ‘cognitive, behavioural, emotionally expressive, psychosocial and sociocultural experience’ indicated that male learners aspire to the ‘way men are’ or are in pursuit of being ‘real men.’ A subtle form of hegemonic masculinity alluding to dominance, power and competiveness was evident in the male learners’ practice of aggression. The findings validate the notion that male learners psychological well-being is at risk should the cycle of aggression persist. Hence, the researcher suggests that learners need to be skilled in ameliorating aggression by means of a process of teachers demonstrating and skilling learners in identifying conflict and resolving conflict; a coaching model should be adopted and implemented to train learners to manage aggression; the sensitization of gender roles, namely masculinity; and that counsellors and qualified psychologists be available at schools. Guidelines were described from the themes emanating from male learners’ experience of aggression in school during the Intermediate Phase. A valuable contribution from the research study was that learners had the platform to be heard and that some found the interview process interesting.
- Education