Article

2- Behavioural difficulties can arise from learning difficulties: why and how to intervene in math classes.
by

- Lucie DeBlois, Université Laval, Québec, Canada




With this article, we illustrate how anxiety, agitation or avoidance behaviour can be interpreted as a conceptual rather than as a social or medical problem. Based on the notion of the didactical contract (inarticulated mutual expectations of teacher and pupil), we propose an interpretation that instead links these behaviours to students’ inappropriate application of their private learning rules and habits. As a consequence, these behaviours require conceptual, rather than social or medical interventions. We studied the behavioural difficulties of pupils in mathematics by asking them questions when they exhibited anxiety, agitation or task avoidance. We used the didactical contract as a theoretical framework to study their expectations as part of their cognitive activities in solving problems with natural numbers or fractions and statistics. We filmed 46 mediations with 27 pupils between 6 and 12 years old in two regular classes and one specialized class. Using a second, related theoretical framework for analysis, we observed that behaviour difficulties originate in learning difficulties which, in turn are due to the breaking of the didactical contract (expectations), known effects of the didactical contract and the extension of a piece of knowledge fragments. Using a third theoretical framework, we also analyzed the types of interventions used by the three researchers during mediations and their effects. Our analysis showed that interventions acted at three distinct levels of interactional proximity with the pupils and demonstrated varying degrees of relevance. We conclude that behavioural problems in the classroom are best addressed by examining pupils’ expectations and adapting interventions in consequence.

Keywords : apprentissage mathématiques, difficultés comportementales, contrat didactique, abstraction, enseignement, learning mathematics, behavioural difficulties, didactical contract, abstraction, teaching.

 

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