Abstract: Personal Reflection As a Means to School Culture Change: A Qualitative Case Study Exploring the Implementation of Restorative Justice (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

336P Personal Reflection As a Means to School Culture Change: A Qualitative Case Study Exploring the Implementation of Restorative Justice

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Jen Molloy, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Michael Riquino, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Van Nguyen, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Sarah Priddy, MSSW, Doctoral Student, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Background and Purpose:

Restorative justice (RJ) offers a framework to empower school communities to build, maintain, and repair relationships, and to collectively create just schools. However, the varied understandings of the philosophy and practices of RJ result in approaches that look and feel significantly different from one school to another. Changing policies does not necessarily change school culture and traditional notions of discipline unless implementation is paired with critical attention to the foundational values of all restorative practices—namely, dignity, mutual concern, and respect. Without formalized training on RJ philosophy and ongoing coaching efforts during the implementation process, RJ programs run the risk of being marginalized rather than fully integrated into the education system. The present study sought to understand how educators at an alternative high school understood, implemented, and responded to a new school-wide restorative justice initiative, and how these experiences related to the creation of a transformative, relationship-based learning environment. Specifically, this research was conducted to support efforts to further articulate the theory and practice of RJ with the aim of defining factors and practices that provide the groundwork for the development of a relational school culture and for restorative justice practices to be implemented school-wide to promote social engagement.

Methods: An alternative high school actively engaged in implementing RJ was the subject of this qualitative case study. As part of the case study, seven interviews and three focus groups were conducted with educators to explore the research questions. Thematic analysis was used to evaluate the transcripts to identify emerging themes. All transcripts were initially coded by the first author. Codes and emerging themes were then reviewed through a peer debriefing process. All data were analyzed using ATLAS.ti software.  

Results: The analysis procedures revealed 3 overarching themes from the interviews and focus groups with educators: (1) confusion/lack of confidence over how to move from theory to practice, (2) the importance/value of reflection on relationships and classroom culture, and (3) the necessity of modeling restorative values and practices by administrators.

Conclusions and Implications: As both paradigm and practice, RJ seeks to transform school structures and create more equitable conditions. These findings highlight the value and importance of incorporating opportunities for reflection on one’s personal experience implementing RJ in relationships with self, family, students, and colleagues. When educators engage in personal reflection, they can then meaningfully integrate RJ into a school's overall culture. Praxis, the linking of theory and practice, is supported by reflection. By engaging in praxis, educators can create authentic opportunities to implement restorative justice. This process can be supported by including social workers, who have requisite knowledge and skills, in the facilitation of ongoing coaching and reflection. Future research could focus on assessing strategies for supporting the processes of self-reflection, relationship building, and school culture change during RJ implementation.