Challenging control: Inclusive teachers and teaching assistants discourse on students with challenging behaviour

Fernanda T. Orsati, Julie Causton-Theoharis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Describing students with disabilities as presenting challenging behaviour is common in US schools. The purpose of this paper is to reveal the discourse utilised by teachers in order to understand their beliefs and practices surrounding young students considered to present challenging behaviour. This study examines teachers language in four ways: which discourses they draw from, the consequences of engaging in the discourse on practice, what maintains the use of such discourse and finally the possibilities for change. The critical discourse analysis unpacked that teachers begin labelling the students as challenging, not the behaviour. Consequences of this thinking emerged as teachers excluded the students, or what they consider the problems from the classroom. Exclusion was found to be the necessary response when control is prioritised in the classroom. In sum, the discourse of control is available for shaping how teachers understand and support students. Developing a relationship with students empowers teachers to see past the labels, the control discourse, and truly support students in inclusive classrooms. Finally, implications for practice are shared to improve the experience of inclusive education for both student and teacher.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-525
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Inclusive Education
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2013


  • behaviour
  • disability
  • inclusive education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Challenging control: Inclusive teachers and teaching assistants discourse on students with challenging behaviour'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this