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Developing student social skills using restorative practices: a new framework called H.E.A.R.T


Students attending schools today not only learn about formal academic subjects, they also learn social and emotional skills. Whole-school restorative practices (RP) is an approach which can be used to address student misbehaviour when it occurs, and as a holistic method to increase social and emotional learning in students. The aim of this study was to explore the impact of RP on student behaviour from the perspectives of students and teachers. Six schools participated in interviews and focus groups. Students and teachers were asked about the use of RP and the impact on behaviour. Students and teachers identified five main themes: greater harmony, increased empathy towards others, awareness of one’s own behaviour and being accountable for that, increased respect, and reflective thinking. These aspects increase students’ social skills. This paper discusses a new framework which describes the positive impact of RP on student behaviour and thinking. The findings have broad implications for school communities and highlight the need to move towards more relational behaviour management approaches.

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Fig. 1

Adapted from Armstrong (2007), Morrison et al. (2005), and Wachtel (2012)

Fig. 2


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The authors would like to thank the following people for their assistance: Professor Sheryl Hemphill, Marg Armstrong of Just Practices, and Phillipa Lovell and Bronwyn Egan from the Catholic Education Office Melbourne. In particular, a huge thank you to the six school who participated in this research study, the school principals, teachers and students.

Author information

Correspondence to Michelle Kehoe.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Appendix A: interview guides

Appendix A: interview guides

Teacher questions

  1. 1.

    How do you think using restorative practices techniques have influenced or impacted on the students?

  2. 2.

    Can you tell me about some of the restorative practices you might use in the classroom?

  3. 3.

    How has student behaviour changed over time?

  4. 4.

    What do you see as being the main challenge in sustaining restorative practices?

Student questions

  1. 1.

    What have you learnt from your teachers or being in school about getting along with others?

  2. 2.

    What have you learnt using restorative practices?

  3. 3.

    Tell me about some of your school rules?

  4. 4.

    If you were involved in an incident at school or broke one of the school rules what would happen?

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Kehoe, M., Bourke-Taylor, H. & Broderick, D. Developing student social skills using restorative practices: a new framework called H.E.A.R.T. Soc Psychol Educ 21, 189–207 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-017-9402-1

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  • Restorative practices
  • School discipline
  • Behaviour management
  • Qualitative study
  • Teachers
  • Adolescent students
  • Social skills