The Use of Responsive Circles in Schools

An Exploratory Study

Published in: Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions (2018). doi: 10.1177/1098300718793428

Posted on RAND.org on February 08, 2019

by Elaine Lin Wang, Emma Lee

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Responsive circles, a restorative practices (RP) strategy, have the potential to help improve school climate through supporting conflict resolution and community building; yet, little research exists on this practice. This mixed-methods study examined how educators in four urban schools (two elementary, one middle, and one high school) used responsive circles. Over a 7-month period, we observed 22 responsive circles led by 13 different teachers and rated them using the RP-Observe tool. In addition, we interviewed 40 staff members (10 from each school). Results indicated that educators in this study used responsive circles to address issues they believed were percolating beneath the surface or incidents that had already caused harm and required repair of relationships. Although several dimensions of responsive circles were frequently observed, others were less consistently implemented. Many of the educators reported that responsive circles can positively impact students' attitudes and behaviors. Implications of the study include the need for appropriate training and support to help teachers gain confidence in and become proficient at using responsive circles.

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