Editor’s Note: Phillip Taylor is an exceptionally talented colleague also teaching at Luther Burbank High School here in Sacramento.

He has written two previous guest posts for this blog:

Guest Post: Classroom Management – Redirecting without Escalating

Guest Post: Teacher Action Research

He graciously agreed to write this third one, which I’m adding to The Best Resources For Learning About Restorative Practices – Help Me Find More.


Phillip Taylor is a restorative practitioner leading the Community Restoration Project (CRP) in Sacramento, California. His research into restorative practices entitled “Factors that Impact the Efficacy of Restorative Practices” can be found in the Colorado State University archives. He currently also leads the CRP at Luther Burbank High school where he works with mentor students to provide support to students sent to the discipline office. He also works with local area high schools to support the implementation of viable restorative practices programs and to develop methods to measure outcomes and garner funding.


And here was the bitter paradox of adolescence: alone, I was most myself, most true. But the self that really mattered was the self that was visible, the self that could be shown to other people.”

Alice Pung, Laurinda


One of the most frustrating aspects of working with young people is the fungibility of the adolescent identity.  One minute, a teenager can be the most mature, intelligent, articulate person you have ever met – they seem like an adult!  The next minute, the same teenager is throwing a tantrum about having to hand over a cell phone.

Recent research has noticed the fungibility of human identity and inquired into the social aspect of our identities, demonstrating how strongly our social environment participates in our sense of self (Bandura, 1999; Thompson & Varela, 2001; De Jaegher & Di Paolo, 2007).  Not only this, recent research in the area of Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) proposes that social situations can actually prompt radical changes in our identity, and actually overwhelm our normal sense of self (Muhlhoff, 2014). Teenagers, with their already fungible identities, are even more susceptible to such social pressures.  

Thus, when restorative practitioners discuss working with students and using restorative practices, they often highlight connecting with and supporting the individual student to address misbehavior, forgetting that the student we are working with must return to the environment of the class.  In class, the student may not be prompted by the social environment to follow through with the agreements we reached during a restorative intervention. In, fact, the amazing restorative work we feel we accomplished can often go out the window the minute a student re-enters a troubling class!

Thus, when we examine how to intervene using restorative practices, we must investigate the environment of the class as well as the individual we are working with.  In many cases, we must consider the restorative intervention on two levels: 1) intervention/support with the individual student and 2) intervention/support at the group or even class level.  

Circles can be one of the most effective tools to intervene in cases where a group dynamic exists in the class that supports misbehavior.  Circles can leverage the same social dynamic that prompts disruptive behavior to support restorative efforts. But restorative efforts must touch down in the classrooms where the difficulties are arising or restorative efforts often fall flat.  The Community Restoration Project has had success with several applications of circles to this end. Below is how we “tweak” circles to leverage the social power of the group to support targeted interventions:


* Remove a group of students who have developed a negative dynamic from the class to perform a circle with a group of mentors who support the intentions/purpose of the circle

  1. Mentors go back to class the next day to witness and encourage agreements made during the circle
  2. Mentors follow up on an individual basis with students to support agreements and provide additional supports


* Remove a student or group of students and run a parallel circle in the class

  1. Teacher runs the same circle with the class as in the intervention room with the most disruptive students, addressing the same issues
  2. Mentors return with the more disruptive cadre of students to support agreements made during the circle
  3. Mentors follow up on an individual basis with students to support agreements and provide additional supports


These two methods have been used to beneficial effects, turning social pressure around to support restorative efforts on the individual level.  Mentors are incredibly important to this end, since their presence during both the event of the circle, and within the class as a follow up creates a tangible tie to the restorative intervention that occurred outside the class, and extends the social context of the circle to the classroom.

With particularly disruptive students, a circle that is “stocked” with mentors also helps to moderate disruptive behavior and prompt disruptive students to participate in a circle in a meaningful way.  When a group of students has been successful at developing a negative social dynamic in the class, it can be very difficult to facilitate a circle, and thus removing the most disruptive students for a parallel circle in another room, with a different group of peers (mentors), then ensures that both circles remain on-point and successful.

For more minor classwide challenges, “stocking” a circle with mentors can also be helpful, meaning that we ensure that a circle has a number of mentors who will work to support the efforts of the circle, even if some members of the class prompt disruptive behavior during a circle.  In this way, the mentor’s sincerity during a circle naturally prompts sincere participation in the circle for members struggling to participate in a meaningful way.



Bandura, A. (1999). A social cognitive theory of personality. In L. Pervin & O. John (Ed.),

Handbook of personality (2nd ed., pp. 154-196). New York: Guilford Publications. (Reprinted in D. Cervone & Y. Shoda [Eds.], The coherence of personality. New York: Guilford Press.)

Baxter, L. A. (2011). Voicing relationships IPS. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

De Jaegher H. & Di Paolo E. (2007) Participatory sense-making: An enactive approach to social cognition. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 6(4): 485–507.  Fulltext at http://cepa.info/2387

Gergen, K. J. (2012). Commentary: Grappling with the good. Dialogic processes and the challenge of human values: A commentary on Cunha et al. and Raggatt. Dialogic formations: Investigations into the origins and development of the dialogical self. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Harre, R., & van Langenhove, L. (1999). Positioning theory.  Malden, MA:  Blackwell Publishers Inc.

Hermans, H. J. M., & Gieser, T. (2012). Handbook of dialogical self-theory. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Muhlhoff, R. (2014). Affective resonance and social interaction. Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. Retrieved from https://philpapers.org/archive/mhlara.pdf

Thompson, E. & Varela, F. (2001).  Radican embodiment: Neural dynamics and consciousness. TRENDS in Cognitive Science 5(10).  Retrieved from http://library.allanschore.com/docs/RadicalEmbodiment.pdf