Using action research to alleviate bullying and victimization in the classroom
Bullying and victimization have often been considered “a rite of passage” in our nation's schools. This issue has recently been brought to national attention by acts of violence that have been in the headlines over the past few years. The perpetrators in most instances were described as alienated youths who were openly victimized by their peers to the point of torment, leading them to unthinkable acts of violence. The researchers in this teacher action research study recognized the need to alleviate bullying and victimization in schools and participated in a reflective study that helped them examine their beliefs and their practices, seeking to alleviate this problem in their classrooms. Nine teachers engaged in a three month long teacher action research study. Working with their elementary school principal, they each identified either a bully or victim in their classrooms. They collected data on their own practices and the student characteristics at the beginning of their work, reflected on what they saw, and then utilized the Connell and Wellborn self-system model to develop and implement a plan to fulfill unmet psychological needs of their “selected students.”
Results of this study indicate that when teachers take the time to establish a personal relationship with a child and when they provide opportunities for increased social interactions in the classroom, highlight the student's talents, and give them an increased opportunity to make decisions, there are significant changes in the child's school life. He/she becomes happier in appearance, more involved in social contact, more engaged in learning, less likely to seek negative attention, and more accepted by his/her classmates. Through change in practice, incidences of bullying and victimization decreased in the teachers' classrooms. As teachers began to like these students more, so, in turn, did the other students. They realized that their students mimicked both their positive and negative behaviors. Results of the study also indicate that teacher action research was an effective tool for helping to solve problems that exist in schools as well as an essential tool for professional development.
Further implications of this study suggest that schools should develop practices and policies that include teacher action research, with an emphasis on reflective practice strategies, for on going professional development. In addition, classroom teachers should include classroom practices that meet the affective needs of their students by satisfying their unmet psychological needs. Finally, this research suggests that future studies focus more specifically on the needs of bullies in the classroom, since the selected students in this study were primarily victims.
0524: Elementary education
0514: School administration