is intended to help students who are studying or researching the topic
of bullying in schools. Before 1990, this was not an issue which had attracted
much attention in Scotland or other parts of the UK, but since then numerous
studies have been carried out. These have ranged from government-funded
projects, through PhD theses to surveys carried out by young people in
individual schools. These studies have increased our knowledge and understanding
of the nature and extent of bullying and have helped to create the climate
of concern which is needed if effective Anti-Bullying strategies are to
carry out studies into bullying?
Why carry out
research into bullying?
Anyone can do this. You do not have to be an 'expert'. Some school
students have helped to raise awareness of the problem in their own schools
by carrying out questionnaire surveys. Others have found out about different
anti-bullying strategies by reading books and sending away for information.
Students in further and higher education have carried out comparative
studies in a number of schools and have used statistical techniques to
check the validity of their results. Students of Psychology have studied
the behaviour of bullies, victims and of others in the community who may
be affected by bullying. Some student teachers and teachers undertaking
in-service courses have been able to carry out action research: implementing
particular anti-bullying strategies during their teaching practice and
then evaluating the results of their intervention.
People are motivated to find out more about bullying for a number
of reasons including the following:
- They may have
personal experience of it which has prompted them to become involved
in its study.
- They may be engaged
on a course which requires them to carry out a piece of research.
- They may be teachers
or psychologists who are expected to deal with the consequences of bullying
as part of their work.
- They may wish
to increase knowledge about the nature, extent and consequences of bullying.
research into bullying is likely to be aimed at either helping people
to understand its causes or helping school communities to tackle it more
How can bullying
There are a number of ways of finding out more about bullying and
- Studying books,
articles and other sources of information, such as the Internet, is
an excellent way of finding out what has already been achieved. The
first research into bullying in Scottish schools used material which
had been developed in Scandinavia, thereby saving a lot of time and
shortcutting the process of developing anti-bullying strategies. Sheets
giving details of useful references and web sits have been listed.
- Detailed case
studies of episodes of bullying are a useful way of helping us to understand
the nature of the problem, although it can be difficult to gain access
to all the sources of information needed if you are going to produce
a truly impartial piece of research. If you decide to use this method,
try to obtain information from as many people as possible, including
bullies as well as victims, by-standers, parents, teachers and anyone
else involved. Remember that an episode of bullying can continue for
months or years and that it may be wise to chose another method if your
time is short.
- Interviews and
questionnaire surveys are excellent ways of gathering a lot of information
in a shot time but careful planning is needed. Advice about using questionnaires
is included in Spotlight 43 Finding out about Bullying
which is available on-line from SCRE here.
- Action research
is needed if the level of bullying in schools is to be reduced. Good
teachers constantly try to find better ways of doing their jobs. They
go through a process of identifying a problem, trying to understand
it, discussing possible solutions with colleagues, implementing new
strategies and evaluating them. Although few teachers would call this
process research it has much in common with action research.
If it were analysed, recorded and made available to others then it could
be called just that. Students and pupils have fewer opportunities to
initiate such research but young people always take part in the process
(they are the subjects of it) so there is no reason why they should
not be more actively involved. More and more schools are establishing
student or pupil councils. These provide an opportunity for young people
to identify problems in their schools and to initiate changes. They
can also help to evaluate and report on the success of these interventions.
on action research see:
Investigate their Work: An Introduction to the Methods of Action Research,
Altrichter H, Posch P, Somekh B (1993), London: Routledge
Action Research, McKernan J (1996), London: Kogan Page
See also The
International Journal of Education Action Research
See also the following
publications available from SCRE:
- So You
Want to Do Research?: A guide for teachers on how to formulate research
questions, by Ian Lewis and Pamela Munn
Observations in Small-Scale Research: A Beginners Guide,
by Mary Simpson and Jennifer Tuson
Questionnaires in Small-Scale Research, by Pamela Munn and
Semi-Structured Interviews in Small-Scale Research: A Teachers
Guide, by Eric Drever.
Often, the hardest part of a piece of research is finding suitable
questions to ask. Developing clear research questions is a key stage in
any research. Some of the questions which are frequently asked about bullying
cannot be answered. For example, "Is the level of bullying worse
than it was in 1960?" would be a reasonable question to ask if there
were studies of the level of bullying in our schools which had been carried
out in 1960 (there are not) and if there were any reliable way of measuring
the actual, rather than the perceived, level of bullying in schools.
Some studies have
used observation techniques while others rely on interviews of diary-keeping
by a sample of pupils. Most studies which have attempted to measure levels
of bullying have actually measured peoples perceptions of what has
happened. A question such as "have you been bullied?" will produce
only the answers that children are prepared to admit to you and
to themselves. Another problem with such a seemingly simple question relates
to definitions: the word "bullying" means different things to
different people. Great care must be taken to ensure that young people
completing a questionnaire understand the definition which is being used.
It must be written in a style that is unambiguous and easy to understand.
Questions can be
posed at different levels and for a range of purposes:
be done with the findings of studies?
- asking "where
is bullying most common?" can help to identify problem areas in
a school, and
- asking "who
would you tell if you were being bullied?" can point to whether
or not a school has an ethos of openness.
- asking "what
are the characteristics of bullies and victims?" can help us understand
why people bully.
Plan carefully how you intend to disseminate (let other people
know about) the findings of your study. Here are some questions to consider:
of help or information
- People who have
helped you by answering questions or completing a questionnaire have
trusted you with confidential and sensitive information about themselves.
How can you inform them of the results of your survey in an appropriate
- A study of an
individual school may identify strengths and weaknesses in the way that
the school tackles bullying. How can you ensure that your findings are
discussed openly in a way that acknowledges successes and addresses
- Are your findings
suitable for a wider audience? Do not assume that because you are not
a professional researcher your findings are of no value outside your
own school or college. The study of bullying is still in its infancy.
Nobody has all the answers.
- Why not send
a copy of your findings to the Anti-Bullying Network? You could help
us by adding to our database.
If you are reading this you have probably already contacted the
Anti-Bullying Network but you are free to contact us again if you have further
questions. Students in further or higher education should seek advice from
their own supervisors and use the libraries in their own institutions in
the first instance. Students in Scottish schools should ask their teachers
for the Anti-Bullying materials which have been distributed freely by the
Scottish Executive. These include most of the materials produced by the
Scottish Council for Research in Education (SCRE) and by Moray House Institute
government policy should be directed to the Scottish Executive, Victoria
Quay, Edinburgh, EH6 6QQ.
available from the Anti-Bullying Network includes
- A leaflet describing
Discipline and Anti-Bullying materials published by SCRE
- A leaflet describing
Discipline and Anti-Bullying materials published by Moray House Institute
23 and Spotlight
- A leaflet about
the Ethos Network [their website is here]