What can teachers do to prevent, detect and stop bullying in school?

As a teacher you should be able to prevent, detect and stop bullying.

A good atmosphere in the classroom counters bullying to some extent. This applies to both the social environment - relationships and social norms - and the part of the environment that particularly relates to learning.

It is important to note that the quality of the learning environment only explains a moderate part of the differences between schools and classes when it comes to the extent of bullying. A good learning environment is of course widely important but not sufficient to prevent bullying.

Prevention aimed at bullying
Bullying can be prevented by addressing the issue directly. There are a number of methods such as role-play, using literature, pupils’ written work, and interviews with individual pupils, groups and classes. Combinations of these methods may be appropriate, i.e. first read a text, secondly give students the task of writing and then talk in class.

Appropriate methods are aimed at enhancing the individual pupil's ability to understand that bullying is "wrong", and the formation of standards in its class. Presumably, social control is the most important factor; that pupils know what the teacher stands for and what the norms in the class are.

Measures to detect bullying
An effective routine to uncover bullying is to ask each student in the class to answer a non - anonymous questionnaire on bullying. The survey should include questions about both traditional and digital bullying. In this way, the teacher can get a good overview of the social patterns in class and can immediately intervene to stop behavior that offends. The form must be followed up by individual conversations. Collectively, the questionnaire and the conversations with students provide a good basis to intervene. The study is recommended from third class.

Our centre has developed some tools to detect bullying:

  • Insight – a social-analytical tool to prevent and detect hidden bullying (only in Norwegian)
  • Spekter - a short non-anonymous questionnaire to unveil bullying

Eight steps to stop bullying - step by step
It is important to keep detection and intervention clearly apart so that the problem solver does not end up in a bargaining position.

In short, the measure may be:

  1. Start with two to three caring conversations with the child being bullied. The individual suffering harassment has an obvious claim to be involved and to be taken care of from the start.
  2. Call the parents of the child being harassed.
  3. Bring the case up with the person doing the harassment. The bully should be confronted with the case and informed to stop immediately. Do not be lured into discussions or negotiations with the bully.  Inform the bully that his/her parents will be notified the same day. If there is more than one bully, talk to one at a time, in rapid succession.
  4. Summon the bullies – directly after the individual conversations - to review the matter with everyone gathered. In short: split, then collect, and consolidate. Make an appointment for a new meeting to follow up and control.
  5. When the case is under control, it may be appropriate to collect the involved students, both victim and bullies, for a conciliatory conversation. However, whether this is appropriate or not, must be assessed for each case. In addition, the guardians of the students may be drawn into such conversations.
  6. Have regular conversations over a period with the child being bullied. After a long period of insecurity, a victim of bullying needs to feel that the world is a safe place to be.
  7. Have regular conversations with the pupils bullying. Individuals, who have experienced gains by holding someone down, need to experience that positive acts, give a larger gain.
  8. Work according to the principle: Catch the kids at doing something good!