Bullying in schools is one of the problems that has remained a topic of interest for a very long time now. Ever since the first students came to the first educational institution, some of the “weak” students were oppressed and mistreated. There have been numerous publications, reports, experts’ opinions, and researches on this topic. Although the problem has been partially eliminated, it remains very troubling.
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What makes the matter even more complicated is that there seems to be no apparent reason for bullying. The individuals that are picked on may be entirely different. Researches that try to discover what types of behavioral patterns or traits serve as a catalyst mostly determine separate qualities. There is no general answer to the question of why bullying keeps happening. Understanding the major reason for bullying in schools will be the primary focus of this proposal.
Review of Literature
As already stated, the problem received a great deal of coverage across the decades. However, most researchers aim for different goals and do not try to create a unified theory of bullying. Nevertheless, researches that do find their way to publicity elucidate the topic from various angles. For example, in a case study by Juvonen and Graham (2014), the authors dwell on the question of what separates a bully from their victim.
The authors approach the topic in-depth, concluding that there is not enough scientific data that would allow understanding what mechanisms or regulations prevent bullying or support it. Furthermore, the authors state that “youths who are ethnic or sexual minorities, are obese, or have mental and physical disabilities might be most at risk” (Juvonen and Graham, 2014, p. 175). This statement is important in the context of this research because the authors have no choice but to refute to general conclusions that are somewhat obvious because of the lack of data.
Bradshaw (2015) tries to expand the topic suggested by the authors mentioned above by determining what mechanisms serve best at bullying prevention. However, once again, the author has no choice but to state that although there have been significant improvements in the mental health promotion leading to a decrease in bullying, researches that suggest such opinion still lack both quality and quantity.
Swearer and Hymel (2015) that took the article by Bradshaw into consideration, state that there is a direct connection between bullying and victimization. This opinion expands theory on this topic, although the research itself tends to focus solely on this narrow problem.
Moreover, a lot of researches tend to prefer only one side of the question while not covering the problem in general. For example, an article by Campbell and Smalling (2013) provides evidence suggesting that American Indian students tend to get a lot more victimization and bullying, as well as other minorities. In comparison with this study, some works provide greater coverage of the topic. However, these are published as separate works and serve the purpose of generalization and providing background. An example of that would be a book by Young and Loring (2013) on bullying behavior.
Problem, Theory, Variables, and Hypothesis
As of now, the most important goal in research studies covering the topic of bullying in schools is to understand the mechanisms behind bullying promotion and prevention.
The mechanisms that promote and prevent bullying are now functioning mostly without any intervention and lead to various consequences. Should they be monitored and effectively used,, the bullying rates in schools would drastically decrease. Furthermore, understanding causal relations between these concepts would allow understanding what students (other than risk groups such as ethnical minorities) tend to be victimized and bullied.
The dependent variable is the bullying in schools. To understand this variable, one would have to research the bullying rates currently reported by various sources. Thus, during the supposed research, it is important to draw a connection between bullying rates and mechanisms of bullying promotion and prevention.
In turn, the independent variable is bullying prevention mechanisms. It is necessary to determine these mechanisms, and the choice would then lead to establishing certain relations or causal connections.
According to the chosen variables, the hypothesis becomes apparent. Students who are exposed to bullying prevention mechanisms in schools are less likely to bully classmates than students who are not exposed to bullying prevention mechanisms.
The educational institutions (schools, colleges, universities) are understood as subjects. However, this research focuses on schools; therefore, they are the prime subjects of this hypothesis. Thus, the connection between the two variables would be of causal nature. If the hypothesis is correct, the implementation of new mechanisms or adjustment of the existing ones will allow subjects to manage bullying rates.
However, if the hypothesis is wrong, subjects would be unable to decrease bullying rates solely by adjusting promotion and prevention mechanisms. This would suggest that the reason behind bullying should be searched for in behavioral patterns and focus groups. An evaluation of risk factors would also contribute to this approach to resolving the problem. As the behavioral patterns are evaluated, the groups that create risks and groups that are subjected to them will become more apparent, allowing them to be determined early on in their education life. This would allow educators to place these individuals under excessive protection or attention, depending on their ability to bully or be bullied.
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Identifying the study population is crucial for the success of the project, as the reliability of the outcomes depends on it. For the current research, one hundred students from middle and high school levels will be chosen. The variability of participants’ ages will make it possible to make additional conclusions about the differences in understanding the bullying prevention mechanisms in various age groups.
The participants will be chosen from three schools, involving approximately thirty-five students from each school. All students will be required to take a survey at the initial stage. Further, two groups will be randomly formed from the general number of participants. The stages of research are described in the next section.
While the sample size may be considered insufficient for a scientific study, in the current case, it is enough to obtain data from a variety of students. Also, such a sample size makes it easier for a researcher to prepare the survey questions and analyze the answers in a comparatively short period of time.
In order to make research reliable and prove or disclaim the hypothesis, it is necessary to approach the choice of a research design rather thoroughly. Since the hypothesis is concerned with the comparison of students’ behavior depending on being or not being exposed to bullying prevention mechanisms, it seems a good idea to organize the study in the form of experimental design. This type of research design makes it possible to make the most comprehensive comparison of the study groups, as well as analyze the cause-and-effect relationships.
For the current study, the participants will be divided into two groups: experimental and control. There will be three stages of research: pre-experimental, experimental, and post-experimental. The first stage (pre-experimental) will take place in September. At this phase, the researcher will collect data about the participants’ attitudes to bullying and their knowledge about the bullying prevention mechanisms. Also, they will be required to share the information about them having ever been bullied or having ever bullied anyone. The students will answer the questions concerning how they feel about bullying, what factors they consider to be most decisive for someone to initiate this activity, and what effective defense mechanisms they know.
Before proceeding to the second stage, the participants will be randomly divided into two groups. The control group will continue leading a usual school life without any additional courses or lectures. Meanwhile, the experimental group will regularly attend lectures about bullying prevention mechanisms as well as receive leaflets and access to web resources teaching about these mechanisms. The second stage is expected to last for three months – since the second week of September till the second week of December.
The lectures will take place once a week. The students from the experimental group will be encouraged not to share any of the information obtained at the lectures with their peers so as to provide the most objective grounds for the experiment.
The third stage of the experiment is post-experimental. At this phase, which will take place in January, the researcher will ask students the same questions as at the pre-experimental stage with the aim of comparing and contrasting the results in both groups. It is expected that the experimental group will show a better understanding of bullying prevention mechanisms and will express a smaller likelihood to bully classmates.
The analysis of the outcomes of the experiment will be available in February. The researcher will need a month to sort and analyze the data obtained from both groups. In the end, it will be possible to state whether the hypothesis has been proved or disclaimed, and the conclusions will be made as for the further steps.
Data Collection Methods
Taking into consideration the purpose of the study, it seems rational to employ several data collection methods. To gather information from the participants, a survey method will be used. Students will be suggested a number of open-ended and closed-ended questions regarding bullying in school, their attitude to it, and involvement in it.
The second data collection method will be direct observation. The researcher will attend the schools at regular intervals and observe the students’ behavior. Furthermore, it is a good idea to use the recordings from the schools’ surveillance systems, as well as talk to the teachers and principals of the schools. Observation will make it possible to notice the most typical threatening behaviors among the school students and the common ways of dealing with them.
To gain higher reliability and validity, the researcher should remain anonymous to the participants and other students. Therefore, an assistant will be the one distributing the surveys to the students. The chosen data collection methods will enable the researcher to gather a substantial amount of data from the students from both necessary to make conclusions about managing the bullying behaviors. Also, the methods will make it possible to compare and contrast the likelihood of students’ involvement in bullying behaviors under the conditions of being (experimental group) or not being (control group) exposed to bullying prevention mechanisms.
Bradshaw, C. P. (2015). Translating research to practice in bullying prevention. American Psychologist, 70(4), 322-332.
Campbell, E. M., & Smalling, S. E. (2013). American Indians and bullying in schools. Journal of Indigenous Social Development, 2(1), 1-15.
Juvonen, J., & Graham, S. (2014). Bullying in schools: The power of bullies and the plight of victims. Annual Review of Psychology, 65(1), 159-185.
Swearer, S. M., & Hymel, S. (2015). Understanding the psychology of bullying: Moving toward a social-ecological diathesis–stress model. American Psychologist, 70(4), 344-353.
Young, C., & Loring, M. T. (2013). Bullying behavior: Current issues, research, and interventions. New York, NY: Routledge.