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Teachers' responses to bullying situations: The elements that influence intervention

Dissertation
Author: Toni M. Beebout-Bladholm
Abstract:
Bullying and teacher's perception of student's behaviors play a large role in the interaction that teachers have with learners. Understanding the impact of bullying and teacher intervention can guide future programs and aid in professional development in rural areas. A nonexperimental, cross-sectional, correlational study of K-12 licensed staff in a rural Minnesota was conducted to learn more about the presence of relational aggression in rural areas and the role that staff members play in creating a positive school environment. This study compared data from a similar study conducted by Dr. Janet Jordan (2007) Factors that influence teacher responses to bullying situations to the perceptions of teachers in a different part of the country (rural). Teachers K-12 were surveyed and data were collected to gauge the empathy and intervention skills and abilities in comparison to other educational professionals. The literature review took into account the development of aggressive behaviors in children, the implications of aggressive behaviors on children and young adults, and finally the impact of appropriate interventions. In addition, a brief overview of current programs is included to support professional development. This study found a relationship between teachers surveyed in this study and the study replicated. It also found that teachers were more inclined to intervene based on empathy for the victim and perceived seriousness of the bullying situation. Teachers in a rural school system were more likely to intervene if they perceived the bullying situation to be physical and slightly less likely to intervene if they perceived the bullying situation to be social. These results are similar to the results found in the replicated study conducted by Jordan in 2007. These findings support that more professional development could aid educators in intervening in all types of bullying situations regardless of the type of bullying and the empathy and seriousness perceived.

vii Table of Contents Acknowledgments iv List of Tables ix CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION 1 Introduction to the Problem 1 Background of the Study 2 Statement of the Problem 9 Purpose of the Study 11 Rationale 12 Research Questions 14 Significance of the Study 14 Definition of Terms 18 Assumptions 20 Limitations 21 Nature of the Study 22 Organization of the Remainder of the Study 23 CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW 24 Introduction 24 Bullying Components 24 An Overview of Bullying 25 Types of Bullying 27 Theoretical Framework 31 Negative Effects of Bullying on Victims 43

viii Negative Effects of Bullying on Bullies 44 Problems With Identifying and Reporting Bullying 49 Development of Bullying 51 Development of Friendships 52 The Progression of Bullying 57 Roles 60 Coping Strategies for Bullying 66 Proactive Programs to Combat Bullying and Protect Children 66 Proactive Approaches to Bullying 68 How to Stop Bullying in Your School 69 Bullying and Some Suggested Responses 69 Bullying and How to Help 70 Positive Programs That Address the Problem 71 School Culture 73 Literature Review Conclusion 79 CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY 81 Introduction 81 Statement of the Problem 82 Research Questions 82 Design of the Study 83 Setting 83 Population 83 Instrumentation 84

ix Validity 86 Reliability 86 Data Collection 87 Data Analysis 88 Ethical Considerations 89 CHAPTER 4. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS 90 Introduction 90 Demographics 91 Data Analysis Procedure 93 Reliability Analysis 94 Detail Analysis of Research Questions 95 CHAPTER 5. RESULTS, CONCLUSIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS 127 Introduction 127 Summary 127 Review of Findings 129 Comparing the Current Study and Jordan’s (2007) Results 133 Recommendations for Further Study 135 Recommendations for Practice 137 Implications and Conclusions 138 REFERENCES 147

x List of Tables Table 1. Satisfaction Reliability Descriptive and Inferential Statistics 95 Table 2. Research Questions Presented With Dependent Variable, Predictor, Mediator, and Statistics Used to Test the Relationship 96 Table 3. Descriptive Statistics for All Vignette Variables 98 Table 4. Descriptive Statistics for the Criterion and Predictor Variables Used in RQ2 99 Table 5. General Descriptive Statistics for Criterion and Predictor Variables 101 Table 6. Model Summary Generated From Multiple Regression Analysis of RQ2a 103 Table 7. Model Summary Generated From Multiple Regression Analysis of RQ2b 105 Table 8. Model Summary Generated From Multiple Regression Analysis of RQ2c 106 Table 9. Descriptive Statistics for Variables Used in RQ3 108 Table 10. Descriptive Statistics With Outliers Removed 110 Table 11. Zero-Order Correlation Test Among Variables 111 Table 12. Model Summary Generated from Multiple Regression Analysis of RQ3a 112 Table 13. Model Summary Generated From Multiple Regression Analysis of RQ3b 113 Table 14. Model Summary Generated From Multiple Regression Analysis of RQ3c 115 Table 15. Model Summary Generated From Sequential Multiple Regression Analysis of RQ4a 117 Table 16. Model Summary Generated From Sequential Multiple Regression Analysis of RQ4b 119

xi Table 17. Model Summary Generated From Sequential Multiple Regression Analysis of RQ4c 121

1

CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION

Introduction to the Problem Bullying is a serious issue in today’s schools (Banks, 1997). School districts throughout the country are faced with the issue of how to deal with bullying and how to guide teachers in dealing with bullying. Teacher perceptions and empathy are important aspects of bullying prevention (Craig, Henderson, & Murphy, 2000). This study examined teachers’ responses to bullying vignettes (written scenarios that present bullying situations) and the factors that influence their responses in a rural school setting involving K–12 teachers. It also focused on the empathy and perceptions of teachers and address school climate in intervention situations. The three instruments used in the Jordan (2007) study (the Bullying Attitudes Questionnaire, the Thoughts About School Survey, and the Teacher Interpersonal Self-Efficacy Scale) were used in this study. Finally, this study compared the findings to a previous study conducted by Jordan: Factors That Influence Teacher Responses to Bullying Situations. The Jordan (2007) study with the overarching goal of learning what factors influence teachers’ responses to bullying situations: How do teachers respond to bullying vignettes? Does empathy for the victim and perceived seriousness predict likelihood of intervention in the bullying vignettes? Does school climate predict teachers’ likelihood of intervention in bullying vignettes and teachers’ interpersonal self-efficacy? Does school climate mediate the relationship between the teacher variables and teachers’ likelihood of intervention in the bullying vignettes? (pp. 9–10)

2 This study addressed these questions through replication. In addition, a question that addresses comparisons and similarities between the two studies was raised. This replication was designed to address the issue that is facing U.S. schools: to better understand the systems of bullying and help prevent and avoid all of the negative repercussions of bullying using teachers as a tool for prevention. According to Jordan (2007), there are connections between teachers’ experiences and likelihood of intervention, as well as other consistencies and inconsistencies. This study sought to determine whether or not results of this study were consistent with Jordan’s work, regardless of location and population.

Background of the Study Educators, administrators, and school systems are spending more time on behavioral issues that stem from bullying. “Increasing school adaptation by fostering social support in the school setting, promoting positive attitudes toward education, and supporting academic achievement may avoid adolescents’ declines in school attachment and self-esteem and reduce negative outcomes” (Kupersmidt & Dodge, 2004, p. 191). Bullying poses a threat to academic learning and emotional well-being of children and young adults. Bullying is not a new phenomenon but rather one that can be identified in early writings (Minogue, 2002; Olweus, 1993; Taylor, 2006). However, bullying research has taken on a new perspective when researched in regard to educational systems, bully characteristics, and long-term bullying effects. Bullying may be traced back to the origins of human nature. According to Minogue, bullying is, “in Christian terms, a central part of

3 original sin, or human imperfection” (para. 2). Similarly, bullying can be traced to the times of Cain and Abel. There is even a theological basic for this, in the hints of St. Augustine that God created a world of creatures having free will so that their decisions and actions would entertain him. Mere subordination is unamusing, and we have a vocabulary that allows us to express our disapproval of people whose aim is nothing else but to please—toady, creep, sycophant, etc., are the correlates of the bully. (Minogue, 2002, para. 8)

Bullying is a term that has been present in culture since written records have been kept. In regard to research in bullying, Olweus (1981) initiated the world’s first systematic bullying research. Dr. Dan Olweus has long seen school safety as a fundamental human right. As early as 1981, he proposed enacting a law against bullying in schools so students could be spared the repeated humiliation implied in bullying. By the mid-1990s, these arguments led to legislation against bullying by the Swedish and Norwegian parliaments. (Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, 2010, para. 3)

Following this research, according to Beaty and Alexeyev (2008), a number of other researchers studied bullying: Stephenson and Smith (1989); Whitney and Smith (1993); Rigby and Slee (1991); Perry, Kusel, and Perry (1988); and Christie (2005). These studies and others like them have led to a greater research base and understanding of what bullying is and what is included in its definition. Over time, bullying has been differentiated with terminology such as verbal aggression, physical aggression, and relational aggression. These terms are defined later in this chapter. In Chapter 2, literature on these types of bullying is presented. Understanding the perceptions of staff and comparing the perceptions of teachers with regard to the frequency and variety of bullying incidents can guide school teachers

4 in the development of not only discipline policies but also professional development, intervention strategies, and the enhancement of the overall school environment. Crick and Grotpeter (1995) addressed the importance of bullying research for not merely the immediate time and place but for long-term wellness: “Research tells us that aggressive behavior during childhood predicts later social adjustment problems” (p. 2317). More knowledge about teacher intervention may impact the level of involvement that educators choose and could end the cycle of bullying. Studies spanning a number of years (Crick & Grotpeter, 1995, 1996; Crick, Ostrov, & Nelson, 2002; Crothers & Kolbert, 2008) have showed that bullying does exist, even if some do not view it as an ongoing and serious problem. Many educators see the problem, yet hold back when interventions are necessary. According to Dake, Price, Telljohann, and Funk (2003) Teachers also did not incorporate the activities due to a lack of training regarding effective classroom bullying measures. Boulton (2008) found that 87% of teachers wanted more training regarding bullying prevention. Effective training may need to incorporate activities shown successful in preventing bullying problems. (p. 353)

The school staff and the students can be a useful social network providing support to students who have experienced bullying (Demaray, Malecki, & Delong, 2006). Students who have experienced bullying report that they do not feel supported at school, although those who are the bully-victims do identify themselves as more supported by school personnel than the bullies are (Jordan, 2007). Teacher intervention can include modeling and teaching bystander intervention. This can be more powerful than merely disciplining a child for partaking in bullying (Yoon, 2004). This can only take place if teachers’ perceptions and reactions to bullying are consistent and widespread. Current

5 research (Crick, 2009) shows that intervention is not always present because of lack of awareness about physical bullying and a lack of intervention skills on the part of teachers, administrators, and other students, and the skewed perception that school officials have. Previous studies (Craig, Pepler, & Atlas, 2000; Crick, Ostrov, & Kawabata, 2007; Yoon, 2004) have documented the prevalence of bullying, the impacts of bullying, and programs designed to eliminate bullying. Programs that currently address bullying include: The Ophelia Project (2006), Teen Talking Circles (1993), Creative Crossing Program, and Girls Empowered (2000). Each program has resulted in changes in bullying program implementation and presents opportunities for professional development. A study of 16,000 students conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found almost a third of teens either were bullies or were bullied and 30 percent of 6th through 10th graders are involved in bullying at school. (Malick, 2007, para. 1)

Another study from the Families and Work Institute asked 1,001 adolescents in the fifth through 12th grades the following question: “If you could make one change that would help stop the violence that young people experience today, what would that change be?” Interestingly, the majority of young people talked about emotional violence; relational aggression is a type of emotional violence. (Dellasega & Nixon, 2003, p. 8)

“Currently, 23 states in the U.S. have laws that specifically address bullying in their state code. A number of states have board education policies that address bullying, but do not specifically address bullying in their state codes” (The Ophelia Project, 2007, para. 4). These recent studies showed that bullying does exist, even if many do not view it as an ongoing and important problem. However, many do see the problem and have established a body of research—research that will guide this study. The problem is that even with understanding what the problem is, the role school personnel play, and the damage that is

6 done to students, it has not been determined what will end aggression and deter further acts of bullying and aggression. Adult intervention and involvement and the perception of participating adults is what this study will strive to analyze and understand. Do adults understand the situation in which they are involved? Do they understand the ramifications of their actions or their lack of acting? Does their role provide hope for future prevention? How can a greater understanding prove advantageous for adolescents? Previous research leads future research in the direction of understanding intervention and the impacts of intervention. How can new research change the way schools address this problem? Bullying is centered around power. The bully gains power through victimizing others. This power can be based on physical attributes or mental skills, but the direct and indirect bullying that takes place is hostile. This hostility manifests itself in overt and covert ways that can also lead to social exclusion (Naylor, Cowie, Cossin, Bettencourt, & Lemme, 2006). Another common assumption that runs through education and communities is that bullying involves a large child physically assaulting a smaller or younger child (Minogue, 2002). Though these instances of abuse are commonplace in society, another less detected form of behavior is assaulting young people in every school and community across the country, and the world; relational aggression is this form of bullying. Crick, from the University of Minnesota, first wrote about this type of behavior in 1995, and since that time has continued to work in the research field developing studies that make the discussion of bullying more accepted by colleagues in education and psychological circles.

7 Previous psychological studies of the subject had focused on physical aggression, which is easier to see and easier to document. Perhaps that was why conventional wisdom had it that girls were less aggressive than boys, and when provoked, more likely to internalize their emotions than express them by acting out. Behaviors such as spreading rumors about someone, or giving a former friend the cold shoulder, while not considered friendly, were traditionally seen as bad manners, not aggression. But by interpreting these emotional weapons as such, Crick saw girls’ behavior in a new way. (“Words Can Hurt, Too,” 2001, para. 4)

Understanding studies that have been conducted regarding bullying could be beneficial to educate school personnel who perceive bullying as merely a problem for girls and physical aggression an issue for boys. Crick recognized that the aggressive/bullying levels of girls were at odds with what was once assumed. Crick’s work has added to understanding for future discoveries in bullying tendencies, bullying prevention, and understanding interventions for bullying. This impact has resulted in the development of various curricula and programs designed to address bullying and prevention in schools (Crick & Grotpeter, 1995). Dake et al. (2003) found that bullying prevention literature is effective in implementing schoolwide programs to reduce the number of bullying incidents. Two activities were noted as the most successful: (a) open communication and availability to discuss bullying, and (b) student involvement in establishing classroom norms. However, these researchers also noted that only one third of teachers were consistent in implementing these effective strategies, with two thirds of the teachers seldom or never discussing bullying. This is consistent with the information provided by successful programs. Brunner and Lewis (2008) pinpointed the essential components of a successful program at the high school level. These researchers concluded that the most important

8 strategy for secondary schools to combat bullying was an ongoing dialogue about social responsibility. They recognized that students need to understand the role each student plays in the school and the world. This served as the basis for further discussions, to encompass respectful behavior, consistent expectations, and the role each member of the school needs to fulfill. It is without question that acts of bullying take place. It is understood that students are treating each other poorly, and it is equally appreciated that emotional well-being impacts academic achievement, yet systems cannot seem to address and eliminate these negatives, and instead are met with opposition from those they are trying to protect. Another concern is the number of programs that target elementary children and ignore upper grade levels. “Bullying prevention programs are usually designed for elementary students and the techniques and strategies are not useful in the secondary school setting” (Brunner & Lewis, 2008, para. 15). “However, students involved in bullying often reported they do not have support at school. . . . Bullies perceived less support from teachers than comparison students, bully-victims perceived more overall social support than the other three groups” (Jordan, 2007, p. 27). Teacher intervention can include modeling and teaching bystander intervention. This can be more powerful than merely disciplining a child for partaking in bullying. This can only take place if teachers’ perceptions and reactions to bullying are consistent and widespread. Current studies such as those that will be investigated in the literature review and those noted previously show that intervention is not always present because of a lack of awareness and the skewed perception school officials have. An in-

9 depth literature review supports that intervention with proper education does lead to prevention in some instances; note the Ophelia Project and others like it.

Statement of the Problem It is not known how teachers will respond to bullying vignettes (written scenarios of possible bullying situations), how they express empathy, how they perceive the seriousness of bullying situations, and how school climate plays a role in teacher intervention. Parents send their children to school with the assumption that they will not only learn but will be protected. For this reason, the school has a responsibility to address bullying. Taylor (2006) found that the most valuable factor in avoiding antisocial behaviors in school was for schools to provide opportunities for students to belong. These connectedness options are those that are not available for students by peers or family. Creating a bully-free environment could reduce the number of incidents of students acting out inappropriately and victimizing each other. A teacher may see that a child is a target for jokes or chuckling, but what he or she may be unable to address is why this particular child is the focus for so many to ridicule. Even trained professionals who understand the development of bullying behaviors in children find themselves confused as to why seemingly nice children become part of a group that preys on other children. It appears that many children participate in this type of gang mentality and brutality so that they are not the target of the same bullying behaviors. They participate in the victimization to avoid becoming the victims themselves (Coloroso, 2003). Teachers’ perceptions of the situation affect their ability or willingness to intervene. Crothers and Kolbert (2008) addressed intervention:

10 When asked about managing problematic student behavior, teachers often respond in one of two ways: It is not much of a concern, because their classroom management strategies are typically effective in resolving student behavioral concerns, or they feel overwhelmed and impotent to address behavioral difficulties that threaten to disrupt the learning process and subsequent academic achievement of students. (p. 132)

Another tendency is for adults to develop attitudes that support bullying and allow it to grow. There are teachers and adults in school systems who believe the old adage “kids will be kids” and that bullying is a rite of passage. Brunner and Lewis (2008) identified that some may encourage the victim to address the bully with the same type of physical force. Parents of bullies may even try to reflect upon their own school experiences and minimize the victimization by adhering to the standard that they survived school with no real damage. Attitudes that support bullying can create a dangerous environment for kids. What teachers can do to create positive school climate and reduce bullying varies. There is a gap in the research literature regarding how and to what extent intervention, or the lack thereof, by teachers impacts bullying situations. Varnava (2002) noted that bullying is a social problem that can be found everywhere. Regardless of the school environment or the pupils and staff involved, bullying can be found. The charge given to all school personnel is that structures and procedures to prevent bullying are part of the school’s everyday way of conducting business. It is not the role of one person, but rather the responsibility of all individuals to develop a caring and supportive system that combats bullying and aggression consistently (Varnava, 2002).

11 “In summary, current literature indicates that teachers’ roles are important in addressing bullying and victimization yet little is known about the different factors that influence teachers’ responses” (Jordan, 2007, p. 7). Understanding how teachers respond to bullying scenarios, the victim’s perceived seriousness of the situation, and the likelihood of intervention in different types of bullying instances is important for educators to make professional development decisions and plans. It is not known how teachers will respond to bullying vignettes, how they express empathy, how they perceive the seriousness of bullying situations, and how school climate plays a role in teacher intervention.

Purpose of the Study This study utilized the research conducted in a previous study in an urban area and compared findings in a replication conducted in a rural setting. The purpose was to determine what differences in response to bullying scenarios may be found between learners in a graduate program and those who are currently practicing teachers in a rural school district in Minnesota. It was also important to determine what type of teacher characteristics predict likelihood of intervention and lead to schoolwide antibullying professional development. The purpose of this study was to determine how teachers responded to bullying situations that involve bullying situations, identify factors that impact their level of response or willingness to intervene in the situations, and determine what role school climate plays in teachers’ responses to bullying vignettes. By investigating teacher

12 responses to bullying situations, this study aimed to identify strategies and techniques that teachers and parents can use to prevent or address these behaviors.

Rationale Bullying is complex. Bullying is a problem that starts early and can gain momentum as aggressors and victims get older. “Children who are very shy or overly aggressive toward peers often get caught up in coercive cycles of interaction that escalate and persist over time” (Ladd, 2005, p. 16). Bullying includes emotional abuse and can begin early as children form relationships and friendships. This adds a dimension to bullying that makes the problem even more complex. If children and young adults are being bullied by their closest friends, it identifies the important role that acceptance plays and the lengths to which individuals will go to be part of a group. Understanding detection and prevention guides research in bullying. Teachers need the tools and techniques to combat these realities. Understanding teachers’ perceptions of bullying may help to establish methods for prevention and intervention. This study will be compared to a previous study to gain insight into how teacher intervention may or may not differ across the country. In addition, the population for the Minnesota study will focus on teachers active in the public classroom, whereas the Jordan (2007) study focused on teachers taking courses at the university level, though some were teaching while pursuing their advanced degrees. The perceptions that adults have of aggression is the key component in understanding that a problem really does exist. Johannes (2006) noted

13 Results demonstrated that teachers and students reported similar frequency of witnessing bullying, but perceptions of harm and acceptability differed between the two groups. Gender differences existed in several aspects of perceptions. It was also found that the level of exposure and type of experience with relational aggression was associated with perceptions and attributions. (para. 2)

Understanding school climate and the impact of intervention can lead to further professional development and change the environment for all learners. Programs that address bullying have been sporadic and inconsistent at best in rural areas. Studying the perceptions of educators can lead to making more informed decisions when addressing relational aggression. School culture plays a role in the level of bullying that takes place. L. Wilson (2008) commented that school climate can instantly be identified. The important characteristics of positive school culture require a vision and mission to making sure that everyone in the system knows and believes in the philosophy of the school. School culture can be positive by creating an environment that is safe and supports learners’ emotional needs. The school culture can be supported by adults and children working together to address bullying in schools. This study involved hypothetical situations that are realities for children. Understanding the role that adults play in intervening continues to be important to create a school culture that promotes the healthy development of young people. Having empathy and understanding the role that teachers play continues to be important in implementing change—change that will benefit all children and young adults. The abilities that educational professionals have to address bullying and understand the role they play in interventions will undoubtedly provide valuable research materials for not merely the district but for others in the field of education trying to make positive changes.

Full document contains 172 pages
Abstract: Bullying and teacher's perception of student's behaviors play a large role in the interaction that teachers have with learners. Understanding the impact of bullying and teacher intervention can guide future programs and aid in professional development in rural areas. A nonexperimental, cross-sectional, correlational study of K-12 licensed staff in a rural Minnesota was conducted to learn more about the presence of relational aggression in rural areas and the role that staff members play in creating a positive school environment. This study compared data from a similar study conducted by Dr. Janet Jordan (2007) Factors that influence teacher responses to bullying situations to the perceptions of teachers in a different part of the country (rural). Teachers K-12 were surveyed and data were collected to gauge the empathy and intervention skills and abilities in comparison to other educational professionals. The literature review took into account the development of aggressive behaviors in children, the implications of aggressive behaviors on children and young adults, and finally the impact of appropriate interventions. In addition, a brief overview of current programs is included to support professional development. This study found a relationship between teachers surveyed in this study and the study replicated. It also found that teachers were more inclined to intervene based on empathy for the victim and perceived seriousness of the bullying situation. Teachers in a rural school system were more likely to intervene if they perceived the bullying situation to be physical and slightly less likely to intervene if they perceived the bullying situation to be social. These results are similar to the results found in the replicated study conducted by Jordan in 2007. These findings support that more professional development could aid educators in intervening in all types of bullying situations regardless of the type of bullying and the empathy and seriousness perceived.