United States and anti bullying programs in schools

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Coping with and stopping bullying has become a national concern (Arnett, 2007). In the United States, schools are implementing various antibullying programs in order to address violence in the classrooms (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010). There are several strategies and methods offered by experts on how to cope with bullying. Carney (2006) suggests that stopping bullying can be accomplished by talking about it, being confidence, not using force, avoiding trouble, and not replying when bullied online. Arnett (2007) also recommended that bullying should be an issue which children can talk about. Children victims need to be able to talk to a parent, a friend, or an older brother or sister right after being bullied. This is the only way where more mature figures will be able to assist in planning with the child in order to stop a recurrence of bullying. Talking about it also helps the child in realizing that bullying is wrong and nobody deserves to be bullied by another person (Kalman, 2006).

Studies have highlighted the importance of family involvement in addressing the bullying problem in schools (Merrell et al., 2006). Parents can help in pushing for a school environment that does not tolerate bullying and they are also vital in the development and implementation of intervention strategies (Bauman & Del Rio, 2006). In terms of prevention, parents act as social mediators for children by being role models of positive behavior and facilitative positive social relationships between their children and friends.

Aside from parents, the role of educators in stopping bullying in schools cannot be overemphasized (Bauman & Del Rio, 2006). Working with children on a daily basis puts them in a position to help. Like parents, educators also model positive behavior and by demonstrating these behaviors, they can elevate it to school-wide standard (Arnett, 2007). In the classroom, teachers are channels toward positive social values such as cooperation, harmony, communication, respect, and kindness (Adams, 2006). Moreover, a teacher's supervisory role in the classroom helps mitigate bullying situations. The teacher can also act as a mediator toward the formulation of classroom policies and rules which prevent and reduce bullying incidence.

Bullying Intervention

Various bullying programs have been designed to address the escalating incidence of violence in schools. Some have shown great results while others have not registered significant changes (Hahn et al., 2007).

The first step towards the implementation of effective antibullying programs is to recognize the seriousness of the problem itself (Adams, 2006). School authorities, educators, and parents must be able to be united in making a position that bullying has no place in the school setting. In this manner, antibullying programs can be geared toward creating a school environment where bullies are neither glorified nor tolerated. Some of the characteristics of Schools may have to make some changes in order to have successful bullying programs. Some of the characteristics of successful antibullying programs have included school reforms in a) staff development, b) programming initiatives, c) assessments, d) policies and e) curriculum (Adams, 2006; Committee for Children, 2010). Some schools also seek out consultants to help them draft a suitable intervention strategy to address the particular problems given the capacities of the school. Successful bullying programs result to a school climate where engaging in aggressive behavior becomes difficult for bullies. These programs require the concerted efforts of parents, educators, students, and administrators (Committee for Children, 2010).

Intervention programs must not only change the school climate, they must also be directed toward addressing the behaviors of bullies and their victims (Merrell et al., 2006). Hahn et al. (2007) explained that current approaches toward preventing bullying in schools are guided by different behavioral theories. Some intervention programs today build on the social learning theory. Examples of programs founded on this framework are Students for Peace and Responding in Peaceful and Positive Ways. Some intervention strategies focus more on changing interpersonal relations while others focus on the social and physical environment. Other programs focus on educating students through information dissemination regarding violence based on the assumption that additional knowledge will lead to reduced violent behaviours. There are other programs which provide skills training combined with education in order to prevent violence. Some programs emphasize on developing the self-esteem and self-concept of students.

There are many activities which intervention strategies can use in order to launch successful antibullying programs. Activities that promote positive social interaction such as literature, writing, role-playing, and discussions should b encouraged (Dellasega, 2005). Role-playing is helpful in order to allow students to acquire a depiction of the actions of a bully, a victim, and a bystander. Writing literature or keeping journal entries allow students to express their feelings about bullying. Watching a movie is also an enjoyable format in getting the message across (Rosevear & Logan, 2007). Art can also be used as a medium to demonstrate student's feelings about the reality of bullying (Dellasega, 2005).

Another form of intervention is to create a physical environment that deters bullying behavior. The aims is for the school to provide students with various activities that will keep them off aggressive behaviors. Dellasega (2005) suggested the importance of mentoring programs which provide students with positive role models. Mentors help students understand and objectify conflict by discussing it openly with them and engaging them so that they can articulate views on how they could help resolve conflict. Providing interactive and social activities can also help students interact with peers and develop social skills.

Activities must also be provided for the bully.They need to be shown how hurtful their behavior is; most do not realize it until it is brought to their attention (Burgess, n.d.). Counseling bullies individually rather than in groups is important to redirect their aggressive tendencies into power and leadership roles (Mullin-Rindler, 2003).

Without intervention the behavior does not subside (Vail, 2002). An effective intervention must address peer-group dynamics as well as individual behaviors (Young, et al., 2006). There are many intervention programs on a nationwide level. Some of these bullying intervention programs reduce incidences in schools by as much as 50 % (Adams, 2006).

Interventions should promote social-emotional learning which is "the process of acquiring the skills to recognize and manage emotions, develop caring and concern for others, make responsible decisions, establish positive relationships, and handle challenging situations effectively" (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, 2005 as cited in Merrell, et al., 2006).

There are several other smaller anti-bullying programs; one is called Bullying Hurts! that was founded by Marvin Nash. The Bullying Hurts! Program helps students figure out what exactly bullying is and how it makes them feel. The program teams up high school students and younger students to combat bullying. Nash and his family train high school students so they can teach anti-bullying programs to elementary and middles school students. Bullying Hurts! emphasizes two tips for handling bullies: tell an adult and never resort to violence (Carney,


Social-skills training programs and character-education programs may help foster peer relationships. These programs might include qualities of a friend, ways to act as a good friend, and the importance of including other children (Young, et al., 2006). The Second Step, Middle

School/Junior High program's goals are to foster students learning of pro-social skills and reduce impulsive-aggressive behavior (Van Schoiack-Edstrom, Frey, & Beland, 2002). The Owning Up program addresses the role of the bystander and includes interventions in trying to stop the aggressive behavior (Young, et al., 2006). Steve Leff designed a project called "Friend to Friend Project". This 16-week course involves young people, teachers, playground monitors, and parents (Ligouri, 2005). BullySafeUSA is a program developed by SueEllen Fried. This program offers a range of services that include student empowerment sessions, teacher and parent workshops and training sessions for school counselors, and administrators (Fried & Fried, 2003).

Regardless of the type of program that a school or community chooses, evaluation is necessary once interventions are implemented (Young, et al., 2006). Researchers need to continue to learn more about how/why these social processes unfold. Understanding this will help to create more successful intervention tools (Underwood, 2003).

Action Research Methodology

The use of action research in higher education is growing (Mertler, 2006). Action research involves a systematic inquiry wherein educators can utilize their knowledge as practitioners to change and improve educational practices (Kemmis, 2009; Craig, 2009). By systematically and intentionally studying problems within the educational community, they not only contribute to knowledge production but to meaningful reforms as well. Action research is defined as "a reflective process of progressive problem solving led by individuals working with others in teams or as part of a "community of practice" to improve the way they address issues and solve problems" (Riel, 2010). The aim of action research is to understand practice and to articulate a philosophy of practice which improves practice (McCutcheon & Jung, as cited in Herr, Anderson, & Herr, 2005). As a research design, action research is relatively new. Despite its recent popular application, there is still debate on where action research really falls as to its nature of inquiry (Ary, Jacobs, Razavieh & Sorensen, 2009). Some research experts associate it more with the qualitative tradition, while others assert that its concrete application in research has showed that it relies more on quantitative inquiry (Burns, 2007). However, literature would suggest that action research possesses certain overall characteristics that are different from other research approaches. These are:

Problem-solving is highlighted in the scientific study (Pine, 2008; Koshy, 2005;

Methodological tools are not rigid and can be modified to suit the demands of the research situation (Cooke & Cox, 2005);

The research is process is cyclical (Schmuck, 2006; Riel, 2010);

There is leaning toward practitioners as researchers (Mertler, 2006; Walter, 2009);

No great attempts at objectivity are intended (Kock, 2005);

The inquiry has a social dimension (Walter, 2009, IISD, 2010).

What sets action research apart from other research approaches is its cyclical nature. This means that as a research method, it proceeds through a chain of steps repeatedly. Unlike traditional research, action research does not end upon the determination of findings and the formulation of conclusions - on the contrary, this sparks a renewal of the research process. Hence, action research follows what Riel (2010) calls "progressive problem solving" (see Figure 1).

In the entire research process, there could be multiple cycles and multiple foci of the study. In one research cycle, an action research proceeds in five general steps: "1. identifying an area of focus; 2. Developing an action plan; 3. collecting data; 4. analyzing and interpreting data; 5. reflecting" (Herr, Anderson, & Herr, 2005, p. 15). Beginning with the identification of the problem, the researcher/s come up with research questions and identifies the type of data needed. Types of data involved in action research can be quantitative or numerical, qualitative or descriptive, but usually both (Creswell, 2005). After data collection, the researcher/s interpret and analyze data. Conclusions are the drawn followed by a period of reflection which researchers engage in to be able come up with another plan of action to improve practice. This goes on until the problem identified is solved or objectives are met (Koshy, 2005).

The method of action research involves four general stages of collectively 1) planning, 2) acting, 3) observing and 4) reflecting. This phase leads to another cycle of action, in which the plan is revised, and further acting, observing and reflecting undertaken systematically to work towards solutions to problems whether of a practical or emancipatory nature.

Action research accommodates all types of data collected through various techniques. Action research even considers it important to collect multiple measures on the variables of interest in a given study. It allows - and in fact, encourages - the researcher to triangulate the collected data for greater research credibility. There are four main categories of data collection in action research (Craig, 2009; Mertler, 2006; Cooke & Cox, 2005):

Observations recorded through fieldnotes or journals to describe in detail what is seen and heard.

Interview data through interviews or surveys.

Existing documents or records such as lesson plans, student portfolios, school newspapers, minutes of meetings, attendance records, etc.

Quantitative measures such as ratings, checklists, tests, or scoring rubrics.

Data analysis in action research occurs beginning data collection and afterwards. Most quantitative researchers begin analyzing data after all data is gathered. Qualitative researchers begin analyzing data at the start of the data collection process. Action research combines both processes. Johnson (as cited in Mertler, 2006) suggests that "as you collect your data, analyze them by looking for themes, categories or patterns that emerge" (p. 87). Analyzing data allows other foci to emerge and influences the research on what other data to look for. Data analysis is not really as exhaustive or as complex in action research as it is with traditional research. However, action research lately has been influenced to adopt more quantitative analysis in order to establish integrity and credibility in the findings. Coding, content analysis, and other qualitative forms of analysis are sometimes buffered with inferential statistics to boost credibility (Sagor, 2005).

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