Acting Against Bullying: Using Drama and Peer Teaching to Reduce Bullying (page 2)

By — Bullying Special Edition Contributor
Updated on Apr 17, 2009

Why do peer teaching programs work?

Despite extensive evidence that peer teaching can be a powerful pedagogical tool, it is seldom used in normal curriculum teaching (7, 8). Yet our research has demonstrated that young people can take responsibility for learning themselves, and then teaching younger students, how to address the problem of bullying with considerable understanding and skill. Hundreds of young people have achieved this in the Acting Against Bullying program when given the tools and the motivation to do so ( 9, 10).

How the Acting Against Bullying Program works.

The program we developed normally starts at senior level, say a Year 11 Drama or English ‘Key Class’. A set of simple, clear key concepts about bullying and conflict is the basis of the empowerment: if the students have words and concepts to help them understand bullying situations, not just feel helpless, confused and frightened, they will be in a better position to deal strategically rather than emotionally.

Key Concepts

  • the range of types and contexts of bullying
  • three escalating stages – latent, emerging and manifest bullying
  • the parties involved – invariably three: the person or people bullying, the bullied and the bystander - we avoid the terms ‘victim’ and ‘the bully’, stressing that all humans have the propensity to take on any of these three roles, and all three, especially the bystander, have the power to act to remediate the bullying
  • possible remediation strategies

First Step: These concepts are taught through drama. Drama removes ‘blame’, exploring neutrally the dynamics and mechanics of bullying in context. Situations can be acted out that show bullying behaviour, but the emotions remain unthreatened, and the participants are always in control. It is important to remember that drama is imaginative play, where students can explore any experience safely by pretending it is real whilst knowing it is fictional.

Second Step: Next, in small groups, the Key Class uses the same drama techniques and key concepts to peer-teach ‘relay classes’ (ideally two years younger – say Year 9). By this they are reinforcing their own knowledge. The younger students, too, appreciate being taught by students they look up to, whose knowledge they trust as much closer to their reality than teachers, and whom they know to have survived their own kinds of conflict. Those younger students then teach younger relay classes students, down into the primary (elementary) school, and right down – we have found – to Year 2 or 3 (eight year olds). It is important that the relay classes are not also drama or English classes, so that the program is not seen as their ‘province’. Social Studies, Health Education, Liberal Studies all provide potential curricular openings. Where the program is supported and infuses the whole school, the ethos of the school begins to change – students are more conscious, empowered with strategies for action.

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