Tribes: A Way to Improve School Climate and Reduce Bullying? (page 2)

By — Bullying Special Edition Contributor
Updated on Feb 11, 2009

How Tribes Changes the School Climate

  • Teachers in Tribes classrooms model respectful behaviour and encourage respectful interactions among students; they aim to use the most effective teaching methods and meet the learning needs of all students.
  • Ideally, all members of a school staff are trained in the Tribes process and agree to follow the principles, and parents are informed about the Tribes agreements and encouraged to model them at home.
  • With consistent positive behavioural expectations in the classroom, on the school yard, and at home, a true learning community with a positive, nurturing school climate is fostered.

Research Results

The following outcomes of the Tribes program have been reported (6):

  • Students from Tribes classrooms are less likely than students from non-Tribes classrooms to be referred to the principal or school counselor for disciplinary problems.
  • Teachers report that Tribes has a positive impact on their classroom environment, and that they spend less time managing student behavior because of the Tribes program.

In addition, Gibbs (7) has cited the following study results:

  • Tribes teachers report that their classrooms are more settled, respectful, comfortable and productive.

A recent qualitative study (4) of a Tribes school in their fourth year of implementation suggests that:

  • Tribes teachers like the simplicity of the four agreements, and how these shared principles make it easier to have consistent behavioural standards throughout a school.
  • Students like the fun built into Tribes activities and enjoy school more.
  • Both students and staff report that there is less fighting and bullying occurring since their school became a Tribes school. · Parents benefit from Tribes information sent home in new school newsletters.

Importance for Teachers and Parents

If you’re a teacher having a hard time fitting an anti-bullying program into your schedule, but still want to do something to try to improve your school’s climate and reduce bullying, why not consider Tribes? The basic course involves 24-hours of training which usually takes place over two week-ends. The training itself is a lot of fun and gives you a chance to experience what it’s like to be part of a Tribes community. For more information about the Tribes process, visit Pass the word along to your principal and teaching colleagues as the Tribes process works better if all school staff are involved.

Parents, if you would like to see a more positive school climate with less bullying at your child’s school, let your school council representative know about the potential benefits of the Tribes program.

Wendy Ryan is a former teacher and M.Ed. (Counselling) graduate, currently working on a PhD in Education at the University of Ottawa. Her doctoral research explores the links between school climate and bullying. She can be contacted at:


  1. Galloway, D., & Roland, E. (2004). Is the direct approach to reducing bullying always the best? In P. K. Smith, D. Pepler, & K. Rigby (Eds.), Bullying in schools: How successful can interventions be? (pp. 37-53). New York: Cambridge University Press.
  2. Gottfredson, D. C., & Gottfredson, G. D. (2002). Quality of school-based prevention programs: Results from a national survey. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 39, 3-36.
  3. Kasen, S., Berenson, K., Cohen, P., & Johnson, J. G. (2004). The effects of school climate on changes in aggressive and other behaviors related to bullying. In D. L. Espelage & S. M. Swearer (Eds.), Bullying in American schools: A social-ecological perspective on prevention and intervention (pp.187-210). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  4. Ryan, W. (2008). Links between school climate and bullying. Manuscript in preparation.
  5. Gibbs, J. (2001). Tribes: A new way of learning and being together. Windsor, CA: Center Source Systems.
  6. OJJDP. (n.d.). Model Programs Guide. Retrieved August 10, 2008 from
  7. Gibbs, J. (n.d.). Preventing the underlying causes of school violence. Retrieved August 10, 2008, from
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