Teachers lack education on the issue bullying, hindering its prevention, says one of the world’s most prominent experts on the subject.
Up to 70 public schools around the country will collect survey data in April and May to form a united strategy against bullying.
A recent pilot study involving eight schools showed improvements in students’ understanding of the importance of not being “a passive bystander” to bullying, but also revealed a lack of teachers’ education on the issue.
Professor Ken Rigby from the University of South Australia told The Educator that a recent bullying-related quiz given to teachers showed that “quite a few misconceptions” of bullying remain.
“The average score was 26 out of 40, so it shows that there are quite a number of misconceptions,” Rigby explained.
“Teachers require more education, of which very little is actually available. You might expect it to be in teacher’s college but my experience is that teachers have very little education in terms of what is known about bullying from research.”
“Despite the fact that bullying has been reducing slightly in most countries, including Australia, it’s still pretty serious,” Rigby said.
“I’m trying to get teachers to use this in their professional development so they can discuss and become more knowledgeable about what can be done.”
However, Rigby said that the general impression was that students on the whole were “very positive” about what teachers were doing to increase awareness of bullying in the classroom.
“We were pleasantly surprised to find that many students were very appreciative of what teachers were doing in class to help prevent bullying,” Rigby said, advocating a greater emphasis on improving interpersonal relationships between students.
“The thing that I think we ought to be doing is having a much greater emphasis on teacher training – not just in professional development but also on improving relationships between students,” Rigby said.
Another issue that deserves addressing, Rigby said, was the over-emphasis of cyberbullying which, while a serious concern, is only one part of the broader problem.
“I think one of the things crowding out a lot of the discussion around bullying is the emphasis on cyberbullying,” Rigby said, adding schools had become “too obsessed” with the issue.
“The majority of bullying is not cyberbullying, so if you can change the way that relationships that exist at school, then there is good evidence that online bullying will reduce.”
Professor Rigby's bullying quiz can be taken here