Bullying is a form of violent behaviour that has a significant negative effect on many aspects of the everyday life of thousands of children. School-based bullying prevention programs have shown varying success, and new, innovative programs with a stronger evidence base are needed. That is why in this article we will present the term and the nature of the harassment, as well as its effects on those involved and the prevailing conditions in schools.
Moreover, it contains information about the role of drama in education as a means of combating aggression in schools, and how different dramatic activities can provide socially and emotionally-minded children to the primary school children to successfully combat the phenomenon.
Drama in education offers a unique learning experience that involves feelings and emotions in a way that leads to a more effective form of education. Through role play, participants have the chance to explore and discover both themselves and the world in a way that protects them from the consequences that would normally follow in the situations they recreate. It has also demonstrated its educational role in improving student interpersonal relationships in reducing aggression.
Therefore, it can be argued that dramatic education offers a safe way of confirming identity and allowing students to face difficult social problems such as harassment.
Today, aggression has become a serious, personal, social, and academic problem affecting a large number of students and is causing widespread concern.
The aim is to provide relevant information for educators and all those involved in the educational process about how drama in education can be beneficial in creating a classroom climate that promotes student cooperation, prevents and combats intimidation and facilitates the learning process.
2. The influence of social environment
The term „aggression” and its nature has been described in the literature as the aggressive behaviour of an individual or group of children aimed at injuring another child or group of children, which is systematically repeated. There is inequality between the bully and the victim in terms of force, power or numerical supremacy, and this particularity seems to be the most important in defining an aggressive act as aggression. So no violent behaviour can be isolated, no slogans and jokes that are not meant to cause evil can be considered aggressions.
Bullying is a form of violent behaviour that can take on direct and indirect forms. Direct bullying comprises physical intimidation such as injury or the threat of it, spitting, pushing and kicking as well as non-physical intimidation in the instance of a child being verbally victimized, including calling him/her names, insults, spiteful taunts and mockery.
The indirect forms of bullying are again connected with the emotional stress of the victim, with the ultimate objective of harming his/her friendships and social relationships. In this category are included malicious gossip, spreading rumours and ostracism from the group. Sexual and racial intimidation are also considered to be forms of bullying. Due to the rapid development of technology, bullying has been extended and intimidation is being exercised through chat rooms, mobile phones or emails.
Researchers ascribe behavioural problems, such as bullying in schools, to poverty, lack of social skills, poor academic achievement, the influence of films and the media, lack of parental supervision, the general lack of morals in society.
The view has also been expressed that this phenomenon is a natural part of the evolutionary process in which dominance over the other is the main objective in order to ensure survival. As Merrell (2004) says, what can be observed in society is a value system of dominance of one over the other, which validates violence and influences the bully, who, consciously or unconsciously, uses bullying as a means of climbing the social ladder, or maintaining his/her status.
Nevertheless, the most important factor which favours the development of bullying is violence in the child’s own domestic environment.
Social learning is a powerful process, and when children see role models (e.g. parents) use intimidation tactics, they use similar approaches to get their own needs met and solve problems (Bauman, 2008).
3. The role of drama in education in preventing and counteracting bullying in schools
It is becoming increasingly clear in recent years that the school is the best place to promote pupils’ psychosomatic health. Even if the actions taken to prevent and combat aggression should include every area of the child’s life, such as school, home or society in general, the basic factor of effective intervention must be school. First of all, as victims, bullies and spectators and other children meet together and interact within the group, but also because the knowledge acquired by children through school life remains with them throughout their adult lives.
In the opinion of the researchers, as there is a tendency for students to „legalize” such behaviour as they grow and since primary school children show greater sympathy to the victims of aggression, it is at that age programs aimed at preventing and counteracting the phenomenon should start.
Such a program should be based on cooperative and experiential learning that gives students the chance to develop their cognitive, psycho-emotional and social means to an extent that promotes cooperation, acceptance, awareness, trust between children and adults, and interest in others, fundamental behaviours that are absent from the beatings. Dramatic education includes all these elements that help to improve the climate in the classroom and to achieve a more effective form of learning through experience.
4. The contribution of drama to the development of socio-emotional skills
Experiential education involves feelings and emotions that promote the development of children both in these areas and with social skills, consolidating them so that they can cope with the difficult situations in their daily lives. Because each child in the educational drama is an inseparable member of the team to which it belongs, its social abilities are naturally developed through the need to work and play with other members.
Both in the group’s effort to dramatize and reproduce a story, either in the successful realization of an improvisation, each child manifests his/ her knowledge, experience, personal environment that needs to collaborate and communicate with other children in order to complete the communal act. Communicating, listening to what others have to say, accepting suggestions and ideas, providing constructive support, are cultivated skills when people work together, like those who collaborate in dramatic activities.
Through role play, which is a basic activity in educational drama, children try to put themselves or others in a hypothetical situation. To play this role, they have to adopt the point of view of the person they play, try to define themselves by role and see the others themselves. In their effort to transform themselves into the person they play, convincing and conversing with others, they will be forced to activate both critical thinking and their sensitivity. The child becomes „the other”, while retaining his identity by acting, communicating, observing and exploring the world through the eyes of others. The ability to see the world through the eyes of others can help temper interpersonal disagreements and lead people to social support. In addition, there is a negative relationship between developed empathy and anti-social behaviour, such as aggression.
Drama in education can modify pupils’ behaviour and put a curb on aggression, which is why interventions and programs which have been applied internationally with the aim of combating bullying, have relied on drama in education.
Taking into account international research, a program against aggression, largely based on drama in education, should be applied in every school, as drama, as explained above, has the potential to improve the school environment and develop socio-emotional skills of children.
Thus, a drama-centred intervention is a powerful ally to combat school aggression. Such intervention should be part of a well-planned anti-bullying strategy addressed to all students. The length of the program (for at least one school year), hiring parents, engaging school psychologists in collaboration with teachers, and continuously engaging children in dramatic activities are the preconditions for its success.
Teacher training on theatre theory and techniques in education is essential for the entire school community to take action, and the whole project to be successful.
Some of the basic principles that should be followed during the implementation of drama activities are respect for the participants’ cultural background, class and gender, as well as the creation of a safe space within the group where sensitive information about conflicts could be shared and transformed into distanced dramatic situations and explored without individuals being personally exposed. Such a program could include exercises in groups and pairs, cooperative exercises which create a friendly climate in the classroom, dramatic plays, role play, improvisation, which aim at strengthening the pupils’ investigation of the phenomenon, what causes it and its effect on those involved, as well as the prospects of opposing it.
By participating in drama in education, children can study human nature in all its manifestations. In fact, they dramatize their world to understand how they work and to understand how and why their behaviour. Just as the core values and the faith itself are deeply centred in the subconscious, making it difficult to understand and change them, so are the hidden aspects of identity, which inform us of who we really are; they can be explored through artistic and cultural experiences, such as drama. Therefore, drama in education as a basic component of an anti-bullying campaign has the capacity to confront ethical and social issues such as bullying in schools.
1. Bakema, Charissa, How to stop bullying in schools. A Dutch way. Bulletin of the Transylvania University of Brasov, nr. 52, 2010, p. 77–82.
2. Bauman, Sheri, The role of elementary school counselors in reducing school bullying. The Elementary School Journal, nr.108, 2008, p. 362–375.
3. Merrell, R. H., The impact of a drama intervention program on the response of the bystander to bullying situations. New York, NY: University of Rochester, 2004.
4. Olweus, Dan, Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do, Oxford: Blackwell, 1993
5. Rigby, Ken, Addressing bullying in schools: Theoretical perspectives and their implications. School Psychology International, nr.25, 2004, p. 287–300.