40 years of bullying research

A special school bullying and victimization issue of American Psychologist includes six papers.

The introduction article “Four Decades of Research on School Bullying” takes the reader through section summaries on “Linking Peer Victimization to Adjustment in Childhood and Adolescence,” “Prospective Studies Following Children Forward Into Adulthood,” and “Mediators and Moderators: What Contributes to Defining Pathways?” The article finishes with a look at conclusions, implications, and future directions.

“Long-Term Adult Outcomes of Peer Victimization in Childhood and Adolescence: Pathways to Adjustment and Maladjustment” looks at negative outcomes caused by bullying and analyses findings from studies that investigate why not all victims of bullying have similar outcomes in adult life.

“Translating Research to Practice in Bullying Prevention” examines findings from various studies and meta-analyses of bullying prevention programmes and makes recommendations for further research. The author (Catherine P. Bradshaw of the Curry School of Education, University of Virginia) has written previously for this newsletter’s sister publication Better: Evidence-based Education.

Source: Bullying: What We Know Based On 40 Years of Research (2015), American Psychologist, 70(4).

Preventing and addressing behaviour problems

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has posted a new tip sheet with five evidence-based strategies to help educators prevent and address behaviour problems. These strategies, which are based on reviews of research and recommendations from experts in the field, are as follows:

  1. Modify the classroom environment to alter or remove factors that trigger problem behaviours (eg, revisit and reinforce expectations, modify the learning space to motivate pupils, and vary teaching strategies to increase academic success).
  2. Identify, deliver, and reinforce explicit teaching in appropriate behaviour.
  3. Learn about interventions that can help support pupils with an emotional/behavioural problem in making good choices. The WWC has identified four effective interventions.
  4. Adapt teaching to maintain or increase pupil engagement in academics, preventing disruptive behaviour. The WWC offers strategies to engage pupils in reading, writing, maths, and out-of-school-time learning.
  5. Enlist adult advocates to help pupils at risk of dropping out address academic and social needs.

Better: Evidence-based Education magazine has addressed similar topics in classroom management and social-emotional learning.

Encourage family support to improve outcomes

A new review from MDRC analyses the evidence on how families’ involvement in children’s learning and development affects literacy, mathematics, and social-emotional skills at ages 3 to 8. A total of 95 studies, primarily from the last ten years, were included. Four categories were considered: learning activities at home, family involvement at school, school outreach to engage families, and supportive parenting activities.

The review found that overall family involvement had small to moderate effects on children’s outcomes. Numerous studies confirmed a link between family involvement and children’s literacy skills. A number of studies also demonstrated positive associations with children’s mathematics skills, and a few with children’s social-emotional skills. The weakest association was between family involvement at school and children’s outcomes.

The review concludes that family involvement is potentially important in terms of efforts to improve children’s early learning and development, particularly as all parents, when given direction, can increase their involvement with their children’s learning. The authors dismiss the idea that certain groups of parents do not care or will not become involved in their children’s education.

A future edition of Better: Evidence-based Education will be looking at the issue of parents and schools.

Source: The Impact of Family Involvement on the Education of Children Ages 3 to 8 (2013), MDRC.

What works for bullying prevention programmes?

A new research brief from Child Trends synthesises findings from experimental evaluations of 17 bullying prevention programmes for children and young people. The authors based the effectiveness of a particular approach on whether or not the programme worked to improve any of five outcome categories: physical and verbal bullying, social and relational bullying, bullying victimisation, attitudes toward bullying, and being a bystander of bullying.

The authors note that the relatively small number of bullying programme evaluations limited their ability to draw generalisations and conclusions; however, they do offer several initial findings from their research, including:

  • Programmes that involve parents were generally found to be effective.
  • Programmes that use a whole-school approach to foster a safe and caring school climate—by training all teachers, administrators, and school counsellors to model and reinforce positive behaviour and anti-bullying messages throughout the school year—were generally found to be effective.
  • Mixed results were found for programmes that included social and emotional learning, such as self-awareness, relationship skills, or responsible decision-making.

For more on reducing problem behaviour, see the classroom management issue of Better: Evidence-based Education.

Source: What Works for Bullying Programs: Lessons from Experimental Evaluations of Programs and Interventions (2013), Child Trends.

It’s good to talk

Syntax is an important aspect of children’s early literacy development, according to the authors of a new article published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly. However, the rate at which children develop syntax reflects, at least in part, their care-giving environment. This study looks at patterns of child–teacher talk within preschool classrooms, an important developmental context for young children and particularly those from low socio-economic households.

The research found that the children’s use of complex syntax appeared to be influenced by the teachers’ use of complex syntax, but also vice versa. Children’s use of complex or simple syntax increased the likelihood that teachers would mirror their syntactic level. The authors suggest this work, based on data from a larger study, is a step towards addressing issues that may have direct, translatable implications for early education practice and intervention efforts.

One of the authors, Laura Justice, has also contributed an article to the latest issue of Better: Evidence-based Education which focuses on literacy (Spring 2013). The article, Improving Children’s Language Skills Through Classroom Conversations, describes the evaluation of a project to train teachers to provide advanced language models to help prevent later reading difficulties.

Source: Bi-directional Dynamics Underlie the Complexity of Talk in Teacher–child Play-based Conversations in Classrooms Serving At-risk Pupils (2013), Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(3).

To study or to sleep?

The amount of time spent studying may not matter if the pupil has not had enough sleep, according to research published in Child Development. This longitudinal study examined the effect that varying amounts of study and sleep had on teenagers’ studies the following day. The results suggest that regardless of how much a pupil generally studies each day, if they sacrifice sleep time to study more than usual they will be more likely to struggle in class, or on an assignment or test, the following day.

This problem becomes increasingly prevalent over time, the study proposes, because pupils are more likely to sacrifice sleep time for study time in the latter years of secondary school. A further study in this area, reported in the latest Better: Evidence-based Education, adds to the evidence that the amount of sleep a teenager gets (too much or too little) affects academic performance. It found that teenagers who sleep seven hours a night tend to have the highest test scores, while teenagers who sleep for less than six or more than 11 hours tend to perform poorly on tests.

Source: To study or to sleep? The academic costs of extra studying at the Expense of Sleep (2012), Child Development, 84(1)