19 SES 08 A, Students in the Margins and Inclusion
In the field of educational psychology, bullying has often been approached as a phenomenon that concerns mostly individuals. (Hamarus & Kaikkonen 2008; Bansel and others 2009; Walton 2005) Also, the means to tackle bullying have focused on individuals’ thinking and behavior. Studies in educational sociology have problematized the individual-centered research perspectives by paying attention to cultural, social and structural (by structural in this context we mean structures of institution but also in society) perspectives and matters as well as examined how bullying is related to wider discussion in Finland, where it is often presented as an issue of individual students. Also the most common anti-bullying program in Finland concentrates on individuals and their problems. In this article by using theory and data excerpts we underline that bullying is a more complex phenomenon than it is represented in media and anti-bullying programs. Our research underlines that bullying is not an error or exception, but bullying is actually a part of schools’ methods to maintain normative orders.
In this research paper we underline the complex nature of bullying by showing that it is more than traits of individual students. We do this with the help of a case study, where we follow one student – Sasu. Through analyzing/focusing on the case of Sasu and the school wide reactions of both teachers’ and students’ to the bullying of him, we can map the understanding of the nature of bullying and how, for example, teachers react to bullying. We also examine the teachers’ role and their understanding of their role in bullying. As we understand bullying as broader phenomenon than a mere problem of individuals, we concentrate on the structures and actors contributing to bullying. We seek to answer the question of how teachers either knowingly or unknowingly handle bullying and how they handle bullying even when, they are not aware that they are handling bullying. For example, they do so by actively ignoring that bullying is happening. We also examine what factors enable bullying.
In earlier research bullying has been connected to naming bullied student as not-normal or deviant. The student whose case we followed was also categorized as not-normal and this affected how teachers treated him. Earlier research have showed that how teachers perceive students has an impact on how they act in a case of bullying. (Mishna 2004, Varjas & others 2008) This paper maps teachers’ reactions and relate it with the construction of normality and not-normality and how it affects how bullying is handled. Our aim in this article is to describe and define, through ethnographic observations, how the teachers in our study handled bullying. We seek to answer the question of how teachers either knowingly or unknowingly handle bullying, and what factors enable bullying.
This research is part of a wider research project named Perceptions and Constructions of Marginalisation and Belonging in Education (PeCMaBE). PeCMaBE is a research project focused on exclusion, inclusion and marginalisation in two upper comprehensive schools in the metropolitan area of Finland in 2013–2016. The whole project was ethnographic, it examined teachers’ and students’ perceptions of marginalization In this paper we present a case study. The data used in this research was ethnographic observation data gathered in 2013-2015 in one school. The fieldworker spent one and a half years (2013–2015) in the field, participating in classes, recesses and school celebrations and events. She spent approximately three days a week in the field. At the same time as the ethnographic observations, two fieldworkers started interviewing students and carrying out focus group work with students and teachers. This paper is mainly based on in the fieldworker’s field notes. Through ethnographic observation data we introduce/analyze a case of one student – Sasu, who has been severely bullied. With ethnographic observation data it was possible to map different reactions and influences that had to do with bullying. We mapped teachers’ and students’ reactions to and reasoning about Sasu’s situation and on the severity and reasons of bullying. We used in our analysis the notion of different fields by Tarja Palmu (2007) to describe processes of data collection and analysis that happened in parallel and intertwined. The three different fields consisted of physical field, meaning for example researchers’ presence in the field and ‘gaze’ which describes how they understood different episodes. The written field included for example all the documentations from the field but also the forming of first categories of analysis. The textual field then connected interpretations about the two other fields and for example the writing of this article. This last field connected analyses, categories, themes, data, and descriptions of the research process. (Palmu 2007) These three fields often intertwined and it was difficult to say where one started and the other begin.
Teachers, norms and school culture all play a significant role in bullying, by contributing or preventing it, and by justifying or problematizing it. The results make visible how (not-)normality is connected to bullying. A student who is named ‘not-normal’, and who becomes a target of bullying, can become ignored by the teachers. In case of Sasu the teachers did not try to intervene in the bullying, but they also participated in his exclusion. This happened, for example by scolding the student when he could not listen at the instructions or get the equipment, because other students were preventing him. Teachers talked as if it would have been his own fault that he could not remain in the school. They justified the bullying generally by saying that those students who were bullied were behaving in not-normal ways. However it was their reactions that showed more clearly negative attitudes toward the student that was bullied. Finally, Sasu had to leave the school because of the bullying. The teachers did not question the processes that lead to the situation, but they placed the problem on the student who was bullied. They blamed the student for not taking final exams and also pointed out that it was his own incapacity to adapt that forced him to leave. By regarding bullying as an individual flaw, different processes and factors of bullying remained untouched. Also it was possible to justify exclusion by representing bullied student as outside of the normative order.
Bansel P, Davies B, Laws C and Linnell S (2009) Bullies, bullying and power in the contexts of schooling. British Journal of Sociology of Education 30: 59–69. Butler J (1990) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Routledge. Davies B (2011) Bullies as guardians of the moral order or an ethic of truths? Children and Society 25:278–286. Duncan N (2013) Using disability models to rethink bullying in schools. Education, Citizenship and Social Justice 8(3): 254–262. Hamarus P and Kaikkonen P (2008) School bullying as a creator of pupil peer pressure. Educational Research 50(4): 333-345. Heinemann P-P (1972)Mobbning: gruppvåld bland barn och vuxna. Stockholm: Natur och kultur. Horton P (2011) School bullying and social and moral orders. Children and Society 25: 268–277. KiVa-school program (2017) (Available at: http://www.kivaprogram.net/ (accessed 8 may 2017). Mishna F (2004) A Qualitative Study of Bullying from Multiple Perspectives. Children & schools 26(4): 234-247 Meyer E.J (2007) Bullying and harassment in secondary schools: A critical feminist analysis of the gaps, overlaps, and implications from a decade of research. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, in Chicago, IL. Olweus D (1993) Bullying at School. Blackwell: Cambridge, MA. Salmivalli C (2010) Bullying and the peer group: a review. Aggression and Violent Behavior 15: 112– 120. Thornberg R (2015a) Distressed Bullies, Social Positioning and Odd Victims: Young People's Explanations of Bullying. Children and Society 29(1): 15-25. Thornberg R (2015b) School bullying as a collective action: Stigma processes and identity struggling. Children and Society, 29(4): 310 - 320. Palmu T (2007) Kenttä, kirjoittaminen, analyysi – yhteenkietoutumia. In: Lappalainen S, Lahelma E, Hynninen P, Kankkunen T and Tolonen T (eds) Etnografia metodologiana. Tampere, Vastapaino, Tampere. Varjas K, Meyers J, Bellmoff L, Lopp E, Birckbichler L and Marshall M (2008) Missing voices: fourth through eighth grade urban students’ perceptions of bullying. Journal of School Violence 7: 97–118. Walton G (2005) Bullying Widespread A Critical Analysis of Research and Public Discourse on Bullying. Journal of School Violence, 4(1): 91-118. Walton G (2011) Spinning our wheels: reconceptualizing bullying beyond behaviour-focused approaches. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 32(1): 131-144. Yoneyama S and Naito A (2003) Problems with the Paradigm: the school as a factor in understanding bullying (with special reference to Japan). British Journal of Sociology of Education, 24(3): 315-330.
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