05 SES 11, Addressing Bullying and Overcoming Adversity
Traditionally, public schools have been viewed as relatively safe places. However, in recent years, widely publicized international incidents of school violence have prompted questions about the abilities of school leaders to educate students in environments where safety is jeopardized. This is particularly evident when at-risk campus populations such as physically challenged, LGBT, minority and refugee students are targeted. Indeed, many schools are now shouldered with responsibilities of accomplishing both social competencies and academic achievement. This is in stark contrast with the past. Although schools still remain pressed by achievement standards, stakeholders are now further challenged to promote positive social dynamics and civility on campuses due to increased incidents of school violence, and student bullying. Accordingly, student safety is emerging as a critical priority for schools across the globe.
Without question, many incidents of school violence, including both campus related shootings and gang activity are rooted in socially maladaptive behaviors such as bullying, and most communities now levy expectations on school leaders to control (or alleviate) such incidents. Moreover, teachers are pressed to actively engage the problems of schoolyard violence and curb student bullying in ways that secure both healthy and nonthreatening educational settings.
Charged with an appropriate understanding of their tasks as role models, teachers can afford students a certain degree of protection from bullying. By actively monitoring and intervening in situations where students are threatened, teachers can ensure both safe and bully-free learning environments. To that end, given the proper social milieu, collectively efficacious teachers may well influence how the organization reacts to campus tensions. Thus, teachers have the potential to both actively protect students and contribute to the collective agency of the organization in response to bullying situations.
The primary objective of this study is to examine the relationships between teacher perceptions of two dimensions of school bullying, student bullying and teacher protection, and collective efficacy in light of school size and socioeconomic status. The general hypothesis of this investigation is that collective efficacy of the faculty is negatively related to school bullying and positively related to teacher protection. The sample is comprised of teachers from 108 elementary schools in south central Texas, USA with individual respondent scores being aggregated to the school level. Thus, the school is the unit of analysis.
This investigation of collective efficacy, student bullying and teacher protection of students builds on the theoretical underpinnings of Bandura’s social cognitive research (1977, 1986, 1997) and Olweus’ seminal student bullying research (1978). Bandura posits that although individuals make many personal decisions, these choices are often not executed in isolation. In essence, organized groups routinely work together towards common goals. In turn, groups generate a sense of collective efficacy when they recognize that the group as a whole can act to attain the goals of the organization (Bandura, 1999). To that end, Bandura’s research (1999) consistently identifies strong correlations between groups’ beliefs (collective efficacy) that common goals support organizational attainment.
Olweus’ seminal work described bullying as a form of peer abuse characterized as repeated physical or psychological aggression (1978). The nature of the abuse takes on a variety of forms to include both physical and emotional characteristics. Accordingly, participants may engage in acts of bullying as the victim, perpetrator, or bystander (Craig & Pepler, 2007; Juvonen & Graham, 2001; Olweus, 1978; Pepler & Craig, 2000). In this respect, bullying inhibits safety and jeopardizes secure environments for all school stakeholders. In sum, this research investigates how the collective efficacy of the faculty interfaces with student bullying and its potential effect on influencing how teachers will act in the face of aggressive student actions.
METHODS: Via the results of descriptive, correlational and multiple regression analyses, it was hypothesized that collective efficacy would be negatively related to student bullying and positively related to teacher protection. In addition, the instruments identified and employed in this research were found to have solid factor structures comparable with their theoretical underpinnings. RESEARCH INSTRUMENTS: In order to test the hypotheses, operational measures of bullying and collective efficacy were required. The Bully Scale, developed by Smith and Hoy (2004), was utilized to investigate of the construct of bullying. The instrument consists of 14 Likert-type items that measure two dimensions of bullying including: Teacher Protection and Student Bullying. Participants in the study responded to the Bully Scale utilizing a six-point Likert-type scale ranging from “strongly disagree (1)” to “strongly agree” (6). In the current sample, reliability coefficients were .96 for Student Bullying and .73 for Teacher Protection. The Collective Efficacy Scale (Goddard, 2002) was used in this study to examine perceptions of collective efficacy. The scale is composed of 12 Likert-type items. Teachers describe the extent of their agreement with each item from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (6) along a six-point scale. The reliability coefficient for the Collective Efficacy Scale in this study was .96. SAMPLE AND DATA: The sample for the study consisted of 108 elementary schools in Texas. A trained researcher administered the survey instrument during regularly scheduled faculty meetings. Although procedures were not used to ensure a random sample from the population of elementary schools, care was taken to select urban, suburban, and rural schools from the southwestern part of the state. Grade span levels included grades P-5. Schools in the sample represented the entire range of socioeconomic status (SES); in fact, data from the Texas Education Agency support the representativeness of this sample of elementary schools in terms of size, SES, and urban-rural balance.
RESULTS: It was assumed that the dimensions of school bullying would be related to aspects of collective efficacy and indeed this was the case. Student bullying and teacher protection were related to collective efficacy and the demographic variables of SES and school size. Student bullying (r = -.859**, p < .01), teacher protection (r = .751**, p < .01), SES (r = -.835**, p < .01), and school size (r =.477**, p < .01) were statistically and significantly related to collective efficacy. The demographic variable, SES was statistically and significantly related to student bullying (r = .641**, p <.01), teacher protection (r = -.537, p < .01), and school size (r = -.502**, p < .01). Further, school size was statistically and significantly related to student bullying (r = -.355, p < .01), teacher protection (r = .322, p < .01), and SES (r = -.502**, p < .01). Multiple regression analyses provided a more refined picture of the aspects of school bullying, collective efficacy, SES, and school size. As predicted, the analysis of the data supported both Hypotheses 1 (Adjusted R Square = .503) and 3 (Adjusted R Square = .315). Hypothesis 2 was not supported as SES (ß = .419, p<.05) proved to be the strongest predictor of student bullying. However, the effect of collective efficacy (ß = -.395, p<.05), which was also identified as a statistically significant predictor of student bullying was nearly as robust as that of SES. Moreover, Hypothesis 4 was supported as collective efficacy (ß = .413, p<.05) emerged as the sole predictor of teacher protection. SIGNIFICANCE:Our research touts the effective use of the bully scale, the collective efficacy scale, and collective efficacy itself to determine and make substantial changes in organizational structures that impede both safety and academic growth.
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