The Learning Renaissance

Bullying Behaviour – What Neuroscience Can Teach Us

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One of the things of which I was most proud from my time in senior leadership in an inner city school was some lateral thinking applied to bullying behaviour.

I make a clear distinction between the oft used term ‘bully’ and the exhibition of bullying behaviour. The former idea suggests that bullying is an underlying personality trait which is immutable within the individual, whilst bullying behaviour suggests a behaviour, which is often related to particular circumstances and situations.

I was able to access some funding for professional actors, through a Theatre in Education programme, to come and develop a drama with students about the problems caused by bullying behaviour. I decided to encourage those who had exhibited bullying behaviour to apply to be the actors. My reasoning was that rather than let those who had been the victims of bullying re-hash their negative experiences it would be better to challenge those who had been accused of bullying to modify their behaviour.

The small student team really relished their work in the production which eventually was performed to the whole school and then toured the local primary schools. The most positive aspect was that the student actors came to recognise the triggers for their own bullying behaviour and that such behaviour showed weakness rather than strength. There was also a certain “cognitive dissonance” between their experience of demonstrating the damage done by their own bullying behaviour and their public rejection of it on the stage to many who had been victims of their behaviour in the past.

This was so much more effective than the simplistic response of “Bullying are you…? I’ll show you what it is like to be a victim of bullying by bullying you instead!”

This recent blog post from the redoubtable Edutopia by Dr Jennifer Fraser makes interesting reading in this context: Source: What Neuroscience Reveals About Bullying by Educators | Edutopia


About educationalist04

Dazed and confused much of the time but convinced we can, as a species, do much better than this if we set our minds to being much more positive and productive towards our fellow humans.

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