Every approach is underpinned by a perspective on what bullying is, why it happens, and how to prevent it.

Likewise every approach is based on underlying assumptions about how people learn and change. These assumptions can be referred to broadly as learning theory, and in schools as pedagogy.​

Why is the perspective important?
What are the perspectives on bullying?
Learning theory and pedagogical approach
Approaches should state their philosophy
Prompt questions

Why is the perspective important?

Whether stated or not, every approach is based on a particular philosophical perspective: a set of beliefs and values about bullying and how to prevent it.

It is important to identify the philosophical perspective and pedagogical approach of an anti-bullying approach to ensure it is compatible with your school's philosophical perspective and approach to student behaviour, learning and wellbeing. A mismatch could compromise the success of an approach in your school.

What are the perspectives on bullying?

Concentric circles with the individual within the social context within the wider society Broadly speaking, there are three philosophical perspectives on bullying. Each of these focuses on different aspects of the bullying dynamic:

  • Individual perspective—bullying is seen as an individual, psychological and behavioural problem
  • Social-ecological perspective—bullying is seen as an interpersonal relationship dynamic problem, and the expression of the varying status and unequal power relations between individuals and groups in that context (ecology)
  • Systemic perspective—bullying is seen as a cultural and system-wide problem related to the power dynamics inherent in all institutions.

For an overview, see the Perspectives on bullying.

Being familiar with these perspectives will assist you to select an approach that is based on a perspective aligned with the beliefs and values held by you and your school community about bullying and about how to prevent it.

Learning theory and pedagogical approach

Pedagogical approaches include 'transmission' approaches, where learning is seen as the passing of information from teacher to student, and 'constructivist' approaches (e.g. critical literacy), where learning is seen as a collaborative construction of knowledge between teacher and student. Read more here.

Different pedagogical approaches are suitable for different goals. An anti-bullying approach based on the transmission model (or on a behavioural theory of learning) can be effective for teaching specific skills (e.g. what to say in response to verbal bullying). Constructivist approaches engage students in investigating the nature of the issue, and are more likely to have an impact on the social and structural factors that contribute to bullying.

Approaches should state their philosophy

The success of an approach will depend on whether its aims are aligned with its philosophical perspective and the pedagogical approach. Both are critical to determining how well an approach will facilitate real change in your school.

Well-designed approaches will clearly state their philosophical perspective regarding bullying and their approach to teaching and learning. Schools need this information to select an approach that is compatible with their perspective.

Investigating this important aspect can minimise the risk of implementing time-consuming approaches that are poorly designed or not suitable or appropriate for the educational context.

Prompt questions for Perspective

Key question: Is the philosophical perspective underpinning the approach compatible with the school's approach to behaviour, learning and student wellbeing?

To ask about the approach

  • What philosophical perspective underpins this approach?
  • What learning theory/pedagogical approach is the approach based on?

To ask about your school

  • What is our school's perspective on bullying, behaviour and student wellbeing, and where do we articulate this?
  • Is this approach's perspective compatible with our school's approach to promoting a positive school climate and positive behaviour?
  • Is the pedagogical approach compatible with our school's approach to teaching and learning?
  • Before we implement an anti-bullying approach, do we need to invest in professional development on our school community's philosophical perspective on bullying?

Use the STEPS form for schools (PDF, 651KB) to record your answers.

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