How to use STEPS


​​Selecting an anti-bullying approach is an important decision.

The decision-making process is multifaceted, and it will require some time to gather all the necessary information.

The STEPS decision-making framework organises the relevant information under 9 key concepts. It provides you with a transparent process for your selection.

This page answers some questions that you might have about using STEPS in your school.


Where do we start?

The decision about your school's anti-bullying approach should be made in the context of knowing the individual strengths and needs of your school, and what you want to achieve.

The starting point for selecting an approach for your school community is formulating a clear goal statement.

Review the STEPS framework itself and the content provided about each of the key concepts so you are familiar with the structure and scope of the decision-making process it covers. Once you have used the STEPS framework a few times, you may find the 9 key questions alone sufficient to examine an approach, without always needing to refer to the additional prompt questions.

If you are looking for a new anti-bullying approach for your school

Based on your school's goal statement, seek out approaches and programs that claim to address your goals, and then use STEPS to examine and select from them.

You can find approaches and programs at:

In this situation, it is logical to first examine the key questions for Suitability and Feasibility.

If you find the topic area or students targeted (Suitability) or cost or other requirements (Feasibility) do not match your identified goals or your available budget, there is no need to consider any further key questions. If you are satisfied with the answers, then methodically work through the other questions.

If a new program or approach is suggested to you

Schools often receive suggestions from parents, staff, visiting specialists, other schools, product developers or advertisers for new approaches or programs to counter bullying. STEPS is a useful process to explain the sorts of information about anti-bullying approaches that is important to schools to other people.

In this situation, it is logical to first examine the key questions related to the evidence-base for the approach, specifically definition, theory, evidence and Ppractice. In fact, it may be useful to ask the person suggesting the new approach to answer those questions.

If you are happy with the answers, your school's goal statement will then guide you in working through the other STEPS questions to examine other aspects of the suggested approach.

It is suggested that all key questions are considered to make the decision to select an approach.

However, it is not necessary to complete all key questions to determine that an approach is not appropriate. For example, if your investigation reveals that what claims to be an appropriate approach is actually based on an outmoded or simplistic understanding of bullying (Definition), there is no need to spend time looking for research findings (Evidence), or examining the methods for measuring the outcomes (Real results).

How do we collate all the information about an approach?

The STEPS form for schools is an interactive PDF form that enables you to collate the information gathered about an approach or program you are examining and record the rationale for your decision.

Download the STEPS form for schools to your system to complete it electronically. Make sure you 'Save as' to keep the information that you add to the STEPS form.

You need a separate form for each approach if you are considering a number at one time.

Where do we find the information to answer the STEPS questions?

The information to answer the STEPS key questions and probe questions should be readily available. Lack of information should raise concern for schools. Well-designed and evidence-based anti-bullying programs suitable for school contexts will provide all information.

Information about the approachitself, combined with information about your school, is needed to answer each of the 9 key questions in the STEPS framework.

About the approach

These questions examine the approach's conceptual basis, theory, evidence, philosophical perspective, practical features and support systems.

Useful sources: The manual provided by the developer, websites providing reviews and research on the approach, journal articles, or the developer (or promoter) of the approach.

About your school

These questions examine the school's strengths and needs, systems, requirements, understanding, capacity, experience, philosophy and values.

Useful sources: Your school's annual plan and various policies and curriculum documents, school data, staff and other members of the school community, and staff from other schools that have used the approach.

How do we complete the STEPS form for schools?

How you complete the STEPS form depends on your situation. A suggested process is:

  • Download the STEPS form for schools.
  • Leave the front page summary till last, as it auto-populates as you complete the details under each question.
  • The 9 key questions can be answered in any sequence, depending on your situation, what information you already have and the questions remaining.
  • Review the 9 questions and determine who will look for the information to answer each question.
  • As necessary to answer the questions, read more about the 9 concepts within the framework (see the menu) to learn how to find and interpret the information you need.
  • On the STEPS form for schools, record answers under the columns: To ask about the approachand To ask about the school.
  • Where you identify a lack of information, consider if this is sufficient reason not to adopt an approach.
  • If the manual (or other instructions) for the approach or program is not sufficiently clear, you may want to contact the program developer to complete the answers under To ask about the approach.
  • Check the answer Yesor Nonext to each of the 9 key questions where you have recorded the information that supports your decision. The answer to each key question on the form will auto-populate to the cover page to form a summary section. You may have a combination of Yes and No answers.
  • Discuss the findings with teaching colleagues and school administration (see Scenarios for types of findings you may be considering).
  • Based on your examination, reach consensus on the suitability of the approach for your school and record your decision under Record of decision.

What sorts of decisions do schools make with STEPS?

Gathering all the necessary information will take some time. With all this information, schools may decide:

  • to use an approach
  • not to select an approach; STEPS will provide a rationale to share with those who may be advocating implementing it in your school
  • to investigate the school's strengths and needs further or to further develop the school's goals
  • to change or consolidate the approaches already used in the school
  • to use an approach, but also look for an additional program for the gaps identified, conduct the identified staff training, or undertake other activities.

How do we interpret the findings (scenarios)?

If you can't find information about the program

The information to answer the STEPS key questions for To ask about the approachshould be readily available. Schools should not need to do significant work to answer these questions, although additional but important work might be required to answer some of the questions for To ask about your school.

Lack of information should raise concern for schools. Well-designed and evidence-based anti-bullying programs suitable for school contexts will provide all information.

If one of the key questions is answered with No

STEPS is a tool for your decision making. You need to weigh up the consequences of a No answer in any one key question when other answers are Yes.

It is assumed schools would not select an approach with a No answer for Suitability and Feasibility. In terms of the other key questions, it is suggested that schools avoid approaches when the key questions for Definition or Theory is answered with No. See below for the scenario where an approach 'ticks all the boxes' except for Evidence, where the answer is No.

Refer to the information provided in the content areas (see the menu) to make this assessment. You may be able to minimise the consequences or risks by taking other actions within the school.

Based on your answers, you may also decide staff development or changes within the school are indicated prior to selecting a new anti-bullying approach.

If you find a smattering of Yes and No answers to the 9 key questions

It is possible you may want to select approach even if not all the questions are answered Yes.

An approach that results in more No answers than Yes answers to the key questions should be considered with some caution.

As indicated above, it is suggested that schools avoid approaches when the key questions for Definition or Theory are answered with No.

Refer to the information provided in the content areas (see the menu) to make this assessment. You may be able to minimise the consequences or risks by taking other actions within the school.

If we know the answer to a key question without looking at all the prompt questions

The prompt questions under each key question are provided to help schools explore the complexity involved in selecting an appropriate approach.

These questions do not need to be individually answered. They are a guide to content and the range of information that should be considered. They are designed to help school staff understand the concepts. After you are familiar with the STEPS framework and the concepts behind each of the key questions, you may not need to refer to the prompt questions.

If you find an approach that 'ticks all boxes' except Evidence

The ideal is to use only those approaches that have a strong evidence base. However, well-designed research is expensive and time consuming, so lack of evidence is not necessarily sufficient reason to discount an approach if all the other key questions, particularly Definition, Theory and Practice, are very strong.

Some considerations include:

  • the reason for the lack of evidence. If the approach is relatively new, and is yet to be researched, the lack of evidence is understandable. However, if the approach is, for example, 10 years old and never thoroughly researched, this should raise some concerns.
  • what is presented as 'evidence' is not robust or strong evidence, or is actually only opinion or promotional material with a weak theory for why the approach should work (see Theory). Sometimes, the word 'evidence' is used when it is not warranted. Developers of high-quality anti-bullying approaches should be keen to submit their products to robust research, so poor quality information presented as 'evidence' is an indication that an approach should not be selected.
  • whether the Practice information is high-quality and compensates partly for the lack of research evidence.

If all other aspects of the approach seem very positive, an option might be to 'pilot' the approach with a small group of students to gather some local data about its effectiveness before committing to full implementation.

Last updated 19 June 2023