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Skolers arbeid med elevenes psykososiale miljø. Gode strategier, harde nøtter og blinde flekker

By Ingunn Marie Eriksen and Selma Therese Lyng


The aim of this study is to gain more knowledge about the psychosocial environment in Norwegian primary and lower secondary education. It consists of two parts. In the first part, we studied the schools’ use of intervention programmes for reducing bullying and fostering a better psychosocial environment. This report presents the second part of the study. It examines schools’ alternative strategies for fostering a sound psychosocial environment and reducing bullying, and challenges related to these strategies. The report is based on in-depth interviews with school management and teachers at 20 primary and lower secondary schools, and ethnographic fieldwork in six school classes in four of the schools. The majority of students in those school classes were interviewed. The schools were selected because they had reported a positive change in the school environment as a consequence of their own strategic involvement. Main findings The study shows that the schools employ three main strategies to foster a better psychosocial student environment: behaviour regulation, relation work and creating a sense of student community. Despite challenges and dilemmas within all three strategies, staff and students report that these strategies have positive implications for the school environment. Strategy 1: Behaviour regulation Behaviour regulation is a central strategy for all of the schools, first and foremost seen in terms of classroom management. Teachers exact a firm discipline in the classroom, but the discipline is usually combined with warmth and care. This “caring control» is an ideal among the staff, but also a common practice in the schools. When it comes to break times, an enhanced and specialised teacher monitoring is seen as particularly valuable to prevent bullying. However, the study shows that behaviour regulation is insufficient in dealing with each and every negative incident happening in schools – many incidents go unnoticed by teachers. It is also insufficient because the greatest challenges in school environments are quiet, relational forms of bullying or troubles, and these challenges are not affected by behavioural regulation in class or break time. Strategy 2: Relation work Relation workrelates to creating good relationship between teachers and students and between school and parents. The ideal of a good teacher among the staff is a teacher who is able to build relations with students. Teachers most successfully build positive relations with students by prioritising to work on such relations, trying to deliberately perceive the students in a positive way, strengthening positive behaviour rather than sanctioning negative behaviour, and for the management to support the relation work. As for relation work with parents, the same rules apply to some extent, but there is a greater emphasis on providing the parents with the tools and resources that may enable them to recognise instances of bullying or unwanted behaviour in their own and other peoples’ children. The most important principle is that the school staff are conscious of their responsibility for both types of relationships. Strategy 3: Social activities Social activities aimed at creating a sense of community is the third main strategy, and relates to how positive relations are created between the students. Compared to the other two strategies, this is far less developed and there are fewer measures that seem to work as intended. Some functional measures are introduction and mentor arrangements when students start school. Especially reinforced introduction arrangements seem to work well to enhance student relationships. However, the interventions used are mostly directed towards the community of the whole school, and not the class – which is the most relevant social arena for the students. While it is a common practice for school classes to go on excursions and trips together, such excursions are as likely to improve the relations between students as they are to reinforce negative dynamics between them, if not conscious measures are taken to avoid this. Lacking strategy: Establishing positive relations between students All the schools in our study share the same recurring challenges, particularly relational aggression or hidden, repeated instances of bullying. The main strategies of behaviour regulation and relation work are not sufficient to deal with these challenges, and intervention strategies to create a sense of community between the students are not sufficiently developed. The study directs the attention towards the necessity of creating the class as a collective, with positive relations between the students. The schools’ mandate is shaped by their definition and understanding of bullying The schools share an ambition to handle all incidents that appear as negative occurrences in the school environment, and they are mostly successful in this pursuit. Nevertheless, the study shows that those occurrences that do fall outside of what the schools interpret as their mandate to handle are mostly related to the staff’s definitions and understandings of bullying. In particular, it relates to the way the staff define bullying as negative occurrences over time and in an unequal power balance, and the way students involved in bullying are assumed to be clearly recognisable as perpetrator or victim. By this definition, painful conflicts where the teachers assume a power balance between students, or occurrences of bullying behaviour without clear perpetrators or victims, are not always recognized as bullying instances that require intervention. Moreover, relational aggression is one of the toughest challenges that schools deal with in the school environment, and the staff are by far most concerned about girls’ relational aggression. However, interviews with boys show that they, too, are troubled by relational aggression, but lack the language and tools to speak about it; thus boys’ experiences with this are often overlooked

Topics: NOVA--School--Youth
Publisher: Oslo Metropolitan University - OsloMet: NOVA
Year: 2015
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