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Launches anti-bullying tool for nursery schools

A new dialogue tool based on research done at UiA will help nursery school staff and parents talk about bullying. The tool is free and available online.

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The website dialogmodellen.no provides nursery schools with specific tools to facilitate conversations about difficult topics like bullying. (Photograph: iStockphoto)

The website dialogmodellen.no is launched today. It is a free service for all nursery schools in Norway with specific tips on how staff can conduct dialogue meetings with parents about bullying.

The website contains everything from guides to dialogue meetings – including conversations with colleagues, conversations with children, conversations with parents – to videos, podcasts, PowerPoint presentations and invitations to parents’ meetings. The content is produced at the University of Agder (UiA) and is openly accessible to all. 

Professor David Lansing Cameron (UiA), Senior Researcher Anne Helgeland (Abup), Project Leader and Professor Ingrid Lund (UiA), Professor Bobo Velibor Kovac (UiA) and Adviser Marianne Godtfredsen (Kristiansand Municipality Children and Youth Services). (Photo: Private)

Deals with difficult topics

“These are specific tools you can use to talk about difficult topics like bullying. It provides guidance and support to pre-school staff and is both detailed and research-driven”, Ingrid Lund says.

She is professor at the Centre for Teaching and Learning at UiA and has led the project ‘Dialogue and cooperation as tools in the effort to prevent bullying’ (Dialog og samarbeid i arbeidet mot mobbing). Dialogmodellen.no results from this project. 

Lund stresses that there are more websites like this, however the unique thing about dialogmodellen.no is that it aims towards parent-teacher cooperation and is both free and research-driven. The content is developed in collaboration with researchers, parents and nursery school staff.

Facts about the project

  • The main objective of the research project is to prevent bullying in nursery schools through dialogue, focusing on the responsibilities of nursery school staff and the involvement of parents.
  •  In subproject 1, the researchers wanted to examine how best to facilitate dialogue between staff and parents concerning bullying in nursery school, and what promotes and what inhibits this dialogue. 3 public and 3 private nurseries in Southern Norway took part.
  • In subproject 2, the researchers wanted to map the understanding nursery staff and parents have of bullying in nursery school. 694 nursery school staff and 857 guardians of pre-school children aged 2-6 took part.
  • The research and development team consisted of Project Leader and Professor Ingrid Lund (UiA), Senior Researcher Anne Helgeland (Hospital of Southern Norway, Department of Child and Adolescent Mental Health (Abup)),  Adviser Marianne Godtfredsen (Kristiansand Municipality Children and Youth Services), Professor Bobo Velibor Kovac (UiA), Professor David Lansing Cameron (UiA).
  • Cooperation partners are KS, UiA, the Hospital of Southern Norway, Department of Child and Adolescent Mental Health (Abup), Kristiansand Municipality Children and Youth Services, County Governor of Agder. Web design and development by Idunn Sem and 07 Media.

Being bullied in nursery school

The research and development project ‘Dialogue and cooperation as tools in the effort to prevent bullying’ has its basis in the research project ‘The child along the path of education; Bullying in nursery school’ which was completed in 2015. In this project, Ingrid Lund and colleagues found that at least one child in every nursery school experiences exclusion when playing, and that one fourth of adults didn’t take it seriously.

Based on these findings, the researchers came up with a new definition of bullying in nursery school: “Bullying of children in nursery school are acts from adults and/or other children which violate the child’s sense of belonging and being a valuable person in the community”. 

Ingrid Lund handed the report to Minister of Knowledge and Integration Jan Tore Sanner during an event in Oslo on 9 October. (Photo: Private)

“Having a friend, experiencing interaction in play and being able to look forward to going to nursery school are crucial for the children’s development”, was Ingrid Lund’s conclusion then.

Based on nursery school experience

One of the goals of the follow-up project was to examine how best to facilitate dialogue between staff and parents concerning bullying in nursery school, and what promotes and what inhibits this dialogue.

The web-based dialogue model is based on experiences made by participants and researchers through dialogue meetings in the nursery school.

What promoted dialogue was:

  • Open-ended questions.
  • Validation from dialogue facilitator.
  • To challenge by inviting those who don’t shout the loudest.
  • A clear unambiguous management which acknowledges input from everyone through verbal and non-verbal communication.
  • Clearly communicated values that lay the foundations for open dialogue. 

Inhibiting dialogue:

  • Verbal and non-verbal communication presenting fixed opinions. For example: “That’s how children are” or “This is how we do things here”. 
  • Staff or parents who only tell success stories and don’t listen to parents’ or staff’s concerns.
  • Trivialising other people’s statements.
  • Lack of moderation where participants are allowed to dominate with loud voices and fixed opinions.

“We see that dialogue meetings open up a new understanding between parents and staff and provide new ideas on how to prevent bullying”, Lund says.

Dialogue meetings created a stronger sense of community than normal parent meetings, a stronger belief in collaboration as a preventive factor in the fight against bullying, and an increased understanding of the importance of the adult as role model.

Two-year-olds also involved in bullying

In a questionnaire to nursery school staff and guardians, it emerged that they think children as young as two are capable of bullying other children. They also thought that nursery school children often act intentionally (meaning they know what they do), however, intentionality is not a criterion for bullying.

The subjective experience is more important than the objective conditions in the situation, and one single incident can also be bullying, the participants thought. They also felt that ‘victims’ and ‘bullies’ shouldn’t be blamed but helped.

“The survey participants take bullying among children in nursery schools seriously. It also gives reason to believe that staff in nursery schools will be able to spot bullying and react appropriately with a wish to develop good social relationships”, Lund says.