Spotlight on Counter-Bullying Pedagogies

This page brings together a range of resources designed to help counter bullying in educational practice.


Resources: What works evidence

 There are now significant bodies of evidence showing how effective cooperative learning strategies can counter bullying, accelerate achievement gains and develop social skills.

Check out the Education Endowment Foundation website for evidence on collaborative learning.

Implementing cooperative learning approaches effectively is hard. Two BES exemplars explain high impact co-operative learning approaches in depth.

BES Exemplar 1: Developing communities of mathematical inquiry

This exemplar illustrates how two teachers developed teaching practices that proved highly effective for diverse learners. The teachers took part in a professional development programme designed to help them build classroom communities of mathematical inquiry.

BES Exemplar 1 | Ngā Kete Rakura He Tauira 1 [PDF 3.8MB]
Developing communities of mathematical inquiry
Accelerate achievement and counter bullying through effective mathematics teaching.

See 'Moana's chart for the ground rules for talk' and the 'Mathematics Communication and Participation Framework'. These tools help teachers to support students to develop social participation skills while accelerating mathematics achievement.

Students learn to create for each other an environment that is safe to learn. Moana's success in building a mathematical learning community was evident in 10-year old Wiremu's comment to another boy about a girl in their group: 'Don't dis' her, man, when she is taking a risk'.

Read more about developing an ethic of care through mathematics teaching.

BES Exemplar 4: Reciprocal teaching

BES Exemplar 4 'Reciprocal teaching' illustrates a teaching approach that builds thinking skills and accelerates reading comprehension, resulting in significant improvements within a relatively short period of time. The approach also trains students to collaborate in their learning.

BES Exemplar 4 | Ngā Kete Raukura He Tauira 4 [PDF 4.7MB]
Reciprocal teaching
Develop student leadership and accelerate literacy achievement across te curriculum.
This exemplar provides examples at primary, intermediate and secondary levels.

Reciprocal teaching is one of the more easily implemented forms of co-operative learning. This approach develops student leadership and collaboration while accelerating achievement in reading comprehension. The approach has been adapted for use at every level of schooling. Using Reciprocal Teaching early in the year is a good way of establishing norms for student behaviour that are respectful and collaborative. 


Responsiveness to diversity

High bullying rates and wide disparities are evident in New Zealand's performance on international assessments. The School Leadership and Student Outcomes BES identifies that ensuring an orderly and supportive environment in schools can facilitate the achievement of academic and social goals.

An orderly and supportive environment includes:
 -  a focus on cultural understanding
 -  respect for difference
 -  provision of a safe environment
 -  a clear discipline code
 -  minimal interruption to teaching time

School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why [PDF 3.8MB]
Chapter 2: School Leadership and Student Outcomes
Find out more in this chapter of the School leadership BES.

The BES Programme highlights the importance of a responsiveness to diversity approach to counter system weakness. This approach builds on the Treaty of Waitangi and explains the how of responsiveness to diversity in educational practice. Read more in Chapter 13 of Making a bigger difference for diverse learners.

BES Summaries

The International Academy of Education's summaries of this BES explain how to counter bullying through:

 -  ensuring inclusive curriculum content,
 -  designing group work,
 -  establishing productive learning relationships, and
 -  promoting and scaffolding dialogue and sharing power with students.

Hard copies are available in New Zealand from

English Version:File Type & Size
pdf-icon  Effective Pedagogy in Social Sciences | Educational Practice Series 23 [PDF 473KB]
Authors: Sinnema, C. & Aitken, G. (2012)       
International Academy of Education and International Bureau of Education Paris, UNESCO.

Information for Teachers

Counter bullying across your teaching by giving priority to building a student learning community to advance academic and social outcomes. This matters for your students and for you.

Effort spent building student collaboration skills will intensify learning supports to all of the learners in your class, while giving you more opportunity to work responsively with individuals when necessary.

Ensure the key competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Mauratanga; managing self, relating  to others and participating and contributing, are integrated into all learning programmes. This will be most challenging for the social sciences as the curriculum levels statements focus on conceptual understandings.

Recognise that the New Zealand bullying data shows much more is needed for the outcomes we seek. Check out the BESs and BES cases for what does and doesn't work and seek knowledgeable expertise to help you build on trustworthy what works evidence. Use a teaching as inquiry approach to check that you are countering bullying in your class.

The BES exemplars feature approaches that are very high impact because they have been built on many cycles of research and development. Pay attention to the implementation alerts and check with your principals and or middle leaders that you can be supported with effective professional development.

You may also find the BES cases useful. See the following cases that explain the 'how' of inclusive pedagogies.

Case 2: Develop inclusive practice through a social studies programme

This New Zealand case provides a range of tools to help teachers develop inclusive practice in classroom teaching and foster inclusion in the peer culture across a school. It is informed by action research carried out by the teacher of a very diverse new entrants class but it has implications for teaching across the school. The teacher adopted a social constructivist approach that supported the development of an inclusive classroom community where student diversity was a valued resource for teaching and learning.

The case also explains the use of 'thinking books' to improve responsive teaching and learner self-management. Thinking books are a form of high-impact 'learning log' that can be effective for even 5-year-old students. This is a practical strategy for teachers seeking to support young learners to think about their learning.

See also: BES Exemplar 5"Learning logs - He Kete Wherawhera"

Download:BES Case 2 [PDF 316KB]

Case 10: Facilitate effective inclusion of learners with special needs

This case contrasts effective and ineffective approaches to the inclusion of learners with special needs. Effective approaches to inclusion accelerate the learning and improve the well-being of learners with special needs, while also benefitting other learners and teachers. The contexts were an early childhood and a junior school setting. The case highlights contrasting views about disability that have implications for learners, educators, families, and wider communities.

See alsoBES Case 2"Develop inclusive practice through a social studies programme."

Download:BES Case 10 [PDF 257KB]

Case 14: Facilitate the inclusion and achievement of new learners of English

English language learners (ELLs) can find themselves excluded from curriculum learning and classroom interaction unless teachers use effective strategies to include them. This case highlights the strategies a teacher uses to support a 5-year-old new-immigrant Sāmoan as a member of the class, an English language learner, and a social studies learner. Through these strategies, the child gains access to both the language and the content of the curriculum.

This junior school case has wide relevance for the teaching of ELLs across the curriculum.

Download:BES Case 14 [PDF 220KB]

Case 15: Develop learning communities to accelerate academic and social outcomes

Different approaches can influence student participation and relationships in positive or negative ways. This case explains how a teacher and his students created a highly productive classroom learning community. The students learned and used social skills that supported their academic learning, their metacognitive skills, and their respect and care for each other. The case explores the impact on particular Māori, Pasifika, Iraqi, and Pākehā students.

Classes that become effective learning communities can accelerate achievement because they intensify learning opportunities and supports for every student.

See alsoBES Exemplar 1"Developing communities of mathematical inquiry" andBES Case 24"Expect students to be accountable for thinking through the mathematics involved in a problem."

The BESs give priority to approaches that advance valued social outcomes as well as valued cognitive outcomes. If you are a teacher in New Zealand who is seeking to find out more about a particular approach featured in a BES you can seek access to the source article from theMinistry of Education's Library.

Download:BES Case 15 [PDF 258KB]

Information for Leaders

The School Leadership and Student Outcomes BES demonstrated that leadership success in ensuring an orderly and supportive environment is directly linked to improved student outcomes.

Critical factors included:

  • a focus on cultural understanding
  • a respect for difference
  • provision of a safe and orderly environment
  • a clear discipline code
  • early and effective conflict resolution.

In New Zealand counter-bullying strategies need to be at forefront for school leaders through:

  • Counter-bullying goals
  • Strategic resourcing to give priority to counter-bullying strategies as a core pedagogical purpose that enables teachers to work smarter rather than harder
  • Planning, coordinating, and evaluating teaching and the curriculum to ensure inclusive practice, integration of counter-bullying pedagogies and alignment
  • Promoting and participating in teacher learning and development in inclusive curriculum, co-operative learning and other counter-bullying approaches
  • Creating and leveraging educationally powerful connections that build and model relational trust

Student bullying is often hidden from teachers and leaders. In TIMSS New Zealand many primary students reported  feeling safe at school while reporting frequent bullying. Diagnostic tools can be helpful when the items  capture what is happening for students, and the tools are used effectively to inform and evaluate improvement strategies.

You could use the six TIMSS items on the bullying scale to find out the extent and frequency of specific forms  of bullying reported by students in your school (weekly, monthly or almost never). Use these tools in ways  that advance rather than jeopardise student safety in the peer culture. Read the one page summary:

One Page Summary: File Type & Size

Or you can read more in Chapter 6 of the  TIMSS 2011 International Results in Mathematics Report.

What matters is that the actions that follow make a positive difference.

One of the most important ways in which you can lead a counter-bullying culture is through inclusive education in practice in your school. The powerpoint below may be a useful tool to support your professional leadership of inclusive education across the curriculum.

Powerpoint Presentation: File Type & Size

   BES What Works Resources for the 'How' of Improvement [PPTX 3.0MB]
The implications of the best evidence synthesis (BES)  resources for capability building in inclusive education

BES Exemplars feature approaches that make a bigger difference. BES Cases also explain approaches that  work. The following case shows how to assist parents and whānau to support their children's learning in positive ways rather than to pressure children in ways that undermine learning, confidence and relationships.

Case 6: Improve student attendance & engagement by improving the social & emotional environment: restorative justice

This case describes a framework for implementing a whole-school focus on improving the social and emotional environment of the classroom and school. Using this framework, a large multicultural high school was able to significantly raise attendance, engagement, and NCEA achievement.

In the case, a school guidance leader identified what support the school needed to improve school culture. As a result of internal research, externally provided professional learning, and a new restorative justice philosophy, much stronger connections were forged between classrooms, school leadership, and community. Supported by an effective system, constructive new practices were developed.

Download:BES Case 6 [PDF 286KB]

Addressing what doesn't work

The Education Review Office has reported the need for New Zealand schools to reflect on the evidence about fixed ability grouping and streaming.

BES Exemplar 1 shows how to use mixed ability grouping effectively to accelerate progress for Māori and Pasifika learners and low achievers while combating bullying:

BES Exemplar 1 | Ngā Kete Rakura He Tauira 1: File Type & Size

Read more below about how leaders can support positive changes by visiting the Education Endowment Foundation website.

Case 29: Use pedagogical leadership to enable more equitable and effective teaching for all learners

Teaching approaches influence student identity and social outcomes as well as academic outcomes. Research shows fixed-ability grouping or streaming can have negative outcomes on all three types of outcome, especially for underachievers.

In this case, a primary principal encourages his teachers to review their beliefs about mixed-ability grouping by giving them the experience of working on a mathematical problem with a heterogeneous group of colleagues. Although the context for the case is primary mathematics, it has relevance across all levels and areas of the curriculum.

The case highlights the importance of leaders' knowledge of teaching and learning and provides a number of useful thinking tools and processes.

See alsoBES Exemplar 1"Developing communities of mathematical inquiry"

Download:BES Case 29 [PDF 328KB]

Case 32: Develop smart policy and curriculum documents to support educational improvement

This case provides educational leaders and policy makers with six criteria for the development of policy and curriculum documents. The criteria are elaborated and supported with examples. If documents incorporate a sound, evidence-based theory about how to achieve their intent, make connections with readers' prior understandings, include misconception alerts, and are cognisant of memory capacity, then they are more likely to have a positive impact on student outcomes.

This case promotes the use of "smarter" tools to support educational improvement.

The wedge graph described inBES Case 28:"To improve learning, engage with teachers' beliefs about students and learning" is an example of a smart tool, a feature of effective practice in allBES Exemplars.

Download:BES Case 32 [PDF 518KB]

Information for Boards of Trustees

In New Zealand each school board of trustees is required to provide a safe physical and emotional environment for students. The national bullying data indicates this will be a challenge for most schools. Give priority to goal setting, resourcing, reviewing, and ongoing improvement for student safety in the peer culture.

Check that the school has effective programmes to assist parents and whānau to support their children's learning in ways that are positive. e.g. Reading Together, Tertiary & Career Planning Workshops involving parents, whānau and students at Year 9.

Information for Teacher Educators

The national bullying data is a signal that there needs to be more focus in initial teacher education, and professional development on counter-bullying strategies embedded in teaching practice as business-as-usual.

NZEI | Te Riu Roa website (New Zealand Educational Institute) and NZ PPTA | Te Wehengarua website are seeking more effective provision of professional development that incorporates highly effective cooperative group work - including through digital tools.

Information for Researchers

There are many one-off studies of cooperative learning in New Zealand. The high frequency of bullying in New Zealand data signals a need for ongoing cycles of research and development that build capacity in highly effective cooperative learning in different curriculum areas. BES Exemplar 1 reveals the hard work involved in creating powerful learning opportunities and effective counter-bullying skills in a community of learners in mathematics. BES Exemplar 4 builds student cooperation and leadership into reading comprehension.

Information for Policy Makers

In comparison with schooling practices that are often supported by governments – such as tutoring, technology use and school restructuring – co-operative learning is relatively inexpensive and easily adopted. Yet, thirty years after much of the foundational research was completed, it remains at the edge of school policy. This does not have to remain the case: as governments come to support the larger concept of evidence-based reform, the strong evidence base for co-operative learning may lead to a greater focus on this set of approaches at the core of instructional practice. In the learning environments of the 21st century, co-operative learning should play a central role. (p. 174).

Slavin, R. (2010). Co-operative learning: what makes group-work work?.
In H. Dumont, D. Instance & F. Benavides (Eds.). The nature of learning: Using research to inspire practice.
Paris: OECD.

Where to Find Out More

New Zealand has significant expertise in cooperative learning in other curriculum areas. Associate Professor Ben Dyson at the University of Auckland has led research and development in cooperative learning in physical education.

Dyson, B., & Casey, A. (2012). (Eds.). Cooperative learning in physical education: A research-based approach.Routledge studies in physical education and youth sport. London: Routledge.

Read the review by Adrienne Alton-Lee (2012) Cooperative Learning in Physical Education: A Research Based Approach [Book Review] Qualitative Research in Education.

Useful Links

The following sites provide access to programmes of work that are focused on linking research evidence to practice in education.

Prevention of Bullying in Schools, Colleges and Universities [PDF 3.8MB]
AERA has issued a new report titled 'Prevention of Bullying in Schools, Colleges and Universities: Research Report and Recommendations.
The peer-reviewed report, presented as a series of 11 briefs addresses legislative policy and procedural matters with pracmatic and practical
strategies for prevention of bullying.
Injustice at every turn: American National Transgender Discrimination Survey [LINK]
The American National Center for Transgender Equality conducted a large-scale national study of discrimination against transgender
and gender non-conforming Americans.