In the last few years in Europe, numerous episodes of bullying have sprung up in the news creating serious social alarm.
Pre-adolescents and adolescents belonging to enlarged socio-cultural groups are more and more significantly involved in bullying and the phenomenon is in a continuous state of evolution. Whereas in the past bullying almost exclusively involved young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, today it is dangerously and indistinctively advancing in other social classes.
The reason for this evolution is presumably to be linked to the rasing of new social variables such as: cultural diveristy – due to the growing phenomenon of immigration –, differences in sexual orientation, disability and other forms of diversity which, becoming stereotypes, provide fertile ground for phenomena of violence and juvenile deviance.
Because of this situation, the project “Active and socially constructive methodology to fight against sexual, homophobic and ethnic bullying in schools”, co-funded by the European Union in the framework of the Daphne Project, intends to involve all members of the school community along with teachers and students. The aim of the project is to design and put into practice shared paths for bullying prevention, directed at fighting degeneration into such behaviour by intervening in appropriate and effective manner whenever needed.
The project started in January 2010 and is coordinated by the University Ca’ Foscari of Venice.
It will last two years and, on the basis of a European survey on bullying, is aimed at setting up a number of training courses for rasing teachers and students' awareness.
The novelty of the project lies in the idea that the prevention and fight of the phenomenon of bullying requires system actions based on 3 pillars.
The first pillar regards the necessity to develop and propose teachers an in-depth training course on the subject. The reason for this choice is the need for teachers and non-formal educators to learn how to use a number of tools, so that content, methodology and quality evaluation requirements can be met and this phenomenon can be managed in a more correct and consciuos manner. Through this training course teachers will have the possibility to acquire not only basic theoretical knowledge, but also a number of useful practices pertaining to this important subject.
The second pillar, a focal point of the project, lies in the awareness that the prevention of bullying goes beyond teachers or education workers' potential competence and that students as well as their parents need to have suitable tools for promoting a better understanding of this phenomenon and preventing such situations.
In order to reach this important objective the project will have a peer-education and problem-solving approach able to actively involve students and their families for giving them a greater sense of resposibility.
The third pillar is based on the intention to set up a community for establishing common practices on the subject of bullying involving professionals of formal and non-formal education. The community will be built throughout the training activities, through the participation of subjects involved in the online discussion forums and will continue through mobility and exchange experiences.
The project also includes cultural initiatives, drama and recreational activities as means for raising awareness on the topic of violence and involving the local community joining the project. The same approach will be applied at European level through the organisation of an international festival on the “Narrative arts on Bullying”.
The Mabe project promotes a number of complementary activities helping to reach the goals that are at the basis of its development. After an initial analytical stage, aimed at better understanding the dynamics of the phenomenon of bullying, a number of specifically-designed learning paths will be developed with the goal of involving, raising the awareness of and training all the subjects affected i.e. teachers, students and families.
The survey will consist of a questionnaire on the subject of bullying in its various forms (ethnic, gender, homophobic and disability related) and will be circulated online, in ten European countries to a sample of 10,000 children and adolescents in 100 schools. The questionnaire will be supported by semi-structured interviews and group interviews.
The training courses offered to different target groups are all based on the same method, i.e. on interactive pedagogy – established on the experience of participants –, a problem-solving approach, creativity and the collaborative development of knowledge.
In particular, the learning process is based on the use of Participative Research and Action (PRA) an autobiographic, narrative and socially constructive approach. The added value of this methodology is the opportunity to systematically approach the physical, verbal and gestural violence expressed by students.
The various training activities will be evaluated using a system of continuous assessment. This will include an ex-ante evaluation, aimed in particular at the initial needs analysis of the various target groups; an in-progress evaluation and a final evaluation which will aim to emphasise the skills acquired by participants at the end of the course and the total impact of the learning process.
One of the most important products of this training is the setting up of a I level Master Course called “Expert in preventing and combating juvenile violence”. The Master Course will have a blended structure and will train a maximum of 60 teachers, educators, social and recreational workers, intercultural mediators and youth centre operators.
The Master’s course will allow:
1) in depth knowledge of the phenomenon of juvenile violence;
2) acquisition of a series of methodologically functional tools to prevent and combat juvenile violence;
3) acquisition of knowledge and skills for understanding the different aspects of violence when projecting formal and non formal education courses;
4) acquisition of skills for setting up and putting into practice methods of prevention of conflict and conflicting situations which can involve the school community.
The final outcome of the course intends to provide participants with skills on the theoretical level of in-depth knowledge on the subject and phenomenon of juvenile violence as well as the most up-to-date means of preventing and limiting this phenomenon in the field of formal and non formal education.
From the functional point of view, participants should be able to: (a) systematically integrate the different aspects of juvenile violence into formal and non formal education projects; (b) invent and carry out methods of prevention and combating against violence (Action plans, Declarations, Strategies, Training courses, Animation, etc); (c) evaluate policies on the prevention and combating of juvenile violence.
Training students inside and outside of school might not be enough to combat the phenomenon of bullying. For this reason, peer education actions have been designed in order to train young mentors, that is people able to combat the phenomenon of bullying by supporting weaker students.
Peer-education as used in training subjects in areas of sensitive issues such as bullying, becomes an important educational strategy to activate all those transfer processes, of knowledge, emotions and experiences by some students to others of equal status. This practice as it is used to face sensitive issues like bullying, is able to overcome barriers which usually characterise traditional training to reach a more authentic and significant level of discussion between a group of peers or a school class.
This educational process will have the specific goal of identifying young mentors and training them to implement forms of mentoring applied to the issue of bullying.
The space dedicated to the Best Practices hosts the most meaningful experiences done and the most effective results obtained during the project stages as well as during other kinds of experiences dealing with bullying whose goal is to raise the awareness of the social community towards this important matter.
The intrinsic value of Best Practices lies in the fact that they can be repeated. Hence, this space is an important means to collect meaningful experiences on bullying and, at the same time, to promote their spreading and sustainability throughout time.
The experimentation will consist of two main stages:
The first stage includes a placement and a project work for teachers and educators working in the field of formal and non-formal education and will consist in projecting and experimenting new modules and teaching units in their own classes. These will also include a brief introduction to education to diversity that will be dealt with in an innovative way. [...]
The experimentation activities will be made effective through a dense network of dissemination activities for disclosing results and actions achieved by the project through articles, reports and dissemination meetings both at national and international level.
The primary goal of the fifteen-day European meeting of the narrative arts on bullying is to help raising the awareness of the general public by means of a European festival on adolescent narratives that will be held in Italy.
On the days dedicated to this event, students together with their parents will be the actors and the protagonists of stories that, through their personal experiences, will help raising the awareness of the general public on the importance of this subject.
The initiative intends to present activities ranging from contemporary art workshops, to dance and theatre. The main aim is to deconstruct episodes of violence and channel energies in a significant and constructive way. The event will be an important occasion to promote the exchange of experiences between professionals from the different countries directly involved through experimental activities.
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