The ABBL program, introduces an intervention designed to integrate groups of adolescents during transition to middle school. The aim of this program, based on Participant Role Approach, is to reduce negative behaviors by influencing context and targeting the newly forming peer group in order to prevent bullying. Activities are designed to help teachers to manage new group dynamics from the outset, creating supportive class atmospheres which counteract negative in-group behavior such as exclusion of individuals from the dominant peer group, scapegoating, bullying or fighting groups. Activities enable students to get to know each other well, and to establish class rules and procedures to follow in case of difficulties, such as consequences of unsocial behavior. They also help students and teachers to institute safe procedures and confidential contacts if the need arises.
The program includes eleven comprehensive and easily applicable lesson scenarios based on research results and designed in close cooperation with middle school students, teachers, educators, psychologists and researchers. It is therefore designed to prevent bullying in a way that is acceptable for students and convenient for teachers. The program could be useful for home class teachers, tutors and educators working in different types of student care structures.
It is important to start the program at the beginning of a new school year so that activities harmonize with natural group processes, as it is much easier to shape intergroup relationships in the class rather than reverse a hierarchy process. Such well-timed intervention could help all students benefit from the opportunities provided by this important transition; by mitigating anxiety and fear connected with entering a new, unfamiliar peer group; slowing down the process of exclusion and giving students time and tools for creating supportive environments in their group.
The intervention program is divided into three major sections: mutual acquaintance, integration/team building and empathetic perception of excluded individuals. Each part has a short introduction to explain techniques, methods, theories and aims. Students work together in groups of two or more. Methods of assimilation, as well as the individual pursuit of knowledge, didactic games, role plays and discussions have, among others, been implemented as part of the program. Detailed targets, both general and operational, have been devised for each scenario and every lesson has been divided into the following elements: introductory, central and final. A few lessons contain a ‘food for thought’ homework assignment which consists of personal questions about: respect for others, friendship, interpersonal relations, and good and bad memories from elementary school. This task was suggested by students as a way to reflect on difficult, personal, issues without sharing them with other students, which might be uncomfortable and risky for adolescents.
Part one – mutual acquaintance
The aim of these lesson scenarios is to facilitate the getting-to-know-you process for students. Students can learn more about their new friends, spot similarities and the potential benefits of cooperation. It is important that teachers make sure that all students have a chance to talk to each other. Research shows that team network and friendships among students can act as a protective shield against bullying and victimization. Some students are slower and shy when it comes to making new friends so they need help in the form of interactive activities.
Part two – integration / team building
These lesson scenarios help to identify the advantages of a good, supportive peer group. Several activities concentrate on unwanted behaviors and their consequences for cooperation and students’ wellbeing, emphasizing empowering aspects of supportive teamwork and allowing students to establish rules and procedures.
Part three – empathic perception of excluded individuals
Our research found that both bullies and passive bystanders often interpret bullying as ‘just a joke’, trivializing its consequences. Scenarios in this part aim to evoke an empathic attitude in students by showing them the link between exclusionary and aggressive attitudes and the feelings of a victimized individual.
- start in the first week of the new school year,
- try and complete all the activities in the suggested sequence,
- make sure all students have a chance to work together; change sitting arrangements as often as possible,
- let your students establish norms and rules of behavior; only then will they follow them,
- promise that a ‘food for thought’ homework assignment will not be discussed in class, unless students wish to do so,
- encourage cooperation rather than competition,
- clarify how students can safely and confidentially contact you, to reassure that they can count on you,
- emphasize that every student is responsible for the class climate/atmosphere, and that a supportive class provides a comfortable school life.
 Salmivalli ,C (2014). Participants Roles in Bullying: Hoe can peer bystanders be utilized in interventions? Theory Into Practice, 54(4)
 Kendrick, K., Jutengren, G., & Stattin, H. (2012). The protective role of supportive friends against bullying perpetration and victimization. Journal of adolescence, 35(4), 1069-1080.
 Wójcik, M., & Kozak, B. (2015). Bullying and exclusion from dominant peer group in Polish middle schools. Polish Psychological Bulletin, 46(1), 2-14.
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