Middle School Responses to Cyberbullying: An Action Research Study
Zidack, Astri Marie
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This action research study engaged a small public middle school in the northwest United States in a collaborative process to address cyberbullying issues that often lead to academic and behavior problems in schools (Hinduja, 2010; Olweus, 2010). The specific purpose of this action research study was to address the middle school's cyberbullying issues in order to understand the problems and generate interventions appropriate to the school setting. This action research study was informed by a theoretical framework related to the "online disinhibition effect" (Suler, 2004) and the concept of moral disengagement, a part of social cognitive theory (Bandura, 2002; Bauman, 2009; Mason, 2008). This study used the middle school's existing School Improvement Team (SIT) to establish a collaborative action research team, facilitated by the researcher. The design of this action research study was guided by Stringer's (2007) Look, Think, Act model for the research process. During the Look phase of this study, the SIT participants gathered information, shared their perceptions, and participated in individual interviews related to cyberbullying. During the Think phase, the participants engaged in discussions and analyzed data, incorporating documents and survey results to further their understanding. During the Act phase, SIT participants made decisions that resulted in the addition of student lesson plans and a school-wide internet safety plan that specifically addressed cyberbullying and the issues that surfaced during the study. Throughout the study, the SIT team cycled back and forth among the Look, Think, and Act phases multiple times. The SIT team concluded that collectively they had "learned so much" about cyberbullying and related issues due to the action research process. The major outcomes of this study included the understanding that teacher's personal perspectives and fears regarding student technology use and cyberbullying affected their classroom decisions and professional practice. The team concluded that healthy online social skills were distinct in many ways from the skills necessary for healthy face-to-face communication. This understanding resulted in the SIT team incorporating information about online disinhibition (Suler, 2004) into classroom lesson plans. The action research process empowered and motivated the team to engage in a collaborative process to address cyberbullying.