Utilizing the Soft Systems Methodology to Study the Impact of a Governmental Anti-Bullying Initiative

in From Communication Landscapes to Bullying Battlegrounds
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As a result of the prevalent reported negative effects of bullying between peers, numerous initiatives that strive to counter school bullying have surfaced. Research has shown that more effective approaches have consisted of cooperative actions which target different levels of school governance including administrators, teachers, parents, students and community partners. In the Canadian province of Ontario, the Ministry of Education has recently introduced legislation that aims to reduce school bullying through a preventative approach. This approach mandates policy development by all school governing authorities when faced with bullying behaviours among students as well as the creation of positive learning environments by rewarding student-led anti-bullying initiatives. The first phase of this study was to conduct a content analysis of the ensuing anti-bullying policies in Ontario in order to determine to which extent they adhere to effective anti-bullying strategies as identified by extant research. The second phase will consist of an impact study of these policies in Ontario schools following the Accepting Schools Act, in order to determine their degree of effectiveness. The purpose of the current study is therefore twofold: 1) to analyze the extent to which policy content is actually applied in schools; and 2) to analyze the effectiveness of the application of policy content in reducing school bullying on a larger scale. In order to achieve this dual purpose, the authors will describe a methodology that accentuates the process, the perceptions and the preoccupations of members of the school community in terms of school bullying between students and other members of the school community. Checkland’s soft systems theory will be applied to the endeavour to improve problematic situations, namely preventing and confronting school bullying, as proposed by Jacques Lapointe. The results of the study will expose the expression of varied insights from school professionals in terms of countering school bullying. In sum, this chapter therefore aims to describe the soft systems methodology and explains its pertinence to an impact study of the Ontario Accepting Schools Act (ASA).

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