Bullying – Drama – Research

ARE YOU IN (R.U.In?) – Drama methods’ innovation for inclusive youth communities

“Inclusive, good-quality education is a foundation for dynamic and equitable societies.”
Desmond Tutu  

In our quickly changing and globalizing world we often focus on individual assertiveness, but we tend to forget about the importance of functional communities and tolerant environments where one can feel safe and supported. To be more precise, we want to emphasize the relevance of those in theory, but when it comes to practice, we face many difficulties and lack of tools and patterns to facilitate young people. In order to create groups that count with the active participation of all, accepting the diversity of personalities is a key, regardless of physical appearance, interest, religion, race, economic background and culture.

Our twenty-monthlong project, beginning in September 2016, addressed the topic of bullying, with a special focus on youth communities. The project was carried out by four civil society organizations from four different European countries. These organizations work through non-formal education and drama/theatre methods but have different approaches. We also deal with dissimilar aspects of the mentioned issue, determined by our geographical, cultural and infrastructural characteristics.

In the project partnership Cedeum from Belgrade, Serbia; Sigma Art from Bucharest, Romania and TheatrEtc from Nicosia, Cyprus have participated, while the coordinator was Nyitott Kör Egyesület (Open Circle Association), from Budapest, Hungary. During the project, we have managed to see the working environment and practices of each organization, share the most burning tendencies of local bullying research, organize a training course for the creation of a common ground, and gain a deeper understanding about the field of each countries’ applied drama and theatre practices. The organizations intended to elaborate their own methodologies to research and assess their drama activities impact, focusing on bullying and group cohesion.  As a result of our collaboration – after the training we shared – we could all develop new drama/theatre based activities for young people, focusing rather on the prevention of bullying, than the intervention of such phenomena. A new online, Android application was also developed, which we tested as a tool for educational purposes, in our drama based programmes. The R.U.In? study report contains the results of our Research and the results of the R.U.In? project.

Looking back at the idea and ambitions of the project, we have to mention that the interdisciplinary approach and the intrinsic motivation for complexity were the most important key elements that made these 20 months interesting. Nevertheless, they have led to many challenges and further questions. Not all of them could be answered and elaborated by our team, and some of them could have been answered differently by others. We also had to face practical difficulties, which pushed us to make compromises.  We are satisfied if the current project can generate local and global discussion and polemy about all fields intervening here. Impact Assessment itself is a quite new and already interdisciplinary area of Research, it combines quantitative and qualitative methods, needs measurement beforehand and afterwards the delivered activities, and requires data collection from control groups. We based the theory of the study on social psychology, pedagogy, sociology and education studies. The methods and techniques our organizations are working with are interdisciplinary as well, and through sharing our practices it became even more diverse. We tried to combine and experiment with: non-formal educational methods, performative arts, applied drama, Theatre in Education, process drama, forum theatre and devised theatre. In addition, we wondered how we could use the language of the generation of the digital age, especially because the virtual form of bullying is more present in young people’s daily life. Therefore we added the implementation of an Android application to the salad bowl of methods. Each organization of the partnership made their own decisions and selected what was best for them to use: as a result, our own programmes and researches are as diverse as we wish the society to become and enhance.

By the term ‘bullying’ we refer to exclusion, public embarrassment, humiliation, verbal insult, physical aggression and virtual harassment, taken place repeatedly in a community. We can also define bullying as a repeated activity, or aggressive behavior intended to hurt another individual, physically, mentally or emotionally. All of them are connected to violence as a coping mechanism, demonstrating the power and creating, sustaining or boosting hierarchical structure in a group.  

One of the most important socializing medium we participate in (after the given family context) is the school community, the classroom. Other important environments for the age group of 6-18 years olds are the communities they participate in according to their free time activities, hobbies, extracurricular occupations. Educators, teachers and youth workers leading or facilitating classes and groups shall be able to identify the phenomena of bullying among the students.  The long-term effects of bullying are numerous and can include sensitivity, anxiety and depression. Recent statistics suggest that the majority of students will experience bullying at some point in their academic careers. In the early 21st century, increasing attention has been given to the importance of teachers, group leaders, educators and parents understanding and recognizing the signs of bullying (among both bullies and victims), and being equipped with strategies and tools to address school bullying and deal with it as a community, in or out of the classroom. Bullies, who never face intervention can become criminals. The victims of bullying can develop serious psychopathological problems. But what is the role of the bystanders? Most students see and perceive bullying as “the third party”, they are not aggressors or victims, but do contribute to the phenomenon by being passive, by only “not being part of it”. They are part of it, they are in, we state that their behavior and attitude is the most important when talking about bullying.

The project – through the innovation of applied drama and theatre methodologies – would like to facilitate young people to be conscious about the increasing issues of bullying and cyberbullying, provide effective activities for the prevention and intervention of bullying in schools and youth groups and support teachers, educators and youth leaders to raise more awareness about the importance of inclusive and functional communities. We can imagine many different further approaches and innovations to shape the attitude of young people to build a more tolerant, sensitive, empathic and balanced society and are looking forward to debate and discuss about our ways of working on the topic.

Zsófia Jozifek

Project Coordinator of R.U.In? – Drama methods’ innovation for inclusive youth communities

Nyitott Kör Egyesület (Open Circle Association)