Cowie, H. & Jennifer, D. (Co-ordinating team, UK), Chankova, D. & Poshtova, T. (Bulgaria), Deklerck, J. & Deboutte, G. (Belgium), Ertesvåg, S. K. & Samuelsen, A. S. (Norway), O'Moore, M. & Minton, S. J. (Ireland) and Ortega, R. & Sanchez, V. (Spain) © (2006)
The two Units in this Module raise awareness of some of the key issues regarding school violence, an understanding of which forms the basis of the VISTA training approach.
Definitions of school violence are problematic with no consensus reached, as violence is socially constructed from a range of viewpoints with meaning varying according to the individuals, culture and environment concerned. This means that finding a definition of school violence requires an awareness of perspectives from a range of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, criminology, education, political science and social policy. This multiplicity of viewpoints also includes the notion that children do not share an adult conceptual understanding of bullying and violence, therefore, basing educational practices and policies for children solely on adult definitions of violence is counter-productive; we need to complement adult perspectives with those of young people.
In Unit A1, we offer the opportunity to reflect critically on a multiplicity of definitions of violence that take into account individual factors, interpersonal relationships and the social context of the school and its community; and that include both adult and child definitions of the phenomenon. In this Unit participants will be able to construct a definition of school violence that takes into account the different types of violent behaviour within their school setting. We also consider the particular contexts in which violence may flourish and those where it is prevented or reduced. We take account of the idea that in order to understand the complex phenomenon of school violence, a thorough understanding of the economic, cultural, school and family factors that contribute to the problem is necessary. This Unit makes appropriate links with current debates and dialogues on emotional literacy, resilience, moral panics, young people and crime, school exclusions, disruptive behaviour and gangs.
There is a widespread popular view, fuelled by the media and by governments, and not necessarily supported by empirical evidence, that violence in schools has increased. This sense of 'moral panic' is a counter-productive form of social control that does not address the underlying causes of the problem. Our view is that there is a need to disseminate the available information on violence including, for example, incidence and causes. In Unit A2, we take account of high-quality research findings on the nature and origins of school violence and the impact of best practice, innovative interventions and whole-school policies on reducing or preventing it. This Unit offers participants the opportunity to increase their knowledge and understanding of the concept of school bullying and violence; to identify violent behaviour and differentiate it from less serious behaviour; to increase their understanding of the characteristics of perpetrators and victims; and to familiarise themselves with the role of new technology in preventing school violence.