Evidence That It Works
Discussing moral “dilemmas”–situations with multiple potential solutions–gives students the chance to thoughtfully express their own ideas and consider and respond to those of others. These types of discussions can help students think in a more critical and sophisticated way about the social and ethical challenges they may face.
In situations involving bullying, specifically, studies have shown that students’ perceptions of peer norms–e.g., that their peers think standing up for others is the right thing to do–might make them more likely to intervene and less likely to passively bystand.
Why Does It Matter?
Bullying among school-aged youth is both common and harmful. Most students see bullying as wrong, but they often don’t intervene when they witness it, for a variety of reasons.
Growing their awareness of why they might not step up to help someone in a group situation—such as watching a student being bullied—may help students to overcome the internal and external barriers that keep them from reaching out. In addition to practices such as this one, teaching students mindfulness and emotion skills can also cultivate their ability to overcome personal distress when seeing someone suffer, making them more likely to offer service.
For educators, better understanding students’ thought processes around these issues can help in efforts to reduce bullying, increase upstanding (standing up for others by intervening or whistle-blowing), and make school a safer and happier place for everyone.