Playlist teacher guide - Bystander action

Playlist information

Playlist summary

This playlist helps students explore the role that bystanders can play in taking action to challenge disrespectful and abusive behaviour.

Playlist purpose

As a result of engaging with the media items in this playlist students will:

  • Understand the roles bystanders can play in various situations where they witness disrespect.
  • Explore how they can safely challenge disrespect and intervene to stop disrespectful behaviour.
  • Propose and practise strategies for intervening or challenging disrespect either directly or indirectly as a bystander.

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Learning objectives

  • Understand the nature of social power and the dynamics of peer influence on decisions, behaviours and actions within groups.
  • Develop strategies to stand up to peers and friends when they are behaving disrespectfully (harassment, bullying and being a proactive bystander/ upstander).
  • Develop the skills and confidence to know when and how to leave a peer group or end a peer / group relationship if there are conflicts or problems.

Key messages

  • Peer influence can have a strong impact on attitudes, decisions and behaviours during early adolescence.
  • Bullying occurs within a complex environment of social power and peer influences.

Year level(s) appropriate for

Year 7, Year 8, Year 9

Australian curriculum links

Evaluate factors that shape identities and critically analyse how individuals impact the identities of others.

Investigate the benefits of relationships and examine their impact on their own and others’ health and wellbeing.

Evaluate strategies to manage personal, physical and social changes that occur as they grow older.

Examine the impact of changes and transitions on relationships.

Media items

Bystander action introduction

Type: Slides.

Duration: 5 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: These slides introduce the Bystander action playlist.

Teacher notes:

Slide 1: The bystander

The bystander plays a significant role in bullying. Bullying behaviour is reinforced where people watch but do nothing.

Slide 2: Being an active bystander

If we are to prevent bullying and to champion a good society, then we need more people to be active bystanders who are willing to step in and speak up.

Brainstorm as a class the different examples of actively standing up and stepping in that students have witnessed. Record them to refer back to later.

Slide 3: Safely stepping in

Remember to assess the situation carefully before you act as it's important you keep yourself safe and don’t escalate the situation. The stepped process we will go through in this playlist will help you to intervene in a way that is safe for you and others involved and will reduce the chance of escalating the situation.

The three key steps to stepping in provide the way to intervene safely:

Step 1: Check in

Step 2: Challenge or Disrupt

Step 3: Recruit

By following these steps you can make sure that if you do decide to step in, you are not going to escalate a situation and potentially put your safety or anyone else’s in danger.

We’ll go through each of these steps in more detail in the next playlist item.

Taking action as a bystander

Type: Page.

Duration: 4 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: People often watch a disrespectful situation and do nothing to stop it. They might even join in because they’re scared that they might also become a target. A bystander is somebody who observes disrespectful behaviour but is not directly involved in the situation.

Suggested activities:

To explore the decisions to become an active bystander further, show the class the following video scenarios and ask students to propose strategies they could have used if they were a bystander to try to intervene and stop the harassment.

Active bystander program – Jane’s story

Active bystander program – John’s story

The Bystander Effect | The Science of Empathy

Type: Video.

Duration: 5 minutes.

Source: Soul Pancake. ()

Summary: We’d all like to consider ourselves helpful people, but are we always quick to lend a hand whenever the opportunity arises? How long do you think it would take for people to offer assistance to someone struggling right in front of them?

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Have you witnessed bullying situations where people have wanted to intervene but because no one else was taking action they decided to ignore the bullying behaviour? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    3. c.Maybe
    Discussion points:

    Social support improves almost every intervention, so when you see something you’re uncomfortable with, make sure you look around for people who might be feeling the same way. Use the check in step to find out who might want to help intervene.

    Recruiting doesn’t just help with the specific situation you are in, it helps to reinforce a whole culture of respect in our society because it demonstrates that there are many people that care about others and don’t tolerate disrespectful or bullying behaviour.

    The simple demonstration of “all-being-on-the-same-page" when it comes to expectation and appropriate behaviour can be enough to change some people’s actions. It’s part of the foundation of creating A Good Society – talking the talk and walking the walk on respectful relationships!

Taking action to step in

Type: Page.

Duration: 4 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: Making the decision to step in and intervene when you notice a disrespectful situation takes courage and requires you to trust your instincts about what is right and wrong in a situation.

Teacher notes:

It is recommended that you work with students to unpack each of these interventions by scaffolding activities which help students to discuss the consequences, impact and dynamics of each intervention.

  • Ask students to assess each of the options in terms of their level of confidence in using that type of intervention.
  • Ask them to identify a range of suitable options they can draw on if they find themselves in a situation where they are a bystander and want to intervene.

Active bystander

Type: Video.

Duration: 2 minutes.

Source: United Nations Women Asia and the Pacific. ()

Summary: A person’s level of confidence in their own capacity to take action has a big impact on whether they will step in to intervene or challenge disrespectful or abusive behaviour. But even small active actions can have a big impact.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. If you witnessed a similar scene on public transport, would you feel confident to step in? Answers
    1. a.Yes, absolutely
    2. b.Yes, but only if I was with a group of friends who’d back me up
    3. c.Maybe, it would depend whether the person was bigger than me
    4. d.Probably not, it’s too risky because you don’t know how they might react
    Discussion points:

    The level of confidence people have in their own capacity to take action has a big impact on whether they will step in to intervene or challenge disrespectful or abusive behaviour. The level of peer support they expect to receive if they were to take action is also a key factor in deciding to step in.

    Remember you don’t have to step in but if it is safe to do so it can help someone out of a potentially harmful situation. The three key steps to stepping in provide the way to intervene safely:

    Step 1: Check in

    Step 2: Challenge or Disrupt

    Step 3: Recruit

    By following these steps you can make sure that if you do decide to step in, you are not going to escalate a situation and potentially put your safety or anyone else’s in danger.

Standing up: What is calling in versus …

Type: Video.

Duration: 4 minutes.

Source: PROJECT ROCKIT. ()

Summary: ‘Calling in’ and ‘calling out’ are two ways to challenge disrespectful behaviour.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Would you feel more comfortable calling out or calling in if you were a bystander in a bullying situation? Answers
    1. a.I don’t like confrontation, so I’d probably be calling in
    2. b.I’m pretty direct so I’d be calling out
    3. c.It would depend on who the perpetrator was
    4. d.I don’t think I could do either
    Discussion points:

    Calling out is the same as the Challenge step in our process. It’s about taking action in the moment and confronting the perpetrator about their behaviour.

    Calling in on the other hand is about having a conversation about your disapproval with the perpetrator in private.

    • In what types of situations do you feel calling out would be more effective than calling in? Why do you think this?
    • Can you think of a time you've challenged disrespect or bullying before? If so, what is the biggest reward of challenging it?
    • What are some of the different factors that might hold people back from challenging a perpetrator?

    To explore the role of bystanders in calling out racism, show students the following videos and discuss:

    Elevator – Racism. It stops with me from the Australian Human Rights Commission

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFTjZilAwhM

    Bystander action on preventing racism from VicHealth

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hzcHNiLoao

Standing Up: What are the risks and rewards

Type: Video.

Duration: 4 minutes.

Source: PROJECT ROCKIT. ()

Summary: Often people won’t step in to stop a bullying situation because they believe the risks are too great. A consideration of risks should be tempered with the potential rewards.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Are the risks greater than the rewards if you challenge a bully? Answers
    1. a.Yes, it’s definitely riskier to stand up to a bully
    2. b.It depends on the bully and who you are sticking up for
    3. c.No, the rewards outweigh the risks
    4. d.Unless you’re standing up for yourself the risks would be too high to step in
    Discussion points:

    Often people won’t step in to stop a bullying situation because they believe the risks are too great. This is one of the factors that you need to take into account when you are making the decision about whether to take action or not. The risks could involve:

    • You become the target of the bullying behaviour
    • No one else backs you up
    • You lose friends because you called them out for their bad behaviour

    But if we weigh up the risks with the rewards if:

    • Your peers see you step in and are then more willing to call out bad behaviour
    • You have more allies and supporters next time you step in
    • The school playground and online spaces will have less bullying so they will be more pleasant places to hangout.
    • You'll feel good about yourself knowing that you have helped someone out that was less powerful
    • You might even gain a new set of friends for your deeds!

Step up to bullying

Type: Video.

Duration: 2 minutes.

Source: ReachOut. ()

Summary: Did you know that in the majority of cases, bullying will stop in less than 10 seconds when peers step up and intervene? You have the power to really help.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Have you ever been in a situation as a bystander and you have wanted to intervene when someone was being bullied, but didn’t? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    3. c.Maybe
    Discussion points:

    One of the most effective ways to change bullying behaviour is to teach students how to stand up to it. Research has shown that student bystanders are usually present when bullying occurs, and that in about half the cases the bullying stops if a bystander speaks up to discourage it.

    The 3-step process for stepping in that we have learnt about gives you a plan of how to step in, with courage and to be sure that you are doing the right thing.

    Checking in - is a great way to make sure your instincts about a situation are spot on. Either check in with the person who is being bullied or harassed, or check in with another bystander and see what their take is on the situation.

    If you don’t feel like you have the courage to challenge the bully directly then using disrupt can be a less confrontational way of stepping in.

    If you don’t feel like you can step in by yourself then recruit the help of other bystanders – courage comes with numbers.

Bystander action conclusion

Type: Slides.

Duration: 5 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: These slides conclude the Bystander action playlist.

Teacher notes:

Complex issues, such as bystander intervention and calling out disrespect, are often presented and accepted as a one-size-solution for all instances. However, it’s not until the interventions are questioned and explored more thoroughly and from different angles that they can be better understood, and more thoughtful opinions and decisions made about what interventions may work best in different situations.

This playlist aimed to get students to interrogate the ways they could intervene as well as the skills they have to be confident intervening. This concluding activity aims to get them to go beyond the surface to explore bystander interventions from all perspectives.

Activities and extras

The learning generated through engaging with this playlist could require follow up activities focused on taking action as a bystander. The following websites provide information and practical strategies that can be shared with students: