Playlist teacher guide - Social Power

Playlist information

Playlist summary

This playlist explores the role social power can play in our relationships and unpacks how privilege can be an example of social power.

Playlist purpose

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

  • Understand the nature of social power in a range of situations.
  • Explore how social power can be used to influence people to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.
  • Propose strategies they can use to challenge imbalances in power that are hurtful or disrespectful.

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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. 

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, privilege and peer influences. 

Year level(s) appropriate for

Year 7, Year 8, Year 9

Australian curriculum links

Analyse factors that influence emotions, and develop strategies to demonstrate empathy and sensitivity.

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.

Practice and apply strategies to seek help for themselves and others.

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

Examine the impact of changes and transitions on relationships.

Propose, practise and evaluate responses in situations where external influences may impact on their ability to make healthy and safe choices.

Evaluate situations and propose appropriate emotional responses and then reflect on possible outcomes of different responses.

Media items

Social power introduction

Type: Slides.

Duration: 5 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: These slides introduce the Social power playlist.

Teacher notes:

Slide 1: Social power is used to influence and persuade others  

To understand the factors that influence the way we behave in relationships we must understand how power operates within relationships. When relationships become disrespectful and abusive it is usually the result of one person abusing their power in the relationship. Abuse of power can happen in any sort of relationship. It can happen in a romantic relationship, a working relationship, a bullying scenario or an online relationship.

Recognising that each of us has power, and the ability to decide how our power is used, is important in understanding how to establish and maintain respectful relationships. Knowing the different aspects of power and how they can be used (or abused) is important to our ability to make ethical decisions that affect both our interpersonal relationships and those people in our sphere of influence.


Slide 2: Using social power for good

More often than not groups will use their social power to influence changes for the better in society. There have been many grassroots campaigns launched by a small group of people that have grown in size as more people and groups got on board with the message, and influenced people within their sphere to join the movement as well.

Ask students to brainstorm a range of social change movements they have heard of or been a part of recently.

To explore social change movements and how they work with students you can access the Project Kick-off playlist that has a myriad of examples of young people driving social change in their local community or on a global scale.


Slide 3: Privilege = social power

Privilege is the advantages or rewards that a person may receive that are unearned and result from circumstances outside of their control, such as where they are born, who their parents are, their race, gender, culture, financial status.

Privilege can mean increased power. Awareness of privilege can be a powerful force for positive social change. If a person or group recognises that their circumstances give them an unearned or unfair advantage over others, they can take action to correct the imbalance or promote the advantages of others less fortunate. 


Slide 4: Challenging imbalances in power

Sometimes it’s tough to know how to react when you find yourself in a situation where someone is misusing their power against another person. When thinking about how to respond the most important thing to consider is keeping yourself safe. You don’t want to intervene only to become the target yourself.

When thinking about intervening you need to consider how you can challenge the person’s power without turning the situation into a greater conflict. We will explore the role of bystanders briefly in this playlist but will look more closely at tips and tricks when we explore the Bystander action playlist also.

Social power and peer groups

Type: Page.

Duration: 4 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: We all have some amount of power, and power is present in all of our relationships. We might deliberately use our power to make someone do what we want, or it might be more subtle and we may not even be aware we’re exerting power or influence over someone else. The majority of social relationships are influenced by social power.

Teacher notes:

Many students may feel they have little or no social power within their peer groups. It is important to emphasise that everyone has some power over something or someone just by the very nature of our societal structure. It could be they have power over younger students in the school, or they have power because they know how to use a particular piece of equipment or computer software, or they know how to fix something that other students may not. All of these are examples of social power that can be used for good.

Suggested activities:

Ask students to brainstorm the types of social power they have at school and in their broader networks.

Divide the class into small groups of 3-4 students and ask each group to propose three ways they could use their social power for good.

Ask groups to share their ideas with the rest of the class.

Discuss how these ideas can be spread across the school to create a more respectful school community. How could they get all students to understand the power they have and how it can be used to do good deeds and make everyone feel a part of the school community.

Social influence: Crash Course psychology

Type: Video.

Duration: 10 minutes.

Source: CrashCourse. ()

Summary: Why do people sometimes do bad things just because someone else told them to? And what does the term Groupthink mean? How does social Influence affect our decisions to act or to not act?

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Do you think the findings from Millgram’s experiment can be translated to the use of power and influence in peer group interactions? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    3. c.Maybe
    Discussion points:

    Millgram’s findings from his experiment were that people were more likely to do what they were being told to do if:

    • the person telling them what to do was nearby
    • this person was an authority figure (or had a greater level of power)
    • if they were from a prestigious institution
    • if the target was depersonalised or anonymous.

    Millgram’s experiment also found that people were less likely to not follow the orders if there was no-one else defying the orders.

    Ask students to propose how the reaction of the “teachers” in Millgram’s experiments could be related to other situations where powerful influences are encouraging others to behave in ways they wouldn’t usually, such as cyberbullying, harassment, peer pressure.

Privilege and social power

Type: Page.

Duration: 5 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: Privilege can mean increased power and awareness of privilege can be a powerful force for positive social change.

Teacher notes:

To get more tips and guidance on how to teach about privilege and power, check out this TEDx Talk on the Pedagogy of privilege.

Or this Australian version of the privilege walk by BuzzFeed. The privilege walk illustrates visually how privilege—or lack of it—affects the way our life unfolds.

Suggested activities:

Explain to students that stepping in and calling out disrespectful behaviour can definitely be a scary thing to do, especially if the person that they’re calling out is one of their friends.

The best way to do it is to already have a few ideas about what you will do and say in mind, so that you don’t freeze in the moment. Remember, your actions, no matter how small, will make a difference.

If you want to unpack with the class how they could call out disrespectful behaviour, check out the following pages for more ideas:

Sometimes you’re a caterpillar

Type: Video.

Duration: 3 minutes.

Source: Chescaleigh (for Kat Blaque). ()

Summary: Privilege can be as simple as being able to do something that others can’t because of who you are, where you were born, or other life circumstances that you have had no control over.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Have you ever experienced a situation where you felt like the snail? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    3. c.Maybe
    Discussion points:

    Privilege can be as simple as being able to do something that others can’t because of who you are, where you were born or other life circumstances that you have had no control over.

    For example, people born here in Australia can live here for as long as they want with no restrictions on their movements. However, people who arrive in Australia from another country, often have to ask permission to enter Australia and depending on the way they arrive here, may have their freedom of movement restricted.

    • What advantages or special rights do you have that are out of your control?
    • What groups do you belong to that offer you special rights or allowances without you having to earn them?

Challenging power imbalances in groups

Type: Page.

Duration: 2 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: Social power influences most of our social relationships. This influence can be either negative or positive, with the extent of the influence dependant on the nature of the relationship.

Teacher notes:

Provide students with this link to the full PROJECT ROCKIT article if they want more tips on how to challenge bullying.

PROJECT ROCKIT online provides youth-designed online workshops that aim to tackle bullying in all its forms and build student leadership in the space.

The eSafety Commissioner’s website has a range of lesson plans on being a good digital citizen and dealing with cyberbullying.

Bystander Campaign Video – Train Scenario

Type: Video.

Duration: 1 minute.

Source: Western Sydney University. ()

Summary: Almost 40% of all racist incidents occur in public spaces, including on public transport. This video aims to teach bystanders what they can do when they witness racism in a public space.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Have you witnessed racism as a form of power imbalance in a public space? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    Discussion points:

    Almost 40% of all racist incidents occur in public spaces, including on public transport. Often bystanders feel powerless to intervene or challenge the racism for fear of becoming a target themselves.

    • How can you safely support the target in this situation and intervene to reduce the harm that may occur?
    • How can you recruit other bystanders to support you in your action?

Don’t be that person

Type: Video.

Duration: 1 minute.

Source: ReachOut. ()

Summary: Sometimes, the line between teasing and bullying can seem a little hazy and things can go too far. One young person reflects on the bullying situation she really regrets.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Have you ever said or posted something disrespectful about a friend and regretted it later? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    3. c.Maybe
    Discussion points:

    Often we can say things or do things in the heat of an argument without considering the impact it might have on the other person. Whenever we are interacting with others, we need to be conscious of how our interactions can be interpreted and also the impact they may have on others around us.

    Remembering to follow the THINK acronym can be a good way to ensuring that what we say or post won’t be disrespectful or hurtful.

    THINK acronym

    T – is it true?

    H – is it helpful or hurtful?

    I – is it inspiring?

    N – is it necessary?

    K – is it kind?

Social power conclusion

Type: Slides.

Duration: 5 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: These slides conclude the Social power playlist.

Teacher notes:

To conclude this playlist, ask students to undertake a reflection activity about what they learnt about groups. To provide structure to their reflection work through the following slides:

Slide 1:

Ask students to write down three things they learnt about social power in peer groups.

Slide 2:

Ask students to write down three things they learnt about privilege and power.

Slide 3:

Ask students to write down three things they learnt about how to challenge power imbalances in groups.

Slide 4:

Ask students to turn to a partner and go through the Connect – Extend – Challenge thinking routine by discussing the following questions:

CONNECT: How are the ideas and information presented CONNECTED to what you already knew?

EXTEND: What new ideas did you get that EXTENDED or pushed your thinking in new directions?

CHALLENGE: What is still CHALLENGING or confusing you? What questions do you now have?

Activities and extras

The learning generated through engaging with this playlist could be reinforced using these suggested activities:

  • Ask students to read the Pencilsword comic – On a plate and discuss the concept of privilege in relation to social power.
  • Discuss how there are some aspects of a person’s life that are out of their control but can affect their ability to “get ahead” in life. Brainstorm as a class what some of those aspects may be e.g. parents’ background, location they live, financial status of family, school they attend, disability.
  • Get students to create their own comic that portrays how a person can use their privilege to help others who may not be as privileged as them. Free programs you could use to create comics include:, Pixton, ToonDoo or Strip Generator.