Teachers‘ responses to incidents of bullying among students: A systematic review on how teachers react to and manage bullying situations

  • Saskia Fischer (Author)
  • Maunder, R. (Author)
  • Sheri Bauman (Author)
  • Ludwig Bilz (Author)
  • Herbert Scheithauer (Author)

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsConference Presentation


Teachers play a vital part in bullying intervention in schools. Their front-line role in classrooms means they are often in a position to notice when bullying happens, and children may also report incidents directly to them (Colpin et al, 2021). Whether and how they respond to bullying sends important messages about the extent to which the behaviour is tolerated in school, and the relative success of actions has direct implications for the children involved, including whether the bullying stops, continues, or even worsens (Wachs et al, 2019). It is therefore important to understand the strategies they use to manage bullying. Whilst a body of empirical research has studied teacher intervention in bullying, the key aspects in the findings or the quality of this evidence has not been systematically examined. This systematic review therefore aims to answer the central question of ‘how do teachers identify and respond to bullying incidents among students?’ Subsidiary questions focus on how teachers determine if an incident of bullying has occurred; how teachers decide how to respond to bullying incident; what the strategies are that teachers use to respond to bullying incidents; the effectiveness of the responses for handling bullying situations, and how teachers’ bullying responses are measured.

Following pre-registration via the Open Science Framework (Fischer et al., 2022), the following databases were selected for the literature search given their widespread access, reputation, and coverage: Web of Science, Scopus, PsycINFO, PubPsych, PubMed, and Cochrane Library. Each database was interrogated using following search terms: (bully* OR bullie*) AND (teacher OR school staff OR monitor OR whole school OR educator OR tutor OR teach* assist*) AND (interven* OR prevent* OR handl* OR respon* OR tackl* OR measure OR methods OR action OR strateg* OR reaction OR react* OR approach OR practice OR anti-bullying).
Both quantitative and qualitative studies were included. The search was restricted to publications in English or German, and no date range was imposed. Publications in peer-reviewed journals, book chapters, as well as grey literature were included. Title, abstracts, and keywords of the identified publications will be screened for inclusion and exclusion criteria. Inclusion criteria include the use of the term ‘bullying’ (or ‘mobbing’ for German-language publications), the school context and school age, and any responses to bullying incidents that are performed by teachers or other teaching staff. Exclusion criteria include solely theoretical publications, bullying at college, university, or workplace, bullying outside the school context, purely preventive strategies, and evaluations of complex anti-bullying programmes. For both the screening and the data extraction, the software Covidence will be used. The procedure and coding system was adapted from Fischer et al. (2021).

The data extraction is based on a detailed coding manual that had been tested within the research team. Two members of the coding team will code each study included in the full-text analysis. The quality assessment will also be included in the data extraction process and will be done with two instruments: One instrument that was developed by the research team based on the GRADE system with a focus on clearly defined key concepts and research questions as well as methodological aspects (e.g., sample size, critical reflection on the methods used), and one instrument that is established and suitable for both qualitative and quantitative studies (Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool MMAT, Hong et al., 2018). This procedure simultaneously enables the evaluation of the newly developed quality assessment tool.
The data extraction is currently underway. The search in the databases and screening of title, abstract, and keywords is planned for spring 2023, and the data extraction will follow. At the WABF, we are going to present results on the quality assessment and interrater reliability as well as on the body of literature. In particular, the presentation of the results will focus on the breadth of teacher responses to incidents of bullying presented in the literature.

This systematic review provides a contemporary oversight of our existing knowledge on teacher intervention in bullying and highlights important avenues for further research. We will present detailed conclusions based on the results obtained.

Implications for research/practice
The expected results will provide a significant overview of the growing research on teacher interventions for bullying and will help to identify research gaps in the existing literature. Further, the results will highlight tendencies towards certain research methods and approaches to study teacher intervention, which provides opportunities for researchers to seek alternative designs and techniques going forward, and will help to identify research gaps in the existing literature. The systematic analysis of previously studied teacher responses to incidents of bullying will provide a significant foundation for future research. The information on how teachers identify bullying cases and the decision-making pathways underlying their responses has not been systematically collected so far, so the expected findings will provide an important foundation for future research and practical teacher training on anti-bullying interventions. In particular, the findings gathered on the effectiveness of teacher responses will have significant implications for the training of teachers, and guidance that can be provided to support teacher practice in schools.

Selected references
Colpin, H., Bauman, S. & Menesini, E. (2021). Teachers’ responses to bullying: Unravelling their consequences and antecedents: Introduction to the special issue. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 18(6), 781-797.
Fischer, S. M., Bauman, S., Maunder, R., Scheithauer, H., & Bilz, L. (2022). Teachers‘ interventions in bullying among students – A systematic review on how teachers react to and manage bullying situations. Preregistration Template from AsPredicted-org. https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/7VNBZ
Fischer, S. M., John, N. & Bilz, L. (2021). Teachers’ self-efficacy in preventing and intervening in school bullying: A systematic review. International Journal of Bullying Prevention, 3, 196-212.
Hong, Q. N., Fàbregues, S., Bartlett, G., Boardman, F., Cargo, M., Dagenais, P., Gagnon, M.-P., Griffiths, F., Nicolau, B., O’Cathain, A., Rousseau, M.-C., & Vedel, I. (2018). Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool (MMAT) Version 2018. User Guide. Available under http://mixedmethodsappraisaltoolpublic.pbworks.com
Wachs, S., Bilz, L., Niproschke, S., & Schubarth, W. (2019). Bullying intervention in schools: A multilevel analysis of teachers’ success in handling bullying from the students’ perspective. Journal of Early Adolescence, 39(5), 642–668.
Period27 Oct 2023
Event titleWorld Anti-Bullying Forum 2023
Event typeConference
LocationRaleigh, United StatesShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational