Radboud University: New ‘Stoeltjesdans’-platform gives teachers more insight into their classroom

The National Stop Bullying Day on 19 April will call attention to the fact that one in ten school pupils still suffer from bullying. That is easily two to three pupils per class. This is partly because busy teachers find it difficult to manage the social climate of the classroom. Yvonne van den Berg, a developmental psychologist at Radboud University, has designed a platform called ‘Stoeltjesdans(verwijst naar een andere website)’ (a reference to the children’s game Musical Chairs) to support teachers. The Radboud Fund is launching a crowdfunding campaign to increase the reach and effectiveness of ‘Stoeltjesdans and thus make it easier for schools to implement this approach to social safety in the classroom.

Bullying is extremely difficult to eradicate, even for teachers who do their utmost to tackle it. “In practice, teachers are not always aware of everything that goes on in the classroom. One in three pupils who are bullied do not tell anyone about it,” explains Yvonne van den Berg. “Our Stoeltjesdans platform helps teachers to get a better grip of what is going on in the classroom.”

Gut feeling confirmed
Teachers who use Stoeltjesdans platform are given a short questionnaire for their pupils to complete. The questions include who the pupil’s best friends are, who they think is the most popular in the class, who is helpful, and who gossips the most. “The results are processed anonymously but still provide a very good picture of the social dynamics in the classroom,” says Van den Berg. “In some cases the results will lead to new insights, in others, teachers may be encouraged to see that their gut feeling about bullying in their class is confirmed.”


The results of the questionnaire are also used to suggest the most suitable seating plan for a class. The recommended seating plan is based on current academic insights and is automatically adapted to the teacher’s preferences, whether that is seating difficult pupils apart or encouraging new friendships.

A miniature society
Now that social safety is playing an increasingly important role in the social debate, it is understandable that the classroom is also getting more attention, according to Van den Berg. “A classroom is a miniature society, where children gain their first experiences of cooperation and learn that you can be critical of each other while still being kind. They learn that you do not necessarily have to like someone to treat them with respect. If Stoeltjesdans can play even a small part in teaching children these lessons, that will already make it worthwhile.”

The Radboud Fund is launching a campaign this month to further build on the academic foundation of the platform. “It would be really valuable if we could share the data from Stoeltjesdans with other researchers, obviously anonymously and without commercial motive. So, we will use the campaign donations to invest in the website and make the data and information more easily accessible,” says Van den Berg.

“Teachers share all kinds of strategies with us that work for them. It would be great if we could pass such strategies on to thousands of other teachers and then evaluate whether they actually achieve the desired results. I see myself as an intermediary; I bring researchers and teachers together so that both can gain new insights from Stoeltjesdans . Unfortunately, bullying is extremely difficult to wipe out, but if we continue to learn from each other, we will be heading in the right direction.”

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