Social Conformity: Choose to be an Ally not a Bystander | Harbord & Khan | 3 Min Read

October 26, 2023

Bullying in schools can put tremendous pressure on students to conform. Social conformity has been described as “…a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behavior in order to fit in with a group” (Spark, 2020). Statistics from PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center show that 49.8% of tweens (9 to 12 years old) said they experienced bullying at school and 14.5% of tweens shared they experienced bullying online (Patchin & Hinduja, 2020). Research by Davis & Nixon showed that the support from peers who were bystanders was the most helpful to students who were being bullied. When we examine the power of social conformity it is a great credit to our students who buck this natural reaction to group behavior and step in as allies to help students who are being bullied. 

Experiments on social conformity were conducted in the 1950’s by Solomon Asch. These were ground-breaking but the research is considered to be ethically questionable. There was criticism of the methodology due to bias and deception as the participants (all male), thought that they were taking part in a line test and not an experiment on conformity; however, this was necessary…

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Harbord and Khan

Meredith Harbord EdD and Sara Riaz Khan are global educators who use ethical dilemmas to enrich and transform curriculum. Their student centric approach is driven by an ethical model and innovative tools that support critical thinking and creativity. Meredith and Sara’s collaboration as Design teachers at ABA Oman International School in Muscat, focused on sustainability, ethical design and global mindedness and inspired them to establish Harbord & Khan Educational Consultants. They develop units of work based on real world issues to engage and challenge students for diverse curriculums (IB, PBL, Common Core and Australian) and are available for professional development and to create programs to meet the specific needs of your school. Meredith and Sara have authored two teacher curriculum books ‘Interdisciplinary Thinking for Schools: Ethical Dilemmas MYP 1, 2 & 3’ and ‘Interdisciplinary Thinking for Schools: Ethical Dilemmas MYP 4 & 5’ (2020). Website: