ERIC Identifier: ED378108
Publication Date: 1994-12-00
Author: Trevaskis, David Keller
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
for Social Studies/Social Science Education Bloomington IN., Adjunct ERIC
Clearinghouse for Law-Related Education Bloomington IN.
Mediation in the Schools. ERIC Digest.
Concern about violence in the schools has made the study of conflict and
conflict management an urgent matter for educators today. Mediation is one form
of conflict management that is getting widespread attention in schools across
America. Mediation involves a neutral third person, called a mediator, who
assists the disputants in resolving their problem with the consent of all
parties. It offers a risk free way to settle disputes for the parties involved
in the dispute. No agreement, no deal.
HOW SHOULD SCHOOLS ADDRESS THE PROBLEM OF
Conflict is a normal, natural part of everyday life. The word
conflict has its roots in the Latin word conflictus, meaning "striking
together." Despite the violent overtones of its Latin translation, conflict and
violence are not synonymous. However, unresolved and lingering conflict
frequently leads to violence, interfering with productivity and the quality of
life in schools and the community. Extensive data illustrate that instances of
violence, including bias-related violence and disciplinary problems in schools
around the country, are severely interfering with the learning environment of
students. Almost 300,000 high school students are attacked physically each month
and one in five students in grades 9 through 12 carries a weapon to school (Meek
The rising incidence of violence in the schools has led numerous school
districts to implement a wide range of costly safety measures from purchasing
metal detectors to hiring full-time police officers. Although such measures may
limit violent acts in the schools, they do not attack the causes of violence and
often serve only to move the violence elsewhere in the community. There is a
growing, common-sense consensus that the best way to handle violence in the
schools and prevent its spread throughout the community is to defuse disputes
before they turn violent.
Schools have attempted to manage interpersonal conflicts among students,
teachers, and administrators by various models of discipline, such as referrals
to the principal's office, detention, suspension, and expulsion. Yet, it does
not appear that these methods teach the students the problem solving and
conflict resolution skills they need for life to resolve conflict in a
productive, non-violent way. Dissatisfaction with traditional processes
established to settle disputes has led educators and others to try new ways of
conflict resolution such as mediation.
The rush toward conflict resolution in the schools is mirrored in society at
large by a move away from the traditional litigation model of problem solving in
the courts. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) efforts, including court-based
mediation programs, are expanding throughout the justice system. Mediation as an
alternative means of dispute resolution has been around in various forms since
the 1960s. It received national attention in 1984 when the National Association
for Mediation in Education (NAME) was formed. NAME brought together educators
and mediators working in neighborhood justice centers to consider how best to
teach about mediation and conflict resolution. (For more information contact
NAME, 205 Hampshire House, P.O. Box 33635, University of Massachusetts, Amherst,
MA 01003-3635; (413) 545-2462.) The mediation effort in schools was also spurred
by the development of local programs that have grown to national stature, such
as the Community Board Program in San Francisco and the New Mexico Center for
Dispute Resolution based in Albuquerque.
HOW IS MEDIATION BEING USED IN THE SCHOOLS?
programs, where students are trained generally to resolve disputes involving
other students, have been shown to be an effective means of resolving disputes
in school settings. Success rates of 58% to 93% have been achieved at various
sites where success was measured by whether an agreement was reached and
maintained at the time of a follow-up evaluation (Lam 1988; Johnson, Johnson,
and Dudley 1992). There is anecdotal evidence that students transfer the
mediation techniques learned in school to settings beyond the classroom.
Students have reported using their mediation skills to resolve disputes at home
with their siblings and in their community with peers (Johnson, Johnson, and
Dudley 1992, 97).
Both mediators and disputants benefit from the mediation training and
conflict resolution process. Students who are taught the skills of mediating
disputes learn political skills which can be used beyond the classroom. Student
mediators learn to listen effectively, summarize accurately, and think
critically. Further, they develop skills on how to solve problems, to lead, to
write, and to foster meaningful discussion among disputants. Since mediation
seeks to solve a dispute and prevent its recurrence, student mediators learn to
plan for the future. They learn about responsibilities as well as rights, about
consequences as well as choices.
Disputants involved in mediation also learn many of these same lessons. More
importantly, maybe for the first time in their lives, they learn non-violent
ways that they can choose to resolve their conflicts. They learn that they can
succeed at resolving conflicts peaceably, that they can resolve problems without
resorting to violence. They also develop a capacity to empathize with others.
This creates a "chicken and the egg" element to bringing mediation programs
into schools. Do you begin by teaching everyone the skills of conflict
resolution, or do you begin by training a small group of peer mediators? Either
approach may be used at the start of a program, but there is a need to
eventually teach everyone in the school community the skills involved in
mediating disputes, so that the broader goals are achieved. Success of peer
mediation should be studied in terms of broader issues of changing ways of
thinking about and responding to conflict as well as specific improvements in
school discipline and student behavior.
At the elementary school level, mediators generally work in teams on the
playground, in the lunchroom, or in the classroom. Intervention is often
immediate, with the mediators coming up to the disputants and asking if they
would like to try to settle their problems. If they agree, the mediators and
disputants move to a clear area and begin the mediation process. If the
disputants refuse to participate, the mediators move on. Their job is to help
parties resolve their disputes, not to police the area.
At the secondary level, peer mediators often have cases referred to them for
mediation. These mediations take place in more formal settings, such as an empty
office or classroom set aside for the mediation program.
CHECKLIST FOR MEDIATION
Trained mediators follow a simple
procedure, such as the model outlined below from the American Bar Association
(Wolowiec 1984, 16):
1. Have participants introduce themselves.
2. Explain the mediator's role.
3. Explain the ground rules. An example of a good ground rule is: Respect
4. Explain steps of mediation.
5. Ask for any questions before you begin.
II. Telling the Story
1. Both parties tell their side of the story to the mediator.
2. Summarize both parties' side of the story.
3. Make sure you understand the conflict.
4. Make sure the parties understand the conflict.
III. Identifying Facts and Feelings
1. Parties tell their side of the story to each other.
2. Bring out facts and feelings of what the parties say.
3. Have parties change roles.
4. Summarize the facts and feelings of both sides.
IV. Generating Options
1. Ask both parties how they can solve the problem.
2. Write down all solutions.
3. Check off only the solution(s) that both parties can agree to.
1. Use only the solutions that both parties agree to.
2. Write the contract up in parties' own words.
3. Everybody signs it.
1. Explain how follow-up works.
2. Remember to thank the people for being there and for letting the mediation
service help them.
REFERENCES AND ERIC RESOURCES
The following list includes
references used to prepare this Digest. The items followed by an ED number are
available in microfiche and/or paper copies from the ERIC Document Reproduction
Service (EDRS). For information about prices, contact EDRS, 7420 Fullerton Road,
Suite 110, Springfield, Virginia, 22153-2842; telephone numbers are (703)
440-1400 and (800) 443-3742. Entries followed by an EJ number, announced monthly
in the CURRENT INDEX TO JOURNALS IN EDUCATION (CIJE), are not available through
EDRS. However, they can be located in the journal section of most larger
libraries by using the bibliographic information provided, requested through
Interlibrary Loan, or ordered from the UMI reprint service.
Johnson, David W., Roger T. Johnson, and Bruce Dudley. "Effects of Peer
Mediation Training on Elementary School Students." MEDIATION QUARTERLY 10 (Fall
Johnson, David W., and Roger T. Johnson. "Students as Peacemakers: Peer
Mediation Training." THE FOURTH R 3 (February/March 1992): 7, 11.
Lam, Julie A. THE IMPACT OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION PROGRAMS ON SCHOOLS: A REVIEW
AND SYNTHESIS OF THE EVIDENCE. Amherst, MA: National Association for Mediation
in Education, 1988. ED 358 535.
Lane, Pamela S., and J. Jeffries McWhirter. "A Peer Mediation Model: Conflict
Resolution for Elementary and Middle School Children." ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
GUIDANCE AND COUNSELING 27 (October 1992): 15-24. EJ 454 113.
Meek, Michael. "The Peacekeepers." TEACHING TOLERANCE 1 (Fall 1992): 46-52.
EJ 458 627.
Mitchell, Vernay. CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION TO REDUCE RACIAL CONFLICT. ERIC
Digest No. 64. New York: ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education, 1990. ED 322
Newton, Ansley. STUDENTS AS MEDIATORS. PROJECT SEED. Auburn, ME: Maine Center
for Educational Services, 1993. ED 361 631.
Robertson, Gwendolyn. SCHOOL-BASED PEER MEDIATION PROGRAMS: A NATURAL
EXTENSION OF DEVELOPMENTAL GUIDANCE PROGRAMS. Gorham, ME: University of Southern
Maine, 1991. ED 346 425.
Satchel, Brenda B. INCREASING PROSOCIAL BEHAVIOR OF ELEMENTARY STUDENTS IN
GRADES K-6 THROUGH A CONFLICT RESOLUTION MANAGEMENT PROGRAM. Lakeland, FL: Nova
University, 1992. ED 347 607.
Sorenson, Don L. CONFLICT RESOLUTION AND MEDIATION FOR PEER HELPERS.
Minneapolis, MN: Educational Media Corporation, 1992. ED 347 414.
Wolowiec, Jack, ed. EVERYBODY WINS: MEDIATION IN THE SCHOOLS. Chicago:
American Bar Association, 1994. ED number will be assigned.