Teaching Students to Be Peacemakers

Program Goals
Teaching Students to Be Peacemakers is a school-based conflict resolution program aimed at teaching students to manage their conflicts through negotiation and mediation, the core skills taught in the program. In an effort to teach students constructive ways to resolve their conflicts, the program seeks to reduce the occurrence of violence in schools, enhance academic achievement, and promote the importance of mutual understanding and agreement among one another.

Program Theory
Teaching Students to Be Peacemakers is based on the conflict resolution theory, which recognizes that conflicts are an essential and natural part of society. Conflicts aid in both social and cognitive development; however, there are effective and ineffective ways in which conflicts can be managed. For an individual to resolve a conflict, he or she must be able to take into account their own interests, as well as the interests of others. The individual must learn to negotiate with others so that a collective agreement between all parties involved can be reached. Understanding the importance of conflict resolution and the steps necessary to resolve conflict, Teaching Students to Be Peacemakers seeks to teach these conflict resolution skills to elementary, middle, and high school students. 

Program Components
Given its preventative aim, the Teaching Students to Be Peacemakers program concentrates on teaching students how to value constructive conflict, engage in problem-solving and integrative negotiations, and mediate classmates’ conflicts. Mediation is defined as the process by which an outside party assists the conflicting parties in negotiating an integrative resolution, whereas negotiation is known as the process by which conflicting parties want to work together to reach an agreement.

The program teaches students conflict resolution through mediation and negotiation in three parts. The first part of the training teaches students about conflicts, emphasizing that conflicts are inevitable, and if handled appropriately can aid in personal development and have desirable outcomes. The second part of the training teaches students how to negotiate, while the third part of the training teaches students how to mediate. The negotiation portion of the training consists of six steps:

  • jointly describing what you want
  • jointly describing how you feel
  • expressing the reasons for these wants and feelings
  • reversing perspectives and communicating your understanding of the other person’s wants and feelings
  • developing at least three optional mutual agreements
  • reaching an integrative agreement

The mediation portion of the training consists of four steps in which students can help their classmates mediate conflicts:

  • ending hostilities
  • ensuring all parties are committed to the mediation
  • aiding in the negotiation process
  • formalizing an agreement

Following the conflict resolution training, the peer mediation portion of the program is implemented. It is during this portion of the program that students are given the ability to serve as mediators.

Each day the teacher selects two different students to function as the class mediator. The mediator role is rotated throughout the class so that each student has the ability to serve as a mediator. The mediators use the conflict resolution skills they were taught during the three-step process. The mediators are recognizable as they wear mediator T-shirts, and seek to mediate all conflicts that occur in both the classroom and throughout the school grounds (i.e., the lunchroom and playground).

The initial conflict resolution training usually requires 10–20 hours of training and is typically spread across several weeks of classroom instruction. The conflict resolution training is revisited throughout the school year to continue enhancing the students’ conflict resolutions skills as they function as class mediators.

Intervention ID
348
Ages

5 to 14

Rating
Promising
Outcomes

Across all three studies, the Teaching Students to Be Peacemakers program was found to increase students’ conflict resolution skills through their ability to practice both negotiation and mediation strategies. 

Study 1
Conflict Strategy: Withdrawing
Johnson and colleagues (1995) found that after the Teaching Students to Be Peacemakers training, the use of withdrawal to resolve a conflict decreased for students in the treatment groups as compared to students in the control group, although this finding was not significant.        

Conflict Strategy: Forcing
The use of force to resolve a conflict significantly decreased for students in the treatment groups as compared to students in the control group. 

Conflict Strategy: Smoothing
The use of smoothing to resolve a conflict decreased for students in the treatment groups as compared to students in the control group, although this finding was not significant. 

Conflict Strategy: Compromising
The use of compromising to resolve a conflict significantly decreased for students in the treatment groups as compared to students in the control group. 

Conflict Strategy: Negotiating  
The use of negotiation to resolve a conflict significantly increased for the students in the treatment group as compared to students in the control group. 

Study 2
Conflict Management Scale (Computer Conflict)
Stevahn and colleagues (2000) found that after the Teaching Students to Be Peacemakers training, students in the treatment group used significantly more constructive strategies to resolve the computer conflict scenario as compared to students in the control group. 

Conflict Strategies Theory Scale (Computer Conflict)  
Students in the treatment group used significantly more constructive strategies to resolve the computer conflict scenario than the students in the control group. 

Negotiation Steps (Computer Conflict)
Thirty-seven percent of students in the treatment group used one or more steps of the negotiation procedure as compared to 0 percent of the students in the control group (the mean score for the control group was 0, therefore a t-test on the comparison between the groups was not conducted). 

Mediation Constructiveness Scale (Cutting in Line)
Students in the treatment group used significantly more constructive interventions to help others resolve the cutting-in-line conflict scenario than the students in the control group.           

Mediation Conflict Strategies Scale (Cutting in Line)
Students in the treatment group used significantly more constructive intervention strategies to help others resolve the cutting-in-line conflict scenario than the students in the control group.           

Mediation Steps (Cutting in Line)                    
Students in the treatment group used significantly more mediation steps to help others resolve the cutting-in-line conflict scenario than the students in the control group. 

Study 3
Strategy Constructiveness Scale (Computer Conflict)
Stevahn and colleagues (2002) found that after the Teaching Students to Be Peacemakers training, students in the treatment group used significantly more constructive strategies to resolve the computer conflict scenario than the students in the control group.           

Conflict Strategies Theory Scale (Computer Conflict)
Students in the treatment group used significantly more constructive strategies to resolve the computer conflict scenario than the students in the control group.           

Negotiation Steps (Computer Conflict)
Students in the treatment group used significantly more steps of the negotiation procedure, with an average of four steps, as compared to the students in the control group who used none.           

Intervention Constructiveness Scale (Cutting in Line)
Students in the treatment group used significantly more constructive interventions strategies to help others resolve the cutting-in-line conflict scenario than the students in the control group.           

Mediation Strategies Theory Scale (Cutting in Line)    
Students in the treatment group used significantly more mediation strategies to resolve the cutting-in-line conflict scenario than the students in the control group. 

Mediation Steps (Cutting in Line)        
Students in the treatment group used significantly more steps of the peer mediation procedure, with an average of one step, as compared to the students in the control group who used none.

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