Conflict Resolution/Peer Mediation Project
|Ann Daunic, Stephen Smith, and M.
David Miller directed the Conflict Resolution/Peer Mediation Project (grant number:
H237F50028). The project worked with schools to train staff members and students in
conflict resolution and peer mediation.
The Conflict Resolution/Peer Mediation Project is a program designed to help students learn interpersonal skills important for the development of prosocial behaviors and constructive conflict management. The intervention consists of two critical elements:
Referrals to peer mediation can be made by students, teachers, or administrative staff; pairs of mediators use structured mediation procedures to help disputants come to mutually satisfactory agreements. School staff develop a referral protocol and schedule for mediations that can accommodate disputants in a timely manner with minimal disruption of academic activities. All mediations are conducted by pairs of peer mediators with minimal adult supervision, and proceedings are recorded on mediation agreement forms.
Implementation of the Intervention
Project personnel serving as consultants introduced the program as a potential benefit to both staff and students, soliciting the support of key personnel and the faculty as a whole. They then served as consultants during the implementation process.
The categories of cost associated with introducing and sustaining this practice are:
Introducing the Intervention
In order to enlist the support of school administration, whose influence is critical, the program is introduced first to top-level administrators who are responsible for program implementation.
A team of teachers is then formed at each school. Decisions regarding how the curriculum will be delivered, how peer mediators will be selected, and the logistics of the peer mediation process are left primarily to school team members who are more familiar with school schedules, effective routines, and the make-up of the student body.
Administrative support encourages teachers to deliver the curriculum conscientiously and effectively and to become involved in the success of the program. Administrators provide needed support through their willingness to facilitate communication with and among team members, provide access to students and/or meeting space, and enhance program visibility.
Teacher support enhances the probability that students will be referred to peer mediation as appropriate and made to feel that it is an acceptable and important school program. A team of teachers, preferably at least one at each grade level plus guidance or disciplinary personnel, should be given time during the school day to oversee the peer mediation process and provide guidance as needed to the peer mediators.
The project identified several barriers to effective implementation. These were:
About Project Field Sites
There were three middle school sites in this study: Fort King and Osceola Middle Schools in Ocala, FL, and Dunnellon Middle School in Dunnellon, FL.
For the three schools with which we worked, the following demographic data were typcial: approximately 74% of the students were White (non-Hispanic), 13% Black (non-Hispanic), and 13% Hispanic. More than half of the students received free or reduced-price lunch, 3% had limited English proficiency, and 15% qualified for special education.
From extensive surveys of peer mediators and a matched control group, disputants, parents, and teachers, and interviews of peer mediator and teachers, the following results are noteworthy:
Sixth graders constituted the majority (64%) of disputants. We hypothesized that these students might have been more recently exposed to mediation in elementary school and more open to seeking help.
The issue in 84 percent of referred conflicts was verbal harassment; disputants mentioned gossip (36%) and physical aggression (19%) frequently also.
In over 95 percent of referred conflicts, disputants reached an agreement, usually consisting of avoiding each other (44%) or stopping the offending behavior (39%).
Note: Mediation is voluntary, and students or adults may make referrals.
Disputants reported high levels of (a) satisfaction with the mediation process and (b) adherence to the agreement reached after at least one week following mediation.
Mediators reported generalization of skills to "informal" conflict situations and expressed high levels of satisfaction with the mediation process.
Parents of peer mediators reported mediation as a positive experience for their child and indicated skills were generalized to the home environment.
Mediators ratings of teacher communication dropped following training (vs. those of a matched control group).
We hypothesized that training sensitized mediators to optimal communication skills, thereby raising their evaluation criteria.
At two of the middle schools, the number of student disciplinary incidents declined significantly following implementation of the CR/PM program.
Peer mediators indicated mediation was useful and effective for most interpersonal conflicts. Strongest reservations concerned social acceptability if students had strong independence or social status needs.
Teachers generally indicated support of the mediation program if they felt sufficiently involved and informed during planning and implementation.
Project staff are available to conduct training in the intervention. The following articles are available from the project: