Mediation in Schools: How to Build a Peer Mediation Program

Mediation in Schools: How to Build a Peer Mediation Program

Violeta Stefania Rotarescu (University of Bucharest, Romania)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1427-6.ch005

Abstract

Communication generates situations that end up in getting an easy outcome—mutual understanding of people involved in the act—or a rising awareness of the differences between them. Consequences vary, but sometimes they could lead to conflicts. Some settings, like schools, due to specific constraints and requirements, are prone to increase the level of frustration of people and, thus, of conflictual situations. They need to have an as-easy-as-possible way of dealing with conflict in a peaceful manner. Peer mediation, as a negotiation technique, is one of the most efficient ways of dealing with conflicts whenever these appear. It is even more important when we speak about conflicts between children. This chapter reviews some relevant issues regarding conflict and its impact on school climate and presents the idea of implementing peer mediation in a different cultural school setting as a way of improving the educational environment and results.
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Introduction

Conflicts are normal and necessary in an evolving society. They represent a way of showing expected differences and often end up in finding a “middle” path. Discussion about conflicts involves specialists from more scientific areas - psychology, sociology, anthropology, history, etc -, and examples are numerous and sometimes well-known. History has shown us how bloody, disastrous, and inevitable conflicts could be sometimes. All the evidence invites us to find alternative ways for getting to a result, without having to fight uselessly.

Negotiation is a dialogue between parts, all aiming to a beneficial outcome over one or multiple issues in the conflict. The importance of the negotiation became even greater as its stake increased. Everything is negotiated, from a product in the store to the territories and wars. The results of the negotiation can thus become crucial for entire populations and parts of history.

The art of negotiation has, in our times, a solid framework of development, due to well-defined types, conditions, stages, difficulties, psychological and cultural aspects of it (Honeyman & Kupfer Schneider, 2017).

Negotiation may be considered the privilege of an educated society and a measure of it. It is, also, a necessity, since the increase of the amount of interpersonal communication, at a global level, exposed to cultural, educational, social, religious and other types of disputes, regardless of the age of disputants, that are not always easy to solve.

Negotiation is possible in any circumstance, as long as the participants want to reach an agreement. Regulated environments, like organizations, are characterized by a frame of rules that limit the range of acceptable behaviors, and that is why a series of changes in the negotiation process might occur. The frame might simplify the life of people inside organizations, but also induce limitations to people who might feel restricted in expressing their ideas and emotions, perform less than expected, and get more easily in conflicts and dissatisfaction.

Schools are not an exception when we discuss organizational aspects (Thapa et al., 2013). In a school, conflicts appear at all levels. Disputes involving adults are, generally speaking, regulated like in any other organization. Very specific to the school are disputes between children. Conflicts between children are not specific to the school but, in this context, they clash with the organizational structure of the institution, the behavioral requirements (which act as limitations) and the purpose and mission of the school, which almost forces the parties to negotiate (Daunic et. al, 2000; Thapa et al., 2013). From this point of view, school climate plays a huge role. On the one hand, it is a determining factor for the situations of conflicts between children, because it limits the options of approaching the disputes and creates the premises of the situations in which the personal standpoint is more important, and the opposite standpoint is less important.

On the other hand, conflicts deteriorate the school climate, especially if it does not lead to viable solutions for both parts. Therefore, in view of all this, conflicts and their negotiation should be differently addressed, compared to the adults’ ones, since usual resources, available to adults, are no longer available to children.

Most of the time, conflicts between children end without any consequences. Still, as we could remember from our past, some others leave consistent traces in our emotional memory - verbal or physical violence, intimidation, insecurity, and school leave ideas. Many efforts were made, during the time, to deeply understand the psychology of conflict between students (Lupton-Smith, 2004; Turnuklu, 2011). Even though in children the evolving steps of the conflict are quite similar, the ongoing intellectual development, and all the psychological aspects of the childhood, influence how they go through the stages of the conflict, and how they solve, or not, their disputes. These particularities are studied specifically, taking into account the role they play in the quality of the school climate. The quality of the educational activity (Sellman, 2011), school dropout (Smith et al, 2002), the relationships between the educational actors (idem), and the academic results of the students (Duckworth, 2017) are linked to the school climate. If the relationships between adults are regulated at the organizational level and assumed at the individual level, those between the children get rid of these regulations and are based only on home education (Adiguzel, 2015) and the influence that adults can reasonably exert on them.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Peer Mediation: A process of mediation, assisted by a third party that resembles in many ways to disputants (age, school, status, etc.) involved in the mediation process. These resemblances make the disputants feel more confident in the mediation process.

Violence: Any physical, verbal, psychological action of an individual or group, intentionally targeted to another person or group, in order to threaten, get an advantage, punish, or eliminate someone from a situation or process.

Mediator: A person who acts as a third party in a mediation process, and uses a variety of communication and negotiation techniques, to help the parties involved in mediation find solutions to their dispute.

School Climate: A description of the quality of life in a school, that might lead someone to love or hate that school.

Negotiation: A dialogue between two, or more, parties, intended to solve controversies or disputes, and reach a beneficial outcome regarding those controversies or disputes.

Mediation: A dynamic process in which a third party assists two disputing parties in finding peaceful solutions to conflict.

Peer Mediation Program: A program that is specially designed to identify the needs for peer mediation, train the peer-mediators and adult staff of a school, apply this negotiation technique in solving certain types of conflicts, and improving the quality of the school climate.

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