"A Primer On Peer Mediation"
Estimated Time of Completion: Two 45-minute class periods
III. Materials Needed
V. Classroom Assessment
VI. Extensions and Adaptations
VII. Online Resources
VIII. Relevant National Standards
For grades 9-12. This lesson has been designed to introduce students to the process of mediation. If Peer Mediation is an ongoing program at your school, this lesson can be used to inform students of what they can expect if they choose to solve a problem through mediation. It can also be used to encourage students to train to become mediators. If Peer Mediation is new to your school, this lesson can be the jumping-off point to bringing a training program into your building. If possible, the PBS In the Mix episode "School Violence: Answers from the Inside" should be used because it shows an actual mediation (re-enacted) and shares viewpoints from both the participants and the student mediators.
- To understand that conflict presents a unique opportunity to grow, change and communicate
- To see how mediation is one of the ways to deal with stressful and conflict-laden situations
- To understand the confidential nature of the peer mediation process
- To learn the steps of a mediation process and see that it is just a more formalized way of doing the basic steps of problem-solving
III. Materials Needed:
- Option 1: The PBS In the Mix video: "School Violence: Answers From The Inside"
Option 2: Access to a computer connected to the Internet and installed with RealPlayer, for viewing the "Reaching Peace Through Peer Mediation" video clip online.
- Blackboard or easel flip-chart
- Put the word "conflict" on the board. Hand out paper and pencils.
- Have students write down all words that the word "conflict" stirs up in them. (This is the classic way that most training programs in conflict resolution or mediation begin.)
- Have the group share and write them on the board. Most associated words will be negative-- like fear, anger, arguments, etc.
- If a few positive words emerge, start a second column.
- Usually someone will start to talk about opportunity and that's the direction you want to go.
- Then either explain or summarize to the students that:
- Conflict can be creative
- Conflict gives us an opportunity to seek solutions
- Conflict can open doors to communication
- Ask everyone to remember the last conflict they had with another person. Ask for volunteers to share, without mentioning names.
- What was the conflict about?
- How did it make them feel?
- What did they do about the conflict?
- If they didn't do anything, how are they doing now?
- If they did do something, what did they do and what was the end result?
- As the teacher, jot down the conflict situations. They can be the meat of good role-plays later. Remember to always change them around somewhat, to protect the students if you use them in another class.
- Ask if anyone has ever learned the steps of problem solving. If so, share. If not, go through them with the group:
- Define the problem
- Understand the problem-- the emotions, the circumstances, etc.
- Brainstorm solutions
- Evaluate the solutions
- Try it out
- How did it go?
- Explain that they're now going to watch excerpts from the In the Mix program.
- Focus initially on the beginning of the film where the conflict in the cafeteria explodes and the subsequent mediation.(Video Cue: This segment begins 11:00 minutes into the program)
- Ask the students to observe the problem-solving steps in the process.
- Stop the film when the mediators have finished giving the guidelines for the mediation.
(Video Cue: This occurs 12:48 minutes into the program)
- Discuss what they heard the "rules" to be, and why each rule is important:
- Mediators are not judges, just neutral facilitators of a conversation.
- No standing up, yelling or threatening,
- No interrupting.
- Written agreement only if it is their agreement, not the mediators.
- As the teacher, focus on the idea that these rules really set up an atmosphere of respect. Mediation is a respectful process even if the participants aren't feeling much respect towards each other. If your students ever do get to go through a training program to become Peer Mediators, they will learn that usually the core issue in a dispute is that both parties have felt a lack of respect from the other.
- Review very briefly what they heard and saw in Session One.
- Tell them that now they're going to view the mediation itself.
- Ask them to observe what the mediators are trying to do. What are the steps that they're seeing?
- They should understand that no mediation is perfect and to understand that being a mediator is very difficult.
- They have to keep control of the conversation and stay neutral at the same time.
- Play the remainder of the segment. (Video Cue: This segment ends 16:55 minutes into the program)
- Discuss their reactions to the film.
- Remember that every student is a film critic.
- Don't let them get lost in any negative reactions they might have, like "it looks so phony" or "those mediators should have just yelled at them."
- Have them watch the segment where the mediators discuss the process.
- End by encouraging them to:
- take advantage of Mediation if it is in place in your school,
- become mediators themselves
- apply some of the principles they saw in the film to their own situations
- help themselves or someone else
- From only two sessions students should walk away seeing that truly trying to listen, not interrupting and making sure that they're really hearing what the other person is saying can be helpful in most situations.
V. Classroom Assessment:
Since this activity is primarily participation, teacher can grade according to her/him own personal accepted practices. A cognitive test could be developed, having students list information learned.
VI. Extensions and Adaptations:
- Lead a discussion about the different resources available at your school for students who have conflicts with other students. For instance, school psychologists, guidance counselors, social workers. Who would students feel most comfortable discussing a problem with? Would they know the first steps in getting help?
- Practice mediation with the class using the following activity:
- Divide students into groups of four: two to role-play a dispute, one to mediate objectively, and one to observe.
- The two in conflict act out their problem and then the mediator uses mediating techniques to bring them to a peaceful resolution.
- The observer leads a discussion about how well it went and how things might have worked out differently. Have them discuss their feelings about each stage, then switch roles.
- Have students suggest other confrontations to role play. Suggested disputes might include: One student has heard that another student has been spreading rumors about them through the school grapevine; A student confronts a friend after discovering that this friend has been secretly dating his/her ex-girlfriend/boyfriend.
VII. Online Resources:
- PBS In the Mix - "School Violence: Answers from The Inside"
- Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence
- North Carolina Center for the Prevention of School Violence
- National Urban League - Stop the Violence Clearinghouse
- Alaska Comprehensive Regional Assistance Center
VIII. Relevant National Standards:
These are established by McREL at http://www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks/docs/contents.html:
- Knows how to maintain mental and emotional health
- Understands conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among individuals, groups, and institutions
- Thinking And Reasoning: Applies basic trouble-shooting and problem-solving techniques
- Working With Others: Uses conflict-resolution techniques
- Working With Others: Displays effective interpersonal communication skills
About the Author:
Toni Nagel-Smith, a Social Worker, started her career at Bellevue Hospital "an embarrasing number of years ago." She currently teaches in Bedford, NY, where she designs and runs developmental, preventative programs that address the needs of a diverse high school community...giving her great joy and keeping her young.
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