Strategies to Overcome Impasse
- Tell the story of the conflict situation using a 'once upon a time' format.
- When the story reaches the point of conflict, stop and ask for suggestions on how to resolve it.
- Incorporate one of the suggestions in the story and conclude the story.
- Ask the disputants if this suggestion would meet their needs and if it is a solution they might try it now or the next time they have a problem.
- Use puppets to reenact the conflict.
- Freeze the puppet role-play at a critical point in the conflict. Ask for suggestions. Incorporate one suggestion, and finish the play.
- Repeat several different suggestions. Discuss whether each one will work to help children learn to think through the consequences of their suggestions.
- Ask the children to pick the suggestion they think will work best.
- Students set up an imaginary situation in which they act and react on assumptions and beliefs they select or are given for the characters they play.
- Describe a conflict situation: give time, place, background and any other information to help students with the role. To help students get into their roles introduce them and the situation with descriptive and emotional words and voice fluctuations.
- Act out the conflict and keep it short.
- Freeze the role-play at critical points in the conflict. Ask for suggestions about what can be done next. Incorporate one suggestion into the situation and finish the role-play.
- Discuss the role play by asking questions:
- How could the conflict have been prevented?
- How did the character feel in the situation?
- Was it a satisfactory solution?
- What other solutions might have worked?
Arbitration is a step of last resort. Arbitration tends to result in solutions that are less stable and less effective than those derived by problem solving. Anticipating that the arbitrator will split the difference, disputants may adopt a tough and extreme position, so a half-way position is more favorable to them.
Combining mediation and arbitration has two disadvantages. Participants believe they are being forced to reach agreement under mediation because arbitration will result, if they do not agree. The mediator may also become too forceful during the mediation session and shift prematurely to arbitration.
- Both persons agree to abide by the arbitrator's decision.
- Both persons submit their desired goal to the arbitrator. Each party describes what he or she wants and would like to see happen.
- Each person defines the problem and tells their side of the conflict.
- Each person presents his or her case, no interruptions are allowed.
- Each person has an opportunity to refute the other's contentions.
Teachers' primary responsibilities for successful arbitration
- Building a cooperative context.
- Teaching all students how to negotiate.
- Teaching all students how to mediate.
- Knowing how to mediate if peer mediation fails.
- Knowing how to arbitrate if peer and teacher mediation fails.
- Implementing the peer mediation process.
- Structuring academic controversies so that students challenge each other's reasoning.
Arbitrator makes the decision. Winning or losing is assumed to be secondary to having had a fair opportunity to be heard.
Final offer arbitration
An alternative to conventional arbitration is final offer arbitration. Each disputant submits to the arbitrator his or her best, most conciliatory offer and the arbitrator makes a decision.
Teaching Students to be Peacemakers Program
Once students learn how to negotiate and mediate, the teacher may want to implement the Teaching Students to be Peacemakers Program. Each day, the teacher selects two class members to serve as official mediators by randomly assigning pairs. When all students have enough experience they may mediate individually. Mediators wear official T-shirts, hats, or armbands. Refresher lessons are conducted twice a week.
Teachers should weave conflict resolution procedures and skills into the fabric of school life. Examples include: follow-up lessons on improving communication skills, ways to control anger, appropriate assertiveness, problem solving skills, perspective-taking, creative thinking, intra personal, and interpersonal skills. Integration into subjects like social studies and literature by analyzing the people or characters, their actions or inactions, and world events or plot of the story with respect to conflict resolution.
Conflict management training should be repeated yearly for 12 years, with an increasing level of complexity and sophistication.