Strategies to Overcome Impasse


Problem Puppets

Role play

Conventional Arbitration

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.

Arbitration Steps

Teachers' primary responsibilities for successful arbitration

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.

Adapted from
David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson (1995)
Reducing School Violence Through Conflict Resolution ASCD


Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes