Peer mediation programs (e.g., Schrumpf, Crawford, and Usadel, 1991) have been employed by schools to provide students with a voluntary alternative to the traditional school discipline procedures for resolving disputes, conflicts, and simple altercations between peers. In peer mediation programs students are provided specialized human relations training (e.g., active listening, reflection, empathy, confrontation) that promotes conflict resolution skills. These peers are available to work in teams to assist fellow students resolve their conflicts. Common steps in peer mediation include:
- Opening statements that include introductions, rules, and the purpose of the mediation.
- Statements from each disputant as to the nature of the problem.
- Each disputant indicates what s/he heard the other disputant say.
- Clarification of issues and exploration of feelings and emotions.
- Identification of common issues and feelings.
- Brainstorm possible solutions.
- Evaluate potential solutions and choice of a "win/win" solution agreeable to both disputants.
- Complete a written agreement and closing.
Peer mediation programs should include some youth with behavior problems as mediators, especially those with leadership qualities and clout with their peers. The combination of the mediation training and extensive practice gained through assisting other children to solve their conflicts has resulted in significant gains for the mediators above the level gained by disputants. Changes in normative beliefs about aggression, social problem solving skills and discipline referrals have been reported. Moreover, participation as a mediator provides the student with sanctioned involvement in a major school activity increasing the student's sense of responsibility and bonding with the school.
Schrumpf, F., Crawford, D. & Usadel, H. (1991). Peer mediation: Conflict resolution in schools. Champaign, IL: Research Press.Rick Van Acker, Ed. D. is an Associate Professor of Education and Special Education Chairperson at the University of Illinois at Chicago. This material was presented at the T/TAC sponsored Conference, Challenging Behavior: Making our Schools Safe Again, May 1, 1997.