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Teaching Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution: Teaching students how to solve conflicts fairly, without intimidation or violence.

Key Ideas

  1. Teaching conflict resolution skills is important for the maintenance of a good moral community in the classroom.
  2. Without conflict resolution skills, students will be morally handicapped in their interpersonal relations now and later in life.
  3. Conflict resolution skills — listening, showing understanding, expressing strong feelings without insult, and finding a mutually agreeable solution that meets the needs of both sides — are among the most important moral competencies constituting the action side of character.

Strategies

  1. A planned curriculum that has students think, write, and talk about how to solve various kinds of conflicts
  2. Structured skill training that coaches students in conflict-avoidance and conflict resolution skills (Arnold Goldstein's Skillstreaming the Elementary School Child and Skillstreaming the Adolescent are examples of this; so is the No Putdowns curriculum)
  3. Using the class meetingto address common conflicts that recur among class members and to develop the class norm that conflicts should be solved fairly and non-violently
  4. Intervening when necessary to help children, in the heat of an actual conflict, apply their conflict resolution skills. Peer mediation is an effective way to do this and gives peers a meaningful, character-building responsibility in the moral life of the school.
  5. Making students increasingly responsible for working out their own conflicts without the aid of a third party.

Examples:

Elaine Herron, 5th-grade: Has the disputants each write three paragraphs:

  • What was the problem?
  • What were the causes?
  • How can you solve this in the future?

PREPARE's Fighting curriculum unit(see pp. 289-91 in Educating for Character)