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Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution (CADRE)

Collaborative Problem Solving and Dispute Resolution in Special Education: Training Manual Table of Contents

by Rod Windle and Suzanne Warren

This manual is designed as an educational tool for understanding and resolving conflict. It offers state-of-the-art thinking in dispute resolution applied to special education situations. Written in an easy-to-understand, illustrated and jargon-free format, it is designed both for stand-alone reading and to be used as part of workshop groups.

Contact Rod Windle at or call him at 510-748-4012.

The authors would like to acknowledge Dr. Pat Evenson-Brady, Assistant Superintendent for Hood River Schools, for her continuous support of this project, and Jim Melamed, J.D., whose gentle suggestions were pivotal in shaping this manual's final form.

This article describes a methodology for resolving conflict in a collaborative manner, but does not refer to Dr. Ross Greene's Collaborative Problem Solving approach, as first described in his book The Explosive Child. For more information on Dr. Greene's Collaborative Problem Solving approach, visit the website of his non-profit organization, Lives in the Balance at


Cover Page


SECTION 1: Special Education and The Law

A Brief Introduction to the World of Special Education


Why Special Education Law is Complex

Special Education, Trust, and Good Agreements

SECTION 2: Conflict 101

How Conflict is Created

Why Conflict is Unpleasant for Us

Beginning to Look at Conflict in a New Way

Working Together

Looking More Closely at Conflict: Avoiding Fear

Seven Types of Conflict


Conflict in the Ancient World

Conflict in the Modern World

The Three Most Common Responses to Conflict


Expanding Our Competence in Problem Solving

SECTION 3: Preparation for Problem Solving

Mental Preparation

Being in the Flow; Being Centered
Training for a Flowing and Centered Response

Knowing Where Our Minds Are

A Mental Portrait of Effective Problem Solvers

The Misogi Breathing Technique

Dealing With Difficult People: The Spongehead Technique

Seeing The Big Picture: The Soft Eyes Technique

SECTION 4: Communication Skills

The Three Components of Communication

Sending Messages

Verbal Messages
Nonverbal Messages
Paraverbal Messages
The Importance of Consistency

Receiving Messages

Giving Full Physical Attention to the Speaker

Being Aware of the Speaker’s Nonverbal Messages
Paying Attention to the Words and Feelings
Reflective Listening Skills
Additional Verbal Communication Tools

Barriers to Effective Communication

Verbal Communication Barriers
Nonverbal Communication Barriers

SECTION 5: Collaborative Problem Solving: Steps in the Process

Collaborative Problem Solving vs. Being Positional

Thoughts About Preparation

Figure Out Your Interests
Figure Out Their Interests
Consider Some Options
What’s a Fair Standard?
Keep An Open Mind

Steps in the Collaborative Process

Share Perspectives


Define the Issues

Setting the Agenda for Discussion

Identify the Interests

Finding the Common Ground of Shared Interests
Look for Powerful Interests

Generate Options


Decide on Objective Criteria

Evaluate Options and Reach Agreement

SECTION 6: Strategies for Success in Dispute Resolution: Coping with Common Problems

The Secret of Always Knowing What to do Next

Baby Steps

Solutions for Common Problems

Defuse Resistance

The Principle of Force Seeks Force
Winning by Joining
Psychological Effects of Joining
Joining Strategies

Refocus the Discussion or Reframe the Issues

Appropriate Summarizing
Generate An Hypothesis to Explore
Move the Discussion From the Past to the Future
Perform a Relevancy Check

Deal With Their Emotional Baggage

Teflon Technique
Relevancy check
Stop and Process

Educate and Be the Angel of Reality



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