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The National Center on Dispute Resolution in Special Education

"Encouraging the use of mediation and other collaborative strategies to resolve disagreements about special
education and early intervention programs."

Conflict Resolution Education: Goals, Models, Benefits and Implementation

by Tricia S. Jones. Ph.D

Introduction

All of us have experienced the negative impact of conflict on learning and the social relationships of students (K-16) within the school setting; on the teaching and leadership of K-16 faculty and administrators; on the interagency services rendered by related service providers; and upon the collaborative efforts of families and the educational community. Given the magnitude of the problem, increased interpersonal conflicts among students, families stressed in their efforts to meet the personal and educational needs of their children with disabilities, and discord among service providers at all levels - we must give serious attention to the design and management of effective conflict resolution systems within education. To that end, the Higher Education Initiative, in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Special Education Mediation Service, hosted five regional "Food for Thought" dinners. These dinner discussions provided an opportunity for interested university faculty and administrators, school district staff and administrators, human service providers and juvenile justice staff to meet with mediators and PA SEMS staff to engage in initial discussions regarding this critical issue. The paper attached below was written by Dr. Tricia Jones for distribution at the "Food for Thought Dinners." Grace D'Alo and Grace Griffin assisted in the editing and preparation of the document.


Conflict Resolution Education in the United States

Overview

Conflict resolution education (CRE) has been defined as "a spectrum of processes that utilize communication skills and creative and analytic thinking to prevent, manage, and peacefully resolve conflict".

The Conflict Resolution Education Network estimates at least 12,000 public schools (K-12) in the United States have some form of conflict resolution education. Most of these are peer mediation programs, but many take a more comprehensive approach to making the skills of problem-solving a part of the formal or informal curriculum of the school.

CRE emerged out of the social justice concerns of the 60s and 70s with the work of groups like the Quakers. In the early 1980s, Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR) organized a national association that later led to the development of the National Association for Mediation in Education in 1984. NAME subsequently merged with the National Institute for Dispute Resolution (NIDR) and its Conflict Resolution Education Network. Concurrent developments were the inclusion of law related education in social studies curricula; and, violence prevention efforts included in health curricula. More recently, social and emotional learning programs have been used in conjunction with CRE to increase the social and emotional competence of children and to reduce destructive conflict behavior.

While CRE efforts are primarily aimed at teaching students more constructive means of handling conflict, these programs often involve staff, teacher, and parent education and activity in order to help address conflicts that occur between staff, parent, teacher, and administration groups.


A. Program Components

A school conflict resolution curriculum or program includes certain components that are intended to help develop critical skills or abilities for constructive conflict management. These include:

1) an understanding of conflict

2) principles of conflict resolution (win-win interest-based problem-solving)

3) process steps in problem-solving (for example, agreeing to negotiate and establishing ground rules for the negotiation, gathering information about the conflict, exploring possible solution options, selecting solution options, and reaching agreement)

4) skills required to use each of th

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