Resolutions Through Peer Mediation

Peer mediation is a voluntary process in which a student trained as a neutral third party helps other students settle their conflict. It offers schools an alternative to the traditional disciplinary practices such as suspension and sometimes expulsion.

The goal of peer mediation is to reduce conflict and help the student to develop the conflict resolution skills of effective communication, confidentiality and to also make the school environment a safer place for our children.

But it should be noted that not all disputes can be resolved with peer mediation, any dispute that involves violence or criminal activities cannot be referred to peer mediation.

Peer mediation programs vary widely in their scope and function within the school system. In some schools mediation is offered as an alternative to the traditional disciplinary measures for low level disruptive behavior. For example; students who swear at each other might agree to participate in mediation rather than being referred to the principal or head teacher. While in other schools mediation takes place in addition to other disciplinary measures.

Although the students primarily carry out peer mediation themselves, usually a few members of staff of the school who have been trained in mediation skills are actively involved in the mediation program, they serve as coordinators. Some schools have a team of trained coordinators who conduct mediation training for the students, keep the general population of students and staff informed about the program, oversee the sessions if need be and follow up with disputants after the mediation session.

Peer mediators need to be carefully selected because they are supposed to be role models for the other students. In some schools peer mediators are selected by their classmates after engaging in a discussion about the qualities of a good mediator.

In some cases also, self-referral as well as those made by members of staff are considered. It has actually been observed that students who are "troublemakers" turn out to be the best mediators.

Peer mediation training is very intensive and ranges from a semester long course, from fifteen to twenty hours training to a two days workshop. And for any student to participate in the training it is very important for the school to get the parents of the selected students involved from the onset. A letter or a meeting informing the parents of their child's role as a peer mediator detailing the responsibilities and schedule of training; plus a permission form that should be signed by each child's parent or guardian is needed.

Peer Mediation Training

Through discussion and role play, students learn conflict resolution skills that promote empathy, cooperation in achieving a goal, self-discipline, patience and respect. They also learn strategies in dealing with anger management. Furthermore, they practise the structured mediation processes which are:
i) Active listening
ii) Problem analysis
iii) Identifying issues
iv) Avoid taking sides
v) Plan development -

Having a solid peer mediation program in place help schools to become safe and respectful learning environments.

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