How Successful School Administrators Implement Peer Mediation

Peer mediation programs help to create safer schools by helping students to take responsibility for the conflict resolution process as opposed to the traditional disciplinary methods. The essence of peer mediation is to help young people imbibe conflict resolution and problem solving skills thereby facilitating a cordial disposition among students. Trained peer mediators provide a bridge between contending parties, hearing them out and helping them to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.

Apart from criminal activities which must be referred to the appropriate legal structures, schools can manage a wide range of untoward behaviours by equipping students with peer mediation training. Trained mediators can help ensure that issues like name calling, rumours, bullying, misuse of personal property and interpersonal disputes are amicably settled thus preventing hostility, violent behaviour and physical damage.

Peer mediation programs can take various forms. Schools can adopt a school-wide model where selected students from various classes are enrolled in peer mediation training. Upon completion of the training, successful candidates function as peer mediators for an academic session. Another way to go about it is to train peer mediators on a classroom basis such that selected students function as peer mediators among their classmates or students in lower classes.

Another method is the whole class model where an entire class is exposed to peer mediation training. When a conflict situation arises between two students, other members of the class bring the disputing parties to a designated desk in the classroom and help them to reach a workable solution.

Peer mediation sessions can be conducted in a wide variety of ways. Depending on several factors such as context and available facilities, a session can be conducted formally or informally. In a formal session, the mediator(s) and disputants meet at a predetermined time and place. Informal mediation can come to play when a dispute occurs in “uncontrolled” environments like the assembly ground, school hall, playground or cafeteria. In such situations, students call on a peer mediator to help conflicting parties settle the disagreement. Peer mediators are usually on ground in such situations and may be recognised by badges, capes or other means of identification determined by the school.

Teachers can refer students for peer mediation. Students can also refer themselves. Regardless of the form that mediation takes, it is important that the process stays true to the fundamental principles; hence the need to appoint a coordinator. Coordinators can be administrative staff, guidance counsellors, teachers or volunteers.

The coordinator is responsible for overseeing the peer mediation program, scheduling mediation sessions, creating awareness in the school, educating staff and students, explaining mediation to students in conflict and encouraging them to explore it, following up and keeping case records, supervising mediation sessions and reporting the program’s progress to the school community.

When implemented successfully, a peer mediation program can effectively replace disciplinary measures like detention or suspension of students involved in fights, verbal attacks, or bullying of other students in the school community.

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