When it comes to conflict resolution, no one has more experience than classroom teachers. Every day they face a room filled with students who have different attitudes, backgrounds and approaches to dealing with each other. It can lead to problems, as attested to by the many viral videos of American students fighting at schools across the country.
How can teachers approach this issue in a creative way that works? Many educational experts support the idea of creating classroom peer mediators. It’s one of the online professional development courses offered by Fresno Pacific University.
What Is a Classroom Peer Mediator?
Classroom peer mediators are students who can mediate issues between other students with very little (or no) teacher involvement. For teachers, it requires a commitment to allowing students to work out differences peer-to-peer. In some cases, students involved with a conflict or dispute will meet in private, often with a trained student mediator on hand.
Training promising students to work as mediators is part of the process. If handled well, creating classroom peer mediators can lead to fewer suspensions, expulsions and fights among students. Training can also reduce the time spent by teachers and educational staff resolving conflicts.
What Makes a Good Classroom Peer Mediator?
When creating a group of classroom peer mediators, teachers should consider a number of factors, according to the book “Students Resolving Conflict.” They include the following.
Diversity. As a group, classroom mediators should reflect the diversity of the classroom as a whole. That includes diversity in age, race, ethnicity, socio-economic background and academic ability. If possible, various “cliques” should also be represented.
Personality and skills. Good student mediators essentially need the same skill set as business leaders or managers. They should have great skills in communication, public speaking and presentations, as well as excellent listening skills and the respect of fellow students.
Commitment. Chosen students should demonstrate a commitment to the mediator program beyond the initial phase.
Grade level. You want a peer mediator who is going to be in school for at least a year after training, so it’s best to aim for those in the middle grades at your school (old enough to have maturity, young enough to be around for a couple of years).
These students will act as mediators for other students on issues both big and small. However, dealing with smaller issues can prevent larger issues from becoming a problem down the road.
The course on creating classroom peer mediators from Fresno Pacific University is part of a series of courses on restorative strategies. This is an approach toward classroom conflict resolution that strives to repair relationships through restorative actions by the offender and forgiveness by the victim.
The overarching goal with restorative practices is to create a culture of respect in the classroom. This applies to the relationships between students, as well as the ones between individual students and teachers.
As students begin to thrive in this atmosphere of mutual respect, it improves the classroom community and leads to an honest dialogue between students and instructors.
These strategies have become more popular as they have proven successful. For teachers who want to work with the latest, best practices for classroom instruction, seeking professional development in this area is a move worth considering.