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Welcome to the November issue of The School
This issue features an Australian program that has a
unique approach to exposing students to mediation.
Your response, as always, is encouraged.
Wishing you the best, wherever you are,
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates
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|Student Mediators Compete in Australia
|Yes, mediators compete
seems like an oxymoron.
But in Australia, teams of student mediators and role-players do
compete, and they do so before adjudicators who determine which
teams are best.
It is the debate team concept re-tooled. And it's called SCRAM.
SCRAM (Schools Conflict Resolution and Mediation) was initiated in
1995 under the auspices of The Queensland Law Society, a
professional association for attorneys. Last school year alone, 800
students from over 100 schools participated in the competition.
Here is how it works:
Schools form teams of about eight students who develop their
mediation skills using a set of practice scenarios provided by
SCRAM. The disputes involve student parties, but are not limited to
school-based disputes (dispute with police, neighbors, coaches,
In advance of each round of competition, two co-mediators (as well
as their teammates who are to act as parties) are given prepared
information on the selected problem. Just before the competition
begins, the parties only are given additional confidential
information that may influence their stance during the mediation.
Mediators have 50 minutes to mediate the dispute while an
adjudicator observes. Professional mediators volunteer their time to
judge these sessions. Teams are scored utilizing a masterful
feedback form, not only on the mediation skills they display, but on
the authenticity that student parties bring to their roles.
According to my correspondence with Ms. Bernadette Rogers, one of
the competition's founders and a mediator in the Queensland
Administrative Appeals Tribunal, SCRAM was "merely designed to raise awareness of
importance of consensual problem solving and
alternatives to imposed solutions, whether by courts or teachers or other
authorities." It was not created to encourage schools to
implement peer mediation programs, nor to teach conflict resolution
SCRAM's objectives and impact upon student mediators, however,
appear strikingly similar to those of school-based peer mediation
programs around the world.
As one example, check out the responses from SCRAM mediators--none
of whom has ever formally mediated a real interpersonal
conflict!--to a question I posed to them: "What impact has
SCRAM had on your personal life?"
* "Every time I find myself in an argument, I'm more aware of the
other person's perspective, and what their feelings may be and so
the problem is resolved far quicker without the tears."
* "I am more confident and use my mediating skills to help resolve
my friends and family's problems."
* "I now understand the fact that there is more than one side to a
Haven't you heard identical comments from active peer mediators?
So, after initial trepidation with this idea (what would Alfie Kohn think?), I have come to appreciate SCRAM. And I feature it here
in light of the theme of this year's newsletters--helping peer
mediation programs reach their potential.
SCRAM inspires young people to work hard at improving their
mediation skills. (Note that SCRAM participants do most of their
preparation outside of school time!) It deepens students'
interest in and commitment to this important work. Some Australian
peer mediation programs even use SCRAM as a training exercise for
Of course, like everything else in life, SCRAM has its limitations.
Shy but nonetheless excellent mediators would not be attracted to
this quintessentially extroverted activity. And many SCRAM
participants never mediate real conflicts between their peers.
But my guess is that most peer mediators, even those who mediate for
peak performing peer mediation programs, do not spend as much time as
SCRAM mediators reflecting upon and honing their skills.
Wouldn't it be great if they did?
So who is going to organize SCRAM here in the US?
Thanks to Helen Taylor, Archie Zariski, Bernadette Rogers, Anthony
Gray, and Margaret Halsmith for their help!
More Information About SCRAM
|What Do You Say?
response to the last two issues of The School
Mediator, both of which explored the need to
understand and improve the performance of peer
mediation programs, was, frankly, underwhelming.
Certainly most of you don't have the inclination (and,
undoubtedly, the time) to obsess about peer mediation like I do.
Because I think this topic is important for the field, however, I
will soldier on for now.
If you do have a moment to
share your thoughts or offer
support, I'd be delighted to hear from you.
almost twenty years, School Mediation Associates has been devoted
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mission is to transform schools into safer, more caring, and more
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