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School Mediator's Field Guide:
Prejudice, Sexual Harassment,
Large Groups and Other Daily Challenges
Peer Mediation in Schools
Welcome to the December issue of
This issue focuses on a crucial part of the mediation
process that is often missing from peer mediation models. Go figure...
Please send along your thoughts and
experiences. It is always a pleasure to hear from you.
Wishing you the best, wherever you are,
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates
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|Peer Mediation's Missing Stage: Increase Understanding|
The more you know about something, the less you
know about it.
This expression captures my experience as a
long-time mediator and mediation
trainer. The more I learn about
this work, the more I perceive gaps in my knowledge,
gaps that I couldn't see
when I knew less.
One such gap that we at School Mediation Associates
are trying to address
concerns an often-neglected aspect
of the mediation process: that is, how to facilitate
I have mentioned this issue in a previous newsletter. As far as I am
concerned, the standard, 5-stage
peer mediation model, relied upon by countless
students around the world, has a
major deficiency. Quite
simply, it is missing a "stage."
Look at this basic schema:
1. Welcome and Ground Rules
3. Brainstorm Solutions
4. Evaluate Solutions
5. Create an Agreement
As you can see, the "Brainstorm Solutions" stage (#3)
comes quickly on the heels
of the "Storytelling" stage (#2).
When mediators jump from the storytelling to
generating solutions, however, they
skip arguably the most critical
function of mediation: helping parties understand
each other's stories.
At SMA we call this stage, designed to help parties
digest their "adversary's"
Why is it so important?
Because the more parties understand each other's
stories, the more likely
they will arrive at new insights that
can enable them to find a mutually satisfying solution
to their conflict.
After simply telling their story to a mediator (and
overhearing the other party do
the same), parties have a
relatively limited understanding of their conflict.
To understand more, parties need to engage with
addressing questions like: what do and
don't they understand about each other's experiences,
what do they find difficult to
what would they like to
explain, what do they feel is
missing, and what questions do they have.
The mediators role here is to create a forum where parties can engage
each other to
the extent that they are willing
And so a more effective model would look like this:
1. Welcome and Ground Rules
3. Increase Understanding
4. Brainstorm Solutions
5. Evaluate Solutions
6. Create an Agreement
During the "Increase Understanding" stage--the heart of the process as
far as I
am concerned--parties often
talk directly to one another.
Though the mediators facilitate the conversation, they
are peripheral to it. They follow rather than lead.
As such, this work is difficult to codify on the sort of
mediation script provided to
students ("ask this question,
summarize back, ask that question," etc.). This
partially explains its absence
from almost all scripts.
Peer mediation sessions can be conducted
without this stage; clearly tens of
But peer mediation is most effective
some sort of "Increase
Understanding" stage is a part of the
How do you teach this to young people?
Well, we are
figuring that out. Currently we
talk about its importance, we
model it as mediators, and we create training
materials and exercises to help
students feel comfortable doing it.
A simple question at least gets the process started:
"Party X, how do you feel
about what Party Y has just
Any reaction from Party X is fine, for with the help of a
facilitator, it can provide a path toward
your thoughts? Please
respond so we can all learn
|Response to "A Parade for Peer Mediation Coordinators"|
We received a number of responses to
of The School Mediator. They follow below...
I don't know why that coordinator lost his job, but I can
say that after 30 years in public education, it just does
not feel the same anymore. The business atmosphere
and bottom line mentality have made our work with
children less constructive, less able to help kids build
their characters. Maybe I am getting old.
Donna Georges, Principal
Academy of Strategic Learning
Thanks for the last issue. I could see all their faces,
and I appreciated the moment to remember.
Kathleen McDonnell, Mediation Program
Euclid High School
Thank you so much for your thoughts about Peer
Mediation Advisors. I have felt "invisible" for quite
some time now, and to see it in writing and to know
that others are feeling the same way is comforting.
Debbie Lambdin, Behavioral Studies & AP
Psychology Teacher, Peer Mediation and Mock Trial
Exeter Township Senior High School
What a nice and well-deserved tribute! I am so
grateful for the behind-the-scenes work that
coordinators do to ensure that our trainings run
smoothly. They select the student mediators, reserve
the training room, get students excused from class,
order supplies, keep us all fed and watered, clean up,
For all of this and the many other responsibilities that
coordinators take in stride, I happily join the parade,
waving and cheering them on. Thank you!
Stacy Davison, Trainer
School Mediation Associates
| ||For twenty-four years, School Mediation Associates
has been devoted to the application and promotion of
mediation in schools. SMA's mission is to transform
schools into safer, more caring, and more effective
institutions. Our books and training programs have been utilized by
of thousands of people around the world.
Call us: 617-926-0994
Post us: 134w Standish Road,
MA 02472 USA
Order books: 800-833-3318
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