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Peer Mediation in Schools
Welcome back to school, and to the September issue
of The School Mediator. We are excited to begin
our fourth year of publication, and School Mediation
Associates' 20th year serving schools!
This month's issue explores the close connection
between "interpersonal intelligence" and peer mediation.
As always, please send along your thoughts and experiences.
Wishing you the best, wherever you are,
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates
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*Seeing multiple points of view
*Intuiting other's feelings and sensing other's
*Facilitating communication between people
*Working collaboratively in groups
*Teaching someone else something new
*Creating group rules
*Conducting an interview
*Giving and receiving feedback
A description of what peer mediators do?
The list above was posted online to help educators
work successfully with students who have a high level
of what Howard Gardner calls "interpersonal intelligence."
It suggests the sorts of activities that would most
interest these students.
As you can see, a striking overlap exists between
what mediators must do well to be effective,
and what people who are "interpersonally intelligent"
do quite naturally and enjoyably.
For those of you unfamiliar with Gardner's theory
of multiple intelligence---a theory which has had
a profound influence not only on the way people think
about intelligence, but increasingly, on how we educate
children---here is a very brief overview.
In his now classic Frames of Mind (1983), Gardner
first postulated that human intelligence is not a
simple, single entity. Instead, he asserted, a variety
of quite different types of human intelligences exist.
In addition to "linguistic" and "mathematical-logical"
(the two intelligences upon which traditional schools
focus most of their energies), Gardner's list of human
intelligences, still expanding to this day, includes
musical, spatial, and even a naturalist intelligence.
Each of us has our own unique "blend of intelligences,"
with corresponding strengths and weaknesses.
There is no hierarchy of the intelligences: One is
not better than any other in an absolute sense.
But if you want to design airplanes, you will need
"spatial intelligence;" if composing film scores is
your goal, we can only hope you have a fair share
of "musical intelligence." And, if you want to
excel at mediating interpersonal disputes, it simply
can't be done without above average "interpersonal
For years I was at a loss to explain why some students
are talented mediators even before a training begins,
whereas others struggle mightily throughout. I knew
it was not a matter of academic ability, or desire
to learn, or even maturity.
Now, thanks to Gardner's work, I understand that the
"natural mediators" are blessed with a high degree
of the specific intelligence most essential to
mediating: interpersonal intelligence.
Of course, the intelligences rarely operate alone,
and interpersonal intelligence is not the only kind
necessary to mediate well. Mediators need "linguistic
intelligence" to express themselves effectively, and
"logical-mathematical intelligence" to detect patterns
and draw conclusions about how to interact with parties.
But were there an accurate test of interpersonal
intelligence, I am convinced we could reliably predict
who would excel as a mediator, and who would have
The concept of interpersonal intelligence can inform
our peer mediation work in a number of ways:
First, it can clarify what to look for when choosing
potential mediators. By selecting students who excel
in this intelligence, we are more likely to assemble
a talented pool of student mediators.
Second, we should ensure that the methods we use to
evaluate and select potential mediators are suitable
indicators of interpersonal intelligence. In this
light, some common techniques (e.g., asking peers
who they would feel comfortable talking with, conducting
face-to-face interviews with candidates) seem more
appropriate than others (asking candidates to write
an essay about why they want to be a mediator).
Finally, as researchers learn more about interpersonal
intelligence and how to help people develop and refine
it, we should incorporate this information into our
peer mediation training programs.
What are your thoughts?... Does the
idea of interpersonal intelligence inform your peer
To read a related newsletter, click here.
about Howard Gardner and the theory of multiple
twenty years, School Mediation Associates has been
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into safer, more caring, and more effective institutions.
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