Conflict Resolution in Schools

Conflict is a natural, vital part of life. Teaching our youth, how to manage conflict in a productive way, can help to reduce incidents of violent behavior. Conflict Resolution Education is a beneficial component of a comprehensive violence prevention and intervention program used in schools.

Experts identify four school-based conflict resolution strategies which can be employed in other settings also. These are commonly known as:

(1) Peer Mediation Approach                                               

This strategy enables specially trained student mediators to work with their peers in resolving conflicts. It has been reported that this approach to conflict resolution reduced playground fighting to the extent that peer mediators found themselves out of job.

(2) Process Curriculum Approach

Teachers implement the Process Curriculum Approach by devoting a specific time – a daily lesson – to the principles and processes of conflict resolution. This helps disputants envision scenarios and generate options for achieving results.

(3) Peaceable Classroom Approach

This is an integration of conflict resolution in the curriculum and daily management of the classroom. Instructional methods of cooperative learning and academic controversy are used, thus decreasing the need of teacher to address the problems directly.

(4) Peaceable School Approach

The Peaceable School Approach incorporates the above three approaches for creating schools, where conflict resolution is adopted by every member of the school community. These schools promote a climate that challenges all its members to believe and act on the understanding that a diverse, non-violent society is a realistic goal.

Constructive Criticism and Conflict

Here are some constructive feedback techniques which volunteers and supervisors can use for avoiding anger and conflict.

(a) Use positive language. Such questions as “did you ever try to do it, like this?” are much better as compared to, “You never seem to get this right.”
(b) Constructive feedback comes without strings. The supervisors should present feedback in an unthreatening manner designed to help. This allows the student to ask questions, take risks with the new things, and not to fear retribution or rejection.
(c) Be specific. Even if the student has several areas needing improvement, stick with one at a time.
(d) Set the tone for change. It may be outlining new training, assigning a mentor, monitoring by volunteer or supervisor, and giving an award, when the change is fully implemented.

The 5 Win/Win Steps

1. Cool down – those involved in the conflict are asked to collect their thoughts calmly.

2. I feel… – one person explains their side of the story, using the “I feel” message.

3. You feel… – the listener paraphrases what was said.

4. Brainstorm – those involved suggest ideas to solve the problem.

5. Shake hands – this is the ending step, signaling that all is done and things are okay.

Note: Steps #2 and #3 are done twice.


Literature is a natural vehicle for teaching. Stories dealing with conflict management can be used as tools for observing and reinforcing conflict management concepts and skills. While reading the stories, the teacher may do the following:

1. Stop reading at the point of conflict and ask: “What is the conflict? How do you think it will be resolved?”

2. After completing the story, ask: “How was the conflict resolved? Was it an effective, win-win resolution? Would you have done differently?”

The Garbage Can

The teacher explains that the classroom is a positive place for learning. Furthermore, she understands that the students are often carrying to school a lot of problems, which she refers to as garbage: they may have gotten up late, missed the bus or had an argument. This garbage is distracting and might interfere with learning in class. Therefore, students are encouraged to deposit all negative thoughts and feelings into an imaginary garbage can outside the classroom.

Taking a Look at Conflict Behavior

Students are asked to analyze a situation of conflict they were recently involved in by answering the following questions:

  • What happened?
  • How did you feel?
  • What did you do?
  • Did this resolve the conflict?
  • If not, what could you have done to solve it?
  • What will you do next time?

Conflict Web Subject

This activity invites students to consider the big picture of the conflict.

1. In the center of a paper, the word ‘conflict’ is written and circled.

2. Students suggest associations and memories the word ‘conflict’ evokes. A line is drawn from the main circle, and each suggestion is written down.

3. The web continues to grow, as long as interest remains high.

This is followed by a discussion about the elements all conflicts seem to have in common, and the actions that make the conflict worse or cool it down.

Options for Conflict Resolution

Active Listening – have one-to-one meetings with each of the conflicting parties. Do not offer or promise resolution; rather, assure each side of a safe, non-judgmental, and confidential forum for talking.

Shuttle/Liaison – seek to help each side to articulate their grievances and needs in a way that the other side can recognize and understand. This helps both to step back and calmly analyze what is happening, as well as find constructive ways of expressing their concerns.

Encounter/Facilitate – serve as a facilitator and bring the parties together to facilitate the process.

Seek Support – call someone unrelated to the conflict to assist you and/or the parties in working through their conflict.

‘I feel’ Messages

These messages allow the students to voice their feelings.

Building an ‘I feel’ Message I feel ______ (explain, how it made you feel)

When ______(tell the person exactly, what they did)

I want ______(say, what you want from them)

“I feel mad, when you don’t listen to me.”

“I feel sad, when you call me names.”

Adopting such strategies for conflict management will enable our kids to deal with conflict, empathize with their peers, and, eventually, work towards creating an environment of mutual understanding all around them, Insha’Allah.

Shaping Eternity

Nayyara Rahman writes, a teacher affects eternity and there is no telling when his or her influence stops

Our ninth grade teacher once told us during a lesson that, “A teacher is the one whose wisdom and guidance fills your time on this Earth with inspiration and contentment and makes the afterlife a place of eternal rest.”

At that time, there was a unanimous “hmmm” and we went back to our class work, but her words had sowed the seed. We often talked about the teacher-student relationship long after we passed out of school. And, although our opinions often change, there are a few things most of us agree upon.

For most of us, teachers have been role models and a source of inspiration. Textbook material is just a sliver of all that they teach us. Where would we be if our teachers had not spent precious classroom time telling us the importance of honesty, integrity, and dignity?

Because one’s relationship with a teacher happens to be an intellectual one, there is a great deal of mental intimacy involved too. We trust our teachers with ideas we would be embarrassed to express in public. There is an unspoken understanding of confidence and appreciation.

Many of us believe that we are the only ones sweating it out in schoolrooms. Conversely, most teachers I have had, had a policy of solving timed papers themselves before testing their students with it. Very often, they have gone to great pains to supply us with the latest developments in their subjects.

However, the real trouble begins when a teacher’s teaching style is not compatible to the student’s learning style. As they say, “In teaching it is the method and not the content that is the message… the drawing out, not the pumping in.”

With a bizarre concept of freedom of choice, students today also assess their teachers quite critically. They paint a specific picture of their mentor in their minds. It works like a computer identification seeking the right password. The minutest mismatch can deny the teachers, access to a student’s attention, respect and loyalty.

Sellar and Yeatman once quoted, “For every person wishing to teach there are thirty not wanting to be taught.” Very often, I wonder how teachers bear us. (No offence to particularly sprightly occupants of the classroom). Only Herculean efforts let them tolerate us when we ardently display our limited collection of some very distorted facts.

The bond between a student and education in earlier times was unique. Imam Su’bah said, “If I ever saw someone running in the streets of the village I would only think one of two things: He was either crazy or a student of Hadeeth!” Today we might do that for the premier of a movie of course.

Times have changed drastically. Students today treat their teachers as if they are going 10-pin bowling with them and they were not sure they want their teacher’s company. Whatever happened to deference? A thing of the past, I guess.

John Sutherland, a professor of English literature observes, “Now teaching is ‘sold’. Students ‘buy’ it. They are, in short, customers in a marketplace. Higher education, thanks to fees is ‘customerized’. This means the traditional relationship between lecturer and student has been irrevocably eroded.”

Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition. No matter how smart we may be, we cannot treat our teachers disdainfully. It is poor in taste, and reflective of a loser. It would be nice of us if we at least valued and respected them for who they are. Time only tells how teachers influence eternity.