Conflict Resolution Activities for College Students

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Learning how to resolve conflicts is a key aspect of learning how to be a good friend, citizen and worker. This lesson offers you some activities that will help teach college students conflict resolution skills.

Why Conflict Resolution Activities?

College students can be so mature in so many ways. They often juggle myriad academic and extracurricular obligations and are working hard to learn how to live independently from their families. In part because of the many stressors that they face, and in part simply because it is part of life, they are apt to get into conflicts. A conflict might be a minor disagreement between roommates about how to manage shared space, or it might be a more significant debate between a student and professor about the fairness of a grading policy. Yet conflicts do not have to be a problem; instead, it is possible to approach them as simply one more learning experience. College is actually a great time for students to get familiar with the ins and outs of conflicts and how they can be resolved. Whether you are running a training, helping mediate a specific conflict, or working with college students in any context, the activities in this lesson will help teach your students how to resolve conflicts independently and productively.

Active Listening

One of the most important aspects of conflict resolution is learning to listen to the other side of the story. Whether or not a student is likely to change his point of view, he needs to take the other position seriously. Active listening activities help students practice listening carefully and in a meaningful way. Pair your students in partnerships. In each partnership, one student should tell a short story. The other should practice making eye contact and indicate using gestures and words that he is listening. When the story is over, the second student should try retelling it to the initial speaker, demonstrating what he has heard. Then, students should switch roles. After everyone has had a turn in each position, have students reflect on what it felt like to listen actively and what it felt like to be actively listened to.

Common Conflicts Role Plays

In a group of students, have each student write a conflict or type of conflict on a slip of paper. Put all the papers into a bag. Then, one at a time, draw the conflicts from the bag. Each time you draw a conflict, choose a few students to act out the scenario the conflict describes. When they get to the end of the scenario, they should freeze. Ask students to discuss possible resolutions to the conflict. Have the actors act out a few of the possibilities and discuss what seemed the most productive. Students might be surprised at how many good ideas they have.

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