Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.
Why Peer Mediation Matters
Have you ever wondered how you can help your students become more adept at resolving conflicts and forming productive social worlds? One thing you can do is teach them about peer mediation. In peer mediation, students do not come to adults when they need a conflict resolved. Instead, they help each other sort out conflicts, coming up with workable solutions that make sense within a peer group. Students who are skilled in peer mediation often feel socially confident, are good leaders, and struggle less with difficult issues that come up as they develop.
Peer mediation is not necessarily simple to teach, so a great way to help students learn this skill is to engage them in activities that explore the mediation process. This will help them learn more actively and deeply than simply lecturing them on what it means to mediate.
The activities in this lesson are designed to give your students experience mediating among peers. You can modify any of these activities to meet the specific needs and abilities of students in your class.
Peer Mediation Activities
Though peer mediation almost always happens in a group session, students can benefit from independent reflection prior to attempting mediation. Explain to your students that they will be writing about topics that will help them grow as mediators. Then, offer students the following prompts:
- What do you think of when you hear the word 'conflict?'
- Write about a time you have seen a conflict that was resolved successfully.
- Write about a time you have seen a conflict that was not resolved successfully.
After students have had a chance to write, ask for volunteers to share their responses with the class.
Conflict Role Play
In this activity, students take turns watching each other try to resolve different conflicts. Have your class sit in a circle, and have three students come to the middle. Two of these students will pretend to be in a conflict, and one will pretend to mediate.
Ask the students who are role-playing the conflict to offer their stories. Then ask the mediator to try to help them come to terms with the situation, hear each other's points of view, and come to a workable solution.
Ask the rest of the students to offer compliments and constructive criticism to the mediator. Call on a new group of students to take a turn, and continue until everyone has had a chance to participate.
A big part of peer mediation is active listening. This activity will give your students the chance to practice this crucial skill.
Put students into groups of three. In each group, one student will begin by taking two minutes to tell a story. The second student should display active listening skills, like eye contact and responsive body language. Then, the second student will tell the first student the same story he or she told. Afterward, the third student should offer the second student feedback on his listening skills and ability to retell the story. Have the students switch roles until everyone has been in every role.
Getting at the Truth
Sometimes peer mediation involves knotty situations, where it is hard to tell who is telling the truth. Break your students into groups of three, and assign one student in each group the role of the mediator. Have the other two students confer to determine who should be the truth teller and who should be the liar. Then, ask them both to tell a story in which they take on the roles they have determined. The job of the peer mediator in this case is to ask thoughtful questions to try to get the student who is lying to admit the truth.
After students have had a chance to practice this specific type of role play, bring the class together. Generate a list of strategies that they found successful in determining the truth when one party is originally unwilling to admit it. Give them a chance to process the challenges of this situation and talk about how it made them feel.
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