Peer Mediation: Definition & Steps

Instructor: Gaines Arnold
This lesson describes what peer mediation is and how a program can be set up in a classroom, a school, or a school district. Examples of schools that are good candidates for peer mediation and of a pilot program tried in a school classroom will be covered.

At Wit's End

Ms. Brown was getting frustrated. It seemed that instead of using her ability and teaching degree to instruct her room full of fourth graders, she was instead tasked with babysitting. Her days were filled with stopping petty bickering, dirty looks, and fights. As an idealist, she had believed that she was getting into teaching to provide a valuable service for young people. She wanted to start them on the road to a lifetime of productive learning, but instead was a glorified referee.

Then she read about a program started at a school in another district. She had heard about peer mediation before, but had never seen it implemented, was not sure how it worked, and was skeptical regarding its efficacy. But Ms. Brown had to find some way to spend more time as a teacher and less as a judge. She looked into a few programs and received permission from her principal and the school board to begin a pilot program.

What is Peer Mediation?

She learned that peer mediation techniques taught students to resolve problems on their own. It was a means of resolving conflict by creating solutions and sharing the problem solving duties amongst the involved parties. Ms. Brown talked to her class about the peer mediation options available to them and they agreed to participate. After the parents signed permission slips and were made aware of the research that substantiated the efficacy of this approach, Ms. Brown's fourth grade class began training to be peer mediators.

The students of Ms. Brown's class learned that there was more than one method of peer mediation that they could choose from. Either they could elect students within the class to be trained as mediators who would help solve disputes, or they could all be trained in the mediation process and work out solutions as problems occurred. Ms. Brown shared with them how they could use either method to work out their problems. The students decided to use both approaches. They could either work out their issues together or choose a trusted mediator from among their classmates to help resolve a problem.

A Mediation Atmosphere

Some schools are not good candidates for peer mediation because it requires dedication to make the program successful. The first ingredient is a belief from all parties involved that this process will work. This requires, as is the case with Ms. Brown and her class above, that the students, teachers, and administration be firmly convinced that this process will succeed. Every student body is filled with conflict (as is the case in any situation where a diverse group is focused on a common goal), but for peer mediation to work these conflicts have to be numerous enough and minor enough that students can effectively resolve them and maintain personal interest in the program. Finally, a peer mediation coordinator who is dedicated to the program is needed. In the scenario, this is Ms. Brown. If all of these criteria are met (dedicated administration, involved students, necessary conflict, and a coordinator) it is time to start training mediators.

How Can Students Become Peer Mediators?

All of the students went through a training program that they worked at for an hour a day for two weeks. The program was done in three steps:

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