Managing and Resolving Conflicts Effectively in Schools and Classrooms

Day 2: Curriculum Infusion and Peer Mediation

On Day 2 we take a closer look at two commonly used conflict management models in schools—Mediation Programs and Curriculum Infusion.

You may have read articles or seen presentations indicating that mediation programs can be helpful to address conflicts in schools, including those between individual students with peer-relationship problems.  These programs can improve the school’s social atmosphere by reducing tension and conflict. Understanding the benefits of various mediation programs is just the first step for starting a program at your school; you also need information on how to implement a program that will generate the best outcomes. We provide an explanation of various mediation programs and what you can expect as positive outcomes. We also provide the structure and best practices to plan and implement effective mediation programs.

Curriculum infusion helps you weave conflict management strategies into your existing curriculum. Most importantly, it enables you to infuse conflict management without having to sacrifice other academic goals.

Curriculum Infusion

"When am I supposed to fit THAT in?" — Any teacher, Anywhere USA

Teachers feel enormous pressure to teach within prescribed curriculum frameworks and to ensure their students perform well on standardized tests. It is helpful to provide teachers with options for teaching conflict resolution that don' t involved adding a new program onto an already full curriculum. Infusion of CRE concepts into core curricula is one of these options.  Teachers can seek out opportunities to teach about conflict resolution while proceeding with their normal lesson plans. 

Definition: What Is Infusion?

Infusion can be implemented by identifying where conflict and social/emotional skills and concepts are related to core curriculum content.  Alternatively, infusion can be organized by themes, for example, using a theme of heroes and courage and connecting that to multiple content areas while observing and practicing the skills that would support heroism and courage.  Teachers have used themes to frame the positive and negative behaviors that promote effective conflict resolution and social/emotional development - friendship versus bullying, community versus isolation, tolerance versus prejudice, for example.  Other themes that teachers have organized include justice, peace and security, honesty, responsibility and other character traits.

One way to conceive of infusion is to identify critical skills and concepts that should be infused into ongoing curricula.  Three examples of critical skills and concepts from three different projects are presented below.

CRETE Project: The Conflict Resolution Education in Teacher Education project is funded by the George Gund Foundation and the USDE Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education.  CRETE involves partnerships between Temple University, Cleveland State University and the Ohio Commission for Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management to teach pre-service educators how to infuse CRE into their teaching (and to help college faculty infuse CRE into coursework for pre-service education majors). The CRETE partners have created a critical infusion matrix.

Click here for access to the CRETE infusion matrix.

Needham School District: The Needham School District in Needham Massachusetts has engaged in a multiple year program through all schools to infuse CRE. The first step in their program development was to generate a consensual list of critical skills, targeted for specific age ranges, that would guide all infusion activities.

Click here for access to a PowerPoint presentation of the Needham project with emphasis on the articulation of the core competencies in the latter have of the slide presentation.

National Curriculum Integration Project: The National Curriculum Integration Project, under the leadership of Randy Compton and funded by the Compton Foundation, the Surdna Foundation and the Packard Foundation, involved educators from middle schools throughout the country who worked over a three year period to develop curriculum infusion materials for a variety of disciplines. 

Click here for access to the Executive Summary of the NCIP project and the critical skill infusion matrix for the project.


Examples of Implementation Strategies

Multiple Experiences Enhance Learning: Several stages are needed for students to learn something well enough to remember it and apply it.  This is especially true for subtle skills and more so when we live in a society that often models behavior counter to those skills.  We need to be introduced to a concept or skill; we need to apply it to something we already understand; we need to see it modeled; we need to practice it, engage in self-reflection, hear feedback, practice some more, and improve.  Finally, it might be something we internalize.  Infusing CRE into curricula may provide an opportunity for a student to move through these various stages of skill development more effectively than an external program.

Emphasize Assessment and Feedback: A student' s assessment of his or her self, as well as feedback from peers and teachers, is important for them to improve over multiple experiences.  Assessment can be done in many ways.  For example, student participation in historical role plays or writing alternative endings of stories can show teachers the extent to which students understand the concepts.  As students write journal entries reflecting on their actions and statements, they are monitoring their own progress.  Teachers and students can create and use methods for marking improvement.

Stress Professional Development for Teachers: There are two important professional development components required for infusion to be done well.  The first is a strong grounding in conflict management and social and emotional learning.  Teachers need and deserve real professional development in the skills and concepts of the field, where they are participating in multiple experiences of the skills and concepts.  They will be introduced to it; they will practice it; they will see it modeled; and they will apply it to material with which they are already familiar.  The facilitator can offer sample lessons, establish a supportive process, and encourage creative collegial work. Second, teachers will need on-going time with colleagues to identify infusion opportunities in their curricula.  A CRE consultant or coach will likely be helpful in this process.  Establishing a means for documenting and sharing lessons will enhance infusion over time.  This process may not look like the entertaining kind of professional development that some faculties are accustomed to, but most will come to appreciate it as their own learning community. 

How Administrators Can Help: As teachers integrate CRE and SEL skills and concepts into their own understanding of their fields it is helpful to support the effort by discussing teacher' s methods at faculty meetings, and by supporting the vehicle for documenting and sharing lessons.  This might be in files, binders or on a district' s website.  Administrators can also encourage teachers to make connections between their lessons and school-wide efforts related to holidays, service projects, drama performances, or art displays.  The challenge for administrators is to provide just enough leadership to keep the skills and concepts of conflict resolution present.

One of the most important kinds of support is for administrators to provide some time for teachers to meet and share their curriculum infusion experiences. Some districts have held summer workshops or arranged for graduate credit to support the effort. Another important way for administrators to support infusion of conflict resolution into the academic curriculum is to infuse the same concepts and skills into school culture, including the adult culture. One principal used the negotiation terms of " positions" and " interests" as the faculty was reworking the discipline code to sort out the behavioral outcomes (interests) that faculty hoped students would internalize by obeying school rules (positions).  Another principal chose to promote a sense of community among teachers by starting faculty meetings with gatherings, sometimes a poem, sometimes a sharing moment, other times an exercise related to emotional intelligence.

Click here for a link to general CRE standards from the Association for Conflict Resolution that include standards for Curriculum Infusion. (


Curriculum Infusion Link to Academics

kids with backpacksTeachers can include conflict resolution creatively in the teaching of all subjects. Below are a few examples of infusion and specific examples of links that provide more information about how these have been used in school like yours.

Art:  Varying perspectives, ranges of feelings, effects of biases and use of contrast are a few of the conflict management concepts that might be discussed through the making or studying of art.

Health:  Students can learn skills to handle emotions in a healthy manner, to assertively resist what is unhealthy, and to recognize and evaluate consequences when solving problems and making decisions.
Health education often uses CRE components with ongoing curriculum like DARE to reinforce healthy decision making. In the Needham Public Schools the entire district created a wellness program that identified core competencies for K-12.

Language Arts: The whole language approach is ideal for weaving conflict management concepts into a wide variety of subjects.

CRE and children' s literature are a natural. For example, in K1-3 you can use Kevin Henkes' works (Lily and the Purple Plastic Purse) to teach emotional control, (Chrysanthemum) to teach respect and perspective-taking.

In high school you can take required novels (like Elie Weisel' s Nightwatch and use is as a basis for an extended (4-5 week) unit on prejudice, social oppression and social justice (for an example of this unit see NCIP web site).

Reading: In schools with established peer mediation programs, mediators are called in to mediate disputes between fictional characters. During discussions about stories students are asked to analyze and identify the root causes of specific conflicts and to brainstorm other potential options for resolving conflicts that arose in the reading. Readings ranging from The Great Pretenders to Across Five Aprils provide opportunities for discussion and learning.

Speech: The difficulty and challenge of speaking in such a way that another gains a clear understanding of your perspective is easily reinforced in such activities as presenting a persuasive speech, explaining directions to a game one has invented, or describing a design in such a way that another can draw it.

Writing: Story starters provide daily opportunities for students to think about and apply conflict management/resolution skills. Starters can range from simple phrases such as "the good thing about conflict is..." , to longer introductions which invite students to brainstorm alternative methods of resolving a conflict and to anticipate the possible consequences of each. Students can keep track of their progress in using and improving their skills through logs or journals.

Math: Mathematical problem solving involves the following steps: reading and formulating the problem; analyzing and exploring the problem and selecting strategies to solve it; finding and implementing solutions; and verifying and interpreting solutions to ensure that they are correct. A teacher might ask students to develop a plan for a city park that meets a variety of community interests while staying within a maximum budget. Another approach teachers might use requires students to use math skills and conflict resolution knowledge to solve story problems. For example, a story problem might ask students to resolve a conflict in which one friend has loaned friend money, but repayment is not made on the promised date. The resolution of the problem may include interest calculations, as well as an apology or an agreed-to payment plan.

Music: Conflict management concepts can be reinforced through song and taught in principles of harmony and discord. Lyric writing offers students the opportunity to present conflict management concepts in interesting and often entertaining ways.

Physical Education: This subject provides opportunities for students to experience and discuss the differences between competitive and cooperative games. It is an ideal setting for students to learn how ground rules can encourage a safe and cooperative or a competitive climate.

Science: One could say that the earth, as we know it now, has undergone many conflicts.  What have been some positive/negative effects of volcanoes, earthquakes, fires, and other significant events? What are some " win-win" resolutions in nature? Symbiotic relationships, such as the mutually advantageous partnership between algae and fungi in lichens, are an example.

Social Studies: Teachers ask students to analyze local, state, national and international conflicts and to discuss potential conflict resolution strategies to resolve those issues. The conflict may be a current event or a past occurrence that are found in textbooks. For example, many texts describe the Montgomery Bus Boycott that lasted over a year and had a negative economic impact on the city. African-Americans instituted the boycott to protest a law that required them to ride only in the rear of the bus and to relinquish their seats to Caucasians upon demand. Teachers can ask students to identify the interests of each side and to propose solutions that might have prevented the boycott or ended it in a timelier manner. Middle grade students can develop the same concept when studying the relationship between the early North American settlers and the Native Americans. Students might be asked to act out a conflict that was described in an assigned reading.

For example, students could decide to analyze the conflict between Egypt and Israel. To do this, student could rely on information from their readings to play the roles of Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat in a mock negotiation. The class could then discuss the Camp David Accords and other important events in the Middle East.

("Link to Academics"- Taken from the OCDRCM publication: "Introduction to School Conflict Management" OCDRCM, 1998, available at: )

Click here for an excerpt from Rachel Poliner' s Chapter on Curriculum Infusion in Jones and Compton (2003) Kids Working It Out: Stories and Strategies for Making Peace in Our Schools. This excerpt focuses on examples of curriculum infusion across disciplines.


Sample Resources For Educators:

  • Teaching Skills of Peace Through Juvenile Literature: This bibliography includes an extensive list of children's books to aid parents, teachers, and caregivers in teaching young children skills of conflict management.
  • Children's Picture Book Database at Miami University: A bibliography for designing literature based thematic units searchable by topics, concepts, and skills:
  • Alignment with Academic Content Standards - The Committee for Children has developed alignment charts on how their curriculum supports various state academic learning standards. The alignment charts illustrate the many connections between the Second Step program and student academic learning standards at all grade levels from Kindergarten to Grade 9. The charts align the Second Step curriculum with standards from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K- 12 Education by John S. Kendall and Robert J. Marzano, third edition (2003). This carefully analyzed compilation of content standards is a comprehensive model drawn from national subject-matter associations.  In addition to the usual subject areas, such as math, science, and language arts, Life Skills and Behavioral Studies are included.  This information can be accessed via their web site at:
  • Sample lessons for Pre-K-12, link to state content standards, and CRE skills linked to various subject areas:


Sample Curriculum Infusion Programs

Creative Response to Conflict: CRC conducts workshops for people of all ages in conflict resolution, mediation, problem solving and bias awareness.  Workshops can be adapted for specific age groups and to meet specific needs. School-based Workshops focus on providing an environment where students and staff can begin looking at new ways to examine conflicts and develop solutions. Workshops are experiential and fun.  Specially designed activities help participants to see that there are many alternatives to violence. 

Publications/Materials From Creative Response to Conflict:

The Friendly Classroom for a Small Planet, by Priscilla Prutzman, et al.  The CRC "handbook."  Includes the philosophy and insights of CRC and its four themes:  Communication, Affirmation, Cooperation and Conflict Resolution. 

A Year of SCRC:  35 Experiential Workshops for the Classroom, by Kinshasha Ni-Azariah, et al.  A 105 page book in a loose-leaf format written by members of Students' Creative Response to Conflict, the CRC Cincinnati branch.

Tales from the Dragon's Cave...Peacemaking Stories for Everyone, by Arlene Williams, forward by Priscilla Prutzman. A wonderful collection of fairy tales geared to teaching young children lessons in conflict resolution from a dragon's perspective.

Anti-Bias Curriculum:  Tools for Empowering Young Children, by Louise Derman-Sparks and the A.B.C. Task Force.  Includes sample dialogues between children and adults.  Chapters on gender identity, non-bias holiday activities, and working with parents.

Open Minds to Equality:  A Source Book of Learning Activities to Affirm Diversity and Promote Equity - Written By Nancy Schiedewind & Ellen Davidson. Second Edition.  Practical resource for multicultural education and social justice. 

Discovery Time for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution, Sarah Pirtle.  Includes activities on bias awareness and the expressive arts for Kindergarten through grade 8. 

Creative Response to Conflict, Inc
Children's Creative Response to Conflict
P.O. Box 271, 521 North Broadway
Nyack, NY 10960
tel: (845) 353 - 1796
fax: (845) 358 - 4924

Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR):  ESR provides training and staff development in areas including conflict resolution, social and emotional learning, character development, violence prevention, and diversity education.  ESR' s innovative and practical programs are tailored to match the unique needs of each school, district, or institution and help to create safer, more caring, and respectful classroom and school environments.  ESR offers the following comprehensive programs and


Stories: Exploring Conflict and Character Through Literature and Language Arts (K-8).  Stories offers a framework of skills and concepts for integrating social skill development into the language arts curriculum, helping administrators and teachers enhance literacy while creating safe and caring learning communities.

Adventures in Peacemaking (Early Childhood and Afterschool). AIP provides a wide variety of over 100 activities, routines, and practices to help children learn cooperation, healthy emotional expression, appreciation for diversity, effective communication, and win-win problem solving.


Early Childhood Adventures in Peacemaking
Authors: William J. Kreidler and Sandy Tsubokawa Whittall
Description: Preschool-Grade 3.  This unique guide uses games, music, art, drama, and storytelling to teach young children effective, nonviolent ways to resolve conflicts.  This second edition contains sections on developmentally appropriate practice; tips on classroom set-up; instructions for incorporating social and emotional skills into daily routines; suggestions for when things don' t go as planned; and materials and activities for parents to help reinforce the themes, skills, and concepts of a Peaceable Program at home. (ESR 1999)

Adventures in Peacemaking: A Conflict Resolution Guide for School-Age Programs
Authors: William J. Kreidler and Lisa Furlong, with Libby Cowles and IlaSahai Prouty
Description: Grades K-6.  Designed to meet the needs of afterschool programs, camps, and recreation centers, this guide contains hundreds of hands-on, engaging activities that teach basic conflict resolution skills through cooperative challenges, drama, crafts, music, and even cooking.  Also included are easy-to-implement strategies and tips for providers to both reduce conflict in their programs and to intervene effectively when conflict does occur.  Adventures in Peacemaking blends ESR' s innovative conflict resolution curricula with Project Adventure' s activity-based programming. (ESR 1996)

Conflict Resolution in the Middle School
Author: William J. Kreidler
Description: Grades 6-8.  Highly acclaimed, this teacher' s guide features 28 skill-building sections to help students address the conflicts that come with adolescence.  Included are seven implementation models; sections on creating a classroom for teaching conflict resolution, developing staff and parent support, and assessing student learning; an infusion section which includes math and science; and a section on adolescent development exploring gender and race. (ESR 1997)

Conflict Resolution in the Middle School: Student Workbook and Journal
Authors: William J. Kreidler and Rachel A. Poliner
Description: Grades 6-8.  This workbook and journal will help deepen students' understanding of conflict, anger management, communication, and appreciating diversity while providing them with practice to strengthen their skills.  Vibrantly designed with young adolescents in mind, the workbook includes information handouts and worksheets, journal writing activities, and self-directed assignments.  Through numerous writing activities, students will reflect on issues associated with conflict in their own lives while also learning to be accountable.  (ESR 1999)

Dialogue: Turning Controversy into Community
Authors: Jeffrey Benson and Rachel A. Poliner
Description: Grades 7-12.  Through ten skill-focused chapters, this unique curriculum paints a portrait of nonadversarial dialogue through the story of Centerville, a fictional town caught in a controversy over whether or not to mandate school uniforms.  Teachers learn techniques and structures for helping students build skills such as listening, researching issues, understanding and appreciating different perspectives, and creating solutions.  Well-suited for social studies or English teachers, as well as student-government and debate-team advisors. (ESR 1997)

Conflict Resolution in the High School
Authors: Carol Miller Lieber with Linda Lantieri and Tom Roderick
Description: Grades 9-12.  This comprehensive, sequenced curriculum will help secondary educators address conflict resolution and problem solving; diversity and intergroup relations; social and emotional development; and building community and creating a Peaceable Classroom.  Includes sections on implementation, assessment, and infusion of conflict resolution throughout a standard curriculum. (ESR 1998)

To learn more about training opportunities, please contact us at 1.800.370.2515 ext: 19 or

Educators for Social Responsibility
23 Garden Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Toll-Free 800-370-2512
Phone 617-492-1764
Fax 617-864-5164
Web site:

Program for Young Negotiators: Program for Young Negotiators (PYN) empowers middle school aged youth to resolve their problems and conflicts on their own without resorting to violence. By offering negotiation and conflict resolution as a real and compelling alternative to fighting or "giving in," Program for Young Negotiators brings a positive, original approach to violence prevention through youth empowerment.

SERA Learning teaches adults how to facilitate the Building Personal Power programs with youth and young adults. At the same time, those adults are increasing their own understanding of the programs' concepts and applying them to their own lives. As part of a comprehensive program, SERA Learning offers curriculum, professional development, onsite support, third-party evaluation and parent components that enable youth to successfully build their own personal power.

SERA Learning
2675 Folsom Street, Suite 200
San Francisco, CA 94110
415.642.3548 (fax)

Peer Mediation

"Being a mediator makes me feel good.  It makes me feel that the more I help people, the more I appreciate myself as a person and as a mediator.  I have more respect for myself and others now.  I try my best to achieve more things in life." — Middle School Student

"Mediating has helped me to be more open to other people's problems.  When the disputants lay their problem on the table they're saying ‘we trust you.'   It' s a great feeling when they come [after the session] and tell you what became of it."
— High School Student

School-based peer mediation is one of the most popular and effective approaches to integrating the practice of conflict resolution into schools.  From the start of the modern " conflict resolution in education" (CRE) movement in the early 1980' s, peer mediation has been one of its centerpieces. Many thousands of schools in the US and in dozens of other countries have implemented peer mediation programs, and these efforts serve almost every conceivable student population.

Peer mediation elegantly marries educators' " mandate to intervene" with their " mission to educate" and empower young people.  Additional features have led to the widespread implementation of the peer mediation concept.  For one, it is very effective.  Upwards of 80% of the time that students attend a peer mediation session, they are able to create a satisfactory solution to their conflict that lasts over the long term.  Finally, and significantly, student mediators love doing this work.  Mediating is an eminently rewarding way for students to improve their schools. 

[To view a short introductory video that covers a general overview of what a Peer Mediation program looks like at the High School level, please click here:
.  The video includes Administration and Student testimonials about the success and value of Peer Mediation in their school. --1997 Newark Educational Television]

Definition: What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a structured method of conflict resolution in which trained individuals (the mediators) assist people in dispute (the parties) by listening to their concerns and helping them negotiate.  Four essential elements of mediation are:

1.  Voluntary Participation
Parties choose to participate in mediation, and once the process begins, they choose whether and how to resolve their dispute.  Parties are free to conclude the mediation process at any time and pursue other means of resolving their conflict. 
2.  Impartiality
Mediators refrain from demonstrating judgment about right and wrong and strive to be unbiased at all times. They also have no power or interest in forcing parties to take any particular action.  When agreements are created, they are fashioned according to the wishes of the parties.
3.  Confidentiality
Information that is shared during mediation is held in the strictest confidence by mediators and coordinators.  Parties are informed of any exceptions to confidentiality—typically information that is dangerous or illegal—before they begin the process.
4.  Self-Determination
During mediation, parties are encouraged to take responsibility for their past actions and for their future behaviors.  Regardless of their role in the conflict, all parties participate in creating a resolution to the dispute.

Typically, mediation sessions begin with an opening statement in which mediators explain the process, clarify expectations, and attempt to put the parties at ease.  This is followed by an opportunity for each party to explain their thoughts and feelings to the mediators without interruption.  Mediators often ask questions and summarize parties' concerns after each is finished speaking. 

Next, parties are encouraged to talk directly to one another.  Mediators ask questions that bring unspoken issues to the surface, and strive to create opportunities for the parties to understand each other' s perspectives (if they so choose).  When this facilitated dialogue has run its course, and parties have understood each other as much as they are willing, mediators encourage parties to discuss what they need in order to feel that their conflict is resolved.  This often results in the creation of a written agreement that is signed by the parties (Elementary-aged mediators create verbal agreements).

Peer Mediation Programs

Peer mediation programs share all of the characteristics described above for other kinds of mediation efforts with one huge difference - in peer mediation the mediators are students helping students instead of adults intervening in student conflicts.

The Challenge of Implementing Peer Mediation Programs

Like any school change effort, it is quite difficult to implement peer mediation programs that live up to their potential.  Many efforts falter from the start, and many more disappear after only a few years.  Two initial ingredients are absolutely essential for a program' s success:

1.  Enough Interpersonal Conflict To Warrant Initiating The Program
If mediators do not have the opportunity to mediate cases, few of the benefits associated with peer mediation programs will be realized.  Each school must determine what constitutes "enough conflict."  Some programs handle only 20 cases a year, others mediate over 500.  As a general rule, if your program won't mediate at least one case per week, then peer mediation might not be the best fit for your school.

2.  Administrative Support
For peer mediation to succeed, administrators must work aggressively to overcome attitudinal and structural resistance within their schools.  In particular, administrators in charge of discipline must be willing to make referrals and support student mediators' efforts.  Even when students' behavior warrants disciplinary consequences, for instance, administrators can encourage them to resolve their underlying interpersonal conflict through peer mediation.


Examples of Implementation Strategies for Peer Mediation

Getting Started: Implementing peer mediation programs require careful planning.  Many issues need to be addressed for the program to work.  Consider the needs of your program for the first three years of operation if possible.  Ten of the most important questions to consider are:

There are two significant cautions that should be considered when developing these programs.  First, having a peer mediation program in school should not imply that educators abdicate responsibility for fairly and consistently enforcing rules and norms.  Some behavior is unacceptable, intolerable, and an occasion for administrative action first and peer mediation in addition (and only if it is appropriate).  Adults should make this clear to students in no uncertain terms.  Second, not all conflicts are appropriate for mediation.  Those that involve persistent harassment or bullying, and a marked imbalance of power between victim and harasser, for instance, are often not suited to mediation.  Student mediators can and have successfully managed a wide range of challenging conflict however; coordinators must screen every case to determine its suitability for mediation.

Conducting Training: Once schools make the commitment to implement a peer mediation program a diverse group of students representing a cross section of the student body receives intensive training in the mediation of disputes. Upon completing their training, these students, working in co-mediation teams, offer their services to their peers.  Effective training is critical! The Association for Conflict Resolution has developed a set of standards for peer mediation training and program implementation.

Click here for ACR' s website where you will find the Link to National Peer Mediation Standards (

Identifying Conflicts Appropriate for Mediation: Interpersonal conflicts that are appropriate for mediation—usually all disputes excepting those that involve weapons, drugs, or serious harassment or violence—are referred to the adult in charge of the program, called the peer mediation coordinator.  Referrals can come from any member of the school community:  students, teachers, administrators, support staff, and parents. 

Coordinator Responsibilities: A key element for a successful peer mediation program is a program coordinator supported by a strong site leadership team. The coordinator oversees all program implementation - although the more students are involved in the program implementation the more successful the program will be.

After receiving a referral, the coordinator conducts a brief intake interview with the students in conflict to explain the process and to determine whether their conflict is appropriate for mediation.  The coordinator selects appropriate mediators, schedules the session, and is available to supervise mediation sessions if students choose to participate in the conflict resolution process.  Mediation sessions must be conducted in an area within the school that affords both auditory and visual privacy.

Conducting Mediation:  Typically, peer mediation sessions usually last less than an hour.  The average times required for these sessions are 15 minutes in elementary schools, 35 minutes in middle, and 55 minutes in high schools on average.  The overwhelming majority result in agreements that are acceptable to the parties.  When sessions are complete, parties might return to class or they might be escorted back to the counselors or disciplinarians who initially made the referral.

The mediation process provides the disputing parties with an effective structure and a set of ground rules for pursuing a negotiated resolution to the problem. A variety of age-appropriate mediation models exist. Most models for grades 6 to adult include the following elements:

Student mediation programs may be conducted inside or outside the classroom. Some mediations are scheduled and conducted at a table in a designated " mediation room." Other mediations occur "on the spot" wherever the dispute arises - on the playground, in the lunchroom or in the hallway. Some schools train all students to be mediators. Those students who are willing, become a part of a rotating list of  "on-duty" mediators.

Student mediation programs handle many different kinds of disputes involving jealousies, rumors, misunderstandings, bullying, fights, personal property, ending of friendships, bias-related incidents and others.  Mediators do not handle situations that involve drugs, weapons, or sexual abuse. Most mediation programs report that agreements are reached in mediations approximately 9O~ 95% of the time.

Evaluating the Peer Mediation Program:  Once your program is operating, a number of indicators can help you determine whether it is reaching its full potential.  Although each school must arrive at its own definition of success, Richard Cohen of the School Mediation Associates argues that the more your program shares the following characteristics, the more " mature" your peer mediation program is:

  1. When the call is put out for volunteers, at least 10% of the student body applies to be a mediator.
  2. The program directly serves at least 10% of the school population each academic year (e.g., in a school of 800, a minimum of 80 students use mediation services during the year).
  3. Students themselves refer one third of the conflicts that are mediated.
  4. Administrators perceive the program to be an integral part of the school and strongly resist any attempt to do away with it.

Click here for a document that includes a variety of evaluation measures you can use to keep records of your peer mediation program and the benefits for mediators, disputants, and the larger school community.

Variations on Models of Mediation in Schools: All peer mediation programs use mediation as the primary conflict resolution process. Here is a very brief overview of peer mediation models currently employed in K-12 settings.

Sample Peer Mediation Programs

Conflict Resolution Unlimited (CRU): CRU Institute provides school-wide conflict mediation programs for faculty, staff and parents at elementary, middle and high schools. The mission of CRU is to teach young people effective, peaceful ways to manage conflict and to develop understanding, respect, and the ability to cooperate within a multicultural world.

Faculty Training

Regional Training: CRU conducts one and two day intensive training programs.  The training is open to faculty nationally and internationally.  This training enables faculty to learn mediation concepts and skills, understand the whole-school mediation program, and develop methods to teach students these skills.
District Training: CRU trainers come to your district and provide one and two day intensive mediation training workshops for key faculty from multiple schools. 
Training at Your School: An introductorymini-training or a longer, more intensive training is provided for your entire faculty.

Student Training

Peer Mediation Training: CRU provides training for students who will act as elementary school conflict managers or as secondary school peer mediators for other students at your school.
Classroom Training: CRU trainers present conflict mediation concepts and skills to all students in the class.  This program emphasizes how students can use mediation approaches in their own lives: how they can "be their own mediator" .
Mediation Training for All Secondary Students: This program is designed to teach conflict resolution and peer mediation skills to the entire student body.  Each year all new students participate in interactive skill building training.  Students learn how to mediate for others and how to "be their own mediator".  Older students serve as mentors for incoming students to train them in the mediation process.
Parent Training: Two-hour evening sessions introduces parents to the concepts and skills of mediation.  Parents are encouraged to bring their children and to practice the mediation process in family role play groups.  Family Problem Solving Booklets help parents deal with family disputes that occur at home.


"Everyday Conflicts, Creative Solutions," by Nancy Kaplan, 1991.  CRU Institute.
Professionally acted dramatization showing how the Conflict Manager process works on the playground.  This includes a Leader' s Guide, which points out, through an annotated transcript, several mediation skills used in the video.

"Rumors, Conflicts, Resolutions," by Nancy Kaplan, 1995.  CRU Institute.
Professionally acted dramatization showing Peer Mediators helping two high school students resolve a dispute.  This includes a Leader' s Guide, which points out, through an annotated transcript, several mediation skills used in the video.

"Names," by Nancy Kaplan, 1997.  CRU Institute.
Professionally acted dramatization showing how racial and cultural differences can create conflict and how students help other students understand those differences and resolve conflicts through mediation.  Includes Leader' s Guide which points out, through an annotated transcript, several mediation skills used in the video, as well as descriptions of the mediation process, diversity materials, cultural differences and communication exercises, and role plays.

Conflict Resolution Unlimited (CRU)
845 106th Avenue, NE, Suite 109
Bellevue, WA 98004

National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM): The National Association for Community Mediation serve as a national voice and an advocate of community mediation in legislative, policy-making, professional, and other arenas. A major component of their work is linking community mediation and school mediation programs and/or providing mediation training to schools. For teachers and administrators interested in community-linked peer mediation programs, NAFCM can direct them to member organizations in community mediation.

National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM)
1527 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036-1206

School Mediation Associates (SMA): The mission of School Mediation Associates is to transform schools into safer, more caring, and more effective institutions. School Mediation Associates offers a variety of peer mediation training programs and resources.


Peer Mediation Training and Program Implementation
Audience: Fourth grade though university
In this popular program pioneered by SMA, a diverse group of student leaders are trained to help their peers resolve a range of interpersonal conflicts including name-calling, gossip, prejudice, and boyfriend/girlfriend tensions. Mediation sessions are voluntary and confidential. In addition to the numerous benefits to school climate and to the students involved, close to 90% of mediation sessions result in agreements that resolve the conflict.

Conflict Resolution and Mediation Training for Educators
Ideally, teachers model effective methods of conflict resolution as well as teach them directly to their students. SMA's workshops and training sessions, ranging from two hour in-service presentations to week-long workshops, help educators integrate conflict resolution skills into their professional practice and their personal lives.

Conflict Resolution and Mediation Training for Parents
Parents know all too well that conflict can lead to either growth or frustration. SMA's workshop series for parents (usually sponsored by the school) help parents learn skills to resolve conflicts creatively and constructively.


The School Mediator's Field Guide: Prejudice, Sexual Harassment, Large Groups and Other Daily Challenges, by Richard Cohen.  Watertown, MA: School Mediation Associates, June 1999.
This guide is an essential resource for every teacher, administrator, counselor, and student who mediates in schools. Learn how to mediate the range of challenging school-based conflicts. It includes case examples and handy checklists for each type of conflict. Whether you are a school-based mediator or you coordinate a peer mediation program, you will refer to this book again and again.
Students Resolving Conflict: Peer Mediation in Schools, by Richard Cohen. New York: GoodYear/Addison Wesley, May 1995.
Students Resolving Conflict: Peer Mediation in Schools will assist individuals at every level of experience and exposure to peer mediation. Its purpose is to serve as a comprehensive introduction to conflict resolution and peer mediation, a complete technical assistance manual for those involved in the process of implementing a peer mediation program, and a reference work for those who currently operate peer mediation programs. The book includes many tools such as reproducible program forms, 12 complete conflict resolution lessons, transcripts of peer mediation sessions, and surveys to determine implementation readiness.

School Mediation Associates (SMA)
134 Standish Road
Watertown, MA 02472

Best Practice References

Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR). Recommended Guidelines for Effective Conflict Resolution Education Programs in K-12 Classrooms, Schools and School Districts.  2002.  Available at:

Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) in Cooperation with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Educational Laboratory, The Laboratory for Student Success (LSS). Safe and Sound: An Educational Leader's Guide to Evidence-Based (SEL) Social and Emotional Learning Programs.  March 2003.  Available at:

Hart, R.C., Shelestak, D. and Horwood, T.J. Cost Savings Report on School Conflict Management Program, Kent, Ohio.  Kent State University, Bureau of Research Training and Services, February, 2003.

Jones, T. and Kmitta, D. Does it Work?  The Case for Conflict Resolution Education in Our Nation's Schools.  Washington, D.C.: formerly the Conflict Resolution Education Network (CREnet) now the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR), 2000.  Available at:

Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management [OCDRCM].  "Conflict Management in Schools: Sowing Seeds for a Safer Society.  Final Report of School Conflict Management Demonstration Project 1990-1993." Columbus, Ohio: OCDRCM, 1994. 

Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management [OCDRCM].  "Conflict Management Programs in Ohio Elementary Schools: Case Studies and Evaluation." Columbus, Ohio OCDRCM, 1997. 

Tschannnen-Moran, M. "Seeds of Peace: Ohio's School Conflict Management Grant Program.  An Evaluation of the 1996 High School Conflict Management Grant Program of the Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management and the Ohio Department of Education." Columbus: OCDRCM, 1999.