Mediation Education for Schools: Negotiation Class Training

Negotiation and mediation training is being taught to children in the classroom and receiving good results. Cultural differences are being overcome as students learn the benefits of cooperation in school.

"Education is growth... Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself."
John Dewey

Negotiation skills are used by people who wrestle with life's everyday challenges and hurdles throughout their personal and professional growth. The education process commences in early childhood when children vie for the toys they want to play with in the sandbox. As children mature and interact more deeply with their peers, they've already been ingrained with lessons in school learned from these early successes and failures in class. The core of children's personalities and the negotiating style they learn is already deeply embedded within their psyche. Unfortunately, we don't always learn wisely. More recently, educators are tuning in to the benefits of teaching negotiating skills to children in the classroom. This is an excellent training opportunity for children to learn good habits that will benefit their later careers.

Building a Positive Negotiation Training Framework in the Classroom

A trend is starting to develop where more and more educators have foreseen the value of teaching negotiation and mediation skills to children in class as a means to develop their interpersonal skills. The extensive media coverage concerning incidents of violence in school, bullying, and racism has necessitated that educators take a more proactive approach in dealing with social conflict in our education system. As a consequence, many schools are adopting various mediation and negotiation education programs to aid children and teenagers in learning how to respond more positively and productively to these social issues.

There are three primary areas that educators are beginning to focus on to develop positive negotiation and mediation skills. They include:

  • Creating an atmosphere of cooperation
  • Dealing with conflict
  • Dealing with a multicultural reality

Creating a Training Atmosphere of Cooperation

There are a variety of approaches that are being implemented in schools through various programs. Some of these programs focus on one or more of the following approaches:

Classroom Problem Solving via Negotiation Training

Students learn the basics of negotiation by learning to understand the differences between distributive negotiation and integrative negotiation, or learning the benefits of cooperation rather than being self-centered. By focusing negotiation class training on how much more value can be obtained through integrative negotiations, students learn how to develop a more cooperative attitude in solving their problems. Successful outcomes include:

  1. Stating their desires.
  2. Describing their interests by explaining their feelings and how the problem is affecting them.
  3. Outlining the reasons behind these feelings.
  4. Learning to see the problem from the other person's viewpoint, by exploring the other person's feelings and desires.
  5. Learning how to invent a resolution that addresses both of their viewpoints.

Some educational institutions are even taking this one step further by providing some introductory but very detailed classes on both mediation and negotiation training for students to enhance their skills. Many of these courses are offered by negotiation consultant firms who primarily concentrate on themes that are most applicable to young people. The education these courses provide the students enable them to facilitate a more productive dialogue with their parents, siblings, and their peers.

Mediating Conflicts

The mediation of interpersonal disputes is one very influential area that many educators are emphasizing in class. In many instances, the education faculty will act as mediators to resolve the dispute. Some schools are delving deeper into this by training students ithe process of mediation so that they can act as neutral third-party mediators that other students can turn to when they are unable to resolve their differences. The purpose of the mediation process is generally aimed at:

  1. Lowering the temperature between disputants. The purpose here is to create a more cooperative context in which the students will be able to discuss their dispute in a more congenial atmosphere. The emphasis is on the development and importance of a long-term relationship rather than on the short-term conflict, which brought the students into dispute in the first place. By teaching students in class that they possess multiple of overlapping interests, they can learn that they have far more in common than they have differences. The students also learn to enhance their social skills by emphasizing their interdependence in class. They are able to see that their emotional interests are both recognized and accorded the mutual respect they deserve.
  2. Getting the disputant parties to commit to the mediation process. Mediators, who may be members of the staff at school, and even the students themselves, can stress the importance of the mediation process. Mediators can explain that the mediation process will only be successful if the disputants make a commitment to the process in order to resolve the dispute.
  3. Applying a resolution that resolves the dispute. As a means to reach an accord between disputant parties, a formal written agreement is often constructed to emphasize the commitment by the disputants to officially consider the dispute resolved.

The New Multicultural Reality

In the past several decades, our world has seen a vast movement of displaced people and refugees from developing countries that continue to alter the cultural dynamics of the wealthier, more developed countries. Additionally, cheap travel and multi-national companies has resulted in many more people living and working in foreign countries. The influx of different cultures and shifts in religious focus have brought forth elements of racism not previously evident in the receiving countries. This clash of cultures has resulted in a considerable rise in racial and religious intolerance. Many schools have found it necessary to introduce education programs to teach students intercultural awareness and understanding to integrate the different cultures. This is an attempt to break apart the stereotypical perceptions that some students have developed due to their lack of understanding, in many cases caused by government propaganda programs. By using a variety of means at school in the classroom to get students to work and interact with each other, through group interaction and by encouraging newcomers to discuss their cultural perspectives, many students can gain a better understanding of the world. In this way students are learning to develop tolerance towards and understanding of cultural differences.

Summary

Although the application of mediation, negotiation, and cultural diversity in our school education system is gradually being implemented, there is one big hurdle to overcome. Many schools are faced with the additional pressures of trying to fit such programs into their curriculum and find they are unable or unwilling to do so. This inability or lack of priority is regrettable, as teaching these skills at an earlier age has been proven to help foster the development of young people in the classroom into more productive adults when they enter the workplace and greater society.

References:
www.co-operation.org/pages/peace.html#cooperation#cooperation
www.diversityweb.org/digest/F97/curriculum.html#top
www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0NQM/is_1_43/ai_114784813
www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0NQM/is_1_43/ai_114784813/pg_4

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