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Best Practices

Several authors of the cases in the following chapters commented on the challenges of institutionalization. What are some guidelines or best practices for making these efforts last? The following suggest some of the proven best practices in our field.

Involving key people in planning.Most change agents know that strategic planning is a key to the success of a new initiative. The schools and communities that succeed in conflict resolution education and peace education make sure that critical stakeholders are involved in making decisions and share responsibility for their implementation.

Setting goals and objectives. Successful schools and communities clarify what they want to achieve, how they will get there, and how they will know when it happens. They also realize that goals change over time and what they wanted to accomplish in the past may not be what they want to accomplish now.

Expanding and adapting. One key to institutionalization is adopting a "growth" frame of mind. If you think in terms of growth and incremental achievement, you automatically think in terms of expansion and flexibility. Schools and the communities they serve are dynamic. Conflict resolution education and peace education must be dynamic as well. All of the cases presented in the following chapters are excellent examples of this guideline.

Listening to children. We cannot overstate the importance of listening to youth when creating, evaluating, and improving programs. Their feedback is critical. Too often programs are adult-centered and when they become child-centered and even child-driven there is more commitment, authenticity, and freshness.

Proven Benefits

Although it is beyond the scope of this introduction to provide a summary of the proven benefits of peace education and conflict resolution education, it is important to note that these proven benefits have been demonstrated and reported in the research. We know that these efforts can work and do provide important advantages for children. Two general reviews of research, one in peace education and the second in conflict resolution education, are briefly mentioned here.

Baruch Nevo and Iris Brem (2002) gathered the past twenty years of evaluation research on the effectiveness of peace education programs. They note that between 1981 and 2000 approximately one thousand articles, chapters, reports, and symposia proceedings dealing with a broadly defined peace education area were available for review. About a hundred of these focused on peace education interventions and had some report of effectiveness evaluation, but only seventy-nine had sufficient detail for any analysis. Nevo and Brem examined these seventy-nine studies and found that the majority of these programs (fifty-one out of seventy-nine) were found to be partially or highly effective in teaching peace and conflict skills.

In the area of conflict resolution education, Dan Kmitta and I edited a volume (2000) that summarizes the results of a research symposium on conflict resolution education sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. The purpose of the symposium was to examine the results of current research and evaluation of school-based conflict resolution education programs (kindergarten-twelfth grades). The major findings demonstrate that these programs increase academic achievement, positive attitudes toward school, assertiveness, cooperation, communication skills, healthy interpersonal/intergroup relations, constructive conflict resolution at home and school, and self-control. Research also suggests that conflict resolution education decreases aggressiveness, discipline referrals, dropout rates, social withdrawal, suspension rates, victimized behavior, and violence. There is also substantial evidence that this kind of education positively impacts school climate in terms of reducing disciplinary actions and suspensions, improving school climate (especially for elementary schools), and improving classroom climate.