Lessons from the Field: Balancing Comprehensiveness and Feasibility in Peer Mediation Programs

This recent qualitative dissertation project by Maura Dillon provides ideas about how to create peer mediation programs that are both realistic and maximally beneficial. The research involved reviewing recommendations made in the professional literature for creating successful programs and soliciting practical perspectives on these recommendations by interviewing five middle school counselors currently coordinating peer mediation programs.

Lessons from the Field: Balancing Comprehensiveness and Feasibility in Peer Mediation Programs

Senate is Briefed on Social-Emotional Learning as a Tool for Academic Success

On May 12th a Senate briefing was held to inform members of the US Senate (as well as other policy influencers) on the issues of social, emotional and character development. The collaboration included members of The National Association of School Psychologists, The Committee for Children, The National School Climate Center and The Character Education Partnership. The briefing, entitled “Enhancing Conditions for Student Learning and Academic Achievement through Social, Emotional, and Character Development,” was led by Linda McKay, one of the Character Education Partnership’s Board of Director.

A helpful summary of the topics addressed is available on the School Climate Blog hosted by The National School Climate Center.

The Term Bullying Has Little Resonance with Teens

Danah Boyd has written a very insightful piece on how teens experience conflict and how the term “bullying” is not working well in terms of connecting with them. A case example is provided of two girls (Janiya and Precious) who have a conflict that is long-standing and unresolved. It is definitely worth reading. As she note in the concluding paragraph:

Combating bullying is not going to be easy, but it’s definitely not going to happen if we don’t dive deep in the mess that underpins it and surrounds it. Lectures by uncool old people like me aren’t going to make teens who are engaged in dramas think twice about what they’re doing. And, for that matter, using the term “bullying” is also not going to help at all either. We need interventions that focus on building empathy, identifying escalation, and techniques for stopping the cycles of abuse. We need to create environments where young people don’t get validated for negative attention and where they don’t see relationship drama as part of normal adult life. The issues here are systemic.

Mastering Classroom Management

In a recent edition of ASCD Express, Bob Somson provides a nice set of tips for creating a positive classroom environment. Here’s the topics he covers:
1. Build Connections Daily.
2. Use Consistent Procedures and Routines.
3. Respond Quickly to Misbehavior.
4. Notice Specific Positive Behaviors.
5. Use Instructional Design for Success.
6. Neutralize Arguments.
7. Sometimes Delay Consequences.
8. Develop an Empathetic Classroom Culture.
9. Build Connections with Families.
10. Use Enforceable Statements.
11. Offer Choices.
12. Teach Problem-Solving Skills.

Women Peacemakers in the Philippines

Posted by GIRC on March 10,2009
For Loreta N.Castro
Director of the Center for Peace Education, Professor in Child Development & Education and International Studies
Miriam College, Philippines

Like many other countries, the Philippines has all forms of violence present. This includes direct violence, both at micro and macro levels. There are, of course, other forms of violence present in the country such as structural violence (e.g., wide gap between the rich and poor, extreme poverty of a large segment of the population). There is also socio-cultural violence (e.g., deeply-rooted prejudice against Muslims and other minorities); and ecological violence (e.g., mining and their deleterious effects).

Violence against women is reported an average of 20 cases per day. Violence against women includes beating, rape, sexual harassment and other forms of physical abuse. Due to the fact that not all cases are reported, the number is actually higher. There are also ongoing armed conflicts in the country which are between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the other is between the GRP and the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). The GRP and MILF broke their ceasefire agreement last August 2008 and are currently fighting in Mindanao (in Southern Philippines) with internally displaced people numbering more than 500,000 at the height of the conflict. The economic and social dislocation of communities has been severe like in other countries with armed conflicts; those that are affected and are suffering are non-combatant women and children.

In response, the women of the Philippines have responded as peacemakers. It should be acknowledged that the peace movement in the Philippines is almost equally gender mixed. However, it is heartening to note that the majority of those who are taking leadership roles in the peace movement are women, including those who are young women and those women involved in grassroots. In the many conflict-affected areas, the women of the concerned communities have taken the lead in calling for the cessation of hostilities and have called for the establishment of “peace zones”. This is very understandable given the fact that the women are among the first to be negatively affected and violated when there is war. It is also heartening to mention here that many important peace initiatives and campaigns that have been launched in the Philippines are led or coordinated by women. These women are for example: Bantay Ceasefire (Ceasefire Watch), Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict – Philippines, United Religions Initiative – Philippines, Philippine Action Network on Small Arms, Philippine Campaign against Cluster Munitions, and the Peace Education Network. Surely, there are many challenges for women peacemakers in the Philippines. But our women’s courage, nurturing spirit and persistence will, hopefully, lead us closer to our dream of peace.

More on Truancy Mediation from Ohio

Truancy Prevention Through Mediation Program

The Truancy Prevention Through Mediation Program in Ohio, commonly known as truancy mediation, has grown in just over six years from 7 counties, 58 schools to 30 counties, over 460 schools in close to 120 school districts. It has grown at this rate because it works. Documentation is available at http://disputeresolution.ohio.gov/courtcommunity.htm.

Programs are run locally, with technical support, training, mentoring, and grant writing assistance provided by the Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management, and with training assistance from the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Dispute Resolution Section.

Although it is common when districts first approach the Commission to ask about help with high school truancy and drop-outs, research and experience clearly show that a school district benefits most by building a program from the early years up. The Commission advocates having the program only in K-6 for two to four years, then adding the middle schools that those elementary schools feed, then in a year or two adding the high schools. If a district starts at the high school level they usually are dealing with students who have been missing days for many years, who are under-achieving, and who are close to dropping out – thus using time and resources but not addressing the systemic problem. If a district wants to permanently reduce truancy and tardiness it needs to be addressed in Kindergarten and the other early years, building the program upward.

Here are some of the core values of the program:

1. Mediations take place in the school, during or immediately before or after school hours. 2. In K – 6 the teacher always attends, and often is the only person meeting with the parent[s]. 3. The goal is to, in a non-punitive, non-disciplinary way, identify the family problems that are causing the poor attendance, and to then help the family reach a voluntary solution. Those solutions often involve reaching out to a government agency, social service provider, or non-profit organization. 4. Confidentially is maintained. 5. The emphasis is on K – 6 truancy and tardiness, with higher grades added only after the elementary school program is well established. 6. The family is asked to come in for a mediation very early in the pattern of truancy, usually the third to fifth missed day. This is a significantly lower threshold than the number of missed days for court referrals. The emphasis is on very early intervention and help in a respectful manner, as opposed to late intervention [15+ days is common] and a disciplinary attitude. 7. The mediator is a person trained in mediation in general and truancy mediation in particular, who does not represent any particular entity or interest but rather is in the room to facilitate the discussion and search for mutually acceptable solutions.

For information contact Ed Krauss at ed.krauss@cdr.state.oh.us. 614 444 5872

School Administrators Podcast

A new Web site sponsored by McGraw-Hill Education’s Urban Advisory Resource is directed towards school administrators, especially those working in urban areas. The forum, District Leader’s Podcast districtleaderspodcast.org, is “the only national podcast created expressly for district leaders. Many features included are interviews each week with different district leaders from around the country.” There are 25 sessions available to listen to, with the most recent being a Superintendent from a school district in Texas. Many of the podcasts deal with violence and delinquency in schools and conflict resolution techniques.

Social Cohesion and the Values Agenda

Posted on behalf of Gary Shaw, Targeted Programs Branch, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, East Melbourne, Australia

In 2003 the Australian federal government embarked on a national values education project. At the time the initiative was criticised for promoting an unhealthy form of nationalism or for embarking on a moral crusade. It could be argued that an emphasis on values during this period was anchored in a post September 11 view of the world and Australia’s place in it. Enhanced national security and border control measures, interment of refugees on Pacific islands and a new citizenship test were part of a range of measures introduced from 2001 onwards. By focussing on so called ‘Australian’ values, it was claimed that ideals of cultural identity, patriotism and citizenship were distorted. 

Five years on and initial reservations about government motivation have diminished, the public values discourse has been robust, the government has changed and I suggest that values-based education is now even more appropriate given the current social, environmental and political tensions of our time. Research findings from this project indicate that effective values-based education is not only central to quality learning and teaching environments but makes a significant contribution to safe and cohesive school environments.

Values-based education was not new in Australia and education authorities in a number of states had already articulated core values within local curriculum documents before 2003. What was new was a national approach, built around an agreed framework. The Framework of Values Education in Australian Schools was informed by research in schools throughout Australia and contained nine values for Australian schooling. These included respect, responsibility, care and compassion and integrity.

In framing the kinds of shared values to be fostered in Australian schools, it was suggested that:

[i]Values are often highly contested, and hence any set of values advanced for Australian schools must be the subject of substantial discussion and debate with school communities. The application of those values to real school circumstances invariably requires that they be appropriately contextualised to the school community concerned, and involve the community in the process of their implementation. (Department of Education Science and Training 2003)[/i]

At the heart of this initiative was a desire to create opportunities and resources to assist school communities reflect on the values that underpinned school policy and practice. In many respects it gave permission for school administrators, teachers, students and their families and broader community to talk about the place they wanted their school to be and the experiences they wanted for students.

Values are defined as the principles and fundamental convictions which act as general guides to behaviour. Shared values and beliefs, often rooted in particular understandings of our history, our family and our community, make a significant contribution to the way we see each other and approach problem solving.

Understanding and enacting shared values are critical for promoting tolerant and peaceful communities. Democracy, citizenship and governance can be easily taught but it is when students have opportunities to rehearse civic responsibility, practice social skills and develop an awareness of other values and positions that notions of social cohesion are developed. Such experiences are reinforced when teachers model democracy and inclusion and promote citizenship through such activities as peer mediation, student leadership programs and service learning initiatives.

Values, beliefs and attitudes shape the way people live their lives. This works well when they are in the company of people who share similar understandings and experiences. The challenge is to manage situations where beliefs and values are not aligned. In a 21st Century multi-cultural and multi-faith Australia the management of difference and diversity is at the forefront of government social policy.

Evidence emerging from research, case studies and school reports indicate that values-based education in Australian schools is making a significant contribution to positive and more harmonious school environments.

For further information on this Australian values education initiative visit the Australian Department of Education by clicking here