Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Nonviolent conflict resolution in children

Bretherton, D. (1996). Nonviolent conflict resolution in children. Peabody Journal of Education 71.(3), 111-118.

An Austrailain researcher, Dianne Bretherton, wrote this article as part of an action research project.  It is divided up into four parts.  One, an personal explaination of why some students are violent.  Two, non-violent conflict resolution strategies.  Three, researchable findings on whether or not the program was a success.  Four, Bretherton’s own action research findings and personal experiences. 
In the beginning of the article, she explains various reasons as to why both young men and women resort to violence. A few examples she gives are the role of violent games, violent parents, and a cultural ethos of strong “Rambo” type figures that perpetuate a strong violent aggressive male type in society.     One of the main foci of the article was about the steps of  what she calls “typical” conflict resolution practices.  Within this model, Bretherton explains they are important for implementing non-violent resolution to issues that arrive in the classroom.  There are different steps.  Step one is assessing the group.  She believes that it is important to open the lines of communication in order to foster non-violent conflict resolutions. The second stage, "Building the Group," is designed to develop a trustworthy climate. If the group has effective communication skills and social cohesion, this phase could be short.  However, depending on the group, there may need to be intervention activities that could help foster stronger communication to break down cliques and unwilling cooperators.  The third step is “dealing with the concept”.  This consists of a series of lessons that are designed to problem solve among students.  Students are also required to keep a conflict diary.  This is at the heart of conflict resolution.  This could be a much longer process and can often be met with the most opposition from the students. 
The final step provides five lesson plans for the students to further practice their communication skills. An example lesson is that students are given open ended, debatable questions like “should school uniforms be required in schools?” They work in groups of three that they have to discuss and come up with actual solutions.  This, fosters negotiation skills and collaborative thinking. 
            Bretherton goes on to explain the findings that observers had witness within observation of various school age children.  One of the most prominent findings was that  “High aggressive students were significantly more likely to choose a hostile goal than were low and medium aggressive students. High aggressive students were significantly more likely to perceive aggression as a legitimate response”.  This shows that there was some varied changed through out the process within a certain focus group. 

“Often in a conflict the people involved both try to win without thinking about what needs to be changed. Concentrating on being a winner only leaves both people angry and the problem not solved. People need to work together to find a solution that both are happy with—then both people are winners. Conflicts are helpful to us because they let us know that there is a need for change.” (116)

“Three conflict styles are identified: avoidance, aggression, and assertiveness. Role plays are used to help students identify the differences between them” (Bretherton, 116)
“We found that young children can learn conflict resolution techniques, and show this on the videotape. For example, in one scene Doris, the teacher, has set Rose and Jemima a problem: There are two puppets in the play but only one ruler”. (Bretherton, 120)

I found this article to be very helpful in identifying strategies for creating conflict management practices in the classroom. It not only gave specific examples, but Bretherton explains how and why these strategies are successful.  One particular strategy that I plan on implementing in my action research is the idea of the conflict diary.  I believe that these can foster a sense of personal actualization of the conflicts within the students themselves.   The end of the article was the most “meaty” because it stated the findings by researchers of the effectiveness of the peer non-violent resolutions.  


Alejandra Padilla said...
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Alejandra Padilla said...

This is something that I am very interested in because it is part of the philosophy of my school. Every year I talk to parents about Peace Education and Conflict resolution and this year I am preparing a workshop for teachers and parents and another for kindergartners. The strategies mentioned in the article seem very useful. I would love to read the full text.

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