8.1 Introduction: Conflict resolution in schools and peer mediation

Conflicts are part of our daily life in general, but also in schools. Conflicts and difficulties inevitably arise when people are working/living together. Many of these conflicts, especially the non-escalated ones are solved in one way or the other, not always satisfying for all parties but still acceptable. But schools also face a verbally or physically aggressive or violent behavior pattern of students as a way of dealing with conflicts and quarrels, complemented by cyber attacks in social media. These behavior patterns do not only harm the victims of violence but can also negatively influence the atmosphere in a class and create a climate of mutual mistrust. Furthermore, some teachers observe a change in the “quality” of violent behavior. Keeping in mind that students have always fought (verbally and physically) to ensure their status, enforce their interests etc., nowadays an intensified usage of violence can be ascertained. 1) On the other hand, the sensitivity concerning the issue of violent behavior has increased.2)
In a situation like this schools are looking for support in order to deal with these challenges. What are the alternatives?  How can a school enhance constructive conflict resolution skills? This project advocates a holistic approach of applying different measures in the fields of prevention (awareness raising workshops concerning social media), intervention (mediation club and the non-punitive bullying intervention tool No Blame Approach) and curative means like further counseling, therapy etc. depending on the severity of the case.

The aim of conflict resolution programs and peer mediation is not the abolishment of conflicts but a fostering of constructive techniques to deal with conflicts. Students will be supported to learn nonviolent ways to settle a dispute without harming the opponent. Traditionally, students (and adults) think in categories of win and lose, so it is either him/her or me. This is a conflict solution pattern which is prevalent in different areas of society. Constructive conflict resolution on the other side supports a solution beyond win-lose a win-win situation. It is an attitude which does not neglect different opinions but tries to find solutions which are satisfying for both sides. 3)

Peer mediation is one of the key concepts of conflict resolution between students. It is based on the idea that the support and presence of a third, neutral party is helpful to solve a conflict. Direct confrontation and the escalation of the dispute will be avoided and instead the third party (often a team of two trained peer mediators) will create a situation where the involved students are encouraged to find a nonviolent solution they both agree on.