The Conflict Resolution Project

Article excerpt

Seven years ago, we developed a teaching resource on the theme of Conflict Resolution. This resource never actually appeared in TEACH Magazine but was packaged with it as an ancillary resource. At the time, it was developed as part of a Stay-in-School program and funded by Human Resources Development Canada. In the wake of recent events, we felt it was appropriate to present this resource again. At the time of writing, tensions around the world are high and people are looking for answers. Some, the minority fortunately, are pointing fingers in the wrong direction. This resource maintains its relevancy as, no matter the circumstances, conflict is never far away. It is our hope this resource will be useful to you.

We encounter conflicts every day. Whenever the needs, ideas or expectations of the people and institutions around us do not match our own, conflict can arise. Young people with few skills for dealing with conflict may feel powerless, alienated and incompetent. For these students, conflict can be especially frustrating and stressful. Equipping them with skills for dealing with conflict situations can make life in and out of school more manageable. The more students think about conflicts and methods for resolving them, the better they will become at dealing with them. This teaching unit stands as an opportunity to explore different kinds of conflicts and learn some techniques for dealing with them. But we are only scratching the surface of a fascinating and important subject. There are many excellent resources that offer a more in-depth view of conflict resolution. Some of these are listed under the section, Resources.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

A. Be presented with a method for dealing with conflict

B. Explore different kinds of conflict

C. Develop effective peer interaction skills

D. Promote positive interactions with peers and adults

E. Learn how to initiate a difficult or stressful conversation

F. Learn how to listen to and explore another's point of view

G. Learn how to talk constructively and express a point of view

H. Learn to look for a solution that is successful for both parties

Brainstorm-All about conflict

Include everything from territorial wars to fights with a sibling over bathroom rights; disagreement with a teacher over a mark to confrontations between students of different racial backgrounds. Even an internal struggle can be used: smoke a cigarette or kick the habit; drop out or stay in school; buy another chocolate bar or save the money. After completing the lists, have small groups gather to compare and discuss their lists. Does everyone always agree what a conflict is? Have the groups present their findings to the whole class.

Who are the parties involved?

There are a number of ways to look at conflict and to categorize the ones that confront us. You can think about who is in conflict. A conflict can be with yourself (intrapersonal), for example, deciding whether to wear a sweater that is a gift from a favourite aunt when you are worried that friends might laugh at you. A conflict between two or more people (interpersonal); like a guy blowing smoke in another's face. There are conflicts between individuals and institutions (a student and the school), between two groups (teachers and students) and within a single group (members of a teachers' union disagreeing over a contract offer). Look over the list of conflicts from the brainstorming session and decide who has an interest in each conflict. Find as many different ways of categorizing the conflicts as you can.

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Positions vs. needs and interests

Ask students to imagine the scene that might take place between a parent and a teenager when the teenager arrives home an hour late without calling. Ask students to think about what the teenager and the parents might say to each other. What emotions would they express? …