Academic journal article Journal of International Students

University Students' Perceptions of Conflict Resolution

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

University Students' Perceptions of Conflict Resolution

Article excerpt

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to compare the perceptions of American and international students on conflict resolution, and to determine if the students were willing to participate in conflict resolution. A survey was given to 226 students at an eastern university that asked them to identify a major international conflict and whether they felt that the conflict could be resolve. Among this group, 122 (54%) were international students and 104 (46%) were Americans. The results indicated that most of the students felt that the conflict could be resolved. However, the foreign students were more optimistic than the American students about resolving these conflicts. The conflicts identified were consistent with the current status of the world, and reflected the knowledge of the respondents about world affairs. A follow-up survey was conducted to determine if the students were willing to participate in conflict resolution. Of the 211 who responded, both groups indicated that they were willing to participate in conflict resolution.

Key Words: conflict resolution, international students, American students, world affairs

International migration to the United States has reached unprecedented levels, and has resulted in increased scholarly interest in acculturation (Schwartz, Unger, Zanbiabga, & Szaoicznik, 2010). In research on cultures, it is important to compare a group of individuals from one culture with a group of individuals from another on an influential variable (Cohen, 2009). With this in mind, the purpose of this study was a two-fold: first to compare the perceptions of American students with those of international students on conflict resolution, and then to determine if they were willing to participate in conflict resolution. Conflict resolution is defined as a method and process of eliminating discord or promoting a peaceful ending of a social conflict (Weeks, 1992).

In reviewing the literature on optimism and conflict resolution, most of the studies pertain to American youth, and there is little information on the views of young people from other countries (Bulthuis, 1986; Cole, 1966; Pikeo, 2003; Saucier & Ambert, 1982; Singhal, 1978; Wolfgang, 1973). Wolfgang compared three groups of high school students at different stages of cultural transition from Italy to Canada with respect to their time perspective and optimism towards the future. His results indicated that the Italo-Canadians were more optimistic towards the future then the native Italians. Lastly, in an early study, Singhal (1978) found that Indian and mixed foreign undergraduates had higher levels of anxiety than American students. He stated that the variation in the level of anxiety was due to their differences in socialization, knowledge and economic context of their culture. In the following section, a review of those studies which describe the methods of conflict resolution will be discussed.

It was felt that because this study would use international students, and to avoid personal biases due to culture, focus would be placed on resolving international conflicts. In discussing international conflicts, Baker (1996) stated that such conflicts destroy not only the peace and prosperity of those involved, but also the stability of their neighbors and the public confidence in organizations that seek to prevent such conflicts. There are many ways in which international conflicts can be resolved, and have included such things as interactive problem solving; creating common goals and values; building of trust among parties in dispute; direct participation of the conflicting parties in joint efforts to shape a solution; and identifying the truth about a country's conflictual past so as to aid negotiation and mediation (Beardsley, Quinn, Biswas, & Wilkenfeld, 2006; Berry, 2005; Cushner, 2005; Davidheiser, 2005; Deutsch, Coleman, & Marcus, 2006; Gibson, 2006; Kelman, 1999; Kriesberg, 1992; Marsella, 2005; Smith, 2005; Worchel, 2005). …

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