CONFLICT RESOLUTION. SHALOM/SALAAM
Barb Stuart (BSTUART @ DNVR.USWEST.NET)
Center for LifeLong Learning and Design and Institute of Cognitive Science University of Colorado, Boulder
This work-in-progress presents a World Wide Web information space and environment for "making thinking public" and constructing a shared meaning, essential elements in both collaborative learning and conflict resolution. Nontraditional learners learn collaboratively as they study conflict resolution through the context, language, metaphors, and frames of two radically conflicting perspectives. The space encourages making explicit otherwise implicit values, beliefs and assumptions, reframing conflict and reflecting on conceptual change emerging from collaboration.
Both collaborative learning and conflict resolution require clarifying mental models. In the emerging field of conflict resolution, theories about reframing conflict ( Rothman, 1996, 1997; Dunford & Palmer, 1994)advocate that thinking be made public as a precursor to active conflict resolution. Rothman ( 1996) suggests that disputants rarely articulate the deeper significance of conflict to themselves, instead describing attributes and effects. Articulating deeply held values, beliefs and assumptions is a crucial first step towards effective collaborative learning in workplaces, classrooms and communities. In a community of practice ( Brown & Duguid, 1991), learning is seen as a capacity for communally experienced situations, and the co-constructing of meaning and understanding, for individuals and groups ( Roschelle, 1995). The Shalom project is designed to foster such a community of practice, focused on conflict resolution, the making of a shared meaning and collaborative learning.
The Shalom/Salaam project evolves from several earlier collaborations, one a text based simulation ( Harel & Morgan, 1994)and another an ongoing collaboration with the Center for LifeLong Learning at the University of Colorado, in Boulder ( Stuart, Perrone, & Harel, 1997). A World Wide Web information space and environment was designed to elicit mental models. The site focused attention on two polarized and radically different positions in the Middle East and invited students to make their thinking public, first individually and then collaboratively. The site captured asynchronous insights and observations, archiving them for later retrieval and examination.
Peter Senge of the MIT Sloan School of Management, and an advocate for the conceptual "learning organization," suggested clarifying mental models including images, values, beliefs and assumptions to facilitate group learning. Reflection and inquiry are required to understand the reasoning and attitudes that underlie human action ( Senge, et al 1994 pp. 246). Bruner ( 1996) described a capacity for intersubjectivity, how humans come to know each other's minds, as a crucial cultural adaptation (p. 184). While there is much discussion about collaboration and communities of practice, there is little discussion about the tools that build such communities. One such tool for group learning, capacity building and making thinking public is dialogue. David Bohm, a physicist and colleague of Einstein' s, describes dialogue as a
stream of meaning flowing among us and through us and between us. This will make possible a flow of meaning in the whole group, out of which will emerge some new understanding. It's something new, which many not have been in the starting point at all. It's something creative. And this shared meaning is the "glue" or "cement" that holds people and societies together. ( Bohm & Edwards, 1991 p. 35)