4 Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies in the Classroom

Utilizing conflict resolution strategies in the classroom is becoming an increasingly important part of a school day. A paper co-authored by Donna Crawford, Director of the National Center for Conflict Resolution Education (NCCRE) and Richard Bodine, NCCRE’s Training Director, details some interesting research.

The report indicates that the largest number of conflicts that result in violence start as relatively minor incidences. Things like using another youth’s property without permission or unprovoked contact can cause this major conflict. This indicates that few initial contacts were predatory, but the conflict escalated rapidly.

Their report also followed with the fact that most incidents occurred at home or at school, and the majority occurred between individuals who knew each other.

Finally, Crawford and Bodine elaborate on the premise that the common goal of violent acts involve retribution. What is interesting is that the research indicates violent acts are not the result of absence of values, but according to the authors, are from a value system that accepts violence.

It is with this basis of how and why conflicts arise and flow, here are  four  effective conflict resolution strategies for the classroom.

Role playing

Role playing can bring a level of levity to conflict resolution. When students are placed in opposing roles than what they may play in a real life situation, it teaches them empathy and forces them to look at actions from another point of view.

Role playing may also provide insights into just where the conflicts are arising from. Rather than having conflicts rise with statements like “Well, how would you like it if I did this to you?” Conflicts can be looked at from more objective, role playing standpoints.

If you are looking for effective conflict resolutions ideas for your classroom, consider the power of role playing.

Tracking

As an assignment, have students observe and track various conflicts that they either witness or are involved with over a period of time. These can be tracked in a journal, and should be written without the specific identities of the participants. In this case, the identities are not as important as the activity they witness and the reaction of those involved. Let students know to be on the outlook for situations where conflict resolution would help. This will also set a baseline for just how severe the problem may be.

At some point students should voluntarily share their observations in their journals and students can discuss the positives and negatives of the involved student’s reactions. This allows students to discuss specific incidents, without “outing” offenders.

Over the course of the school year, this assignment may be done several times, and teachers can make observations as to the progress their students are making in effective conflict resolution.

Listening

Many conflicts start because of misunderstandings and miscommunication. Teaching students good listening habits can be an important tool.

You can start with an in classroom discussion about conflicts that may have occurred to students recently. You are likely to hear things like “He wouldn’t listen” or “They didn’t understand what I was saying.”

This is a good opportunity to let students realize the power of listening. It also lends itself to teaching “how” to listen.

Teach them to:

  • Look directly at the speaker and make eye contact.
  • Let the speaker talk without interruption.
  • Ask questions.
  • Do not give advice or offer suggestions.
  • Give the speaker positive reinforcement by nodding or smiling.
  • Repeat what you have heard in your own words.

Teach students the power of careful listening.

Writing about the conflict

If there are conflicts in the classroom, having the involved students sit down to write about it serves a couple of purposes. First, it serves as a time-out or a cooling off period. It also makes them reflect on the incident in an academic, learning way.

When you have students write about the conflict, have them include how it made them feel, and what other, better choices they may have made during the conflict. Offer them suggestions like “list 3 things that you would do differently now that you’ve had a chance to think about better options.”

Try to get your students to understand that conflicts are also a learning opportunity, and use the incident to do just that.

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