Program

Jun 03, 2013

OVERVIEW

The program integrates conflict-resolution training into a traditional high-school English class and is designed to improve conflict-resolution skills while also enhancing academic achievement for high school students. An experimental evaluation of the program found that in-class conflict resolution training had a positive impact on academic achievement, mastery of the negotiation procedure, and the ability to apply the negotiation procedure in conflicts.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: High school students

The program is designed to integrate conflict-resolution training into a high school English literature class. The goal of the program is to improve both students’ conflict resolution skills and academic achievement. The conflict-resolution training taught in the classroom combines two components of negotiation— integrative-negotiation (when one tries to maximize gains for both oneself and the other) and perspective-reversal (when one tries to understand what the other is feeling and/or wanting)—into a six step procedure that consists of stating (1) their desires, (2) their feelings, (3) the reasons underlying their desires and feelings, (4) their understanding of the other person’s desires, feelings, and underlying reasons, (5) three optional agreements that maximize the benefits to both sides, and (6) an agreement based on mutual selection of one of the options. High school English teachers, trained in this conflict-resolution technique, incorporate the conflict-resolution process and procedure into the teaching of a novel (Crabbe by William Bell) in multiple ways, including: having students apply the six-step procedure to conflicts in the novel, demonstrating the technique in the classroom, asking students to take characters’ perspectives in conflicts and use the procedure to solve conflicts characters are facing, and having students engage in role playing. The program lasts for eight class sessions; seven sessions last for one hour and fifteen minutes and one session lasts for forty-five minutes.

EVALUATION OF PROGRAM

Stevahn, L., Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T., Green, K., & Laginski, A.M. (1997). Effects on high school students of conflict resolution training integrated into English literature. The Journal of Social Psychology, 137, 302-315.

Evaluated population: Forty middle-class students in two ninth-grade English classes in a suburban high school in Ontario, Canada were evaluated. Both classes had a mixture of academic achievement levels with some gifted and special needs students in each class; 65 percent of participants were female.

Approach: Researchers randomly assigned students in each class to either the experimental or control group. Two English teachers and one staff development consultant, who had all studied materials about teaching students to be peacemakers beforehand, taught the classes (rotating so that each instructor taught each condition an equal amount of time).

Before the classes began, all students were given a written pre-test that described two scenarios which both involved conflict (e.g. taking turns at a computer) and then asked students what they would do if they were in that situation. This test determined the student’s ability to apply negotiating procedures in conflict.

Once the program began, both groups were required to read a chapter or more of the assigned book each day and complete writing assignments (i.e. summarizing a major event and student reflection essays) in a notebook. Students in the control group studied the novel and completed writing assignments on their own; whereas students in the experimental group studied the novel and were taught a six step procedure for conflict resolution using examples from the novel. The conflict-resolution was integrated into the lesson; for example, students were required to apply the six-step procedure they learned to the conflicts characters in the novel experienced. In the experimental group’s classroom, the teacher modeled the procedure, explained it to the students, and had students practice it.

After eight class sessions, researchers measured both groups’ academic achievement (using a written test about the novel), mastery of the negotiation procedure (using a written test in which students had to recall the steps in the procedure), and ability to apply the negotiation procedure in conflicts (using the same written test used in the pre-test, in which students were given scenarios and asked how they would respond).

Results: There was a positive impact on academic achievement, mastery of the negotiation procedure, and the ability to apply the negotiation procedure in conflicts.

Before training, students in both groups dealt with hypothetical conflict situations similarly (by threatening or telling a teacher); after the program was implemented, students in the experimental condition used negotiation as their major strategy, while students in the control condition continued to deal with conflict in the original manner. In addition to gaining conflict resolution skills, students who participated in the program outperformed students who did not on a written test designed to test students’ comprehension of the novel—participating in the program enhanced students’ academic performance. Students who participated in the program were also able to recall more steps in the negotiating procedure than students who did not participate in the program.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References

Stevahn, L., Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T., Green, K., & Laginski, A.M. (1997). Effects on high school students of conflict resolution training integrated into English literature. The Journal of Social Psychology, 137, 302-315.

Contact Information

Laurie Stevahn (First author)

stevahnl@seattleu.edu

David W. Johnson (Second author)

Johns010@umn.edu

KEYWORDS: Adolescents, High School, Males and Females, Suburban, School-based, Skills Training, Academic Achievement/Grades, Social Skills/Life Skills

Program information last updated on 6/03/13. 

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