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Conflict Resolution

Page history last edited by Gwen Stamm 13 years, 6 months ago

Conflict Resolution Education: Learning Objectives

After this section, participants should be able to:

  • Be aware of the core competencies for conflict resolution.
  • Understand the root causes of conflict.
  • Be able to suggest conflict resolution strategies.



Guiding Questions 

Before you read this section, consider the following questions:

  • How is conflict in our personal lives the same or different from conflict on a global level?
  • How can conflict have a positive outcome? 
  • Is conflict an inevitable part of human existence? 



Disagreements must be settled, not by force, not by deceit or trickery, but rather in the only manner which is worthy of the dignity of man, i.e., by a mutual assessment of the reasons on both sides of the dispute, by a mature and objective investigation of the situation, and by an equitable reconciliation of differences of opinion.

Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris -1881 - 1963


An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

Gandhi- 1869 - 1948






Understanding Conflict

  • Causes
  • Responses
  • Outcomes


Conflict Resolution Education

Our task as peace educators is not necessarily to avoid conflict but rather to find constructive, creative, nonviolent ways of addressing conflict. How can we prepare learners to handle conflict nonviolently? How can we create safe learning environments, free from violence and bullying? These are the essential questions of Conflict Resolution Education (CRE).


CRE aims to develop the knowledge, attitude and skills necessary to resolve conflicts nonviolently. Furthermore, CRE seeks to enhance children's social and emotional development, while at the same time creating a safe, constructive learning environment and community (CRETE, 2010). According to Reardon (1999), "Conflict resolution education comprises efforts to impart knowledge and understanding of conflict processes, the distinctions between constructive and destructive processes, so that the constructive processes may prevail over the destructive" (p. 15).


According to the CRETE (2010), conflict resolution education teaches social and emotional competencies to children and adults to help them handle conflict more constructively, build healthy relationships, and create constructive communities. As a field, it overlaps with violence prevention, positive youth development, social and emotional learning, and law-related education. 

     The core competencies for conflict resolution education are:

  • emotional awareness
  • empathy and perspective-taking
  • emotional management
  • problem solving
  • communication (listening, mediation, negotiation)
  • effective decision making (CRETE, 2010). 


Educational Approaches

The most widespread form of conflict resolution education is skills training in dealing with conflicts at school and in the everyday life of students (Reardon, 1999). Key skills include peer mediation, nonviolent communication, and active listening. These skills can be taught through a variety of approaches and formats. One such format is the Process Curriculum approach, in which students learn about conflict resolution as part of a separate course or distinct curriculum. A Mediation Program approach is one in which students are trained "in the mediation process in order to provide neutral third-party facilitation to assist those in conflict to reach a resolution." The Peaceable Classroom approach is a whole-classroom methodology in which "conflict resolution education is incorporated into the core subjects of the curriculum and into classroom management strategies" (Crawford & Bodine, 1996). Although direct training in conflict resolution skills is also important, the more holistic Peaceable Classroom approach is the most consistent with the values of peace education, and the most effective at fostering a true culture of peace. "In peaceable classrooms, youth learn to take responsibility for their actions and develop a sense of connectedness to others and their environment" (Crawford & Bodine, 1996, p. 33). In addition, this approach can be extended beyond just the classroom to encompass the entire school and its daily operations (referred to as the Peaceable School approach).


There are many ways to integrate CRE into the daily curriculum. For example, in a Language Arts class, students could analyze stories to identify the causes of conflicts and possible ways for resolving them. In Physical Education class, you could discuss the differences between competitive and cooperative games, play an example of each type, and have students reflect together afterwards. For further examples of lesson plans, please see the list of resources below.


While most CRE programs focus on how to handle conflict, more recently efforts have been made for longer-range, transformative solutions that address root causes such as structures, fundamental social norms, or political values that play into conflict formations (Reardon, 1999). While some conflict is inevitable, a great deal of conflict could be avoided if there had initially been greater effort for understanding. Particularly with intercultural conflict, conflict may not always be avoided, but by developing an attitude of respect and will to understand, conflict may be reduced.  


Classroom Activities

There are many ways to integrate CRE into the daily curriculum. For example, in a Language Arts class, students could analyze stories to identify the causes of conflicts and possible ways for resolving them. In Physical Education class, you could discuss the differences between competitive and cooperative games, play an example of each type, and have students reflect together afterwards. For further examples of lesson plans, please see the list of resources below.



Crawford, D. & Bodine, R. (1996). Conflict Resolution Education: A Guide to Implementing Programs in Schools, Youth-Serving Organizations, and Community and Juvenile Justice Settings. Retrieved from http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/conflic.pdf 


CRETE Project (2010). Conflict Resolution Education in Teacher Education. Retrieved from: http://www.creducation.org/cre/resources/view/136


Lantieri, L. & Patti, J. (1998). Waging Peace In Our Schools. Beacon Press.


Reardon, B. A. (1999). Peace Education: A Review and Projection. Peace Education Reports, August, No. 17. Department of Educational and Psychological Research, Malmo University.


Lessons on Conflict Resolution - (taken from "Learning to Abolish War - Teaching Toward a Culture of Peace")


Lesson 1 - Grades 1-3 "Sharing Game"

     The following exercise is intended to help learners better understand each other and to build relationships of trust and appreciation for others. Conflicts often occur when people lack understanding of others’ perspectives. To avoid the escalation of conflict and to promote peace and nonviolence, cooperation is essential. Sharing and creating stories together is one way young children can begin to develop the skills and attitudes necessary for a culture of peace.


SOURCE: This learning unit was prepared by Meg Gardinier (2001) as part of the TC Peace Education Team at Teachers College, Columbia University.

GRADE LEVEL: Elementary grades, 1 - 3
MATERIALS: Classroom
METHODS: Sharing; storytelling; cooperative learning; active listening and discussion
CONCEPTS: Sharing, peace, cooperation, nonviolence, appreciation of others
OBJECTIVES: Students will:

  • Share stories about something special to them;
  • Practice active listening skills;
  • Work together with others in a creative activity;
  • Develop and discuss ideas about peace.

     Step 1: Ask students to bring to class an object that is special to them such as a toy, a photo,
a book, a piece of clothing, a food, or any other item that they would like to show
friends and classmates.
     Step 2: Explain the “rules” of the game to students:

  • First, all students will have an opportunity to tell the class about their special objects.
  • While a fellow student is sharing the story of his or her object, others in the class should be listening and giving full attention to that student. Everyone should listen very carefully, because they need to learn why the object is important to their classmate. Listening to each other is how people become friends.
  • Next, students can be encouraged to ask questions to learn more about the special objects of others. The teacher can promote a discussion that enables students to learn about each other and the things that are special and important to each of their classmates.
  • When the discussion indicates understanding of the importance their classmates attach to the objects, form groups of 3 students into “story teams.” Each story team will then use the objects they brought to create a story about peace.
  • To end the game, all the peace stories will be shared with the whole class.

     Step 3: After these “rules” are explained, the teacher and students gather in a circle to hear the stories about students’ special objects. Make sure everyone      has a place in the circle and that all students can hear the person speaking. All students should have an equal amount of time to share the story of their      special object.
     Step 4: When students have all shared, and their questions have been answered, the teacher can introduce the next part of the game. In a circle, ask      students to discuss their thoughts and feelings about the stories they heard.  The teacher can explain that when people share with and listen to one      another, as the class has just done, they are helping to make the world a more peaceful place. Fighting often starts when people stop listening to one      another. By hearing the stories of others and creating new stories together, students can practice activities that make peace possible.
     Step 5: Next, ask students to form teams of 2 or 3 people to work together to create a story about peace. These peace stories should include their special      objects in some way.  For instance, if one student brought a picture of her mother and another student brought a favorite toy, these two students could      create a story about a family that lives in peace and has lots of time to play. Or if one student brought a picture he drew and another brought a favorite      food, together they could create a story about a  peaceful town where artists and cooks bring each other gifts of drawings and food.  The possibilities for      stories are endless, and students should be encouraged to be as creative as they can.

     The only “rule” is that all students in the team should help create the story.

     Step 6: Once all the teams are ready to present their stories, form a circle with the whole class.
     Make sure that everyone is included in the circle and that all students can hear the person
     Step 7: The teacher should allow time for all the stories to be shared. When the activity is
     complete, the class can talk about what they thought and felt about the stories. If students
     enjoyed listening to one another, sharing their stories, cooperating in teams, and
     being heard, encourage them to continue the “sharing game” at home and in other
     places. Remind them that sharing and cooperation are very important for creating a
     peaceful world.


Lesson 2 - grades 3-6 - How Conflicts Happen and Change: Using Children’s Literature


      Conflicts begin and develop. They may escalate into violence. They may be solved in a way that positively transforms the relationship of the disputants. Or the provocations may be dissipated, preventing problems from growing into conflicts. The complexity of conflict situations provides multiple opportunities before, during, and after conflicts to build and rebuild peaceful relationships.  We have an obligation to provide our students with examples of quality fiction and nonfiction writing at all times. Ideally, literature should be used as the instrument for the conflict analysis.  This enables teachers to choose stories written in their own language(s) and from their own cultures.  It also enriches the learning unit by employing both storytelling and personal student writing.  The conflict process is a framework for the study, resolution, and transformation of conflict.  Although we try to define the particular stages or phases in which we might find ourselves in a  conflict, the stages often overlap in the conflict process. There is a constant interweaving, as in all  processes, that is not linear or circular. Conflicts are dynamic, with many dimensions that continuously influence one another. Each phase and component, as it changes, causes changes in the others.
For example, when relationships improve, problems that previously seemed impossible may become solvable. These characteristics should be presented and explained when teaching about conflict.
     In preparing to use this material, the concepts of prevention, resolution, and transformation, noted in the Hague Agenda, can be defined and connected to the sub-concepts and stages of conflict described in Chapter 2, Book 1 of Learning to Abolish War.
SOURCE: This learning unit was prepared by Janet Gerson and Jill Strauss (2001) for a teacher training workshop at Teachers College, Columbia University. The authors note that, because conflict process emphasizes the dynamic, organic nature of conflict, it is often best understood in active terms in which the students’ actions determine the learning.
GRADE LEVEL AND SUBJECTS:  Elementary grades, 3 – 6; conflict resolution, reading, language arts
MATERIALS: A story recounting a disagreement, dispute, or break in a relationship (one example is: “The Tree House” by Lois Lawry, in The Big Book for Peace, Ann Durell and Marilyn Sachs, eds. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 1990). Other materials include paper and pencil for each student.

METHODS: Reading; reflection; large and small group discussion
CONCEPTS: Conflict process in stages: anticipating, analyzing, problem-solving—reframing the conflict, assessing options for resolution, planning for change, reconciling, and building positive relationships
OBJECTIVES: Students will:

  • Learn stages of conflict process;
  • Develop creative questions to discover possible nonviolent actions and outcomes for a conflict;
  • Envision and plan actions for positive responses to conflict.



     1. Provide a clear conceptual definition of conflict.
     2. Ask students about conflicts they experienced using the questions in procedure 4 that are correlated
     with some of the stages and concepts of the conflict process.
     3. Tell the students that you will be asking them to write about one of their experiences.
     4. Present the following questions to introduce the conflict process:
(NOTE: The stages of the conflict process are indicated in parenthesis for the teacher.)
"Do you remember a conflict . . ."
     a) when you hoped not to have a conflict? (Stage: anticipation)
     b) when the conflict was over, you thought of a way to handle differences better?  (Stages: anticipation, conflict prevention)
     c) when you worried about not getting along well with someone who is important to you (Stage: anticipation), and thought ahead how to make a situation      work out well?  (Stages: analysis, problem-solving)
     d) when you felt unclear and did not understand the situation and tried to figure out what was happening? (Stage: analysis)
     e) that was solved? (Stage: problem-solving)
     f) when you asked for help to solve the conflict from a mediator, a religious leader, a teacher or someone older in your family? (Stage: seeking mechanisms      for managing conflict)
     g) when you thought about what to do next? (Stage: planning for change)
     h) when you wanted to make changes in the way you got along with the one(s) with whom you were in conflict or in the way you handled conflict? (Stage:      planning for change)
     i) when the relationship was better after the conflict? (Stage: reconciliation)
     j) when the conflict was over, you thought of a better way to handle differences? (Stage: construction of positive relationships)
     5. Outline the stages of the conflict process on the blackboard and relate them to the responses to the questions in Step 4.
     6. Next, ask the students to write about a conflict experience and read their accounts in class.
     7. Then ask what aspect/stages of the conflict process they experienced. Help the students to understand the meaning of the stages of the conflict process by      connecting them with their own experiences.
     8. Reflect together on the different ways you can experience and resolve conflicts.

     1. Divide the students into small groups of 4-5. Tell them that they will be listening to a story about a conflict. Ask them to pay attention to their feelings as things happen in the story, and see if they can identify stages of the conflict process.
     2. Read aloud ”The Tree House” or a similar children’s story recounting a conflict. Stop reading at the moment before the characters resolve their conflict.
     3. Ask students to think about how they felt about the characters' actions. Tell the students to use their feelings, and what they remember of the conflict process, to answer the questions below in their small groups. Each group should pick one person to take notes and another to plan to report to the whole class.

NOTE: It may be necessary to adapt the following questions to the actual story read.

  • How might the story end so that the girls make up (reconcile) and their friendship becomes better? (Stage: construct positive relationships)
  • What could the girls have done differently to prevent the conflict in the first place?  (Stages: anticipation, analysis)
  • What might they do differently in the future? (Stage: planning for change)

     4. Ask students to share their ideas with the whole class. Record the ideas on the blackboard.
     5. Read the end of the story. Compare the outcome of the story to the ideas recorded on the blackboard. Ask students to consider this ending in relation to conflict process stages and their own suggestions. Ask students to think about how the ideas might apply to their own conflicts.
     6. Reflect on and answer any questions about the conflict process and the stages that are part of it.

Lesson 3 - Middle Grades 6-9  "Bystanders"




Questions for Comprehension and Reflection

  • What are some conflicts in my everyday life and how can I resolve them peacefully?
  • Is conflict necessarily bad, or is there a positive side to conflict?
  • How does conflict resolution skills in my personal life affect world peace?



Additional Resources:


This website has an excellent 12 Unit curriculum on conflict resolution unit for middle school students which begins with "What is conflict?" to "What is reconciliation".  Too extensive to duplicate here.  Resources and handouts could be duplicated but too extensive to list all materials here.


Conflict Resolution Education: A Guide to Implementing Programs in Schools, Youth-Serving Organizations, and Community and Juvenile Justice Settingshttp://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/conflic.pdf 
This paper fully outlines the Peaceable Classroom/School approach to CRE, and provides numerous examples of how CRE can be integrated into daily lessons.


Conflict Resolution Education Connection: http://www.creducation.org/

Site dedicated to CRE that provides extensive examples of lesson plans and strategies for teaching conflict resolution.


Educators for Social Responsibility: http://www.esrnational.org/otc/ 

This organization's online teacher center offers specific lesson plans specified by grade level and related to conflict resolution, building community, understanding others, and other similar topics.


Seeds of Peace: http://www.seedsofpeace.org/ 

Although your school will not be able to participate directly in the Seeds for Peace program, this organization's efforts at conflict resolution among youth in some of the world's most volatile areas can serve as both an inspiration and a model for students and programs in your community.


Waging Peace In Our Schools (Lantieri & Patti, 1998)

The book Waging Peace In Our Schools is an excellent resource for conflict resolution education. The book outlines a project called the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program, which was developed in the New York City public school system. This program involved the whole school in reducing conflicts and solving conflicts in constructive ways. The program involved training in conflict resolution skills, training of peer mediators to solve problems between students, and active listening training.


http://www.seedsofcompassion.net/why/classroom_resources.asp - excellent lessons for all grade levels on teaching compassion 


Comments (3)

Julia Smith said

at 11:47 am on Aug 11, 2010

To Keep with Consistency, we need a lesson plan in this section. I'll look for one but if someone has one, please share!

Julia Smith said

at 11:50 am on Aug 11, 2010

Gwen Stamm said

at 1:00 pm on Aug 16, 2010

Hi Julia,

This lesson seems like a good start in addressing conflict within a classroom or community. I can look for additional lessons that would be appropriate for other conflict situations.

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