The impact of teaching conflict-resolution strategies on school discipline

The intention of this action research is to assess whether receiving training in conflict resolution strategies reduces the incidents of aggression on campus. The grade of the students involved range from kindergarten through sixth grade. The data does not include suspensions and expulsions given in the last two months of the school year because the individual who conducted the project needed to complete the university course work by the end of May. This applied research examines a Conflict Resolution Program instituted at an elementary school in the Fall of 1997. In previous years, the discipline plan consisted of a system of detention and suspensions. Students did not receive consistent and systematic assistance in solving conflict effectively. During the Fall of 1995 through the Spring of 1997, the discipline program was based on a referral system that assigned students to a classroom for in-house suspension or placed them in a detention room · during recesses. The infractions included behaviors such as fighting, stealing, defiance, vandalism, intimidation, using profanity, possession of a weapon, and sexual harassment. Students opted to solve problems through the use of violence, put downs, harassments and threats. In the Fall of 1997, the district started a Zero Tolerance program and as a result, a discipline committee was created. After conducting a needs assessment the results indicated the need to schedule staff development for teachers in Conflict Resolution. Students needed to be trained in using Conflict Resolution strategies to solve problems. Weekly lessons were implemented to help students identify the problem, brainstorm for solutions, select the best alternative and evaluate the outcome. The lessons included class dialogues, projects, role-playing, group participation, student vs. student conflict, teacher vs. student conflict and discussion scenarios. Records of violent incidents and violations were updated once a week, this helped assess if using the strategies modified student behavior. As the data was assessed, various themes began to emerge that emphasized areas that needed to be evaluated. In addition, they suggested variables that influenced the outcome of the results: • A positive school environment was crucial when promoting appropriate student behavior; •Consistency and clarity in providing behavioral expectations and strategies were essential; •Staff training and commitment were necessary to implement the program. Data analysis revealed that classroom instruction in conflict resolution strategies helped students learn problem solving strategies that contributed to a reduced number of violent incidents and more tolerant school environment.