Mediation Skills in the Classroom and Beyond

When it comes to higher education institutions, mediation [training] models appropriate problem-solving skills for students and provides them with a quality coveted by today’s employers.

Kayla Matthews

In this article, Kayla Matthews (2019) goes over seven benefits of mediation programs and processes in higher education settings. Matthews refers both to the formal mediation process as well as to the benefits of a more collaborative process, often associated with mediation training, rather than the authoritarian model still found in some classrooms. Whatever form of mediation tools you might use, the benefits are many.

As summarized by Matthews, mediation programs and processes:
1. Teach problem-solving skills as a process. She emphasizes that solving issues and problems is a process that takes time.
2. Prove less intimidating than discipline policies. Open, confidential communication may result in a resolution that doesn’t invoke a disciplinary policy.
3. Encourage multi-tiered, democratic leadership.  Collaborative decision-making within a program, department, or college can lead to consistent implementation of policies and more clarity for students on what is expected of them to achieve success.
4. Encourage open dialogue between students and instructors. Using mediation techniques like establishing conversational parameters, setting a goal for the meeting, and identifying the problem clearly through active listening allow for the possibility of successful problem resolution at an informal level.
5. Model valuable soft skills for students.  Through developing familiarity with mediation tools, students can become more effective at communication, collaborate more successfully in teams, and have better problem-solving and conflict resolution skills. 
6. Encourage self-reflection and awareness. Spoken and unspoken communication can have unintended consequences. Mediation tools such as summarizing, asking open-ended questions, and learning to apologize can make the speaker more aware of the impact they are having on another person and work, actively, the redirect the conversation.
7. Can transform higher education institutions. Matthews also points out that implementing mediation programs takes time, effort, and money. Although most higher institutions struggle with these constraints, the investment has a great payoff in terms of an improved, more collegial work and learning environment.

To conclude, mediation offers many tools to improve communication and problem-solving skills. Read Matthews’ full article here. UNM offers free mediation services and training resources to students, staff, and faculty. Contact us (ombudsfac [at] unm.edu) for more information about faculty resources.

Chalon Johnson
Graduate Assistant, ODR Services for Faculty
PhD student, COE, Educational Psychology

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