Online Journal of Peace and Conflict Resolution -- 1.5

The Handbook of Conflict Resolution Education, by Richard J. Bodine and Donna K. Crawford.

1998. Jossey-Bass. 218 pp. including index.

Conflict Resolution in the Schools: A Manual for Educators by Kathryn Girard and Susan J. Koch.

1996. Jossey-Bass. 187 pp. including index.

If the number of information requests this Journal receives from parents and teachers is any indication, there is a large amount of interest in creating and improving conflict resolution education in public schools in the United States. These books provide a good introduction to the complexities and creativity in the field today.

The Handbook of Conflict Resolution Education seems to have been written to provide assistance to parents and administrators who wish to begin conflict resolution programs. The first section sets out the case for conflict resolution education and presents a detailed argument considering not only highly visible issues such as school violence and diversity, but also how conflict resolution works within the goals of public education itself.

The Handbook is not only a collection of evidence about the need for conflict resolution education, but also considers how a school should proceed and which path to follow. The authors explain that there have been four major educational approaches. The process curriculum approach uses a specific class time to teach concepts and skills. The mediation program approach uses a limited number of trained participants who mediate school disputes and, hopefully, disseminate their experience to others. The peaceable classroom approach incorporates conflict resolution into all aspects of a child's classroom behavior and experience. A fourth approach is the peaceable school which expands the peaceable classroom to the entire school experience.

Within these approaches, the Handbook illustrates successful programs and provides ideas about the benefits and detriments of each as well as resources for further research. This is followed by an overview of the relevant research on conflict resolution programs. Another chapter explains the expected steps of development as children experience different elements of the programs. The Handbook concludes with two chapters on how to create and start a conflict resolution program. The information is not overly simplified and illustrates the administrative and educational steps necessary to implement an effective program.

There are also three appendices which provide a wealth of useful information. The first is a list of organizations which provide training or consulting services to schools. Unfortunately, physical addresses and phone numbers are listed, but no electronic options are included. The second appendix is an annotated bibliography of curriculum resources. Along with the usual citation information, the materials are evaluated for audience, focus, key strategies, type of material, and cost. Contact addresses and phone numbers (again with no electronic options) are also provided for the publishers. The final appendix explains how to select providers of staff development and curriculum services.

The Handbook of Conflict Resolution Education will be most useful for parents and education advocates who desire an intelligent, comprehensive introduction to conflict resolution programs in schools. It provides enough information, and enough reality, to greatly improve the quality of debate regarding the approach in both PTA and school board meetings.

Where the Handbook is intended more for decision makers or interested parents, Conflict Resolution in the Schools: A Manual for Educators is for the teachers who will be providing conflict resolution education. The Manual is actually an outline of a curriculum for training school staff and personnel. It is broken into four modules which provide goals, background materials, and exercises to improve skills and comprehension.

The Manual begins by examining "The Nature of Conflict" by building on three key concepts: conflict is neither inherently good nor bad, conflict is pervasive, and we can effect how conflict is managed. Exercises state both objectives and procedures and seem to be useful and not overly complicated.

The other three modules deal with "Concepts and Skills," "Alternative Dispute Resolution Processes," and " Conflict Resolution in Education." All of the modules are developed with enough additional material to provide good insight into the goals and answer most expected questions.

After the modules, there are multiple appendices which contain a glossary, guidance for role paying, course outlines, and a recommended reading list. There is also a small article from Susan Koch about the relationship between power and conflict resolution.

It is an unfortunate fact that many school districts wish to provide conflict resolution education to their students, yet are kept from hiring a large training staff or consultant by budgetary constraints. With limited resources, a few motivated individuals and a copy of Conflict Resolution in the Schools could make a difference.

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