Perspectives of Primary School Peer Mediators on Their Mediation Practices

Tarkan Kacmaz
Dokuz Eylul University, Conflict Resolution Research Center, Izmir-TURKEY

Problem statement: The effectiveness of conflict resolution and peer mediation training programs was reported by various researchers worldwide. A great majority of research studies deal with the overall effectiveness of conflict resolution and peer mediation training programs and the effectiveness of the peer mediation process in actual conflicts. However, little attention was paid to exploring the problems and concerns of peer mediators who attempt to facilitate the negotiation of disputants’ conflicts. Therefore, the current study deals with conflict resolution and peer mediation training and procedures from the mediators’ perspectives.
Purpose of the study: The purpose of the study was to analyze the experiences of primary school peer mediator students through their perspectives, while mediating the interpersonal conflicts of fourth- and fifth-year primary school students.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were used to collect qualitative data. A total of 60 students were interviewed and the data collected were analyzed through content analysis. The results were reported both as quantitative (frequency and percentage) analysis and actual student statements.
Findings and results: The results of the study indicated that peer mediators were, indeed, happy about the mediation process and felt special for helping their friends make peace. Mediator students stated that the mediation process improved their self-esteem and self-confidence, helped develop their conflict resolution and communication skills, enabled them to understand other students and the reasons underlying fights, reduced interpersonal conflicts and fights, and improved their relationships with their peers. Mediator students used the skills they acquired outside the school context as well. Nevertheless, a small number of students reported that some of the disputing students showed resistance, misconstrued and disparaged the mediation process, and would not listen to each other, thus causing the mediator students feel helpless.
Conclusions and recommendations: Conflict resolution and peer mediation training and skills directly affect and develop students’ constructive conflict resolution skills, empathetic skills, self-expression skills, and understanding skills. Hence, the actual and direct improvement is observed in students’ positive life skills. As the students develop more positive life skills, they naturally resort less to negative and destructive conflict resolution strategies and destructive anger management methods. Furthermore, promoting a peer mediation model could contribute greatly to the personal development of students and increase instruction time. Thus, on one hand, student violence will decrease, and, on the other hand, students will acquire essential life skills and improve academically.
Keywords: Peer mediation, conflict resolution, peace education, school discipline