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Keeping the peace: Conflict resolution techniques in a sixth grade classroom

16 December 1993


The classroom is a place where children develop an understanding about relationships among people and how people act when conflict arises. The purpose of this paper was to investigate the conflict resolution techniques children were being exposed to in a sixth grade classroom at Elmonica Elementary School. Deutsch's (1973) theory of constructive and destructive conflict resolution guided the examination of conflict resolution techniques used in the classroom.

The classroom was studied for four days over the course of a month. The paper included narrative accounts of what was observed in the classroom during that time period. The investigation revealed conflicts in the classroom were resolved destructively as a result of competition, intolerance, poor communication, inappropriate expression of emotion, a lack of conflict resolution skills and, misuse of power by the teacher. It was also found the teacher failed to model constructive conflict resolution techniques. In addition, there was not an integration of conflict resolution skills into the curriculum.

Implications which emerged from the study were that teaching conflict management needed to be implemented holistically with the teacher serving as a role model for resolving conflict constructively. It was also found conflict resolution was a learned skill. The skill required the students to be able to work together in cooperation, communicate positively, identify and discuss their feelings, demonstrate a tolerance: for diversity, identify conflict, and devise plans for resolving conflict. Students needed opportunities to rehearse the skills and to be provided with feedback about their effectiveness in using the skills.


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