Recently, a group of students from Humber’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Ontario graduate certificate program took their skills on the road and provided peer mediation training to West Humber Collegiate Institute (WHCI) students.
“Over the course of my career I’ve witnessed the incredible leadership and influence of young people. I sought to engage our students in a formal process to actively resolve or prevent conflict amongst their peers,” said Jennifer Ladouceur, vice-principal, West Humber Collegiate Institute. “It was through a search on the internet that I found the Humber program aligned with this idea.”
Mary Lee, program coordinator of Humber’s Alternative Dispute Resolution program, engaged her students to design a conflict management workshop for WHCI. “They took it upon themselves to design and administer a four-week peer mediation program so the secondary school students could be empowered and trained to help resolve issues with their peers,” she says.
The group of five Humber students trained a group of Grade 10, 11 and 12 WHCI students to constructively navigate interpersonal conflict among their peers. Students received hands-on training on how to understand, analyze and transform conflict within a peer mediation setting. The program focused on emotional intelligence, productive communication and experienced conflict prevention/resolution strategies. It also taught students how to intervene when they see bullying take place.
Greg Owens, an Alternate Dispute Resolution student, says working with the students from WHCI provided the opportunity to participate in conflict coaching and to apply what he learned in class. “This real-world experience provided me with an understanding of the need and importance of conflict resolution being taught to youth, especially given the increased levels of cyber-bullying and reporting of violence among youth.”
WHCI students were receptive and engaged in the training, and the next phase of the project will see the students begin to mediate challenges amongst peers. The Humber College students will then move from trainers to coaches, providing support.
“One of the main things that I learned is that practical skills in mediation are very important. Also, while watching the students in role play, I learned that so much focus is placed on the emotions of the parties in mediation, and not enough on the emotions of the mediator when guiding the parties,” said Victory Dickson, Alternative Dispute student. “This changed my perspective and my approach to mediation in the world of alternative dispute resolution. Both of these takeaways would no doubt help guide me in a future career as a mediator.”
According to the Canadian Red Cross, Canadian teachers ranked bullying as their issue of most significant concern — 89 per cent said bullying and violence are serious problems in our schools.
“Youth are already on the frontline of this issue, providing them with the skills to address bullying can only help. Youth, particularly those with leadership skills, have the social capitol amongst their peers to engage in a dialogue about bullying and intervene before the issue escalates,” said Ladouceur. “In addition, schools are places of learning, and not just math, science, English, etc., but also life skills. Fostering an environment where our students are learning to engage in real life problems, like bullying, only serves to strengthen our mandate as educators.”
The goal of the program is to empower students to prevent, resolve and transform nonviolent conflict and to take a step toward building peace within the community.