Part 4: Embedding Opportunities for Students to Practice Conflict Management
- Embedding Practice Opportunities for Part 1: Teaching Students What Conflict Management Is and Why It Is Important
- Embedding Practice Opportunities for Part 2: Understanding Your Ability to Manage Conflicts
- Embedding Practice Opportunities for Part 3: Understanding Your Usual Response to Conflict
Part 4: Embedding Opportunities for Students to Practice Conflict Management
You have finished exploring instructional activities to address three learning targets:
- Part 1: Students can define conflict and conflict management, identify instances of conflict in their lives, and explain the importance of developing conflict management skills. Students understand that conflict can be productive when handled appropriately and that conflict management can be learned—it is not something that comes naturally.
- Part 2: Students can identify their strengths and challenges in managing conflict.
- Part 3: Students are able to recognize different conflict management styles and discern the appropriateness of each reaction for various contexts and situations. Through the Conflict Management Styles Assessment, students learn more about their natural inclination when responding to conflict.
This portion of the module will explore ways to embed opportunities for students to practice concepts covered in Parts 1–3 with feedback and facilitated reflection.
Let’s begin by revisiting the Six Instructional Criteria (Gaumer Erickson, Noonan, and Cooper, 2017) for conflict management instruction.
Instructional Criterion 4 entails providing students with opportunities to practice conflict management. Students need ongoing opportunities to practice the entire conflict management process, including all three components. The ideal practice opportunities are during group discussions, daily interactions with other students, parents, or friends and when students feel misunderstood. Many students may need to start practicing conflict management in comfortable situations, such as during a friendly disagreement about which team is better in basketball. They can practice identifying the reason for the conflict, the perspectives of each person involved, and taking steps to manage the conflict in a situation when the conflict doesn’t feel threatening and the outcome is not critical.
You expect students to practice applying academic concepts after instruction, and practicing a competency—like conflict management—is no different. Just as you would expect your students to practice writing an essay or solving different math problems, they need to practice applying conflict management concepts in authentic situations.
We provide students with feedback on how they are doing in managing conflict. Feedback is the fifth instructional criterion. You routinely provide your students with feedback on how they are doing with different academic concepts when you give students guidance on their work through suggestions, corrections, or recognition of growth in those concepts. Providing students with feedback on how they are managing conflict will ensure that they understand what they are doing well and where they need to improve in managing conflict. Some opportunities to provide students with feedback are noticing when they use a conflict management style appropriate for a situation or when they apply techniques to manage the conflict, such as walking away or taking a deep breath and considering their actions before reacting to a situation.
Giving students opportunities to reflect as they practice conflict management is a critical action that will improve their ability to identify the reason for the conflict, understand the perspectives of all involved, and take steps to resolve the conflict. Some questions to prompt student reflection are:
- What is going well or what is not going well as you work through various conflicts in your life?
- Is there a style or strategy you find particularly useful?
- How does your ability to manage conflict impact the outcome of various situations?
4. Reflect and Apply: To help you better understand embedding instructional criteria into content, review this video of an educator who provided conflict management practice in her social studies classroom. Listen for the first four instructional criteria and how Casie addressed Criteria 5 and 6 (getting feedback and reflecting on practice efforts). Record your thoughts on page 8 of the Educator Workbook.
Let’s review how Casie embedded each instructional criteria into her conflict management instruction.
- Using the Sesame Street video, Casie addressed Instructional Criterion 1 to create a basic understanding of conflict management. We also hear her define conflict management for her students and discuss each component.
- Casie addressed Instructional Criterion 2 (understanding how conflict management is important to them personally) by asking the students to provide different scenarios based on conflicts they had experienced at home or in school. This helped the students understand the importance of conflict management by giving students authentic scenarios (e.g., arguments at recess) in which the outcome can be altered with various styles/strategies to manage conflict. She also mentions that she talked to her students about how they will use conflict management as adults.
- For Instructional Criterion 3, we hear Casie talk about giving her students the Knowledge Test, analyzing the results, and asking students to reflect on how accurate they feel the results were.
- For Instructional Criterion 4, Casie created opportunities for her students to practice increasing their ability to manage conflict through project-based learning and other group projects in which students needed to interact respectfully with each other to complete the work. She also mentions using an anchor chart that her students can refer to on a daily basis.
- Casie addressed Instructional Criterion 5, feedback, by having her students work in groups of three and provide each other with feedback on how well they were addressing each of the components while role-playing their scenarios.
- Casie mentioned that her students spent quite a lot of time reviewing the Knowledge test results and reflecting (Instructional Criterion 6) on which components of conflict management were strengths and which proved to be more challenging. She likely also asked students to reflect on the effectiveness of their group work after learning conflict management.
Embedding Practice Opportunities for Part 1: Teaching Students What Conflict Management Is and Why It Is Important
It is important to use your course content to deepen students’ understanding of what conflict management is and why it can be important to people (e.g., literary characters in English, historical figures in social studies, scientists in biology or other sciences). As students are introduced to content-specific figures, ask them to reflect on how conflict management helped this person accomplish their goal. Provide written or verbal feedback reinforcing the connection between practicing conflict management (or providing elaboration as needed) and managing the outcome of a situation. Encourage students to reflect on their learning, including how that person’s example of conflict management might be relevant to their own life. Students can also practice analyzing situations within your content such as historical events, athletic competitions, or scientific discoveries and determine the extent to which conflict management was applied.
The second practice idea is to embed journaling opportunities where students can write about their conflict management experiences every couple of weeks. Prompt students to write about why conflict management is important for tasks they are working on in school or in life. Ask them to determine how conflict management will help them accomplish a task. Provide students with feedback on their journal entries.
Embedding Practice Opportunities for Part 2: Understanding Your Ability to Manage Conflicts
In Part 2, you explored activities to help students understand which areas of conflict management they may already be doing well and which areas they may find more challenging. In Teach Students: 2b. How Does My Response to Conflict Affect the Outcome?, students used the Conflict/Response/Outcome Table to track how their responses to conflict impacted the outcome of a situation. Use the Conflict/Response/Outcome Table routinely in your classroom as an expanded practice activity by having students update it weekly, give them feedback each week, and reflect on their progress over time.
Another way you could embed practice for Part 2 and help students understand which component(s) of conflict management is a strength for them and which one they find more challenging is to ask students to complete a reflection ticket related to their strengths and challenges managing conflict.
Improving my ability to manage conflict is important because __________.
Embedding Practice Opportunities for Part 3: Understanding Your Usual Response to Conflict
In Part 3, students were introduced to the different conflict management styles and spent time determining which conflict management style they usually use. Finally, students began thinking about which conflict management style is appropriate for different situations. As you discuss people or events related to your content, ask your students to identify which conflict management style was used in a situation and how using this style impacted the outcome of the situation. How would the use of a different style have altered the result? Then, ask students to relate the person or event to their own situations by discussing how their use of the same conflict management style resulted in a similar outcome.
A second way that you can help students practice understanding their natural ability to manage conflict and learning to choose a conflict management style that is appropriate for a situation would be to ask students to keep a Conflict Management Styles Log. As students experience conflict in school, in extracurricular activities, or at home, ask them to determine which style they used during a specific conflict and how it impacted the outcome. Periodically, provide students with written or verbal feedback when you notice them demonstrating one of the styles. Then, as we continue to learn different approaches to managing conflict, have students update their logs.
Additional instructional activities are described in Teaching Conflict Management in Middle and High School Classrooms by Noonan & Gaumer Erickson (2017). Facilitated virtual and onsite professional learning is provided internationally by recognized Competency Framework Trainers. Determine your next steps using the checklist on page 12 of the Educator Workbook.