Conflict Resolution Education and Social Emotional Learning:
Jones, Tricia S., & Kmitta, Daniel, (Eds.). (2000). Does It Work? The Case for Conflict Education in Our Nation's Schools. Washington, DC: The Conflict Resolution Education Network (now the Association for Conflict Resolution). (Available through www.acresolution.org)
This volume summarizes the results of the CRE research symposia and white papers sponsored by the United States Department of Education and convened by the Conflict Resolution Education Network. The purpose of the symposium was to examine the results of current research and evaluation of school-based conflict resolution education (CRE) programs (kindergarten - 12th grades) in relation to identified needs of educators. The research summaries focused on five topic areas: impacts on students, impacts on educators/teachers, impacts on diverse student populations, impact on school climate and issues of institutionalization. The research on the effects of CRE on students is by far the most substantive. The major findings from the research regarding CRE and the effects on students demonstrate that CRE programs increase: academic achievement, positive attitudes toward school, assertiveness, cooperation, communication skills, healthy interpersonal/inter-group relations, constructive CR at home and school, and self-control. Research also suggests that CRE decreases: aggressiveness, discipline referrals, drop-out rates, social withdrawal, suspension rates, victimized behavior, and violence. In terms of impact on educators there is little research on the effects of CRE on teachers. While we assume that training teachers how to train/teach students CRE improves the teachers' use of CRE this is not proven. There is substantial evidence that CRE positively impacts school climate in terms of reducing disciplinary actions and suspensions, improving school climate (especially for elementary schools) and improving classroom climate.
Unfortunately, there is very little research on the impacts of CRE on diverse populations. Measures of success do not include diversity-relevant outcomes (impact on inter-group relations or community harmony is largely ignored) and issues of class or socioeconomic status receive very little attention. However, there is evidence that CRE programs that focus on systemic bias or include "contact theory" can improve inter-group relations and promote just communities.
There are several general criticisms of the research on CRE. Few CRE program evaluations fulfill scientific criteria for methodology and appropriate data analysis. We need standardized assessment instruments and common definition of concepts and terms (variables). Appropriateness of conflict resolution and current models to diverse populations should not be automatically assumed.
There is a tendency to use and evaluate only peer mediation programs because peer mediation programs are tied to disciplinary systems. There is a need to engage in research that involves high quality triangulation - where multiple methods are used in conjunction. This is particularly important in terms of collecting information - stories - about how different groups/people experience conflict and conflict resolution education and integrating this with more quantitative outcome measures. There is a serious need for more longitudinal research so we can have evidence of change over time for students, educators, and schools.
Johnson, D. W., and Johnson, R. T. "Conflict Resolution and Peer Mediation Programs in Elementary and Secondary Schools: A Review of the Research." Review of Educational Research, 1996, 66, 459-506.
This early review of the literature focused primarily on peer mediation programs and conflict education within a cooperative learning context. The review reports generally positive findings for efficacy of peer mediation and conflict education, particularly on increases in students' conflict knowledge, self-reported pro-social behavior, and negotiation skills. There is also evidence of positive impact on classroom climate.
Greenberg, Mark T., Weissberg, R., Utne-O'Brien, M., Zins, J., Fredericks, L., Resnik, H., & Elias, M. (2003). Enhancing school-based prevention and youth development through coordinated social, emotional and academic learning. American Psychologist, 58(6/7), 466-474.
This recent review of school-based intervention and youth development initiatives concludes that programs in this area are most beneficial when they simultaneously enhance students' personal and social assets as well as improve the quality of the environments in which students are educated. They cite a metanalysis completed by Catalano et al (2002) of positive youth development programs indicating that their analysis suggests these programs definitely make a difference in improvements in interpersonal skills, quality of peer and adult relationships, and academic achievement; as well as reductions in problem behaviors such as school misbehavior and truancy, violence and aggression. Skills building components and environmental change initiatives were very important. They stressed that optimal delivery of programs was through teachers educated in these areas, integrating these concepts throughout conventional curricula, and over a longer period of time (6-9 months). Basically, impacts are most impressive when teachers teach this material as a component of their regular teaching approach.
Zins, J. E., Weissberg, R. P., Wang, M. C., & Walberg, H. J. (Eds). (2004). Building school success through social and emotional learning. New York: Teachers College Press.
Zins, Weissberg, Wang, and Walberg (in press) note that research proves conclusively that students' social-emotional competence fosters better academic performance. When students are more self-aware and emotionally connected they can focus on academics and achieve in a supportive environment. The kinds of supports that produced these impacts included: (a) safe and orderly school and classroom environments, (b) caring relationships between teachers and students that foster commitment and connection to school, (c) engaging teaching approaches such as cooperative learning and proactive classroom management.
Weissberg, R. P., & Greenberg, M. T. (1998). School and community competence enhancement and prevention programs. In I. E. Siegel & K. A. Renninger (Vol. Eds.), Handbook of child psychology, Vol. 4, Child psychology in practice (5th Edition, pp. 877-954). New York: Wiley.
This comprehensive review of the social and emotional learning programs and violence prevention programs makes a strong argument for the efficacy of SEL programs on the development of core emotional competencies, especially for younger children.