These days many children spend more time with their peers in school. With peers, children can be both connected and independent, also develop their own identities. The peer relationship is an important and inevitable social group, because children derive opportunities to learn social skills and to build a sense of self-confidence from interacting with peers. However, sometimes children in groups have interpersonal disputes like friendship issues, verbal harassment, spreading rumours, physical aggression, or other bullying behaviours in school.
Also, these conflicts may well escalate if unresolved, and there has been much evidence these days of some of the possible results, with the level of violence occurring in schools among children. This is important as it has implications for the general climate of any school, the security and well-being of teachers and other children at school, and later on at the end of any period. The results that schools get in terms of the types of citizens produced in relation to social conduct, values and attitudes, and examination results, which will determine an individual's ability to take his or her place in the world of work later and make any significant contribution to the overall success of the society.
Therefore, ways and means have to be found to help to either prevent these situations or correct them when they arise; and as the literature shows, although the notion of conflict is an inevitable phenomenon in the lives of young people, it has the potential to be either constructive or destructive and therefore has to be confronted and not avoided. In addition, the nature of the outcome depends on the way in which it is handled, remembering that there are only a few things that are more important to society today than teaching young people creative and non-violent ways of handling conflicts (Lampen and Lampen, 1997 as cited in Baginsky, 2004).
It is also pointed out that some of these ways are peer- helping programmes that are defined using more than thirty different terms. (Carr, 1994 as cited in Cowie and Sharp, 1996:12) However, one of the most useful is peer mediation, as a well-planned peer mediation programme is an effective way to reduce conflict and provide children with problem-solving skills that they will need both to maximize their tenure in school and to function effectively throughout life.
The issue of peer mediation in schools is important to the writer in the sense that although somewhat inconclusive regarding the exact extent of peer mediation in schools, the results of formal research, and personal observation suggest that where such programmes are attempted there are positive results. Also, there are some schools that do not practise peer mediation as a means of resolving conflicts among students. Besides, there are some persons, including school children, who are not fully aware of the possibility of using peer mediation as a means of resolving conflicts, as well as its benefits. In many cases, several negative results including teacher attrition, and general misbehaviour among children resulting quite often in poor academic performance and other breakdowns, exist in schools that do not practise any form of structured violence-prevention and conflict resolution programmes.
Another main reason for being interested in the issue of peer mediation is that the trend today is not to resort to punishment as a means of addressing behavioural problems, but rather using milder strategies and preventative rather than corrective methods. Therefore, if pupils are taught mediating skills, then there should be little or no need for punishment as conflicts would not only be addressed after the fact, but as much as possible, they would be controlled from the beginning.
There is also the belief that the extent to which peer mediation is now being used in schools in the
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
It is with the preceding in mind that the decision was taken to carry out a study to investigate children's general understanding about peer mediation and their experiences in this area, including how they use it to solve problems with their peers. It will also seek to find out their views on peer mediation and its effectiveness, and the way in which schools support the goals and process of peer mediation.
More specifically, the study proposes to
The study will attempt to provide answers to the following research questions:
DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
The nature and purpose of a study determine the design and methodology to be used, and given the need to gather data from a cross-section of respondents during the proposed study the survey method will be used.
Two samples will be used: one for the pilot and one for the final investigation and the final group will be drawn from children between 10 and 13 years old from 20 schools. Eight students (four boys and four girls) will be used from each school giving a total of 160 children.
The samples will be stratified with the stratifying criterion being schools, grade levels according to the year of study in the primary school, and gender. This decision was taken even though stratified sampling takes more time and needs more money than any other methods of sampling do. This is because stratified sampling can reduce sampling errors and represent the population. Therefore, a sample of 160 children can represent many children through the random selection. Furthermore, an important aspect of stratification is that it can be used to select more than one satisfying criteria, it gives more proportional representation of different criteria. The group selected for the pilot exercise will be a convenience sample. It will consist of a limited number of participants to be randomly chosen from a school convenient to the researcher.
The proposed instruments to be used to gather data for the research are:
After consulting the literature, a list of indicators will be compiled for different areas related to peer mediation, and items will be developed for the different instruments. These will be developed and scrutinized by an expert and piloted in order to address ambiguities and any other flaws that may impact on the reliability and validity of the results (Tuckman, 1978).
The piloting should take place over a one-week period after which the necessary adjustments will be made to the instruments in preparation for the administration of the final instruments over a period.
There will be interviews with teachers about how the schools support the process of peer mediation. For example, whether or not the schools provide well-planned peer mediation programmes including aspects such as training; how evaluation and monitoring of the peer mediation process are conducted. They will also be questioned about their opinions on peer mediation and its effectiveness. Assistance will be sought from one member of staff who will take responsibility for carrying out the final administration exercise in order to speed up the process.
The risks that will be involved upon undertaking this research study include the approval of the participants to allow the researcher to observe and conduct the survey and interview. The request must be approved first by them and other authorities (parents, guardians, and teachers), thus, the researcher will ensure that no individuals oppose to the request (Resnik and Shamoo, 2003). In this research inquiry, the researcher made it sure that there is a mutual consensus between the involved parties.
Participants in the research were treated as autonomous agents (ones with the capability of deciding and making choices for themselves). The researcher is accountable for participants with diminished autonomy (i.e. children, those who are not of full faculty, those with severe disorders and disabilities, and learning capabilities). Traditionally, consent follows when researcher and participants have adequately communicated over the options, risks, benefits and costs of a proposed procedure. However, other barriers, beyond those of poor communication, can prevent fully informed consent.
After which, the researcher will also ensure that the participants will be observed and interviewed or surveyed in the best comfortable time available to avoid much conflict especially on their class or work schedules. The observation will take place on the area of the participants. If ever that in the future this research will affect the participants somehow, the researcher will also ensure that the said conflict or problems will be easily remedied, to ensure trust from the respondents.
The importance of such ethical considerations is to avoid conflicts and misunderstanding during the survey or interview and overall research process. The researcher respects the participant's schedule prior to their convenience. Moreover, the researcher plans to build a comfortable and harmonious atmosphere with the participants so that they can answer the interview accurately and precise. The researcher will also avoid unnecessary arguments with the participants and if the participants ask something, the researcher will reply in a manner that would not be offensive to the participants or to other related individuals. Finally, the researcher will not cause any harm to the participants and considered the outcome of the study a good contribution to the participants themselves, schools and its administrators, teachers, field of science, society, and the whole humanity.
The proposed research will be supported by theory and empirical data related to the variables under investigation. Reference will be made to the findings of research carried out at different times, in different locations, and with varying results on different aspects of parental involvement as it relates to academic performance.
WHAT IS PEER MEDIATION?
This refers to a process whereby people involved in a dispute voluntarily enter into an agreement to resolve the problem collaboratively or through negotiations. Also, by establishing ground rules for the conduct of the mediation, a neutral mediator enables the participants to identify the issues by talking about the situation from their own point of view. The process is observed by a neutral person, and after an amicable solution is arrived at, the two varying parties sign an agreement. The neutral observer neither gives any advice nor imposes a solution. Peer mediation is invariably considered to be one of a range of techniques and skills under the much broader concept of conflict resolution (Baginsky, 2004:3).
This process quite similar to the system devised for schools, "but with pupil mediating disputes between pupils" (Baginsky, 2004:3). The trained students who are taught communication and mediation skills can register as peer mediators. Peer mediators exhibit high levels of self- control, helpfulness, and respect for individual differences. They ask the disputing students to tell their stories and ask questions for clarification. The mediators help the students to identify ways to solve the conflict (Hawley, 1997).
Peer mediation is not about finding who is right or wrong. "A method for the resolution of conflict through peer mediation has evolved from the realization of the need to create a "win-win" situation (Cowie and Sharp, 1996:23). Furthermore, peer mediation processes work best when they part of a whole school approach and have the widespread support of teachers, parents and governments.
For the purpose of this research, peer group mediation will refer to any structured programme that is put in place in a school to enable pupils to assist in the resolution of conflicts among their peers. The issue of conflict is important in relation to peer mediation as peer mediation is not meaningful unless it is based on the notion that conflicts will always exist and can be potentially constructive or destructive (Tyrrell, 2002; Lampen and Lampen, 1997).
The literature also points out that peer mediation presupposes that children and young people, following suitable training and with ongoing support, are capable of resolving conflicts for themselves (Baginsky, 2004:4).
THE DEVELOPMENT OF PEER MEDIATION IN THE
According to the literature, the extent to which peer mediation is being used in schools in the
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