March 6, 2009

Sample Research Proposal on Do pupils have information about Per Mediation and its Effectiveness

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 UK is unknown, and it could be quite possible that through this research there could be some light thrown on such a question.

           

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

  1. ascertain the extent to which students have information about peer mediation and its effectiveness; and
  2. identify the ways in which schools support the goals and process of peer mediation.

 

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The study will attempt to provide answers to the following research questions:

 

  1. What information do students have about peer mediation?
  2. What experience do students have about peer mediation?
  3. What is the nature of the support given to the process of peer mediation?

 

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.

 

SAMPLE

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.

 

SAMPLE PROCEDURE

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.

 

INSTRUMENTS

The proposed instruments to be used to gather data for the research are:

 

  1. Questionnaire for the pupils
  2. Interview schedules for the teachers

 

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.

 

ETHICAL ISSUES

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.

LITERATURE REVIEW

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 UK

According to the literature, the extent to which peer mediation is being used in schools in the UK is not known. However, it is suggested that conflict resolution in schools began in the early 1980s, and several groups have intervened since then in different ways and to varying extents (Baginsky, 2004, Tyrell, 2002; Bitel and Roberts, 2003; Liebmann, 1998; Bentley, 1996; Bowers et al., 1989). Work on conflict resolution and peer mediation originally focused on primary schools (Liebmann, 1998) but has spread significantly and is now evident at the secondary level.

 

Baginsky (2004) points out that the work with particular schools often resulted from government initiatives; and the routes by which peer mediation has been introduced in schools include community mediation services extending their work to the schools, and groups working with young offenders.

 

Regarding funding, Tyrell (2002) suggested that this was received from various sources, and Baginsky, 2004 argued that the impetus for schools included concerns about community problems that affected them, violence encountered by young people, and enthusiasm for the value of conflict resolution by some individual teachers.

 

THE EFFECTIVENESS OF PEER MEDIATION

        Benefits to pupils

Generally, peer mediation programmes provide young people with the dispute resolution skills required to help resolve conflicts that arise between fellow students. These programmes were introduced in order to provide a forum to resolve conflicts between students in the playground; reduce aggressive behaviour in general; and improve the environment in schools.

 

As discussed in the literature, "conflict resolution and peer mediation programmes benefit both children as individual and schools as institutions" (Baginsky, 2004:19). According to Stuart's (1991) research about pupils (aged 8-10 years) in elementary school in Virginia, peer mediation programme improved pupil's self esteem and increased a greater sense of responsibility promoted pupil's problem solving, communication, cooperation and critical thinking skills (cited in Cowie and Wallace, 2000:32).

 

In a news article by Devine (2005), peer mediation is seen to be a very effective anti-bullying strategy. This is proven upon the research of University of Glamorgan academic Professor Marion Kloep among primary schools in Bridgend in which a 'playground peacemaker programme' was introduced. In this programme, a training process for students to work as peer mediators was conducted. Its aim is to understand conflict and make use of problem-solving skills to resolve disagreements. To evaluate the result of this programme, a psychology major student Victoria Kirsty Morgan probed after the county's schools commenced to use the approach. Results found showed that it was having a definite impact on pupil behaviour. The peacemaker programme is said to save the time lost by more conventional, but less successful, ways of managing conflicts between pupils (Devine, 2005: 27).

 

On the contrary, Michael Dorn argued in an interview that peer mediation can be very effective in resolving some conflicts, but it should never be used for bullying situations (Dufresne, 2005:95). He firmly recognized that peer mediation is for a conflict between two people and bullying is not conflict. Bullying is victimization of one or more persons by another group of one or more persons wherein there is a real inequality of power, real or perceived (Dorn and Dorn, 2005; Dorn, 2003). In an analogy, he said that "using peer mediation for bullying situations is like having a rapist apologize to a woman he has raped and asking the two of them to shake hands" (Dufresne, 2005:95).

 

The study conducted by Jonhson and colleagues (1995) aims to find the impact of peer mediation training on the management of school and home conflict. This intervention study resulted in better quality of the pupils' interpersonal relationships by teaching them how to choose strategies of negotiation rather than using force. Similarly, another study that was done by Lewis and associates (1998) aims to reduce problem behaviour using a school-wide system of effective behavioural support. They observed less problematic behaviour among the pupils after introducing a program of social-skill training. Their study showed that effective behavioural support among students might reduce various kinds of problem behaviours.

 

In application to special education, Berkeley and group (2006) studied the effects of differentiated curriculum enhancement in inclusive middle school science particularly on classroom and high-stakes tests. They mentioned the idea of peer mediation in the form of partnering or tutoring. It has been suggested that peer mediation is one way to substantially increase academic engagement of all students in a classroom as shown in earlier literatures (Fuchs, Fuchs, and Kazdan, 1999; Greenwood, 1999; Greenwood, Delquadri, and Hall, 1989; Maheady, Sacca, and Harper, 1988). Additionally, it is an important way to increase learning when students lack the literacy skills needed for independent learning (Scruggs and Mastropieri, 1998). Berkeley and colleagues (2006) concluded that when peer-mediation is combined with differentiated activities (e.g. science), students appear to learn more content than when taught more traditionally, without peer-mediated learning activities.

        Benefits to peer mediators

For peer mediators, putting trust and confidence among children to solve their own problems can improve relationships in schools (Lopez and McLaren, 2002:145). The peer mediation method starts from the assumption that children can make decisions and that they will respond positively to being accepted and valued by adults and their peers. With the assistance of peer mediators, students develop their skills in listening, communication, negotiating and problem-solving. Children with a lack of affection, problems at home or aggressive behaviour have responded extremely positively to this experience. Their self-esteem improves and their school performance often improves too. In addition, the more experiences encountered by school peer mediators, the more opportunities they have like working alongside with adult mediators in disputes that involve children. When peer mediators see these improvements among the students, a feeling of satisfaction succumb with them. These also increase their motivation to continuously develop their craft and touch more lives (Lopez and McLaren, 2002:145).

 

        Benefits to school climate

Peer mediation schemes provide an effective way of resolving small conflicts they escalate (Lopez and McLaren, 2002:144). The majority of schools reported that they have become more peaceful as they implement peer mediation processes and programmes among their student population.

 

Also, researchers found that "school climate and the quality of pupil relationship were improved" (Crary, 1992 cited in Cowie and Wallace, 2000:32) and the violence and conflict between children were decreased by peer mediation programme (Johnson and Johnson, 1994, 1996 cited in Cowie & Wallace, 2000:32; Miller, 1993). The peer mediation enhanced the teaching and learning environment in school (Tyrrell, 2002). Teachers could focus on teaching and created environment for effective pupil's learning.

 

Adopting this technique of peer mediation within the whole-school approach enables for a more effective allocation of resources- human, financial, and physical. The process is well received by students and teachers alike, and there seems to be a wholehearted and warm response to this practice. It promotes initiative within the school community, and keeps the students and adults informed about the school's focus. A whole-hearted approach to working with pupils cannot be achieved without a shared understanding of partnership that is complimented by knowledge of structures and strategies to formulate partnerships. Staff members play a pivotal role in teaching the pupils the specific skills that enable them to participate in mediation (Johnson, 2005:12).

 

Because the students know that they have a dispute resolution system that is confidential and non-confrontational, there is a reduction in fights and verbal abuse in the playground. This reflects on the exclusion rates or cases of truancy among children intimidated by bullying or other cases of anti-social behaviour.

 

With peer mediation strategy, teacher time and stress is also reduced as some of the need for disciplining, having to judge who is telling the truth and enforcement is lessened. As a result, they have more time and energy to devote to other areas. Thus, learning at its best is ensured.

 

All in all, conflict resolution and peer mediation programmes benefit both children as individuals and schools as institutions. They also improve students' self-esteem and relationships, give them a greater sense of responsibility, reduce conflicts, promote academic achievement, develop life skills, allow leaders to focus on teaching, and create an environment in which pupils can learn and socialize safely and constructively (Baginsky, 2004).

 

According to Tyrrell (2002) the skills such as good interpersonal and communication skills and the ability to work well as part of a team that underpin peer mediation, enhance the teaching and learning environment because they are more consistent with qualities that are valued outside of the education system. These are skills that focus on personal development and citizenship. They prepare young people as citizens of a democratic society by giving them practical experiences of the democratic process by working together with staff to sustain the service in a way that the traditional hierarchical relationships in schools do not permit. Overall, students develop their self-esteem and learn coping skills.

 

HOW DO SCHOOLS SUPPORT THE PROCESS OF PEER MEDIATION

Miller (2005:14) believes that peer mediation at the elementary and secondary levels has been extensively used and is a highly successful strategy in resolving conflicts. It is identified that conflict in schools is an existing segment of the national agenda. In UK, social inclusion policies and the National Healthy School project aim to involve staff, pupils, governors, parents and the wider community in reducing conflicts both inside and outside schools (Lopez and McLaren, 2002:139). Standardised objectives are propagated by such policies and programmes and these are to reduce problems with truancy and juvenile crime; encourage young people to be good citizens; reduce social exclusions, disadvantage and disaffection; encourage pupils to became healthy, mature grown-ups; and charge them with important tasks - like graffiti control or anti-bullying strategies.

 

Peer mediation can have positive effects on student conflict resolution and school climate. Yet the incompleteness of our knowledge, combined with occasional failures in peer mediation, suggests that success is not automatic. Rather, the benefits of peer mediation may depend on how well the programme is planned and carried out. Therefore, schools need to understand and support the processes of peer mediation.

 

Schools support peer mediation in a variety of ways. These ways range from funding, structure in terms of effective peer mediation programmes or providing training or hiring experienced mediator, constant evaluation and development of the existing peer mediation process and schemes, and others (Lopez and McLaren, 2002: 140-142).

 

In funding, schools jointly seek external funds from bodies such as Local Education Authorities (LEAs), community initiative groups and the European Union to pilot a one-year scheme (Lopez and McLaren, 2002: 140). After the first year, schools often get funding from their own budget or apply themselves for funding, thus, they would typically develop a rolling two-year partnership agreement.

 

Meanwhile, the structure of peer mediation process and programmes is a product of careful research and development initiatives. In peer mediation activities and projects, it is important that schools are managed by a professional and experienced mediator. This person will play the roles of a project coordinator that include liaising with a teacher who will overview the programme; providing external support to teachers, saving them time by taking full responsibility for the project; and training a team of peer mediators and visiting them once or twice a week to make sure that the mediation service is running smoothly (Lopez and McLaren, 2002:140). In relation to training, it must be highly relationship-orientated and choose methods focus on communication and the quality of personal relationships. The following skills are expected to be developed during training: asking questions; active listening; understanding confidentiality as well as knowing when teachers must be informed; the use of language and reframing negative comments into positive comments; and supporting each other in a team.

 

Also, schools need to provide effective peer mediation programmes as a result of careful planning as well as training. The aforementioned discussion can serve as a very useful guiding means for the creation and implementation of peer mediation initiatives. In order to know if such initiatives are serving its real purposes, schools need to monitor and evaluate the whole process of peer mediation and its related activities.

 

It is perhaps predictable that the increasing severity of disputes, particularly those that result in exclusion, can lead to disputes between parents and teachers (often groups of parents and teachers) (Lopez and McLaren, 2002:147).Thus, it is only a small step from providing peer mediation programmes to providing dispute resolution services to a wider range of disputes in schools between teachers, parents or any members of the school community. More or less, peer mediation are likely to offer a much more conducive and profitable experience and outcome for children and their families, teachers, and other affected individuals. For the future, Gersch (2002:217) said that peer mediation can be the most exciting and fruitful development which will serve to educate the next generation in problem-solving without continued conflict.       


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