The School Mediator
Peer Mediation Insights From the Desk of Richard Cohen Vol. II 11/02

in this issue

Student Mediators Compete in Australia

What Do You Say?

About Us

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Welcome to the November issue of The School Mediator.

This issue features an Australian program that has a unique approach to exposing students to mediation. Your response, as always, is encouraged.

Wishing you the best, wherever you are,

Richard Cohen
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates

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Student Mediators Compete in Australia
Yes, mediators compete seems like an oxymoron.

But in Australia, teams of student mediators and role-players do compete, and they do so before adjudicators who determine which teams are best.

It is the debate team concept re-tooled. And it's called SCRAM.

SCRAM (Schools Conflict Resolution and Mediation) was initiated in 1995 under the auspices of The Queensland Law Society, a professional association for attorneys. Last school year alone, 800 students from over 100 schools participated in the competition.

Here is how it works:

Schools form teams of about eight students who develop their mediation skills using a set of practice scenarios provided by SCRAM. The disputes involve student parties, but are not limited to school-based disputes (dispute with police, neighbors, coaches, etc.).

In advance of each round of competition, two co-mediators (as well as their teammates who are to act as parties) are given prepared information on the selected problem. Just before the competition begins, the parties only are given additional confidential information that may influence their stance during the mediation.

Mediators have 50 minutes to mediate the dispute while an adjudicator observes. Professional mediators volunteer their time to judge these sessions. Teams are scored utilizing a masterful feedback form, not only on the mediation skills they display, but on the authenticity that student parties bring to their roles.

According to my correspondence with Ms. Bernadette Rogers, one of the competition's founders and a mediator in the Queensland Administrative Appeals Tribunal, SCRAM was "merely designed to raise awareness of the importance of consensual problem solving and alternatives to imposed solutions, whether by courts or teachers or other authorities." It was not created to encourage schools to implement peer mediation programs, nor to teach conflict resolution skills.

SCRAM's objectives and impact upon student mediators, however, appear strikingly similar to those of school-based peer mediation programs around the world.

As one example, check out the responses from SCRAM mediators--none of whom has ever formally mediated a real interpersonal conflict!--to a question I posed to them: "What impact has SCRAM had on your personal life?"

* "Every time I find myself in an argument, I'm more aware of the other person's perspective, and what their feelings may be and so the problem is resolved far quicker without the tears."

* "I am more confident and use my mediating skills to help resolve my friends and family's problems."

* "I now understand the fact that there is more than one side to a story."

Haven't you heard identical comments from active peer mediators?

So, after initial trepidation with this idea (what would Alfie Kohn think?), I have come to appreciate SCRAM. And I feature it here in light of the theme of this year's newsletters--helping peer mediation programs reach their potential.

SCRAM inspires young people to work hard at improving their mediation skills. (Note that SCRAM participants do most of their preparation outside of school time!) It deepens students' interest in and commitment to this important work. Some Australian peer mediation programs even use SCRAM as a training exercise for their mediators.

Of course, like everything else in life, SCRAM has its limitations. Shy but nonetheless excellent mediators would not be attracted to this quintessentially extroverted activity. And many SCRAM participants never mediate real conflicts between their peers.

But my guess is that most peer mediators, even those who mediate for peak performing peer mediation programs, do not spend as much time as SCRAM mediators reflecting upon and honing their skills.

Wouldn't it be great if they did?

So who is going to organize SCRAM here in the US?

Your thoughts...

Thanks to Helen Taylor, Archie Zariski, Bernadette Rogers, Anthony Gray, and Margaret Halsmith for their help!

More Information About SCRAM

What Do You Say?
  The response to the last two issues of The School Mediator, both of which explored the need to understand and improve the performance of peer mediation programs, was, frankly, underwhelming.

Certainly most of you don't have the inclination (and, undoubtedly, the time) to obsess about peer mediation like I do.

Because I think this topic is important for the field, however, I will soldier on for now.

If you do have a moment to share your thoughts or offer support, I'd be delighted to hear from you.

About Us
  For almost twenty years, School Mediation Associates has been devoted to the application and promotion of mediation in schools. SMA's mission is to transform schools into safer, more caring, and more effective institutions. Our books and training programs have been utilized by tens of thousands of people around the world.

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Watertown, MA 02472 USA

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