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From the eyes of students: An in-depth study of a fourth grade peer mediation class

Helen C O'Donnell, University of Massachusetts Amherst


At Bridge Street School in Northampton, Massachusetts, all Grade 4 students in three classes were trained as peer mediators. The purpose of this study was to investigate and evaluate how elementary school students perceive the usefulness of their peer mediation training and whether they were able to incorporate mediation skills into their lives. Trainees practiced respectful communication, studied conflict, discussed options for nonviolent resolution, and participated in role plays to learn peer mediation techniques. Data gathered from written student pre, mid and post assessment documents was analyzed to determine student perceptions and responses about program effectiveness, specifically, the value, usefulness, and impact of their training. Feedback from teachers, principal, and parents provided supplemental program assessment data and ideas for curriculum enhancement. This study did not attempt to measure a reduction of violence or violent behavior. By the conclusion of the training, research findings and statistical comparisons document that Grade 4 students: (1) Recognized that skills learned and practiced during their peer mediation training were helpful and useful; (2) Reported immediate implementation of mediation skills for problem solving during school and non-school time; (3) Listed peers and family as primary resources for assistance with conflict; (4) Identified themselves as problem solvers on an open-ended question; and (5) Indicated they would choose peer mediation for conflict resolution, if needed, appropriate, or available. The aggregate research statistics of the training Class of 1997 were summarized, analyzed and compared to aggregate data from the Bridge Street School Training Classes of 1995, 1996, and 1998 that had the same trainer, similar training curriculum, and identical questions on similarly administered self-assessments. Multi-year comparisons expanded this research into a 4-year local study. The research findings strongly support that grade 4 students are capable of understanding and implementing skills learned during peer mediation training. As volunteer school peer mediators or not, everyone can provide valuable community service modeling, promoting and assisting with peaceful conflict resolution. Teaching all students about respectful dispute management and providing them opportunities for integrating learning into classroom and personal life experiences can be a valuable component of elementary school violence prevention education.

Subject Area

Elementary education|Academic guidance counseling|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

O'Donnell, Helen C, "From the eyes of students: An in-depth study of a fourth grade peer mediation class" (1999). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9920635.