The California Endowment gave Mediator Mentors a grant to implement and measure effects of program implementation in seven schools in the most needy area of Fresno. After a year and a half (which included pre and post assessment on prescribed variables), findings included the following summarized in the final grant report.
Mediator Mentors, Supporting Healthy Youth Development and School Safety
A Grant from The California Endowment
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS 2011-2012
- Mediators increased their dispositional empathy significantly more than non-mediators
- Non mediator (those who received no direct instruction) empathy scores actually decreased at post-test (one year interval)
- Interpretation: Direct instruction and guided practice matter in social skill learning, too! .
- Students who were trained and served as Mediators increased in dispositional perspective-taking significantly more than non-mediators.
- Non-mediator perspective-taking scores actually dropped at post-test.
- Interpretation: Again, direct instruction and guided practice matter in social skill learning.
LANGUAGE ARTS STANDARDIZED TEST SCORES
A significant effect for time interval and for mediator status was revealed. This means that being a mediator matters to change-over-time in academic learning, specifically, Language Arts. CST Language Arts Scores were also found to correlate to perspective taking scores. The language of mediation features elaborated vocabulary and process aimed at enhancing the ability and tendency toconsider the thoughts and feelings of others. Mediation may not only offer social skill practice, but language development, as well.
Mediators had significantly fewer absences in the period of grant implementation, than did students who were not mediators. This finding may be interpreted in a variety of ways. One that we find highly supportable is that students who have 'a socially meaningful job to do' feel the importance of showing up for their peers because they believe their contributions to be significant to the greater good. In all seven schools in our study, there was a remarkable decrease of 16.2% in unexcused absences from the time before Mediator Mentors program implementation to the close of the grant.
Student perceptions of safety translate to psychologically healthy learning environments. Psychological and physical safety are equally important in productive schools. In our seven Mediator Mentors schools, student reports of feeling safe increased during the period of the grant. There was a ten percent increase in the number of students who responded “I feel safe at school” on the California Healthy Kids Survey.
The extent to which the student feels he or she belongs and contributes significantly is essential to psychological health and promotes student engagement with positive school activity. Before Mediator Mentors implementation in our seven schools, sixty five percent of students responded, I feel I belong here,” when asked about their feelings at school. At post-test, 71 percent of students responded positively when asked if they felt they felt they belonged at their school.
National Awareness has brought us to consensus on the importance of addressing bullying in our schools with prevention and intervention programs. Together with Olweus, Safe and Civil and other programs, it appears that in our 7 sample schools, mentored peer mediation addressed potential bullying, The student reports of bullying in these seven schools decreased during the grant period, from 14 to 11.
SUSPENSION/EXPULSION REFERRALS BY SCHOOL
Of the 7 schools participating in our study, referrals decreased in 4 from 2010-2011 to 2011- 2012 during the period of our grant implementation. However, there is debate about which numbers to use for this purpose. Mentored peer mediation certainly reduces discipline referrals, however, mediators do not handle threats or physical danger to self or others. Therefore, there is not a one-to-one correspondence between the number of mediations and the number of referrals.
CONFLICT STRATEGY CHOICE
Mediators had slightly higher scores at pretest than non-mediators, perhaps indicating a preexisting aptitude for problem-solving. However, at post-test, mediators had increased their conflict strategy scores by adopting more interest-based solutions to the scenario problem presented. There was no significant change demonstrated by non-mediators. Again, the power of direct instruction, guided practice and the opportunity to serve as a conflict resolution facilitator is underscored.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS AND CSTLA STANDARDIZED TEST SCORES
A main effect for English Language Learners was detected. Overall, English language learners scored significantly lower in Language Arts than native English speaking students, as expected. However, growth in language development may be a process sensitive to peer mediation training and activity. For ELL mediators, there was a significant increase in language arts scores from pre-to-post assessment. When they become mediators, students with little English often 'blossom' with the rapid development of vocabulary and public voice.
Conflict Resolution Education (CRE) and Mediation offer learners of all ages skill practice in effective communication and peaceful dispute resolution. When CRE is infused with content area instruction, children learn to collaborate, discuss with a public, respectful voice, assert themselves when it is important to do so, perspective-take, empathize, include and enjoy diversity. CRE is all about building the caring community of learners. In schools where constructive approaches to conflict are taught and practiced with guidance, bullying is minimized, service learning is valued, interpersonal communication is more nurturing. CRE, including mentored peer mediation, has been found to contribute to student resiliency and English language learner vocabulary-building. In a recent study completed by the Mediator Mentors research team, it was found that schools with peer mediation teams have better attendance than schools without such teams. When interviewed about attendance, one student mediator said, “If I’m not here and some students need me to help resolve a conflict, it may get bigger. I have a job to do. I need to be at school for my peer mediation partner and the disputants!”
In order to determine whether or not a CRE intervention or peer mediation is contributing to student development and positive school climate, specific research and evaluation protocol are advised. It is important that school administration ask questions about their practice and produce evidence that support their programs’ maintenance and development. Here are some of the questions the Mediator Mentors Project has helped schools ask and answer:
How does mentored peer mediation affect discipline referral rates?
How is dispositional empathy and perspective-taking affected by peer mediation?
Does conflict resolution education have a relationship to academic performance?
What is the effect of becoming a peer mediator on English language learning?
How many peacefully resolved disagreements are achieved each semester?
What types of disagreements are resolved by student mediators?
What is the effect of becoming a CREducator on teacher motivation and morale?
Do mediators approach negotiation differently from nonmediators?
How does doing service as a peer mediator affect student academic performance?
For assistance in forming research and evaluation questions for your setting and finding instruments for data collection, please visit http://www.creducation.org/resources/evaluatingcrep.pdf