Mediation in Australia: A Bibliography

Last week Prof Laurence Boulle and I were really happy that our new book Mediation in Australia went to print. As we note in the Preface: The book began as a fourth edition of Laurence’s Mediation: Principles, Process, Practice but in the process a new work developed. My favourite chapter is Chapter 12 titled ‘Authors Unplugged’ where ‘we ‘think what we like’ and ‘write what we think’ and hope that a few readers may ‘like what we write’. In the coming weeks of July I’ll be adding some excerpts from that Chapter which I hope you’ll find interesting.

In this Blog though we want to share something from the book that might be useful to all DR researchers – the bibliography. Many stellar scholars from the ADR Research Network members will see your works listed there. This document is the proof so apologies if there are any errors.

Perhaps this will save us all time if we can add it to our Endnote:

Mediation in Australia Bibliography

With warmest wishes to all DR researchers globally

Rachael

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ADRRN Roundtable: Extension for submission of paper proposals to Friday 10 August

Thank you to those who have submitted paper proposals to the ADR Research Network Roundtable. In response to requests from potential contributors, the due date for paper proposals for the 7th ADR Research Network Roundtable is hereby extended to Friday August 10th.

Final draft papers are remain due by 31 October for distribution to commentators. This date in October remains firm given the need for commentators to prepare before the Roundtable.

The Australian Dispute Resolution Research Network is pleased to be hosting its seventh annual research round table in Queensland. The roundtable will be held from Monday 3rd and Tuesday 4th Decemeber at the University of the Sunshine Coast in South East Queesnland (just north of Brisbane and accessed from Maroochydore/ Sunshine Coast airport). Details of the venue and of accomodation options will be provided to those you wish to attend.
The Network welcomes proposals that consider dispute resolution from a scholarly, critical and/or empirical perspective. We particularly encourage submissions from postgraduate students and early career researchers. All proposals will be considered. Papers must not have been published or submitted for publication, as the focus is work in progress. A panel will select round table papers from abstracts submitted. The aim is to be as inclusive as time and numbers allow.

Paper proposals of up to 300 words plus a short bio should be emailed to the adrresearchnetwork@gmail.com/

The following selection criteria will be applied:
• Papers taking a scholarly, critical and/or empirical perspective on an area of dispute resolution;
•  Inclusion of a spread of participants across stages of career; and
•  Presntation of  well-balanced range of work in order to provide diversity, to develop the field and to enable stimulating discussion.

Attendance at the Round Table is limited to individuals who are contributing to the scholarly discussions by presenting a paper, or commentating and/or chairing a session. Participation is on a self-funded basis.
For further information, please:
• Read the original call of papers on the ADR Network blog of 11 April 2018
• Contact the conference convenors Sue Douglas and Lola via adrresearchnetwork@gmail.com (monitored twice weekly)

Mediation in Schools- an International Perspective

trouble at the waering hole

The new conflict resolution text for children promoted by the Harvard program on Negotiation

Frances Richards’ thoughtful blog on Mediation in Schools is timely. We have spent the past few days at the UIA 25th World Forum of Mediation Centres in Val d’Europe presenting a forum session, exploring the same theme with colleagues from around the world.

We advanced the idea that dispute resolution skills are becoming organic, flourishing from entry level to postgraduate study. Mediation, at its most valuable, begins when education begins, and is a ‘whole of educational life’ experience.

Our session explored the relationship between education and mediation using concrete case studies and current projects from early childhood through to tertiary education.

In her blog post Frances wrote about peer to peer secondary training and competitions for students – noting the aim of supporting students to develop a life-long problem-solving approach to conflict.

Our forum panel of 5 expanded on these ideas and some new themes emerged.

Panel members brought very diverse experiences:

  • Panel moderator Zeina Kesrouani from Lebanon and Thomas Gaultier from Portugal spoke about secondary school projects they are supporting in their countries;
  • Alina Leoveanu, Manager, ICC International Centre for ADR, spoke of the contribution to student learning made by the ICC International Commercial Mediation Competition and
  • Our (Dr Rosemary Howell and Emma-May Litchfield) presentation shared some Australian experiences at primary and secondary level and this blog post will largely focus on that topic.

Scrutinising different mediation programs in schools made it apparent that the opportunities and the challenges look very different according to the age level and also the particular institutional approach.

Our presentation of two faces of the Australian experience showcased this well.

The first, focussing on early childhood education, was inspired by the newly released text from the Harvard Program on Negotiation, pictured above, which, with its companion text for teachers and parents, presents an introduction to conflict resolution for young children.

It is an ambitious project, particularly given the sophisticated nature of some of the tools being introduced.

The idea seemed valuable but the question to be explored was ‘are primary schools open to this kind of program and do examples already exist?’ The case study exploring the answer to this drew on the program of a small primary school in suburban Sydney. The answer was quite unexpected.

Instead of a program focussed on conflict resolution, the school reframed the context completely to cover 5 elements:

  • The frame – wellbeing;
  • Conflict is not confined to a separate toolbox but is part of everyday life;
  • All students engage in daily wellbeing practice, linking conflict to emotions and wellbeing. (Students were delighted to demonstrate their mindfulness practice in which they engage at the first sign of discomfort – well before conflict emerges);
  • Children design their own tools for intervention and resolution;
  • When conflict does arise students are encouraged to engage in the 3 question approach:
    • What happened?
    • What are we going to do now to fix the situation?
    • How can we learn from this?

So while the Harvard materials were thought provoking, what this case study exposed was an apparently even more successful approach to conflict resolution and early intervention – providing students with accessible, effective tools for life.

The second Australian presentation moved the focus to secondary schools, giving a perspective from the inside – insights gained from working with teachers including a recognition of the resources required to develop and implement conflict resolution programs. The contrast with the primary experience was remarkable. The secondary school environment presents very different challenges:

  • School-wide implementation is much more difficult. The shift from generalist teachers in primary schools – spending all day with the same students – to teachers who are technical experts with limited daily student contact impedes a whole of school, consistent approach. This also increases the likelihood that conflict is not identified early and has become entrenched before intervention begins.
  • A specialised curriculum separates programs so it is much more difficult to embed wellbeing practices across the entire teaching day.
  • Money is not the only resource required for program success. Teachers and dispute resolution professionals need to invest time, energy and other personal resources to maintain the program momentum. Frances’ blog post provides anecdotal evidence of this. On the one hand, the New South Wales Government is providing funding for these programs however, on the other hand she recognises that the mediators involved are all volunteers.

The UIA panel presentations made it clear that mediation in schools is a burgeoning field. There are challenges and there are opportunities. Those of us who teach and practise in this space are an important resource in the development of global thinking and program enhancement. Congratulations to the UIA for promoting an international conversation.

Rosemary and Emma-May

Dr Rosemary Howell and Emma-May Litchfield France 2018

How judges see ADR – searching for clues

Judges Scrabble

Photo: Creative Commons – Blue Diamond Gallery under licence

The judicial mind has never been particularly accessible to me. Perhaps the requirements of objectivity and neutrality impose opinion-censoring constraints or perhaps the judiciary tends to have a preference for the law and the facts.

Whatever the reason, it is difficult to get a sense of ‘the view from the bench’ about the ADR space in which we research, teach and practise.

There are some judicial views that are well known.

We do know there is a continuing theme of judicial approval for the ‘cheap and quick’ features which are so emphasized by legislatures and courts’ administration and which were arguments promoted vociferously by early ADR advocates as a means of garnering support.

The 2009 speech to the profession by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria (as she then was) The Hon. Marilyn Warren included powerful advocacy for ADR. She dwelt on the significant reduction in court lists achieved via ADR and the ‘extraordinary’ saving in court time and resources – a more elegant version of the ‘cheap and quick’ cost benefit analysis.

This theme was repeated in 2012 in an important paper by The Hon. P A Bergin SC, Chief Judge in Equity of the Supreme Court of New South Wales (as she then was).

She endorsed mediation as a:

‘cost-effective and efficient mechanism for resolving disputes. Mediation is pursued in large part because of its potential to significantly reduce the practical and financial burden of a dispute’.

We do have some other evidence about how judges see ADR.

We know that judges also have concerns about ‘ripeness’ and warn against matters being referred to mediation before the dispute is ripe – which generally means, in their view, after the pleadings are closed and very substantial costs have already been incurred.

Warren reports:

‘Judicial experience tells us that in litigation it is a bit like picking fruit.  We need to pick the “mediation peach” when it is ready – too early it will be hard to penetrate the fruit; too late it is over-ripe.  The judicial art is to time the “sweet moment”.’

Bergin also enters the ripeness discussion, referring to her own 2007 research. This suggested that settlement was more likely to occur if mediation was attempted late in the proceedings, although she does acknowledge her sample was limited and that it did not take into account mediations that are resolved before proceedings are issued.

The endlessly interesting litigious adventures of Gina Rinehart and her family have also provided some obiter by Brereton J on the ripeness  issue noting:

‘So far as mediation is concerned, sooner or later – as with most commercial and family disputes – it may well be desirable that these proceedings be referred for mediation. But in my view, they are not ripe for that yet. Further disclosure will have to take place before the proceedings can be referred for mediation’.

We also have a few glimmers of insight into how judges see mandatory mediation.

In her same paper, Bergin reflects on legislative imperatives to mediate and acknowledges the value in attempts to remedy power imbalances but overall displays some scepticism about its susceptibility to exploitation.

‘The characteristics of certain disputes justify legislation deeming that good faith involves a requirement to mediate first in the context of those disputes. It is another thing entirely to conclude that good faith requires disputants to Mediate First in all cases.’

Warren added:

‘In my experience forcing parties to mandatory mediation early is arbitrary and often clumsy.’

So apart from some tasty crumbs dropped into a few keynote addresses and the odd piece of obiter, we don’t have a strong sense of how judges view ADR.

However the recently released AIJA study – ‘Court-Referred Alternative Dispute Resolution: Perceptions of Members of the Judiciary’ – hopefully marks the beginning of a new appetite to conduct research revealing the judges’ perspective on key elements of ADR.

The research, conducted by Dr. Nicky McWilliam of the University of Technology, Sydney, and Dr. Alexandra Grey of Macquarie University Law School, drew data from 104 judges from various jurisdictions about whether and how they considered and encouraged ADR in cases over which they presided. Defining referral as including suggesting ADR by ‘nudging’ and referring parties to ADR with or without their consent, the study also looked at:

  • the availability and use of ADR in assisting court proceedings;
  • whether or not there were prerequisites to ADR referral, in particular judges’ awareness of parties’ interests as well as knowledge of the process itself; and
  • judges’ personal assessments of ADR’s ability to
    • achieve unique results and
    • impact workload and judicial satisfaction positively.

The differences and similarities which emerged in judicial behaviour and perception were fascinating. Two particular issues, on which there appeared quite a degree of agreement, drew my attention:

  • most judges believe that referring matters to ADR processes requires them to have an understanding of:
    • ADR;
    • the nature of the case;
    • jurisdiction and the tier of court involved; and
    • parties’ needs and interests.

Further, the research revealed that most Supreme Court judges in the Equity and Common Law Civil Divisions are motivated to consider referral to ADR by their overriding purpose of “facilitating the just, quick and cheap resolution of the real issues in the proceedings”.

Interestingly, despite their view that an understanding of ADR was important, the study revealed that 75 per cent of responding judges had no ADR training despite most having been appointed since court-referred ADR had been legislated and during a period when ADR was well used. The authors note:

‘While it may be argued that judges appointed in an age where ADR is common do not need training that surely underrates the contribution training can make: not everything can be, or is best left to be, learnt by osmosis.’

They gently suggest that increased training may enhance decision-making regarding the many factors shown in the study to affect judicial perceptions of whether or not court-referred ADR is appropriate and to share experiences of how court-referred ADR is being considered and used by other judges.

  • Judges (particularly Supreme Court judges) were also concerned with timing – a version of the ‘ripeness’ issue – and expressed concern about referring cases to ADR “too early”, worrying that early referral may mean that one side’s case may yet be unclear and that even a position paper may not remedy this.

So now, thanks to the AIJA, we are beginning to collect more reliable data about the judges’ perspective of ADR, starting with their perceptions of court-referred ADR.

This is great news for those of us who wish to influence how judges see things and to build their peripheral vision about the promise of mediation. Thoughtful research about how judges see things now provides us with a place to begin.

 

Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) in the classroom – Lessons from Millennials

ODR has consistently been in the news since the early 90s. It has popped up again this week as the ICC reported that the videos of its significant ODR conference in 2017 are now available from its online library.

ODR has also been appearing consistently in undergraduate and postgraduate programs of Australian law schools.

At UNSW I have been able to take the opportunity to teach in an ‘Active Learning Space’ where students work in small groups at pods around the walls complete with individual large screens. Individual computers connect to each screen promoting group activity and enhancing my supervision opportunities. This is a great space in which to combine experiential learning with developing creative ways to teach and experiment with the new developments in the field.

As I have built my skills in using this space I have been congratulating myself on having found a way to keep students away from their mobile phones and other distracting devices and deeply engaged in transparent, collaborative, group learning.

For all my self-congratulations, in the end I have discovered it is the students who have given me the lesson. Let me explain.

For some years, part of the experiential program has included an introduction to ODR. Teaching ODR is not new and there are numerous online reports of how these curricula have developed. There are some great Australian examples to be proud of.

I embraced this field several years ago, with my undergraduate class, with a simple conflict resolution exercise. It primarily depended on email with students working from different locations. It was challenging and hard to manage.

I explored an international exercise with a former student now running a dispute resolution program in an American university. This was a disaster – whilst my students obtained marks as part of their class assessment, his students took the class as an ‘extracurricular’ exercise and, understandably, lacked commitment and persistence when international communications became challenging. I have abandoned this for the present but I know it is in the future to be revisited.

Over time, the exercise has gradually added more platforms and devices where we explored synchronous experiences such as Skype and asynchronous experiences such as email combined with Skype, private channel YouTube recordings and email. It was challenging and still required intervention offline when things went off-track.

Recently, through the generosity of Modron, I was given the opportunity to use my classroom as a Beta site for exploring Modron’s close to seamless online program for dispute resolution. Students were able to appoint a mediator, negotiate fees, execute a mediation agreement, conduct a full mediation session complete with confidential caucuses, execute a settlement agreement and pay the mediator using a single piece of software.

It wasn’t perfect but it was a considerable enhancement from what had been serving as an ODR experience previously. Students did get bumped off the system from time to time through technical teething difficulties but we were well aware we were engaged in a beta test and recognised that what we were doing was helping to iron out some of the software issues.

The exercise took several hours over the elapsed time of a day and I saw it as a useful experience which gave students a glimpse into the future world which would be of their making. I thought the students would have endorsed it wholeheartedly.

But there was a significant lesson waiting for me as I debriefed the exercise.

ODR debrief

This photo shows the early comments from the 6 mediation groups as they began to record their comments for our debrief session. By the time the debrief was completed we had filled 3 whiteboards!

Students characterised ODR as something that had a value in particular circumstances.

However, as the debrief continued, they shared much more significant insights namely:

  • ODR and technology have a place in the greater field of ADR as one tool and NOT as a complete replacement for other modes of resolution. ADR is an ‘and, and, and environment – not ‘either or’
  • ADR offers an important opportunity for meaningful in-person encounters that facilitate exploring and rebuilding a shared narrative. Some things can’t be achieved effectively online and it would ‘destroy the innate value of mediation if important in-person experiences were replaced by the drive for increased efficiency.’ Sometimes it is more important to be effective rather than efficient.
  • Except for unusual circumstances where parties require to be separated, in-person processes, with clients present, are ALWAYS preferable.

I owe the millennials an apology for my assumption they prefer life on devices, disconnected from human exchanges.

What a great lesson. The future is in good hands!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are we nearly there yet? Reflections on the HDR journey

As we move towards the middle of this my fourth year of PhD candidature, my thesis submission date is drawing rapidly nigh and the anxiety level is elevated a notch,  I thought it might be useful to reflect on the journey thus far and to share with you some of the highlights and low points of the journey although, thankfully, of the latter there is little to report.

child drawing

Image: ‘Child Drawing’ by The Naked Ape, Creative Commons, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I think it is fair to say that the journey may never have commenced at all, had it not been for the blindingly obvious conclusion after thirty years of legal practice as a commercial litigator, that the solutions being offered to litigants by the traditional justice system were somewhat less than ideal.  Clients were complaining that the court could not offer the relief they were seeking, the costs of “winning” were prohibitively high and most of the cases in which I was instructed were resolved on some basis well before they reached a hearing.  Try as I might, I could never quite be convinced of the claim that the public interest in having the courts “…explicate and give force to the values embodied in authoritative texts…” (1) or otherwise declare the law for the benefit of the public good, had any real relevance to some of the mundane and routine cases in which I was involved.  In fact, of all of the hundreds of cases in which I acted throughout my career as a lawyer, only two found their way into the law reports.

And so it was that, armed with the vision of a broader view of justice and a transcript of my Masters in Dispute Resolution, I arrived at the academy with a request to be admitted to the RHD program.  It is worth noting at this juncture that the welcoming and supportive culture of the academic community generally and my academic supervisors especially, has been nothing short of outstanding and I believe it is a tribute to their encouragement and support that I have persevered this far.

I am happy to say that my first year of candidature was both vigorous and productive.  Together with my colleague Armin Alimardani I represented the Faculty of Law at UNSW in the Three Minute Thesis competition where we both performed without distinction but were grateful for the experience.  The formulation of an appropriate research question, the preparation of a proposal and writing of a literature review  occupied most of the year and did much to clear my thoughts about the path that lay ahead.  I was delighted to discover that others had trodden the path I sought to travel and there was a rich and abundant supply of research evidence in the general dispute resolution field.  The filtering of this material was as fascinating as it was challenging and the effort was well rewarded because it placed me in an excellent position to approach the confirmation examination with confidence and to receive and consider the reviewers’ comments constructively.  Other features of the year included attendance at a compulsory course on research methodology and the acceptance for publication of the first of three articles which have appeared in the Australasian Alternative Dispute Resolution Journal.

The clear highlight of 2015 was the opportunity of presenting a paper at the 4th ADRN Roundtable at UNSW in September, an event which I shall long remember because it was there that I was introduced to the members of this research network, a group of like-minded thinkers, researchers and teachers who share my passion for a broader framework of justice.  I have attended each of our roundtables since and hope to do so again this year. It is, I think, an important and integral part of the aspiring academic’s learning experience to have the opportunity to present his or her research at as many roundtables and conferences as possible.  It provides an opportunity for practice at presenting, an opportunity to review the work of others and to receive comments and review of one’s own work in a supportive and non-threatening environment.    It also encourages collaboration and the formulation of collaborative networks such as the ADRRN.  For the RHD candidate, it also provides a much needed point of human contact with other researchers.  The road to a PhD can be a lonely journey at times and it is a good thing to meet with others professionally and socially to exchange thoughts and ideas about what is happening in the research discipline.  For me, the ADRRN roundtable is an end-of-year reward for diligence throughout the past year.

The research question with which I am concerned is how lawyers are engaging with court-connected mediation.  In her optimistically titled work, The New Lawyer: How settlement is transforming the practice of law (2) Julie Macfarlane explores the reasons why lawyers have traditionally acted in an adversarial manner in response to conflict and dispute.  She says that it is a cultural issue and that we (lawyers) behave as we do because of our “legal professional culture.”  She posits the existence of three core elements of legal professional culture which guide our thinking and steer us towards adversarial competition whenever a dispute arises.  Those elements are, firstly, the default to a rights based system of justice, secondly a belief in justice as process and thirdly a belief in the superiority of the lawyer as expert.  Using a data collection instrument designed to capture the presence of those elements in research respondents and with ethics approval sought and obtained, I set off in the Spring of 2016 to drive to various country centres throughout New South Wales to speak to lawyers about their views on court-connected mediation.  I spoke with each respondent for an hour, recorded the interviews with their permission on my smartphone and transcribed the interviews later.  (For anyone who may be contemplating this as a strategy for the future, be warned: the transcription time to interview time is 6:1 so for every hour of interview you can expect to spend six hours transcribing).

The verdict is in.  The qualitative data has been analysed and the interviews studied.  In many respects the results are not surprising.   They align with other research done in other places and at other times.  The good news is that, even over the past five years or so, we lawyers have made some progress in embracing court-connected mediation although at times with a begrudging acceptance and a resignation that it is here to stay and we may as well get used to it.  Particular themes emerged and are dealt with in my thesis.  They include, notably, the much vexed issue of disputant participation and the issue of confidentiality.  Understanding of how lawyers grapple with these issues is of particular interest to me because they go a long way to explaining what Olivia Rundle calls “the dilemma of court-connected mediation.”  Other themes which emerged from the data were the inclusion in mediation narrative of non-legal material and the question of whether, in court-connected mediation, mediators should be facilitative or directive.  A better understanding of these issues will give lawyers and their clients a better understanding of mediation and a more satisfying mediation experience.

So, as I turn into the straight for the final run home to what I hope will be a successful conclusion, I am sometimes reminded of family holidays and long car journeys and colouring books when my children would ask: “Are we nearly there yet?” and their mother would patiently reply: “Nearly there.  Just a little while to go. Just keep drawing in your book.  I’m sure you can make it a little better.” 


(1) O. Fiss Against Settlement 93 Yale LJ 1073 1983-1984 at p 1085

(2) J. Macfarlane The New Lawyer: How settlement is transforming the practice of law (Vancouver UBC Press 2008)

 

 

Mediation in NSW schools

by Frances Richards.

Frances is a volunteer adjudicator for the Law Society of New South Wales mock mediation competition. Frances is an accredited mediator and an Adjunct Lecturer at the School of Law, Sydney, The University of Notre Dame Australia.

Mock mediation grandfinal

2017 Mock mediation Grand Final – this was the winning team Trinity Catholic College Lismore, with presiding adjudicators on either end of the team in the black jacket (Lara Bishkov), white jacket (Monika Lama) and pink jacket (Helen Miedzinski). Photo courtesy Frances Richards

This article is about initiatives to introduce mediation to students in NSW schools.

The NSW Department of Education offers peer mediation programs for primary and secondary public schools in NSW. These programs are one of the conflict resolution strategies available for schools to adopt. The Department provides resources for schools to use and intends to update these resources. The resources can be found at: Peer Mediation.

The Law Society of NSW organizes an annual mock mediation competition for secondary public and private school students. The competition provides an opportunity for students to develop, refine and practice cooperative problem solving and conflict resolution skills.

What are the objectives of these initiatives to introduce mediation in NSW schools?

According to the Department’s resources, the peer mediation programs are intended to ‘empower, prepare and support students and staff to deal successfully with conflict situations at school, at home and in later life.’

According to the Mock Mediation Manual 2018, the competition aims to:

“ Recognise the opportunities for change and progress that can result from conflict and improve the ability of students to manage conflict in a way that leads to a positive outcome

Acknowledge the increasing use of mediation by courts and the community, and equip students with the skills necessary to participate in a mediation process.

Educate students about the importance of the process in tandem with constructive dialogue.”

How does mediation in schools work?

The peer mediation program involves one or two trained student mediators assisting two disputants through a structured process to reach resolution of a dispute. Peer mediation programs are coordinated by staff trained in mediation, who provide ongoing supervision and support to student mediators. Peer mediation programs are intended for minor disputes such as gossip and rumour spreading, name calling, friendship problems, teasing, loss of property and exclusion.

The mock mediation competition is open to students in years 9 and 10. Each school participating in the competition has 1 team with a maximum of 9 students.  Each team participates in 3 rounds. All teams in the competition receive a certificate of participation. The two teams who reach the grand final receive a certificate and a medal. The winning team receives a trophy.  The competition requires involvement and support from teachers as coaches and mediators as adjudicators.

To receive points for the competition, the students must demonstrate skills including:

Listening, Brainstorming, Empathy, Judgment, Questioning, Decision making, Communication, Teamwork, Problem solving, Leadership, Negotiation, Time management, Assertiveness and Reflecting.

What are the benefits for students?

Both the peer mediation program and the mock mediation competition are intended to benefit the students, staff, schools and community.

The intended benefits for students are:

  • Skill development including communication, listening and problem-solving skills
  • Assuming greater responsibility for solving their own problems
  • Creating an awareness of their responsibilities when dealing with others
  • Furthering personal development and self-improvement
  • Increasing self-esteem
  • Learning to manage conflict in a productive way

In addition to the mediation competition context, acquiring these skills may be of importance for the future employability of the students. A recent study of the Canadian workforce by the Royal Bank of Canada shows that these are the types of skills students will require to negotiate the future. The study found that “An assessment of 20,000 skills rankings across 300 occupations and 2.4 million expected job openings shows an increasing demand for foundational skills such as critical thinking, co-ordination, social perceptiveness, active listening and complex problem solving.”

The study also found that “Virtually all job openings will place significant importance on judgement and decision making and more than two thirds will value an ability to manage people and resources.”

The findings of the study are contained in the report “Humans Wanted How Canadian youth can thrive in the age of disruption” published on 26 March 2018.

What are the other benefits?

The intended benefits for schools and the wider community include:

  • reduced conflict in the school environment
  • reduced bullying and aggressive behaviour
  • reduced tension in the classroom environment
  • reduced time spent by staff on minor disputes
  • safer and more harmonious school environment
  • maximising the opportunity for learning for all students
  • promoting open communication to resolve contentious issues
  • maximising the benefits of cooperative problem-solving
  • encouraging mediation and negotiation as an alternative to litigation

What does the research show?

An exploratory study into a peer mediation program in a primary school context in NSW collected data that demonstrated therapeutic benefits for the school community, that students reported that participation in the peer mediation program had benefited them in their lives after school and that the training and knowledge obtained from the program can be applied in different situations (McWilliam, N., A school peer mediation program as a context for exploring therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ): Can a peer mediation program inform the law?, International Journal of Law and Psychiatry (2010), doi:10.1016/j.ijlp.2010.09.002.)

Research has also been conducted into the use of mediation as an educational strategy in schools in other countries. One recent study of mediation in Spanish schools found evidence that the programs did teach students skills that they do not have the opportunity to learn in other subjects and to manage their own conflicts (Raga, L. G., Sanchis, I. C., Mora, A. M., & Santana, G. R., (2016). Strengths and weaknesses of the school mediation from the perspective of students in secondary education. Pedagogía Social: Revista Interuniversitaria, (28), 203-215. 10.7179/PSRI_2016.28.15.)

Conclusion

As an adjudicator for the mock mediation competition I have observed the students participating enthusiastically and reflecting on their experience of how hard it is to actively listen, what it feels like not to be heard and how hard it is to find strategies to unlock deadlock.

The potential of the peer mediation program and the mock mediation competition to deliver their intended benefits is limited by the time, resources and commitment of staff and volunteers.

Research is needed to provide evidence of the benefits of students participating in peer mediation programs and mock mediation competitions. Such evidence would assist schools in deciding to allocate time and resources to expanding the use of mediation initiatives. Submissions to conduct research in NSW public schools can be directed to: <http://www.serap.det.nsw.edu.au/>. Information about participating in the mock mediation competition in 2019 can be found at: Law Society Mock Mediation