23 February, 2011

Restorative Practice and Peer Mediation


Numerous approaches to Peer Mediation
Obviously, there are numerous approaches to support student problem solving and associated peer mediation skills. Most rely on the school identifying, training and equipping, and deploying suitable students.
And there are numerous schools around the world that have been able to extend the use of Restorative Practices to include peer mediation. In building  their school as a community, they have worked to involve everyone in Restorative Practices: staff, students, their families and the wider community.

These schools have explicitly trained students in the use of small circles and  the restorative questions as part of establishing a restorative culture across the school and its community. They have then created some level of peer mediation by training and encouraging the students to use small circles and the RP questions in real everyday situations to make better responses to the situations that arise.

Peer mediation is not new 
But promoting Peer Mediation is not a new, separate, isolated endeavour. In almost all circles that work well , many students already do a great deal of 'peer mediation'  - probably more than they realise. So just pointing this out (making it explicit) can be useful. If we know about the good things we can do, then this generally increases our capacity and willingness to do more of them.

Peer mediation by everyone? 
Training does not need to begin with selected students. "Helping to resolve peer issues" might be a great topic for a class circle. The social and emotional learning that will result is likely to enable many students to take positive action when things go wrong.

For example, bullying rarely occurs without an extensive range of bystanders. To reduce bullying it makes sense to enable, support and encourage 
  • bullies to better understand the implications of their actions
  • bullies to repair the harm done, and
  • all bystanders to make more constructive responses. 

Clearly this is the very kind of activity for which Restorative Practices has been developed.
It would be interesting to see what might emerge if, say playground/classroom mediators were elected by their peers. Worth a try?

Restorative Practices as a springboard from Peer Mediation
So if your school is developing a restorative culture there numerous possibilities just from Restorative Practices alone. And, of course, then there are other sources of ideas, processes and practices relating to Peer Mediation.

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