School Counseling Lessons for High School Students

During adolescence, students are establishing their interests as their own as their identity grows to become more unique than previous years. High school provides students with the last transition before they enter adulthood and prepare to begin their post-secondary plans. Students in secondary schools are often seeking for their place within their peer group and for where they belong. Although career and college exploration is a typical cornerstone of high school counseling, students still require academic skills support, education in understanding one self and others, development of coping strategies, peer relationship building skills, and substance abuse education.

High school counselors guide their students through the career and college process to develop post-secondary plans as well as tuning to their academic, personal, and social needs through learning effective social, conflict resolution, decision-making, and communication skills.


High School Resource on Conflict Resolution and Peer Mediation

Co-Author Cindy Morton, Licensed Professional Counselor and author of ForHighSchoolCounselors Blog

Conflict resolution education programs can encourage students to interact peacefully. One component of conflict resolution education includes teaching students how to resolve their own everyday conflicts through a nonviolent approach. Although each grade level may have different approaches for accomplishing this objective, each method should focus on that intention.

Conflict Resolution Education Program

Dr. Tricia S. Jones from Temple University prepared the School Conflict Management guide on developing, implementing, and evaluating a conflict resolution education program. Dr. Jones highlights four approaches to conflict resolution in education:

  • Process Curriculum Approach: Used mainly in elementary school settings, schools devote a specific time to teaching conflict resolution in daily or weekly lessons.
  • CoMediation Program Approach: A middle and high school model for conflict resolution, this stand-alone program selects a group of students to assist their peers in conflict resolution.
  • Peaceable Classroom Approach: An elementary and middle school practice uses the whole school classroom practice of teaching students the foundation, skills, and problem solving processes of conflict resolution.  This method is incorporated throughout the curricula and in the classroom.
  • Peaceable Whole School Approach: An interdisciplinary process uses a comprehensive schoolwide “system of operation for managing the school as well as the classroom” (Jones, 2001).  In this system, all members of the school community are encouraged to learn conflict resolution skills.
Conflict resolution program benefits: increasing student academic achievement, positive communication skills between peers, interpersonal and intergroup skills, and student self-control. In addition, conflict resolution education reduces violence in schools, student drop out, and discipline referrals. For resolving conflict, peer mediation can be an important addition to any school conflict resolution program.

Peer Mediation: An Important Addition to a School Conflict Resolution Program

PROGRAM STRUCTURES FOR PEER MEDIATION

  • Cadre: A selected group of students are trained by a skilled trainer/mediator to mediate conflicts in a designated space
  • Curriculum: Students in a classroom receive training in basic mediation, rotate as mediators, and conduct mediations in class when requested by teachers and peers.  This structure is most common in elementary school.
  • Mentoring: Older student mediators train younger students within the same school or across educational levels.

BENEFITS OF PEER MEDIATION

According to Strawhun, Parnell, Peterson, & Palmon (2014):

  • Students are empowered with tools to work out their own problems without adult supervision.
  • Peer mediation encourages self-respect and encourages students to look at the issue from another’s perspective.
  • Students have a cohort of peers that can assist them in solving their problem.
  • Peer mediation teaches communication skills and problem solving which carries into adulthood.

VALUE OF PEER MEDIATION APPROACHES

Richard Cohen, founder of School Mediation Associates, has discovered some additional values of peer mediation including:

  • The prevention of escalation among emerging conflicts.
  • The reduction of stress of the school staff by incorporating an additional option for conflict resolution.
  • The improvement of the school climate by fostering feelings of “belonging, ownership, and control over school life.” In addition, peer mediation improves communication between students and between students and adults (Cohen, 1995).

Creation of a Peer Mediation Program

The Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) has created a list of standards for schools to consider before starting any program.  Some of these guidelines include:

  • Administrative and staff buy-in.
  • Locating a skilled trainer (ACR recommends a registered mediator).
  • Including a diverse group of peer mediators.
  • Providing continuous training beyond the required hours for peer mediation training.
  • Evaluating the program at the end of each school year.

Theory + Conflict Resolution

Albert Bandura postulated in his Social Learning Theory that people learn how to treat each other from watching others.  In essence, conflict and violence is a learned behavior.  School counselors can use peer mediation as one social-emotional skill to educate students on how to treat each other.  By developing positive peer relationships, students have the opportunity to form a sense of belonging with teachers and their peers; students can become more successful academically, emotionally, and socially; and students have the ability to develop self-worth which gives them a voice inside and outside of the classroom.