Purpose

Mock mediations give students the opportunity to learn the stages of a conflict resolution that involves the help of a mediator. Students learn the skills of articulating a point of view, advocacy, compromise, and finding areas of agreement (if possible). Typical mediations may include a business contract or a conflict between two people or groups that both parties want to resolve.

Procedures

  1. (Optional) Invite members of your community, such as lawyers or professionals involved in conflict resolution to help facilitate this activity. If you include them, decide in advance whether they will play the role of mediators or coach students as they take on those roles. Note: The directions below presume students will play the roles of mediators.
  2. Before class begins, write a short description of a conflict involving two people or two groups. It should be short—no more than ½ of a page. Leave space for students to take notes to prepare for their mediations and to record agreements they reach in the mediation session. Make enough copies of the handout for each student. If students are new to mediation, you should also create a handout listing the steps of a mediation (see below).
  3. Begin the activity by introducing mediation and describing the situation or dispute to be resolved in general terms. Review the fact pattern with all students. Check for understanding, possibly by going around the room and having each student list one fact from the pattern.
    • Review mediation steps.
    • Introduction
    • Telling the story
    • Identifying positions and interests
    • Identifying alternative solutions
    • Revising and discussing solutions
    • Reaching an agreement
  4. Ask students to count off by five. Tell the 1s they will be mediators. Tell the 2s and 3s they will be one side of the dispute and the 4s and 5s will be the other side of the dispute. Ask students to stand or sit together with others who share their role.  
  5. Allow at least 15 minutes for students to prepare for their mediations. (Note: If the groups are too large for students to hear and participate during this preparation stage, you may want to subdivide them further.)
    • Ask the groups that represent sides in the dispute to discuss their side’s objectives and the arguments to support their point of view. They should discuss their ideal result, fallback result, and unacceptable result for each point of the disagreement. They should also consider which points are most important to their side.
    • The mediators should discuss how they can make the mediation successful. (Set a cooperative tone in the introduction, review rules for the discussion, seek common ground whenever possible, record notes, restate views to confirm understanding, suggest ideas, suggest solutions and seek input on the best one, and write down the agreement).  
  6. Rearrange students to create new groups—two students representing each side and one mediator.  
  7. Review the process for the mediation and let groups begin. As students are working, circulate to keep the groups on track, answer questions, and offer suggestions. Allow 20–30 minutes for the mediation.
  8. Stop the mediation. Ask each group to explain the result of their mediation and compare group results.
  9. Ask students:
    • What was the most challenging part of this exercise? The easiest?
    • Which part did you like best?
    • What did you learn about mediation?
    • Was your side pleased with the result?
    • What qualities should a good mediator have?
    • What types of disputes are best suited for mediation?
  10. (Optional) If a community resource person has joined you to co-teach this lesson, ask her or him to tell students about real-life mediations, how they are structured, and the role that legal professionals play in mediations. She or he should also describe her or his own experiences with mediations and take questions.