Teaching conflict education to pre-service and in-service teachers addresses urban education’s dual crises of teacher attrition and unsafe learning environments. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that about one-third of new teachers leave the profession within five years (NCES, 1997). This problem is especially significant in urban education environments, where teacher turnover is 50 percent higher in high-poverty than in low-poverty schools (Ingersoll, 2001). One reason teachers leave is that they feel they cannot create a constructive learning environment or help students do the same. But, if teachers are taught conflict resolution education and can impart these skills and knowledge to their students, they can help students create a safe, caring and constructive community that enhances the teachers’ ability to teach and students’ ability to learn.
Several studies have demonstrated that CRE programs create a positive classroom climate, enhance academic learning, and encourage supportive and nurturing relationships between teachers and students (Aber et al, 2003). We now have solid data on the link between CRE and academic achievement. A new book titled Building School Success through Social and Emotional Learning reports that students’ social-emotional competence fosters better academic performance (Zins, Weissberg, Wang, &Walberg, 2004). When students are more self-aware, more emotionally connected, and better able to create safe learning environments, they can focus on academics and achieve success in a supportive environment.
However, pre-service teacher education programs do not include sufficient content on CRE for adequate teacher preparation. The CRETE Project was designed to fill this gap. The success of CRETE provides a strong curriculum and protocol available and adaptable for use in institutions of post-secondary education throughout the US.
Qualitative evaluation of the project development and implementation were conducted in 2004-2006 and showed very strong success and satisfaction with CRETE implementation protocols and materials.
Pre-test and post-test surveys from over 1700 pre-service majors in 2006-2009 demonstrated that CRETE training offers teachers significant advantages.
Perceived Preparedness for Managing Conflicts in Educational Environments:
CRETE significantly increased pre-service teachers’ confidence in their ability to:
- Manage conflicts between students
- Manage conflicts between themselves and students
- Manage conflicts with parents
- Manage conflicts with colleagues and peers
- Enact a variety of conflict skills including collaborative problem-solving, negotiation, facilitation and mediation
Attitude toward Teaching as a Profession:
- Pre-service teachers who participated in CRETE felt that teaching would be significantly less difficult for them than they had assumed before the CRETE training.
- In comparison, pre-service teachers who did NOT have CRETE came to feel (at post-test) that teaching would be significantly more difficult for them than they had assumed previously (at pre-test).
Preparation for Teaching Specific Conflict-Related Content:
CRETE significantly increased participants’ perceptions that they are ready to teach the following conflict-related content and skills to their students:
- Problem-solving techniques
- Identify when conflict between students is escalating and needs intervention
- Understand how students’ needs trigger conflict
- Critical thinking skills
- Critical communication skills necessary for constructive conflict management (active listening, interest based negotiation, perspective-taking)
- Understand the dynamics of conflict
- Encourage students to handle their own conflicts effectively
Conversely, control group pre-service teachers felt less able to teach these content and skill areas at post-test when compared to pre-test.
Classroom Management Style:
CRETE significantly increased pre-service teachers’ perceptions that they are prepared to and will actively employ the following classroom management practices:
- Having classroom meetings as a method to address classroom management issues
- Have students help set and enforce the rules
- Teach conflict management strategies
- Use cooperative learning approaches