Types & Levels of Conflict in the Classroom

Conflict is a reality that few people enjoy. Whether we like it or not, students often disagree and challenge each other and even the teacher at times. In this pos4t, we will look at conflict types and levels of conflict.

Affective Conflict

Affective conflict is emotional conflict. In other words, there is an emotional incompatibility between two individuals or groups of people. Students are notorious for hurting each other’s feelings leading the teacher to sort out the problem. When affective conflict takes, there is often a general lack of getting along among the parties involved.

A student’s emotional state can be unpredictable. As such, avoiding affective conflict can be tricky at times for students and teachers. What is does cause harm one day can lead to a severe outburst the next. Many people want to be sensitive, but the line of sensitivity can be hard to determine at times.

Cognitive Conflict

Cognitive conflict involves a significant difference of opinions. When people argue about the best way to do something or ideas, it often involves cognitive conflict. Many conflicts can begin cognitively but quickly devolved into affective conflict. Generally, cognitive conflict is not as common as people often rely more on their emotions than their intellectual capacities when in conflict. Evidence of this is how people substitute “I feel” with “I think.” For many people, these two phrases mean the same thing.

Behavioral Conflict

Conflict can also occur because of the actions of a person or group that offends another. When the behavior of one person or group offends the other, it is an example of behavioral conflict. A student talking in class could lead to behavioral conflict with the teacher, for instance. Like affective conflict, behavioral conflict can be tricky because people can be unpredictable in terms of acceptable behavior.

Goal Conflict

Group desiring different outcomes can come to a significant disagreement. Goal conflict happens when people are fighting over achieving different goals. A classic example is watching any sports game. It is generally not possible for both sides to when the game.

All of these different forms of conflict can be interrelated. For example, a student is talking in class, which leads to behavioral conflict with the teacher. During the behavioral conflict, the teacher or student may become angry, which is affective conflict. To further confuse things, goal conflict can be happening because the teacher wants the talking to stop while the student wants to keep going. Lastly, cognitive conflict can occur because the teacher thinks it is wrong for the student to be talking while the student doesn’t see anything wrong with it.

Therefore, it may be wisest not to focus so much on the type of conflict but instead focus on defusing the conflict.

Scope of the Conflict

Conflict can happen at several levels. Interpersonal conflict is conflict within an individual. An example of this is a student struggling to decide or do the right thing. This internal struggle is a form of intrapersonal conflict.

Interpersonal and intergroup conflict is conflict between individuals and groups. Lastly, inter-organizational conflict is conflict between organizations. Each of these forms of conflict can involve complex alliances and negotiation. For example, two students in the same group or school who generally hate each other may work together if an outsider offends the group. This is similar to the proverb, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” For the sake of the group, these two enemies will unite temporarily because of the outside threat.

Conclusion

Conflict is part of life. Students need to be aware that conflict is something they will always have to deal with. Teachers need to understand the forms and levels of conflict to help students learn from the battles they face when dealing with each other.

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