Conflict is a part of the classroom experience. Students constantly disagree with each other and with the teacher. No matter what a teacher does, there will always be someone upset or disappointed about what has happened. As such, this post will look at several strategies to reduce and prevent conflict in the classroom.
Rules & Routines
Nothing can prevent conflict and disagreements like clear rules and procedures. Rules help students to know what they are supposed to do and when. When rules are established, expectations for behavior are also in place.
Routines are similar to rules and maybe the same. The purpose of routines is to guy students during specific moments in the classroom. Examples can include coming in from the playground or putting materials away at the end of a period. Whereas a rule applies at all times (i.e., be respectful), routines apply in certain circumstances.
However, the strength of rules or routines is limited by the enforcement of them. Many classrooms and teachers have reasonable if not excellent rules but do not consistently enforce them. It is a disaster to apply rules part-time. Students will see the inconsistency and will become eager to test whether or not they can get away with something, which leads to conflict.
Conflict happens when students interact. Therefore, another way to limit conflict would be to limit interaction. Used intermittingly, limiting interaction can be beneficial, especially as a deterrent to poor behavior. If students know that conflict leads to no more interaction, it may motivate them to monitor their behavior.
The key again is consistency. Consistent behavior from the teacher leads to consistent behavior from the students. If limiting interaction is an appealing strategy for you, it must be used predictably based on the students’ behavior.
Avoid Win-Loss Scenarios
When there is a conflict between students, there are times when one student gets all that they want while another student gets nothing. This is an example of a win-loss situation. When such cases occur, it leads to hostility between the losing student towards the winning student and all kinds of accusations against the teacher who chose one side over the other. For example, if two students are fighting over a ball and the teacher sides with one. The other student will be upset, which will lead to future conflict.
Of course, there are times when this is appropriate, but if it’s possible, a teacher should try and make sure that both sides give and take in a disagreement. There are even times when both sides should lose. For example, if students are fighting over a ball, the teacher may choose to take the ball away, which leads to everyone losing. Being “mean” to everyone is perceived as fair, even if students do not like it.
Teachers must develop ways to help students through conflict as well as to learn how to avoid it. The strategies presented here provide some ways to work for some teachers who are facing challenges with conflict.