The theoretical background of All in the Class Become Mediators, ACBM

Introduction: All in the Class Become Mediators – ACBM – is an extension of SCm

Peer mediation in schools has become a movement in the Western world. Talented pupils are selected for mediator training which makes it popular amongst parents who see career possibilities for their offspring. However, this selection is not so much appreciated amongst those who have not been selected even if it is made more democratic by vote by classmates.

The young mediators, (either selected or elected) are told that they should remain neutral. However, the mediation-setting they usually are trained to apply begins with their meeting of the both disputing parties at the same time.  Such a beginning inevitably leads them to take the role of "neutral judge". But the role of a judge is to decide guilt …

Those pupils who were not chosen to become mediators are, as parties in conflict, liable to provoke the mediator/judges. The solution is, of course, to give everyone in the class training in mediation. Certainly not all in the class will become good mediators, but all become acquainted with the idea of therapeutic mediation in an experiential context by beginning the procedure through meeting the parties individually. The principles are discussed; they get an awareness of how local "judge-kings" can appear under the pretext of mediation.

Therapeutic mediation is trained in a programme, All in the Class Become Mediators, (ACBM), which is based on the similar mediation procedure as SCm. Its implementation fits well into the existing syllabus of vernacular language, starting with an essay-writing about the best ways to solve a conflict. It continues with discussions on the guidelines and reading and discussing a 8-page illustrated manual. When practicing mediation  in role-plays they become aware of the temptation of becoming a "judge-king" instead of applying therapeutic mediation.
A know-how of ACBM – All in the Class Become Mediators

After having myself tried out ACBM in classrooms, I showed for adult participants in a SCm-course instruction films about the pupils’ acting out the roles. Two of the participants who were vernacular language teachers, applied ACBM in several classes. They reported that the teenagers had been eager to participate and that the "atmosphere in the classes became calmer".

However, in an other school vernacular teachers who saw my performance but had not participated in SCm-workshop, could not apply ACBM. The reason was that they felt insecure in guiding the students’ role-plays. It is apparent that teachers’ own participation in SCm is essential to convey the therapeutic mediation approach to the pupils.

Already in 2002 I wrote a teacher manual in English (after having performed ACBM in an English-speaking class in Uppsala). I consider it today as too fussy. But it could be used by some SCm-practitioner as a basis to do a better work:

An experiment in the 1980’s that became the starting idea of my mediation approach
Before I in the mid-70’s begun with treatment of cases of bullying I had written a textbook for the college and Folkhighshool level: Rational Conflict Resolution (Published in seven languages) It lacked, however, exercises in solving conflicts constructively. I started experimenting with a learning-by-doing device.

I prepared teenagers to the plausible idea of listening to the other side in conflicts. All of them agreed that is the way to do solve conflicts constructively. We trained this in triadic role-plays. Students A and B represented different views in a conflict event. Their task was to find a shared solution. A third student, C, was the observer. A and B had made good progress in the task but suddenly a breakdown occurred. Analysis of the process demonstrated that at the moment when the parties perceived the conflict as real, the image of an enemy image was released in their minds. This always occurred suddenly.

After a one round, we changed the roles of the players according to a schedule where each had the opportunity to be an observer and to plead for views opposite to their previous role. But neither the identification with the opposite opinion nor the experience of being observer could significantly diminish the sudden breakdown of good intentions.

The pupil C who had the role of an observer was quickly judging who was more right – A or B. Using C as a mediator needed a special schooling.

Here was the origin of ACBM.