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Conflict Management Course Open to Ohio Schoolteachers

Date: March 26, 2001
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photo by Dottie Stover
Archive: General News

UC educators are leading the way at preventing school violence and helping teachers across Ohio do the same.

The deadly school shooting at Santana High School in California was one of the most recent reminders that life has changed inside urban and suburban schools. Although national statistics show children are much less likely to encounter violence on school property than outside the school setting, the fear and humiliation of school conflicts continue to haunt children and challenge teachers who are working to create a positive environment for learning.

Teachers in Ohio will have the opportunity to investigate the latest research in school violence prevention and explore positive relationship-building and conflict management, as the College of Education's Urban Center for Peace Research Implementation Development and Education (UC PRIDE) launches a three-credit-hour online course geared toward Ohio's elementary school teachers. The course will be offered next fall.

The course was developed by Marvin Berlowitz, Professor of Educational Foundations and director of UC PRIDE; Deborah Jordan, a graduate of the UC Educational Foundations master's degree program who has taught courses on conflict resolution on UC's main campus and at Clermont College; and Nathan Long, a doctoral student in Educational Foundations. Funding came from a $10,000 grant from the Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management, an agency that provides training and support for conflict resolution programs in Ohio's schools, communities and government.

Berlowitz says the online course will be available for college credit that can be applied toward a graduate level certificate in peace or urban education, or schoolteachers across Ohio can use the course to enhance professional development. Students do not have to be enrolled in a UC degree program to take the course.

"This is an alternative to school metal detectors and the software that is aimed at profiling students at risk for violence," says Berlowitz.

Berlowitz said the course can help teachers keep pace with changes such as the recent U.S. Census report which showed strong growth in the suburbs as more racially diverse populations choose the suburban lifestyle over city living.

"The bias awareness component of the course is especially significant to those who are working with youth who have grown up in historically homogenous white suburbs, which are now experiencing conflicts associated with an influx of ethnically and racially diverse populations." Berlowitz adds the course will still be of interest to teachers in urban areas, as the staff develops programs "more culturally sensitive to the needs of urban schoolchildren."

Jordan has previously conducted research on violence prevention and conflict management, and has organized and designed programs for schools. "We're going to invite students to give us examples of a problem that can be addressed through role-playing as well as case analysis.

"Teachers want this to be practical. They want something they can use. We want to give them an opportunity to examine real cases as well as cases in their schools. We'll also ask them to develop a plan on how they might implement a conflict management program within the culture of their own school," says Jordan.

Berlowitz says UC PRIDE has also been exploring "the manifestations of alienation among white suburban youth." He noted that the American white middle class, which once enjoyed job security and a secure income, has been strongly affected by shifts in the economy.

Doctoral student Nathan Long is developing the technical aspect of the course and says one of the key components is a weekly live web chat room discussion. "We've created a pretty elaborate scheme on how students will interact with Deborah. We'd like to ultimately develop a series of streaming video, creating scenes in which the students can interact with the video via the chat room. We're also considering a sharing component, where students may want to talk about their own experience in class last week, or maybe talk about situations like the incident in California, and they'd be able to collaborate on theories that were discussed during the course."

Jennifer Batton, director of education programs for the Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management, says the online course is one-of-a-kind nationally. She adds that new government statistics show the majority of children who committed acts of violence at school had also been bullied.

"We've received 266 grant applications this year from Ohio public schools requesting staff development in this area." Batton adds that Ohio is a national leader in school conflict management and says more than 1,300 of the state's public schools have some form of a conflict-management program.

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