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Teaching Students to Be Peacemakers

Ages 7-18

Rating: Level 3


The Teaching Students to Be Peacemakers (TSP) is a 12-year conflict resolution program in which students learn increasingly sophisticated negotiation and mediation procedures each year. It concentrates on teaching students how to value constructive conflict, engage in problem-solving and integrative negotiations, and mediate classmates’ conflicts. The intent is to provide each student with at least 12 years of training in how to manage conflicts constructively and thereby significantly change the way they manage their conflicts for the rest of their lives. There are seven phases in implementing the program:

1. Create a cooperative context. When individuals are competing, they strive for to “win” in conflicts. Disputants should recognize their long-term interdependence and the need to maintain effective working relationships with one another. The easiest way to establish a cooperative context is through cooperative learning.
2. Teach students the desirability of conflicts when they are managed constructively. Students are taught that a) a conflict-free life is impossible and undesirable and b) conflict has many positive outcomes (e.g., laughter, insight, learning, problem solving) when it is managed constructively.
3. Teach students the problem-solving, integrative negotiation procedure. The purpose of integrative, problem-solving negotiations is to ensure that all parties achieve their goals while maintaining or even improving the quality of their relationship. Students are taught a six-step integrative negotiation procedure.
4. Teach students the mediation procedure. The purpose of mediating is to facilitate problem-solving negotiations among disputants. Students are taught a four-step procedure.
5. Implement the peer mediation program. Students work in pairs at first, then mediators are made available to help schoolmates negotiate more effectively. The mediator’s role is rotated so every student gains experience as a mediator. When all students become skillful mediators, mediators may work alone.
6. Continue the training in negotiation and mediation procedures throughout the school year to refine and upgrade students’ skills. The easiest way to do this is to integrate the training into academic lessons.
7. Reteach the negotiation and mediation procedures the next year at a higher level of complexity and sophistication. This results in a spiral curriculum from kindergarten (or before) through the 12th grade.


The TSP program has been evaluated in 18 separate studies over the past 14 years under many variables, such as the degree to which the negotiation and mediation procedures were learned, retained, and applied; the attitudes toward conflict; and academic achievement and retention. The most recent study evaluates the results of the previous studies through the use of meta-analytic techniques. A meta-analysis statistically combines the results of a set of independent studies that test the same hypothesis to draw conclusions about the overall result of the studies. Meta-analyses usually involve effect sizes. An effect size is the standardized mean difference between the experimental and control groups or the proportion of a standard deviation by which an experimental group exceeds a control group. As a rule of thumb, any effect size of 0.20 or higher is significant.


The results of the meta-analysis indicate that students do tend to learn the problem-solving negotiation and peer mediation procedures, apply them in actual conflict situations, and transfer their use to nonclassroom and nonschool situations. When integrated into academic units, the negotiation and mediation training seems to increase academic achievement, thus creating the possibility that the training will be institutionalized within schools and be continuous throughout a person’s schooling. Finally, the studies show that the number of discipline problems the teacher had to deal with decreased by about 60 percent, and referrals to the principal dropped about 95 percent.

Risk Factors


  • Anti-social behavior and alienation/Delinquent beliefs/General delinquency involvement/Drug dealing
  • Early onset of aggression and/or violence
  • Lack of guilt and empathy
  • Poor refusal skills


  • Association with delinquent and/or aggressive peers
  • Gang involvement/Gang membership
  • Peer alcohol, tobacco, and/or other drug use
  • Peer rejection

Protective Factors


  • Healthy / Conventional beliefs and clear standards
  • Perception of social support from adults and peers
  • Positive / Resilient temperament
  • Self-efficacy
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


  • High expectations of students
  • Opportunities for prosocial school involvement


  • Good relationships with peers
  • Involvement with positive peer group activities


Johnson, David W., and Roger T. Johnson. 1995. “Teaching Students to Be Peacemakers: Results of 5 Years of Research.” Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology 1(4):417–38.

———. 2002. “Teaching Students to Be Peacemakers: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Research in Education 12(1):25–39.

Johnson, David W., Roger T. Johnson, Bruce Dudley, James Mitchell, and Joel Fredrickson. 1997. “The Impact of Conflict Resolution Training on Middle School Students.” Journal of Social Psychology 137(1):11–22.

Johnson, David W., Roger T. Johnson, Bruce Dudley, Marty Ward, and Douglas Magnuson. 1995. “Impact of Peer Mediation Training on the Management of School and Home Conflicts.” American Educational Research Journal 32(4):829–44.

Stevahn, Laurie, David W. Johnson, Roger T. Johnson, Katie Oberle, and Leslie Wahl. 2000. “Effects of Conflict Resolution Training Integrated Into a Kindergarten Curriculum.” Child Development 71(3):772–84.

Walker, C. 2006. “Teaching Students to Be Peacemakers; Implementing a Conflict Resolution and Peer Mediation Training in a Minneapolis K-6 Charter School.” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Minnesota, Department of education Psychology.


David W. Johnson or Roger T. Johnson
Interaction Book Company
7208 Cornelia Drive
Edina, MN 55435
Phone: (952) 831-7060
Fax: (952) 831-9332
Web site: