1, Number 4, Nov/Dec 2000
and Conflict Resolution Skills: A Core Academic Competency?
programs across the disciplines vary with respect to how
explicit they make the core knowledge and skills graduates
are required to master in order to receive their degree.
In most programs, the essential knowledge requirements
are established via a list of required courses that students
must pass prior to graduation. It is assumed that the
courses will cover the key material in an appropriate
and hopefully consistent way and that students will learn
and retain the essential content. Some degree programs
go further and require a comprehensive or qualifying exam
toward the end of the program that tests students culmulative
knowledge and ability.
many of us in the conflict resolution field are convinced
of the broad utility of conflict resolution skills, it
is not often that we see these skills being treated as
core in other disciplines. Rarely do we see these skills
being articulated with any specificity. In a refreshing
exception to this, an innovative program at California
State University Monterey Bay has incorporated conflict
resolution as one of the program's 11 Major Learning Objectives
that students must know and understand in order to graduate.
The academic program, based at the Institute
for Community Collaborative Studies, focuses on preparing
students for careers in the field of Health and Human
program's belief is that collaboration is an essential
aspect of success for workers in the modern health and
human services delivery field. And the keys to collaboration
include core competency in the broad area of conflict
resolution, negotiation and mediation. The program's Major
Learning Objective (MLO) in this area is articulated
Resolution, Negotiation & Mediation
Understand the dynamics of human negotiation among conflicting
interest groups and how to achieve mutual agreement.
Demonstrate an understanding of the characteristics
of conflict and how it manifests itself into interprofessional
and organizational contexts.
Demonstrate the following collaborative problem solving
and express desired outcomes.
and analyze options
Demonstrate knowledge of ethics of collaborative conflict
to understand the psycho-physiological and behavioral
aspects of conflict.
to understand cross-cultural considerations in dealing
to understand the "casualties" of conflict, i.e.,
loss of morale, productivity, etc.
to understand the prevalent conflict management
styles and strategies
to understand the positive opportunities that can
be presented by conflict.
to understand the basic motivational theories.
to understand the basic theories of individual and
organizational power dynamics, i.e., the imbalance
of power and impact on parties.
to identify personality and conflict management
styles, strengths and challenges.
to understand the conflict cycle, i.e., how it begins
to understand "positional vs. principled" negotiating
concepts and demonstrate the appropriate skills.
to understand the differences between the roles,
responsibilities, process and expected outcomes
of mediation, arbitration and negotiation.
to understand the differences between compromise,
cooperation, collaboration, and consensus building.
to assess and manage interpersonal conflict in the
to listen actively to facilitate understanding and
to understand the use of both open and closed questions.
to demonstrate and identify different courses of
action and analyzing the consequences of each (e.g.
actual and hidden costs and risks).
to identify the elements of a sustainable agreement.
to demonstrate knowledge of the basic negotiation rules
of ethics and principles of practice including:
of all participating parties,
from bias (objectivity)
of different people and perspectives,
of honesty (long term personal credibility and trust),
using self-defensiveness as a tactic in negotiation,
to hold confidence (confidentiality),
ability not to personalize the process
example, this time in the Education field, is provided
by the Master
of Arts in Education Program at Silver Lake College
in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The college offers a competency
based graduate study program for teachers who wish to
become administrative leaders in Wisconsin schools. The
program leads to a Master of Arts in Education degree
and to Wisconsin Administrative licenses. Conflict Resolution
is one of ten core competencies that students must master,
for instance, in order to qualify for the School Management
Wisconsin Administrative Certificate. The competency is
articulated this way:
Definition of Terms:
the purpose of this competency, conflict resolution
is defined as the processes by which the system handles
and resolves conflicts within the system, and between
the system and the community.
Issues to Be Addressed:
legal process as a means of conflict resolution
(school board, administrative staff; teachers, students,
negotiations as a means of conflict resolution;
models as a means of conflict resolution;
relations models as a means of conflict resolution;
concerns in conflict resolution
between professional staff and the bureaucratic
conflicts in the school environment;
conflicts: personality/role; role/role
Examples of Competency Demonstration Activities
the knowledge, understanding, and application of skills
necessary to execute the following:
existing and/or develop a Student Policy Handbook
consistent with contemporary statutory and case
existing and/or develop a Staff Code of Conduct
consistent with contemporary statutory and case
a Student Conflict Resolution program;
a plan for non-adversarial contract negotiations;
a self-analysis regarding the handling of conflict;
a model for resolving conflicts between school
and community and/or competing groups within the
appealing, such examples of expressly stated academic
competencies in conflict resolution remain few and far
between. Few programs seem to write down and then attempt
to measure students conflict resolution skill abilities
(not a simple thing to do...).
competency requirements like those above will never be
seen as an essential part of mainsteam academic training
unless we begin to advocate for them. But if we do, an
infusion approach might well impact on the growing crop
of free-standing Conflict Resolution degree programs.
This could be a positive thing, or not. I don't have the
answer, but I think the questions are worth exploring.