Directions and Issues in the Teaching of Conflict Resolution
state of the conflict resolution field is maturing. With
20 plus years of history contributed from multiple disciplines,
cross-disciplinary dialogue on theory and problems, eclectic
teaching method, and a rich panoply of instructional tools,
we still dont know if conflict resolution teaching
and training methods are really effective. This article
explores the issues related to understanding the effectiveness
of the process and content of conflict resolution (specifically
negotiation) teaching and training. It asks whether or not
the right approach to training is being used and if the
training sticks. It also questions how the content
of the field is evolving and if teaching methods are tracking
conflict resolution teaching and training relies on experiential
learning. The most well known model of experiential learning
model consists of four elements; we propose that effective
training in negotiation is directed at each of the four
elements. The first element is concrete experiences,
such as role-plays, case studies and live negotiations,
in which students experience negotiation and conflict resolution
processes first hand. The second element is observation
and reflection, a period when students are asked to
think about and evaluate the concrete experiences and convey
their viewpoint via papers, journals and debriefing. The
third element is the formation of abstract concepts and
generalizations. Students can create their own theory
of behavior in negotiation, or integrate existing theory
and research. The final element is active experimentation,
a time when students can use theory and concepts to set
goals and experiment with new behavior. In summary, the
experiential learning model provides a time for experience
(concrete experiences), reflection on that experience (observations
and reflection), abstraction from the reflection (formation
of abstract concepts) and prediction of future events (active
of Learning the Negotiation Process?
negotiation trainers and teachers use, formally or informally,
the experiential learning model in designing their courses.
Learning is usually measured through traditional
assessment mechanisms such as exams and papers, and sometimes
even actual negotiation performance. But in spite of the
numerous negotiation courses, we really whether or not students
really learn to negotiate more effectively with this pedagogical
approach, or with any other method! Thus, real training
effectiveness has never really been measured in negotiation!
One problem with trying to measure training effectiveness
is that the processes of negotiation and conflict resolution
are not single skills, but actually a complex set of sub-skills
such as defining issues, framing, listening, brainstorming,
packaging, questioning, persuasion and argumentation. Perhaps
a more correct approach to teaching/training would be to
spend more time on teaching these sub-skills, rather than
repeated efforts to teach the more macro conflict
management skills. This approach could be accomplished by
breaking negotiation skills down into competency-based components
and teaching each individual skill component. Technology,
such as videotape and computers, could also be used to teach
these skills. Competency elements could be pre-measured
and post-measured to determine levels of learning, and then
combined into complex conflict management scenarios.
No matter what kind of process is used, training also has
to stick over time in order to be effective.
Measuring training impact consists of assessing concept
understanding, concept application, concept execution and
overall satisfaction with the training. More research needs
to be done in order to fully evaluate what results correlate
with the impact and staying power of negotiation skills
training. This research could include before/after studies,
control groups and oral articulation of improvement or change.
This kind of research is currently being done in the peer
mediation and cooperative education arenas, but not in negotiation.
Casual data collection shows that the most useful concepts
negotiation students can learn is planning, understanding
negotiator personalities, understanding mechanisms for analyzing
alternatives, understanding power differences and timing.
One study revealed that 40% of students said they would
find competency-based instruction useful while 60% would
find it dull and tedious. 50% of students wanted to see
and debrief videotapes of themselves doing practice negotiations.
20% of students would find it helpful to see models
of effective negotiation behaviors on videotape.
We Teaching the Right Content?
negotiation teaching/training paradigm has dominantly been
based on transactional, economics-based perspectives on
negotiation. Most of the instructional tools emphasize self-interest,
joint outcome maximization and rationality in a one-time,
bounded context (e.g. buying a car or house). However, in
reality, most of us negotiate within a long-term relationship--family,
friendships, coworkers, etc. Greater attention needs to
be given to developing models of how people actually negotiate
within long term relationships, and how we can instruct
students to do this more effectively.
In addition to what is being taught, the current theoretical/conceptual
base of negotiation is grounded in a largely Western, white
male point of view. While more attention has been given
recently to gender and cultural differences, these ideas
are only slowly being incorporated into how we teach negotiation.
There is an assumption in the field that theory is universal
and easily adapted to context. This assumption may not be
true, and more work is needed on negotiation theory across
the lines of gender and culture.
Finally, other trends need to be incorporated into negotiation
research, teaching and training. The global environment
has many actors, consists of many cultures and exhibits
rapid economic and technological changes. This needs to
be considered. Extended organizations and diversity are
also part of the future. Therefore, the prospect of organizational
alliances, remote workforces and race, gender and cultural
differences must be worked into negotiation theory and practice.
future of conflict resolution teaching and training will
most likely focus on the following themes: 1) negotiation
as the management of relationships, 2) negotiation as management
of emotion, 3) negotiation as management of interdependent
personalities and 4) negotiation as management of complexity.
M. & Coleman, P. (2000). Handbook of Conflict Resolution.
Greenhaigh, L. & Lewicki, R.J. (Oct. 1998). New
Directions in Teaching Negotiations: From Walton and McKersie
to the New Millennium. Paper presented at a Conference
on Negotiation and Change: From Workplace to Society: A
Festschrift in Honor of Robert B. McKersie. M.I.T.
Greenhaigh, L. (2001). Managing Strategic Relationships.
New York: Simon & Shuster.
Kolb, D. & Williams, J. (2000). The Shadow of Negotiation.
Simon & Shuster.
Lewicki, R.J. (1997). Teaching Negotiation and Dispute
Resolution in Colleges of Business: The State of the Practice.
Negotiation Journal, July, 253-269.
Lewicki, R.J., Saunders, D.A., & Minton, J. (1999).
Negotiation. Third Edition. Burr Ridge, IL: Irwin
Morrill, C. (1995). The Executive Way: Conflict Management
in Corporations. University of Chicago Press.
piece presented by Roy Lewicki, Fisher College of Business,
Ohio State University, April 4, 2001, Lewicki.firstname.lastname@example.org
with permission, for online publication by Samantha Spitzer,
Wayne State University, 2002
project of Campus Conflict Resolution
Supported by a FIPSE grant from the US Department of Education
and seed money from the Hewlett Foundation-funded CRInfo
to CMHE Report
(Attn: Bill Warters)
Campus Conflict Resolution Resources Project
Department of Communication
585 Manoogian Hall
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48201.
send comments, bug reports, etc. to the Editor.
© 2000-2005 William C. Warters & WSU,
All rights reserved.