Trinity Washington University and its School of Education recently became a new partner in the National Collaborative for Conflict Resolution Education in Teacher Education. Trinity is the only university in the Washington region selected to be a member of the Collaborative. This partnership builds on Trinity’s commitment to social justice and excellence in urban education.
As a partner in the Collaborative, all of Trinity’s full-time faculty in the School of Education, and a number of adjunct faculty, are participating in four full-day Saturday sessions of intensive training this fall, in which they are learning best practices for integrating conflict resolution into the curriculum. Faculty will then infuse conflict resolution concepts into courses where appropriate. Notably, those being trained include Trinity’s teacher education faculty as well as those who teach educational administration and counseling; the dean and associate dean of the School of Education are also participating in the training.
“Schools of education have been criticized for being a part of the broken system and not being change agents,” said Dr. Suellen Meara, Dean of Trinity’s School of Education. “By joining the Collaborative, and engaging in conflict resolution training, Trinity is making a conscious decision to revise our education curriculum to continue to better serve teachers and the students they educate. At a time when we see so much conflict in the schools, often leading to violence, we are offering teachers a model for resolving conflict in and out of the classroom.”
“Teachers who graduate from Trinity will learn conflict resolution skills so they will feel much more confident in classroom management and in handling conflicts between students,” said Meara. “By creating safe learning environments, these teachers can focus on helping their students achieve academic success.”
In addition to participating in training and integrating new concepts in their courses, Trinity’s faculty will provide conflict resolution training to 25 K-12 teachers in D.C. Public Schools in spring 2009.
Trinity’s involvement in the Collaborative is being funded by a $300,000 grant from the JAMS Foundation that will help develop pre-service and in-service educator networks in conflict resolution in four new cities: Washington, DC, New York, Chicago and San Francisco. “The Collaborative selected Trinity because of our mission – we have a strong commitment to social justice and improving urban education,” Meara noted.
The mission of the Conflict Resolution Education in Teacher Education (CRETE) project is to provide pre-service and in-service teachers with skills and knowledge of conflict education and social and emotional learning necessary for creating constructive learning environments. CRETE is a collaboration between Temple University, Cleveland State University, Wayne State University, University of Akron, Goucher College, North Baltimore Mediation (an affiliate of Sheppard Pratt Institute), University of Maryland – Baltimore County, Lincoln University, Antioch University, West Chester University, Trinity Washington University, Roosevelt University, Metropolitan College of New York, Bank Street College of Education (NYC), Wilmington College (OH), the Ohio Commission for Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management, and the Global Issues Resources Center. The CRETE project has been funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, the George S. Gund Foundation, and the JAMS Foundation.
Teaching conflict education to pre-service and in-service teachers addresses urban education’s dual crises of teacher attrition and unsafe learning environments. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that about one-third of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years of teaching. This problem is especially significant in urban education environments, where teacher turnover is 50 percent higher in high-poverty than in low-poverty schools. One reason teachers leave is that they feel they cannot create a constructive learning environment or help students do the same. But, if teachers are taught conflict resolution education and can impart these skills and knowledge to their students, they can help students create a safe, caring and constructive community that enhances the teachers’ ability to teach and students’ ability to learn.
Several studies have demonstrated that conflict resolution education programs create a positive classroom climate, enhance academic learning, and encourage supportive relationships between teachers and students; there is solid data on the link between conflict resolution and academic achievement. A new book titled “Building School Success through Social and Emotional Learning” reports that students’ social-emotional competence fosters better academic performance. When students are more self-aware, more emotionally connected, and better able to create safe learning environments, they can focus on academics and achieve success in a supportive environment.
Initial evaluation of the CRETE project in Pennsylvania and Ohio universities have proven that teachers who have participated in the CRETE training feel much more confident in classroom management, handling conflicts between students, and teaching conflict management and social and emotional learning skills to students.