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Photo courtesy Lacie Munholland
Photo courtesy Lacie Munholland

School-based practicum program boosts student’s confidence in dealing with conflict

A school-based practicum program offers students an opportunity to implement conflict resolution theory and education in real-life situations.

Lacie Munholland, a third-year Conflict Resolution Studies and Human Rights student at Menno Simons College (MSC) and The University of Winnipeg Global College, had the opportunity to lead mediations in a school setting through MSC’s practicum program.

“Before practicum, I knew what mediation was, but wouldn’t have known how to do it. Now, after practicum, it comes as second nature,” she says.

Munholland and her practicum partner, Robyn Dryden, taught conflict resolution skills and conducted mediations between students at Hugh John MacDonald School, one of four schools that participate in MSC’s school-based practicum program.

While unsure at first how children would respond to the idea of conflict resolution, Munholland says the children were welcoming and interested to see what the process of mediation would look like.

“We’d explain what mediation is and ask them to take part in it. After explaining the process, kids were very open to participating.”

Some of the conflicts Munholland and Dryden mediated had to do with physical violence, were gang-related, or had to do with challenges of living in Winnipeg’s inner-city. The school’s guidance counselor would share conflicts with them that she thought would be appropriate for and benefit from mediation or conflict resolution.

The first step in mediation was a pre-interview where the children involved had individual opportunities to share what happened and their feelings and opinions about the incident. If mediation was deemed an appropriate response following the pre-interviews, the parties involved were brought together for a respectful conversation.

“We’d ask what each party can do to make the situation better and if they could come up with ideas together,” says Munholland. “The concept of an apology would often come up. Lots of kids would apologize on their own.”

Approximately 80 students have taken part in MSC’s school-based practicum program, which was established in 2000.

The program provides students with opportunities to “get mediation experience, provide peer-mediation trainings, and to practice oral presentation skills,” says Ruth Taronno, MSC’s Director of Practicum and Alumni Relations.

“Hands-on skills training is extremely important in the workforce and this kind of experience looks great on the student’s resume,” says Taronno. “Practicum experience is tremendously valuable in allowing students to put their theories into practice and to broaden and deepen their knowledge of conflict resolution.”

Munholland says the mediation workshops and coaching training she received through her Conflict Resolution Studies and Human Rights degree well-equipped her for the practicum program, which she calls “a very cool opportunity.”

“Conflict is a natural, everyday thing, but not a lot of people sit down and critically think about it,” she says. “Being in this degree, I find myself doing that and I’m more confident in my ability to deal with conflict in my life.”

Ellen Paulley is the Writer and Social Media Coordinator for Menno Simons College

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