Journal of
Stellar Peacemaking

©2009 Journal of Stellar Peacemaking
Vol.4 No. 2, 2009



Peacemaking In Ukrainian Teacher Education Classes Through Peer Mediation

Tetyana S. Koshmanova
Western Michigan University, U.S.A
Ivan Franko National University of L’viv, Ukraine

The goal of research was to explore the method for developing teacher candidates’ beliefs toward peacebuilding, democracy and accepting those who have different viewpoints. Based on the supposition that socio-cognitive conflict can become an effective instrument for developing sociocultural beliefs of students, the study is grounded in the premises of cultural-historical theory of activity emphasizing social situation as a source of human development (Vygotsky, 1978). The procedure for this study involved investigating a change in teacher candidates’ views of democracy, peace and multiculturalism under the influence of conducted peer mediation. The paper specifically analyses learning experiences of teacher candidates as they reflected on their democratic, peaceful practices after peer mediation. It also utilizes research findings of cultural-historical theory of activity on socio-cognitive conflict to inform the field of teacher education for peace. Research results demonstrated that peer mediation can be effectively used in teacher education classes as a peacebuilding method.


Collapse of the Soviet Union was, probably, one of the most dramatic events| of the 20th century. The state of social transformation, experienced by its former republics|its|, is connected with both great|great,big| economic difficulties, such as demographic cataclysms, unemployment, disintegration of the traditional family, impoverishment of middle class, and extreme social situations characterizing|describing| post-conflict development of eastern European countries (Koshmanova, Hapon & Carter, 2007)|. Ukraine can be considered as an illustrative example of great political instability that characterizes port-conflict Eastern Europe during its transition from authoritarian regimes to democratic societies. Educational reforms aimed at building civil society in this country turned out to be unsuccessful (Vailllant, 2005; Koshmanova, 2006a). Researchers connect this with the processes of social anomie, chauvinism, corruption at all levels of the society, collapse of traditional values, disorientation of a person in the transitional society and absence of the concepts of peace, democracy and legal state (Shevchuk, 2006; Hapon, 2007). The studies also showed worrisome setbacks in Ukraine, continuing on a dangerous trajectory toward authoritarian governance which backslides in key areas of democratic and peace practices. Besides high level of corruption, its more recent study found serious violations of human rights and the rule of law in Ukraine, infighting and outright irresponsibility among political leaders in Ukraine (Shkolnikov, 2009).

Ukraine’s slide into the consolidated authoritarian category underscores the unfulfilled promises of the Orange Revolution (2004) that was initially believed by many observers, as well as by Ukraine’s citizens, “to have ushered in a new era of democracy” (Ravchyna, 2006, p. 3). However, it turned out to bring great political instability into the region, revealing deep ethnic, religious, economic and political divisions and eventually split the Ukrainian nation into two opposing parts – East and West, with the agrarian West that is ardently nationalist, predominantly Catholic and anti-Russian, and the industrial East which is predominantly oriented toward Russia in speech and religion (Fisher, 2002).

An especially strong factor of the country’s division turned out to be Western-Ukrainian ethnocentrism that converted a nationalist ideology into an educational reform of moulding a new Ukrainian-speaking nation from a heterogeneous population (Kuznetsov, 1994). According to Vladimir Shkolnikov (2009), Ukraine’s problems have been strengthened by the deep conflict within the country’s leadership, institutional gaps and the lack of good governance, and now they are “complicated even more by the strong personal conflict and distrust between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.” (p. 2) which contributes to aggressive intolerance among their supporters, with further Ukraine’s splitting into two parts. To avoid ethnic conflicts, political and social instability, unemployment and extreme social situations, more than seven million Ukrainians (out of Ukraine’s total population of 46 million) are currently working abroad, which results in their rapid emigration (Hapon, 2007). The experiences of this country demonstrate that democracy, stability, and peace represent a long-term process requiring arduous work of educators toward interpersonal and intrapersonal conflict resolution, as well as a determined reform effort in teacher education.

Research shows that peacemaking in the society can be promoted by democratic values in schools that influence peace, individual responsibility and greater political participation (Kamens, 1988). Considering educational pre-requisites for the successful educational reforms that promote democracy and peace in the conditions of transition from the ex. Party/states to market economy, Heyneman (1998) argues, “Since Dewey’s time, education research on the acquisition of democratic values has included the following: how schools may broaden outlook, increase tolerance and the desire to participate in the political process” (p. 29). He also connects it with equal educational opportunity to all citizens, professional consensus around the content of civics curriculum and democratic institutions to adjudicate differences over what to teach (Heyneman, 1998). Unfortunately, such innovative educational reforms were never pursued enough to profoundly transform Ukrainian education and these prerequisites has never been established; thus, at present, educational reforms that promote democracy are only starting in Ukraine.

Theoretical Background

The notion of “conflict” is commonly understood “as a collision of opposite, incompatible tendencies in consciousness of man or in interpersonal relations between people which is accompanied by strong negative emotional experiences” (Piren, 1997, p.157). According to the theory of activity (Rubtsov, 2005), non-acceptance or one-sided understanding of civic values by some young people can cause intrapersonal and interpersonal conflict. Socio-cognitive, either intrapersonal or interpersonal, conflict denotes “the lack of coincidence in understanding the same concepts and values by other people which makes different personal senses and meanings” (Korneeva, 2007, p. 41). Such differences in interpretations of the same phenomena are caused by specificities of social-cultural development of every person which results in the uniqueness of his/her social experiences (Vygotsky, 1978). Many young people of transitional societies experience intrapersonal, social-cognitive conflicts toward civic values which are expressed in a contradiction between objective and personal sense of these values. In interpersonal relations, such collisions in understandings may be explained by different definitions of civic values or opposite attitudes toward them (Rubtsov, 2005).

It is crucial to recognize conflict experiences as an inevitable part of life because they can become extreme situations in school if they are ignored. Therefore, any conflict requires its resolution, otherwise escalation of contradictions begins promoting destructive relationships that hinder inter-articulation and cooperation of students (Hutchinson, 1996). The procedure of any conflict resolution includes negotiating participants’ different viewpoints, their sociocultural beliefs and values, during which students hear other person’s points of view and look at controversial issues from a different angle building new understandings of other people’s sociocultural beliefs (Ravchyna, 2006). During the process of negotiation, strong personal emotions are involved because each person tries to defend his/her values and beliefs. However, in the process of emotional exposure, everyone subconsciously starts understanding the state of a person whose opinions are not accepted. Therefore, the participants of a dispute often start understanding that there is a certain common human background and personal interests among them because every person has a need for affiliation. This helps them to seek for compromising solutions and their spending mutual efforts for achieving beneficial solutions for both parties. In the processes of social-cognitive conflict transformation, it is very important to understand the opposite points of view and agree with their right for existence (Ravchyna, 2006) which results in the development of intercultural acceptance and acknowledgment of cultural commonalities through active listening, reflection, discussion and learning. Thus the solution of a socio-cognitive conflict may help a person to become more tolerant to other social backgrounds of those who are different, renewing and developing the existing personal values (Rubtsov, 2005).

However, it is also quite logical to consider conflict occurring in sites of education as a source of learning and personal development (Carter, 2002). Any development of human thinking includes the overcoming of barriers between personal opinions, points of view and different visions of an issue under consideration which results in the formation of new thoughts, attitudes, and dispositions. These contradictions also encourage a person changing his/her behavior or points of view to achieve a balance between different opinions which that person is processing in learning. In addition, social-cognitive conflict in learning may denote contradictions between students’ new and prior knowledge, and especially beliefs, as well as contradictions between personal values of a separate individual and others (students, teachers, and opinions of scholars represented in different theories or textbooks). Explaining one’s current worldview teaches a person to articulate and develop his/her thoughts. During listening to others and sharing opinions, a person also cognitively grows while widening, deepening and developing new ideas. The overcoming of any contradictions makes a person consider his/her opinions more critically, modify own judgments and build new knowledge or skills.

The socio-cognitive conflict makes a developmental impact on students with various levels of intellectual development and promotes disappearance of differences in certain socio-cognitive characteristics of students from different social backgrounds. In this context, peer mediation aimed at resolving a socio-cognitive conflict between different viewpoints of individuals becomes a significant psychological factor that enacts their thinking processes and provides influences on the development of interaction before cooperation (Rubtsov, 2005).


Peacemaking Education

Though peace education is not associated with beliefs of any particular philosopher, a humanistic tradition established the philosophical volumes of Jean Jacques Rousseau, John Dewey and Paolo Freire (Synott, 2005) could be considered as such that set the stage for later works promoting teaching for non-violence, peace and common good.

Over the past three decades, various concepts about peace education emerged as peace activists attempted to deal with different forms of violence in global dimension. Today peace education takes various shapes—international, human rights, development, environmental and conflict education—as instructors address different forms of violence across social contexts (Carter, 2010; Harris, 2004). In the schools, education for peace also includes such programs as diversity education, peace and justice education, civic and democratic education, and violence-prevention education (Salomon & Nevo, 2002).. It is often defined as the spreading of knowledge needed to attain and preserve peace, cooperation, solidarity in order to reduce violence, ethnocentrism and injustice (Galtung, 1990).

In teacher education, instruction for peace includes making peaceful contexts, supportive learning communities, and using methods of changing students’ dispositions that embrace their diversity and view conflict from multiple perspectives before or in social crises (Setalvad, 2010; Yogev, 2010). Researchers also suggest social education and behavioural patterning, which includes teacher modelling these behaviours through thinking aloud and sharing ideas about the conflicts they address with students; while examining social crises and analyzing contextual influences includes students’ comprehensive problem solving that addresses the needs of all who are or were involved in a social conflict (Carter, 2004).

Relevant to the field of teacher education, there is a pedagogical value of using discussion, narrative analysis and peer mediation for resolving socio-cognitive conflict. Reflections and narratives are valuable methods that develop student plural visions and thinking (Hoover, 1994). As a social construct, these methods display social learning, which illustrates the content of the studied event. When changes of the socio-cultural circumstances lead to the formation of different narratives about a studied phenomenon, transformative learning can occur through analysis of narrative data (Koshmanova, Carter & Hapon, 2003). According to the constructivist learning theory, transformative learning represents an active process of constructing meaning rather than a passive process of absorbing information (Vygotsky 1978).

Transformative learning is particularly effective in divided and post-conflict societies, especially in those with young age of democracy and a legacy of ethnopolitical conflict. Among peace education strategies that are practiced, for example in Ukraine, several qualitative studies suggest the effectiveness of participatory approaches to teacher preparation, such as academic service learning, modelling a democratic classroom, and developing students’ critical thinking and caring (Koshmanova & Holm, 2007), as well as peer-mediation that helps develop interpersonal compassion and new socio-cognitive beliefs (Ravchyna, 2006).

Concluding, it should be noted that the conflict is a natural part of any learning; and the main goal for a teacher is not to avoid it but rather to create the conditions for students’ solving it constructively. In this case, it will have an impact on students’ cognitive and sociocultural development.

Conceptual framework

The conceptual framework of this study is grounded in the principles of the activity-based learning oriented toward the zone of proximal development of students; interiorization; exteriorization; and experiential learning (Vygotsky, 1978; Leontiev, 1977; Koshmanova, 2007). To form peaceful, democratic dispositions via the chosen method of peer mediation, the researcher was guided by the premises of cultural-historical theory (Vygotsky, 1978) by creating necessary conditions in which these qualities would be promoted and demonstrated. The first premise is connected with a need to create the environment built on the principles of peaceful, democratic, civil society which stimulates and directs students toward their demonstrating such civic behavior (Vygotsky, 1978). In doing so, an instructor has to create the “we” feeling in this environment and ground it in students’ friendship and acceptance of each other. The second premise is based on the idea that students will build up these qualities effectively provided they experience the behavior which corresponds to the dispositions and values the instructor wants them to develop (Koshmanova, 2006). Thus, according to Vygotsky (1978), if these conditions are met, the students will achieve their zones of proximal development by acquiring adequate skills of self-regulating and self-organizing their behavior that would be based on expected values, and developing certain feelings about this society, as well as patters of behavior. While developing these values and patterns of behavior, they are going through the resolution of a socio-cognitive conflict (Koshmanova, 2008) which makes developmental impact on students with various levels of intellectual and moral development and promotes disappearance of differences in certain socio-cognitive characteristics of students from different social backgrounds (Rubtsov, 2005).


The goal of the study is to test the method of developing teacher candidates’ beliefs toward peacebuilding, democracy and accepting those who have different viewpoints. The study was grounded in qualitative research. Among the methods employed in this study is generalization of author’s personal experience of using peer mediation as a tool of solving socio-cognitive conflict, as well as qualitative analysis of students’ journal writing and narratives.


The participants (N=25), who were prospective teachers, were enrolled into a one-semester (Summer 2009) undergraduate teacher education course at the national university in Ukraine that experiences democratic transformations. This university is a nationally representative sample that includes teacher candidate subjects from various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Subjects were secondary education majors enrolled in various teacher education programs. They were approximately 21-28 years of age, with a medium of 24,5 years. It was a randomly selected group; therefore they were of different gender (17 female and 8 male students), health status, and cognitive status. Though the official permission for publication of the students’ writings was received from the university, the author chose to use students’ pseudonyms for a number of reasons. First, the participants of this research might feel uncomfortable for political reasons to openly share their opinions. This is connected with great social instability of the post conflict societies they belong to, as well as with the continuing power of secret service agencies working in their nations and controlling institutions. Second, they might not trust the researcher with regard to not breaking their confidentiality and not using the obtained data for political purposes which can be fairly common in nations with less established democracies. And third, as students of authoritarian institutions, they might not trust the researcher to not share their answers with their instructors. Hence, students would not feel free to speak if they would be known by name but they were willing to participate if they can remain anonymous.

Procedure, instruments

In this study, peace was defined as the development of students’ ability to accept, respect and care for each other on the basis of solidarity and cooperation in order to reduce violence, ethnocentrism and injustice (Galtung, 1990). Though peace education is not associated with beliefs of any particular philosopher, the humanistic tradition established in the educational heritage of Jean Jacques Rousseau, John Dewey and Pablo Freire (Synott, 2005) promoting teaching for peaceful society, democracy and common good was important for the author’s understanding of this concept.

To test the effectiveness of the suggested method, which included a combination of strategies (peer mediation, reflective writing and discussions) grounded in the premises of cultural-historical theory (Vygotsky, 1978), the researcher decided to use this method in one selected group of teacher candidates as a tool of resolving a socio-cognitive conflict to change students’ beliefs for democracy and peace. It was conducted within a series of small discussion groups of professional seminar following a large lecture class on general pedagogy for prospective teachers. In this professional seminar, the author played a dual role by being a lecturer of 150 students and an instructor/discussion leader in one of six discussion groups of students (N=25). The lecture class with seminars to follow were organized around topics discussed in the “Pedagogy for Democratic Citizenship” (Koshmanova, 2005) textbook, which was elaborated collaboratively by the Ukrainian – American team of researchers to discuss important considerations of organizing a democratic, peaceful discourse in teacher education classrooms in global conditions of European integration. To do so, the authors of the textbook considered global education trends, the philosophical issues of multicultural society, peace, diversity, inclusion, conflict resolution, interactive models of teaching and various issues of school milieu in Ukraine. The study is grounded in exploring a qualitative change in students’ views towards democracy, reconciliation and peace studied by a researcher/instructor during professional seminars in pedagogy.

The researcher started teaching this 12-sessions’ seminar by asking students to reflect on their visions of the role they can play as teachers to promote democratic, peaceful society in the conditions of current European integration. It was aimed at opening student minds toward thinking about their personal contributions in promoting civil society in global environment, and the methods they might use in such teaching and at assessing students’ prior knowledge on teaching democracy and peace in their future classrooms. The analysis of the obtained data led to the conclusion that students envisioned teacher role in building democratic society mainly as teaching patriotism in a monocultural environment (78%), along with the Ukrainian traditions, culture, religion, and language. From them, several students (37%) supported the idea of Ukraine being integrated into the European Union but felt confused how European integration relates to teaching patriotism. Several students gave more definite answers (7%), envisioning multicultural environment as a basic idea for teaching democracy and peace.

Stage one: Interactive methods of teaching, debates and reflective writing

With an important goal in mind that democratically-minded teachers will model their appreciation for peace, personal freedom and human rights in their future classrooms (Koshmanova, 2005), the author started teaching the seminar with creating a supportive learning environment (Vygotsky, 1978) grounded in multicultural philosophy and democratic values of teaching. The first class session (“General foundations of education”) was organized as a directed discussion where students shared ideas about global educational trends and challenges of social and pedagogical transformation in post-totalitarian Ukraine. Many of them actively participated in this interactive discussion of independent thinking, despite being traditionally accustomed to a passive learning environment. At the end of this class, they were asked to do fast writing in their reflective journals addressing the question: “How can European integration relate to promoting peaceful society in Ukraine?” The results of the first class session showed that many students, maybe for the first time in their lives, were speaking out aloud about sensitive topics, not discussed in schools.

The second class session (“Multicultural philosophy of learning”) was aimed at developing student thinking about peaceful, civil society. This time it was organized as a debate – “Multiculturalism versus monoculturalism”. The topic was formulated by the instructor who used the power of cognitive dissonance by suggesting students to do the activity which were not interested in and did not like at the beginning. In this case, students were invited to discuss ideas on multiculturalism in a monocultural Ukraine. The two groups of students (pros’ and cons’) were actively thinking, arguing, disputing, clarifying their misconceptions, and developing personal attitudes and beliefs about patriotism, national identity, monoculturalism, multiculturalism, and their role in building civil society. This session was followed by a reflection (“What have I learned from the debate?”). The last assignment was given by a teacher as their homework with a goal to do a leap on their future thinking about the essence of democracy and peace in global European community.

Several class sessions were organized as a combination of cooperative learning, direct teaching, student presentations, and reflective discussions. Each time students were doing reflective journal writing at the end of the class: instructor was randomly collecting these journals to give students their discussion points and also to get some general feeling about developing students’ new dispositions on democracy, peace and multicultural life in a global society.

Results from Stage One

Qualitative analyses of conducted debates, discussions and reflective writing showed that students could be divided into two subgroups in which one group of students (N=18) considered that teacher has to educate students by making them memorize facts, while the other group (N=7) believed that teacher has to create the conditions in which students would learn by themselves. According to the participants, the creation of multicultural, peaceful civil society depends upon organization of the process of education: one group considered that everything in student learning has to be strictly regulated and clearly defined, while the other one envisioned learning as active process of students’ participation in it where the important for their social and moral development issues are openly discussed. However, debates clearly demonstrated that students while participating in discussions were trying to impose their opinions to others: the overwhelming majority of them (95%) considered their position to be correct and were trying to force others to accept it.

Stage Two: Peer mediation

Peer mediation as a main organizational form for conducting this research was chosen for a number of reasons. First, there is strong research evidence that peer mediation promotes peace and mutual understanding between conflicting parties. Second, there are general reviews of peer mediation and conflict resolution programs that speak to the efficacy of their variety in elementary and secondary education (Jones & Kmitta, 2000; Schrumpf, Crawford & Usadel,1991; Johnson & Johnson, 2006). And third, there are specific reports on peer mediation programs and factors of their effectiveness for teacher education (Johnson & Johnson, 1998; Maklund, 2007); Tyrrell, 2002).

Jerry Tyrrell (2002) in his years of experience in developing peer mediation for the peace process in primary schools in Northern Ireland has come to recognize the creativity, patience, commitment, and integrity that children demonstrate in resolving their conflicts by using such a process. According to his study, peer mediation is a process that teaches fairness and, most importantly, empathy. However, as he believes, getting peer mediation embedded in schools for teaching peace is not a simple issue. It is not just a question of supplying workshops for training, it requires that a school undergo major changes in its culture, teaching styles and relationships in the classroom—from authoritarian into democratic—and the changes must be consistent and ongoing.

Speaking about major changes in school culture, Johnson & Johnson (2006) define a number of steps which have to be involved for peer mediation to work successfully as a peaceful model in elementary and secondary schools. These are: compulsory attendance which would help students interact and have an opportunity to build positive relationships with each other; a sense of mutual fate that highlights mutual goals; teaching students the constructive controversy procedure to ensure they know how to engage in democratic discourse; educating students how to engage in peer mediation procedure to resolve their conflicts constructively; and inculcating civic values for establishing consensual peace (Johnson & Johnson, 2006).

Similar results were achieved in another study (Lane-Garon, Ybarra-Merlo, Zajac, & Vierra, 2005), which analyzing peer mediation program implementation in elementary schools by teacher candidates and classroom teachers, found out that peer mediation becomes an useful tool when children learn to be peace builders in the context of positive relationships and democratic school climate, experiencing guided practice in interpersonal skill development around conflict. Researchers (Schrumpf, Crawford, & Usadel, 1991) also believe that peer mediation works effectively at the secondary schools level teaching students problem solving and critical thinking, promoting mutual understanding of various individuals and groups throughout the school community. In addition, it can help reduce violence, vandalism, and absentism in schools, and can help improve discipline.

Generally, the authors believe that peer mediation is a life skill that empowers students to solve their own problems through improved communication (Schrumpf, Crawford, & Usadel, 1991). Linda Maklund (2007), generalizing own experience of using peer mediation at Lulea Technical University, Sweden, and her colleagues’ experiences in approximately 100 schools, argues that “we are a peace movement at a grassroots level!” (p.111). She believes that peer mediation fulfills the mission of transforming “schools into safer, more caring, and more effective institutions of learning” (p.111). Overall, as Jones (2006) reports, the field-based research on conflict resolution education indicates strong support for the mediation program model as such that promotes peace and mutual understanding in the conditions of democratic learning environment.

Peer mediation is usually organized as a discussion between two partners with opposite opinions about the problem who are looking for the ways of its solution under the guidance of a mediator (Cohen, 1995). A mediator is not responsible for conflict resolution, but rather for regulating this process without interfering into the subject of discussion. The main task of a mediator is to organize, support the process of partners’ discussion of a certain problem, their mutual presenting positions to each other with the goal of finding points of reconciliation and conflict resolution which suits the interests of both partners (Cohen, 1995, p, 27).

Research shows that conducting mediation in pairs is more productive for developing students’ attitudes and dispositions than participating in a big class discussion because it is easier for students to express their views working with partners and to hear their opinions on their views (Ravchyna, 2005; Grabovs’ka & Ravchyna, 2001). A mediator, possessing certain skills, can direct partners toward purposeful discussion of their positions, helping them to define premises for the arguments they are defending, and facilitate them to look for the common ground which would unite them both (Koshmanova & Ravchyna, 2008). Negotiations of two parties under the guidance of a mediator provide each participant with a possibility to understand a partner’s position and consider own judgments in its context (Ravchyna, 2005). Furthermore, from the point of view of social psychology, if a person understands a certain idea, then he/she starts believing in it (Myers, 2000, c.348). Therefore, in mediation a person within the process of mutual thinking and considering the problem works out his/her own understanding of a given discussed phenomenon which leads to defining a certain personal attitude toward it.

Specificity of Peer Mediation

The goal of mediation conducted in subsequent sessions was not just to consider different points of view of partners but rather to develop a collaborative decision and mutual opinion which would suit them both. This mediation differed from a regular mediation organized as conflict resolution. In our case, a conflict was not evident, but different opinions led to disagreements and disputes. Very often discussions which had been conducted before showed that disagreements in opinions used to result in collisions of views and|individual| positions leading students to their personal non-acceptance of each other. Quite often, this was preceded by social injustice, cultural differences, ethnic|gracious| prejudices and stereotypes of the participants. Therefore this mediation| did not just foresee the search of mutual decision and|but| discussion of cultural|gracious| disagreements, but was aimed at|displays| forming students’ abilities of acceptance of|by| each other, respect to different|by| opinions and values of partners.

The process of learning was grounded in the premise that mediation will influence students’ social development provided they are looking over problems and collisions while discussing the issues of aggression, poverty, social isolation (Grabovs’ka and Ravchyna, 2001). It was important that in mediation students did not just present their positions and visions of a modern teacher, but also saw how their positions correlate with interests of other people, how they don’t contradict to the values of social justice, peace and equality.

Choosing mediation mainly as a cognitive versus social conflict resolution, the researcher was motivated by the following premises. During debates and mutual discussions conducted in the first several sessions, it was evident that not every student got a chance to clearly express his/her position because the views of others influenced his/her judgments. In mediation, on the contrary, every student would be able to communicate his/her opinion, listen to a contradicting opinion of the other and find that common ground which would unite them both. Besides this variant, the instructor was also using mediation as a social, real conflict resolution between students where they fulfilled the roles of conflicting parties. In such real situations, the conflict did not just express students’ disagreements of interests, opinions and needs, but rather their different social positions and cultural differences.

Preparation and Facilitation of Mediation

Since students were supposed to go to mediation willingly, it was significant for the researcher to explain its necessity and importance, emphasizing that mediation is a confidential process in which students can openly express their values and ethnic views without being afraid that his/her judgments will be presented to others since everybody is responsible for preserving information under discussion. The instructor also stressed the hazards of not-mediating, as well as the importance of clarifying consequences if students do not try mediation (for example, if the issues remain unresolved indefinitely, they will lose a friend). The advantages of mediation were in students’ complete control over its outcome. Unlike debates, mediation was giving a possibility for students to understand what stands behind disagreements; it was also helping to save the relationships, and often, to strengthen them while looking for mutual decision which would suit them both. Stressing the benefits of mediation, the instructor assured students that it will help them understand real motives of own behavior, their ground for decision making, personal values and stereotypes, as well as their correlation with social-democratic norms.

During the session called “Conflict resolution” students learned the structure of mediation, its scripts, linguistic behavior and vocabulary of mediator. Students were divided into micro groups in which some of them volunteered to fulfill the role of peer mediators and conflicting parties. Mediation was fulfilled according to the rules and principles which led the participants through the stages and schedule. The most important was a conversation at the end when participants were discussing the essence of the conflict between different cultures, values, social positions and their influences on human relationships. Thus, this discussion helped to organize a dialog regarding the importance of multicultural values for the development of a person, his/her interactions with the others and society.

In the process of preparation for mediation, students were developing necessary mediation skills by fulfilling a simulation prepared by the instructor which was based on a real deep conflict between two students which was observed by other teacher candidates during their field practice several years ago (Koshmanova & Holm, 2007). This real conflict made a ground for peer mediation scripts for the participants. An observable reason for the conflict was an open window in the classroom; however, a real, deep reason was hidden in the difference of interests (during one lesson, one girl who sat near the window kept closing the window because she got over a cold, while another girl kept opening it because it was hot in the classroom; then the first girl got up and came up to the second girl, pulled her by her hair and dress collar, and hit her head against the desk; the teacher who was conducting the lesson asked the girls not to disrupt the lesson and clarify their relations after the lesson). Here was a real conflict observed, which was based on girls’ struggle for leadership and ethnic differences.

During mediation it became clear that girls do not accept each other because of their deeply rooted cultural non-acceptance. Before this mediation, participants were prepared by the instructor who discussed with them the essence of this method, its role, functions and principles. Students’ attention was paid to all the important moments of mediation—when it is needed or not, conditions for conducting, its advantages and disadvantages. The instructor was especially trying to emphasize the conditions under which conflicting parties cannot achieve consensus (for example, when there is some hidden problem which the participants do not want to communicate to each other in their negotiations, and therefore none of them initiates conducting these dialogues). In this case, it is obvious that the level of such conflict is deep; it is not just a dispute but rather the availability of strong negative emotions, offence and anger. It was emphasized that the goal of conflict resolution is not just a search for agreement, but seeking for reconciliation, which is a real challenge in negotiations because it is necessary that people should speak openly, wanted to listen and accept each other.

The scheme of conducting mediation was also considered and discussed; some moments were studied and certain skills developed (greeting, making questions at different stages of conflict resolution, explaining personal positions which conflicting parties present to each other, uncovering hidden interests and motives, as well as deeply rooted stimulus for conflicts. In addition, students were learning mediator’s skills of communication (clarification of judgments, generalization, and using I-statements). Mediators were also provided additional help by the instructor during office hours by discussing the structure of mediation and the ways of stimulating conflicting parties towards their search of mutual decision which should be optimal and friendly for the solution of pedagogical problems, school development toward democratic, peaceful education. It was important for the instructor not to guide the moderators toward imposing a democratic solution to conflicting parties but rather toward their organizing the process of discussion in which both parties will come to a mutual decision which, according to them, is the most socially meaningful and productive for effective teaching and learning. The most important for mediators was to experience responsibility for the process of mediation, but not for the result.

During the next sessions the instructor divided students into eight subgroups with three persons per each which included partners with opposite points of view. The role of mediators was performed by volunteers who were mainly those students who still in debates demonstrated leadership qualities. There were three peer mediation sessions conducted where students had to address the question What is your vision of a modern teacher?” and come to consensus regarding teacher’s ability to teach students for peace, multiculturalism and civil society. One group of participants, defending their vision of positive teacher traits, stood for affirmative, authoritarian teaching style, based on memorization and monoculturalism. Another group of participants considered that teacher has to develop students’ thinking and democratic virtues for multicultural, peaceful civil society.

Results from Stage Two

At the end of each session on peer mediation students were writing short journal entries about their learning. Their reflections written in the middle of semester showed that not each of eight groups of students came to a mutual decision regarding their visions of a modern teacher. Sometimes students’ judgments were so controversial that it was hard to understand the position of the participant. The effectiveness of the conducted mediation quite often depended upon mediators’ skill to use criteria of pedagogical problem evaluation, their ability to separate problem from emotions and direct partners toward discussion of a problem, not emotions; to separate positions from real interests; direct partners toward developing clear arguments; as well as their ability to quite the partners to look to the future while discussing problems. However, even those mediators who were trying to follow the criteria did not always succeed in guiding partners toward their mutual problem solution. This mid-semester journal reflection showed that there were three groups of students (out of eight) who did not come to consensus because partners strongly defended their positions and did not want to listen to the arguments of others. Partly, it could be explained by limited experience of these students to work cooperatively with others during classes in pedagogy.

Students’ journal writing done at that time demonstrated some change in their opinions regarding educational values for democracy and peace, though their opinions differed. Here are several responses:


“Mediation really helps people who do not understand each other being in disagreements, to hear one another, understand different point of view and realize your own view. Mediator's questions made me think about my own position...I even did not think about this before, and I really saw some contradictions in my judgments. Besides, with the help of a mediator, it was easier for me to understand the position of my opponent which was difficult to understand in a big class discussion because we all are screaming about our emotions, but not about the essence. A quiet judgment of a partner helps better understand his point of view and also to see positive sides. But most of all I like making decisions together, when we are really thinking together about our mutual decision. It is interesting and teaches us to think alternatively…” (Julia, 21 years old)


“I believe if a person has his point of view and defends it, then one should try to convince him of something different. If mediation teaches us to refuse from our views and accept an opinion of our partner, then we will never have our clear position developed” (Orest, 22 years old)


“I liked mediation because it helps to speak openly in a small group and supposes an honest communication of one’s thoughts without being afraid of criticism of others! When I speak honestly, I begin to believe in my judgments more. However, I think much depends upon a mediator who is not always able of leading partners towards their mutual discussion of a problem, sometimes it happens on the contrary – our mediator formulated a problem the way which made us both stand our ground and defend our opinions” (Iryna, 22 years old)


“Sometimes one mediation will not help: longer sessions are needed to discuss problems more in detail.” (Nadia, 27 years old)


Generally, students’ reflections of the middle of semester allowed dividing them into three categories. The first point of view includes changing students’ attitudes toward a person, accepting the necessity to understand him/her, to look at the world from his/her eyes. This can be considered as an initial process of change, a stage of changing of monocultural dispositions of a person (“Change cannot come quickly”). Here is a typical response:


“Educational process has always been monotonous for me. Discussing problems among others and with others promoted my interest for learning; group work helped me to look at others in a different way… Sometimes an unpleasant for me person, with whom I was solving a problem was opening to me from a different angle. Now I start understanding what it means—to look at a person with interest, to try understanding him, to be in his shoes for some time... (Yuriy, 24 years old)


The second point of view involves understanding and accepting these democratic multicultural values but students’ inability to use them in everyday life. The fact that students, who supported this point of view, understood how important and possible to see the positive in every person and treat every person with respect, speaks about improving their democratic dispositions. In other words, their dispositions were developed at the level of emotions and understanding (emotional and cognitive level), but on a practical level. Here is a typical response:


“I always stood for principles of friendly, tolerant attitudes toward the others, the importance of working together. However, it was difficult to work with our group. I was always thinking that the majority of students from my group are at a different level of cultural developments: everybody cares only for himself. Working with others in groups, during doing assignments, I understood that every person has something, I believe that problems of respect to other cultures are solved when we all work together and are interested in getting a mutual result. Then everybody opens his visions of the problem from the point of view of own values, and it is interesting. This deepens knowledge of others (Olena, 23 years old).


The third point of view can be represented by the following statement:


“I liked changes in learning. Teaching on new positions gave a possibility to express my point of view, openly speak about my judgments, but I do not understand why I should accept other people’s points of view and think like them. Yes, I support the idea of students’ sharing their views, but it is important for our state that people shared the values exactly of this state, but not of their ethnic cultures”(Orest, 24 yesrs old).

It is evident that changes in value orientations of this student did not take place; however, changes toward learning and attitudes toward others did take place, though here students of this position still did not realize the importance of democratic peaceful values for the development of every person, every ethnic culture and the state.


Final Results

During the concluding class the participants wrote narratives about change in their views after conducted peer mediation. They were writing these narratives for 40 minutes. The question to which they had to provide the answer was the following: “What do you think about the values of democratic, peaceful society, what is your opinion about democratic education and what is the role of conducted peer mediation in the formation of such judgments?” This time there were four variants of responses. 40% (N=10) of students completely admired their semester of studies and stood for democratic values. Among their statements were the following:


I liked learning process; it really differed from our traditional teaching. It was really educative. For the first time I was learning with interest and opened a lot for myself” (Bohdan, 27 years old)


“I believe that educational process on the principles of democracy and peace corresponds to the interests and needs of every person. In this process I felt as a respected person because I had the right to speak openly, and I was listened to without any criticism. I liked the atmosphere of learning which plays a great role in the organization of this process. I really understood that respect for a person, in spite of his language and beliefs, is the main condition which will help people to unite and will promote disappearance of terrorism, aggression and anger among people.” (Dennis, 28 years old)


“I was never thinking that educational process can influence a person and change his views. Any process can educate, however, not every teaching can help developing positive feelings and values. I support democratic education based on principle of peace and freedom of every student, his acceptance, despite his economic status and ethnic differences. In such education students can think freely and in a peaceful, kind way. In such education a teacher plays a different role, and I believe that it is right, the question is, however, whether everybody can be such a teacher” (Maria, 22 years old)


There was a group of students (24% - 6 persons) who stood for democratic, peaceful values but did not believe in reality of their development in the whole world. Here is a typical response of a student from this group:


“Democratic, civil society built on the ideas of peace is a good idea, but it will remain at the level of ideal. We have to strive for this, but I believe that to realize this idea is impossible because there will be other people who will feel aggressive toward other ethnicities, who want to have power over others. Yes, in this process I have learned a lot, and it is close to being perfect, but it cannot become a reality and survive in the practice of our educational institutions because gradually all the students will get accustomed to this good teaching and kind attitude and they will get bored, they will lose their interest and they will show again their angry nature. Besides, people in such educational process when they are treated nicely, will still behave in a different way in a different atmosphere based on struggle for personal interests. There these people will begin to get adjusted to the aggressive atmosphere and will stop demonstrating the behavior which is important for democracy and peace. I think it is utopia.” (Vasyl, 24 years old)


One more group of students (12% - 3 persons) believed that building peaceful civil society is the goal of every state. However, they thought, civil society represents defense of national interests, state culture and all ethnic minorities have to support this national goal and state culture:


“I have a positive opinion about this learning because it taught us, the Ukrainians, to love and respect each other. It is important that such a learning process take place in all colleges and secondary schools. Then Ukraine will become a peaceful democratic state where all Ukrainian will respect each other and other minorities. However, these minorities, different nations, who live in Ukraine, have to respect our state and stand for its interests, values, culture, attributes, language, symbols and. They have to prioritize exactly state values” (Serhiy, 28 years old)



The analysis of the results this qualitative research evidenced change in students’ beliefs, as well as students’ readiness for multicultural education based on democracy and peace. The study also confirmed a positive influence of all the sessions of peer mediation on gradual formation of students’ dispositions, during which they had an opportunity to construct personal views of democracy and peace, make their personal sense and develop their feelings during emotional evaluations. Change in their attitudes was taking place in accordance to their initial level. For students who initially understood the value of democracy and peace, changes took place at cognitive, emotional and behavioral levels. For students who initially did not understand the value of democracy, multiculturalism and peace in the classroom, changes took place only at cognitive and emotional levels. After conducting mediation sessions, all students expressed their readiness for participation in learning based on democracy and peace.

For the successful resolving of socio-cognitive conflict and forming students’ peaceful, democratic dispositions, the researcher created certain conditions in accordance with premises of cultural-historical theory. The first condition characterized by the creation of supportive, non-barrier, open to any thought, positively-oriented learning environment with non-threatening, non-judgmental, inclusive atmosphere, open to any choices and built on the principles of respect, trust, truth, choice, and commitment (Vygotsky, 1978). The second conditions was in changing the social role of instructor, who became a “guardian” of process, and in changing the social role of students who from being passive memorizers of information became active learners, constructors of knowledge, decision makers (Koshmanova & Ravchyna, 2008). The third condition was connected with changing the essence of learning, which became the process of knowledge construction based on inquiry and personal experience (Vygotsky, 1978). The forth condition was connected with organizing students’ developmental learning of overcoming stereotypes in their thinking and visions (Davydov, 1990). And the fifth condition was in students’ learning to care for each other through interaction and cooperation (Koshmanova &Holm, 2007). The findings of the study demonstrated that the suggested method could be a productive source for transformative learning for peace, democracy and reconciliation. Evaluations from seminars for teacher candidates found that most of the participants identified specific aspects they had learned as most useful and could state one aspect of their practice that they could change in the result of their leaning.




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Tetyana S. Koshmanova is an Associate Professor of socio-cultural foundations, College of Education, Western Michigan University, U.S.A. She holds two doctoral degrees in educational psychology and teacher education: from the Dragomanov Pedagogical University, Ukraine, and Ukrainian Academy of Pedagogical Sciences in Kyiv. She has authored numerous research articles, book chapters and books on emerging democracies and peace education. She has consulted with schools throughout Eastern Europe on the issues of teaching for multiculturalism and peace. During the past 15 years, Dr. Koshmanova has served on task forces examining teacher-education reforms for peace and democratic citizenship in Ukraine and Russia.





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