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O’Farrell, Eimear M. (2010). The effects of participation of school children as mediators in contrast to non-mediators in a mentored mediation program as related to academic achievement, developmental disposition, and conflict orientation. Dissertation. Doctorate in Education. California State University.

This study focused on the effects of elementary students’ participation in a mentored peer mediation program during a school year as it related to three variables, academic achievement, developmental disposition, and conflict orientation. Phase I, academic achievement, focused on the relationship between participation in this program and academic performance on the California STAR tests in English Language Arts. Archival data from approximately 1,180 upper grade students in seven elementary schools were studied to examine this relationship.Phase II, the developmental disposition component, aimed at gaining an understanding of the multidimensional nature of empathy. It focused on the cognitive responses of individuals, as well as the emotional facets of perspective taking as students engaged in mediator experiences. The instrument used to assess this component was the Davis Scales of Interpersonal Reactivity Index, which measured separate aspects of empathic reaction. Conflict Orientation was measured using a free-response questionnaire, providing a qualitative data component. Two hundred ninety seven upper grade students at five elementary schools participated in the dispositional and conflict orientation components. Four school districts with diverse socioeconomic, demographic, and ethnic representation were included in the study. Phase I data indicated that grade 5 was a critical year in the mentored mediation program, impacting academic achievement at a significantly greater level than the two other upper grade levels. The data suggested that grade 5 students may have benefited from two years of participation as mediators before realizing academic gains. Decreases in sixth grade participation due to attrition led to diminished representation of mediators. This perhaps accounted for the minimal academic gains evidenced at that grade level. Phase II data provided evidence that students demonstrated higher levels of developmental disposition and positive orientation toward conflict management when participating as mediation facilitators than when participating as nonmediator disputants. Mediators tended to implement effective conflict resolution skills, while non-mediators sought out peer mediators to resolve conflicts. It is hoped that the results of this study will contribute to the sustainability of mentored peer mediation programs in schools, by providing a clearer understanding of the interconnections among academic achievement, developmental disposition, and conflict orientation. (author's abstract)

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