Background. This paper analyzes students’ changing perceptions of conflict after training them in mediation skills. The theoretical basis of this paper is an ontological approach of studying conflict, in which the image of the conflict situation determines the specific behavior. This allowed for the development a training program aimed at changing conceptual structures. The processes of constructing conceptual structures are understood not only as explanatory models that are used for the construction of the outer world in social cognition but also as a manifestation of the internal picture of the world and an inducement to control this world as well as certain actions in the conflict. Our training program was designed by considering ontological mechanisms of conflict behavior regulation. Consequently, the most important result of the program efficiency assessment is the change in participants’ image of the conflict situation.
Objective. This study aims to change the images of the conflict situation in school students learning the basics of mediation.
Design. This study involved 360 students (grades 7-9; average age of 14 years and 8 months). During the preparatory stage, we tried to identify the characteristics of a conflict situation in 360 school children using the association experiment, which used the word “conflict” as a stimulus. To study the structure of the conflict situation image, we used Kelly’s repertory. The method of the training program regarding the basics of mediation was based on communication techniques used to resolve complex issues, including the involvement of students, a free personal statement, problem discussion and a joint search for solutions.
Results. We recorded significant changes in all of the structural components of the conflict situation image before and after training, as well as in their interrelated underlying categorization. One of the results of the program was an increase in the variability of behaviors in conflict. Before the program began, teenagers considered themselves and other conflict participants to be oriented to only meet their own interests. Upon completion of training, they developed an efficient model of behavior in conflict that included various forms of behavior, such as agreement, concession and withdrawal. The teenagers saw good reason to take a qualitatively new, organizational position in the conflict. In this regard, they described themselves as being more active in conflict and as initiating conflict resolution more often than before the training program. Educational videos and the experience of being involved in the conflict as a third party made the teenagers believe in the possibility of constructive conflict resolution based on having respect for the other participant.
Conclusion. Analysis of structural changes in the conflict situation image during the learning process demonstrated the effectiveness of training students in mediation skills. This study contributes to the better understanding of conflictological competence in general and that of school students in particular. This study describes the mechanism of conflictological competence development.
Keywords: mediation, person’s conceptual structures, constructive behavior in conflict, image of conflict situation, training in constructive behavior in conflict