New Teaching Notes for Three Values-Based Mediation Simulations

By on / Daily, Mediation, Pedagogy at PON

NP@PON has developed several new Teaching Notes to accompany the three values-based and identity-based simulations described in the last NP@PON Newsletter.  The simulations are available along with an overview Teaching Note, individual teaching notes for each game, and an Annotated Bibliography. The overview Note offers extensive guidance on how to organize discussions about value-based disputes (VBD).

The three simulations focus on situations in which values and identities are at the forefront of the dispute, challenging students to move away from the usual focus on positions and interests, to an analysis of underlying values and beliefs as the source of the conflict.  The role-play simulations, Williams v. Northville, Ellis v. MacroB, and Springfield OutFest, are based on actual disputes (that were not mediated) and which deal with issues of homosexuality and religious identity. More about these cases can be found in Jennifer Gerarda Brown’s “Peacemaking in the Culture War Between Gay Rights and Religious Liberty,” Iowa Law Review, Volume 95, p. 747, 2010.  Students do not need to be studying law to benefit from the simulations. (For more information on the simulations, click here).

Created by mediation students at Harvard Law School in the fall of 2009, the overview Teaching Note examines five different approaches to mediating values-based and identity-based disputes, and outlines potential teaching strategies for each of the three simulations.  Additionally, the Teaching Note summarizes student reactions to the simulations.

Values-based disputes present unique challenges for a mediator, as the common interest-based techniques may not lead to a durable resolution that satisfies the parties’ most important concerns.  The individual game Teaching Notes and the overview Note clarify the relationships among interests, values, and identities, and further explain the distinguishing features of VBDs.

Before entering a VBD, a mediator must evaluate the relative importance of values and fundamental beliefs.  Mediators can choose from among a range of approaches and assess the best strategy (or combination of strategies) relative to the particular dispute. The Teaching Notes detail five approaches:

    1. Withdraw: choose not to mediate.
    2. Consider interests and values separately.
    3. Facilitate dialogue and offer opportunities for deeper mutual  understanding and relationship building.
    4. Appeal to overarching values.
    5. Confront values directly.

Each approach is thoroughly assessed, evaluated for advantages and disadvantages, and considered in the context of the three simulations as well as other disputes.  Recommendations are given as to how to combine certain strategies.

VBDs are common, and often seemingly intractable.  The overview Teaching Note outlines a number of possible teaching strategies for each or all of the three games:

    1. Contrast the experience of mediating one values-based simulation with at least one interest-based simulation.
    2. Focus on the various ways in which stakeholders understand how and why values at stake in each of the three simulations.
    3. Compare the different strategies for handling VBDs highlighted in the overview Teaching Note by approaching the same game in several different ways.

All three teaching techniques reinforce the idea that there is variability in the way that stakeholders adhere to and describe their own values, which in turn affects the choice of a mediation strategy.

To prepare teachers for student reactions to the simulations, the overview Teaching Note concludes with reflections by students who have played all three games, including general reactions and simulation- specific reactions.  The Annotated Bibliography provides teachers with brief summaries of more than a dozen highly relevant publications.

Written by Orlee Rabin, taken from the bi-annual e-newsletter Negotiation Pedagogy at the Program on Negotiation E-Newsletter (NP@PON), which can be found here.

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