2. Resolving conflicts

When you have large groups of pupils together, you are going to have some conflicts between them occasionally. However, you can reduce the likelihood of conflict by working hard to provide a supportive environment for all pupils. If conflict does occur, it is best to tackle it as soon as possible. This is your responsibility as a teacher. Left unresolved, it can:

  • cause a bad atmosphere;
  • disrupt the studies of everybody in the room;
  • make the classroom an unpleasant place to be.

Most of the time, any conflicts will be between your pupils, but you should also recognise that there may be a conflict between you and a pupil. Because of this, you need to make sure that the rules of good behaviour apply to you, too. How you discipline a pupil must be done with respect for the pupil as it is the behaviour that is not liked and not the individual pupil.

To reduce the likelihood of conflict, you must establish clear rules of behaviour in the classroom, covering social interaction as well as studying. If the pupils know to treat each other well, then they are less likely to fight.

You should also recognise the difference between pupils debating a point and actually quarrelling or fighting.

The easiest way to deal quickly with conflict is by separating those involved to different parts of the room. But you must also get to the bottom of any conflict. Ask the pupils to explain the reasons to you. Negotiate a solution between them.

Case Study 2: Resolving a conflict

Mrs Kweli has a class of Standard V pupils. One day, she had organised them into groups of five to do a reading and writing exercise.

She noticed that two children in one group were pushing each other. They did eventually stop, but they also stopped working together. This meant that the others in their group couldn’t work properly either, as it was a group task. Also, children in the surrounding groups were distracted by the situation.

Mrs Kweli quickly finished the exercise and checked everybody’s answers. Then she asked everybody to stand up, move around the class and make a new group. This way, she separated them without making a big fuss.

At the end of the class, she asked the two pupils to talk to her about their fight. She discovered that it was a problem over who should read the book. She referred them to the class rules about sharing, and explained why this was important for everybody.

She also said that they had disturbed other pupils, and that they should be careful. She asked them to make friends again, and to remember why they needed to share.

Activity 2: Class presentation on conflict

Help your pupils explore more about conflicts at school.

Ask them, in groups, to list the different types of conflict at school and to give an example of each.

Gather one example from each group and write it up on the board.

Ask each group to talk about one type of conflict, identifying:

  • what causes it;
  • how it could be avoided;
  • how it could be settled.

Ask them to give a presentation of their ideas in front of the class. After each presentation, ask the other groups to add their own suggestions of ways to resolve the conflict.

Finally, ask each group to write down on a card the best way to avoid their type of conflict. Collect these in and make a display.

1. Using pairs and groups to discuss conflict

3. Community conflicts