HS 240A Introduction to Mediation, Skills, and Practice

HS 240A Introduction to Mediation, Skills, and Practice


HS 240a– Introduction to Mediation, Skills, and Practice



Instructor: Professor Theodore A. Johnson, JD, MALD, PhD.

Class Time:Spring 2016, Thursdays 2:00 pm – 4:50 pm


Contact information for Prof. Johnson

Office Hours: Mondays: 10:00am – 1:00pm, Tuesdays 1:00pm – 4:00pm and by appointment

Office:Heller-Brown 348


Phone:x 65023

Teaching Assistant: Maya B. Washington



Everyone encounters conflict on a daily basis. People have regular disagreements with their partners, children, neighbors, colleagues, employers, employees and many others. In most cases disagreements are worked out in the normal course of daily life. At the same time, some disagreements are more difficult to manage due to their nature or some level of personal, emotional, political or other complexity. This course introduces mediation as a process to engage disputing parties in a shared approach toward understanding, discussing and resolving differences. The course provides an overview of definitions, roles and questions such as: What is mediation? What makes mediation work? What is a mediator’s role? What’s involved in a mediation session? How do we deal with emotions? How to deal with cultural differences? Do we have to reach an agreement? What are the options if we don’t come to an agreement?

The first portion of the class will cover how effective pre-groundwork can be created for mediation. The initial sessions will cover the role of the mediator and some tools for resolving disputes. During the first 2 sessions, students will work on a single role-play to develop important fundamental, analytical and process skills. In addition, readings and exercises have been chosen to develop and highlight essential foundational steps and skills needed forassessing the need for mediation, selecting a mediator, participating in and managing the mediation process. Students will have the opportunity to be active as parties and mediators and will also receive feedback from each other and the instructor to improve their levels of knowledge and skill. Sessions 3 thru 5 will add critical practice skills to handle issues that frequently make conflict management and resolution difficult. Session 3 will cover the issue of partisan perceptions and their impact on thinking, behavior and decision-making. Session 4 will cover the issue of strong emotions and their impact on problem solving. Session 5 will address cross-cultural dynamics in mediation. Cultures are present not only among different nationalities, but they also impact thinking and behavior within families, organizations, and other social structures. A skilled mediator should be culturally aware and skilled at adapting approaches to generate increased understanding within and across cultural differences.In Sessions 6 & 7, students will work on more complex issues stemming from cross-border disputes. These issues are often played out with external actors and regional organizations such as OAS, EU, and AU in the roles of mediators. In these two sessions, students will participate in a single mediation exercise that deals with mediating a cease-fire and interim peace agreements as part of a process toward resolving differences between two Border States. In addition, the final sessions will require students to apply all previously learned course skills such as conflict analysis, mediation structure and organization, clear two-way communication, dealing with partisan perceptions, and issues of emotional management.

Course Goals and Learning Objectives

Course Goal 1: Students will develop an understanding of mediation as a tool to assist in analysis, management, and resolution of conflicts on personal, structural, and institutional level.

Learning objectives: Students will learn how to do the following:

  1. View mediation as a process that moves skillfully from problem identification to the design of people-sensitive approaches to uncover issues, interests, and concerns driving issues of conflict.
  2. Engage in a constructive mediation process, either as a party or a mediator, in a way that establishes an environment of mutual respect, careful listening and joint problem solving to prevent, mitigate and/or resolve various levels of conflict.
  3. Analyze and assess personal and community issues that place stresses on the potential of coexistence.

Course Goal 2: Students will develop an appreciation of the role of third parties in the process of assisting disputants inunderstanding, analyzing, managing and exploring potential outcomes in many basic issues that often lead to conflict.

Learning objectives: Students will learn how to do the following:

  1. Explore various roles in mediation – specifically, the role of the mediator. Students will be able to answer the following important questions: Who is a mediator and what skills are needed? How are mediators selected? What is a mediator’s source of power? What are the personal and professional characteristics of a successful mediator?
  2. Analyze, design, and participate in a mediation process. Specifically, students will learn the structure of a mediation – from problem statement to process design.
  3. Students will engage in role-plays and activities that provide frameworks for procedural and content analysis for engagement and reflection on the process of problem solving – specifically, working with issues separating the parties, designing a process to explore interests often hidden by their demands, developing and choosing among a variety of options that satisfy the underlying interests.
  1. Demonstrate skills in a variety of activities. Specifically, students will have the opportunity to engage in four specific learning roles: a) that of a complaining party, b) a responding party, c) mediator d) analyst and evaluator. As students transition through these differing roles, they will develop both sensitivity and empathic analytical and practice skills.

Course Goal 3: Students will learn how to analyze and operate within an environment of strong emotions that frequently underlieconflicts and tend to escalate problems in peacebuilding and the challenges of coexistence.

Learning Objectives: Students will learn how to do the following:

  1. Discover and understand that emotions are a normal part of daily life – especially in situations of disagreement and conflict.
  2. Recognize that emotions are generally not interpreted based on the intent of the speaker, but on the impact they have the listener. Learn how to analyze and discuss intention vs. impact,which can help defuse intense emotional conversations – particularly during a mediation process.
  3. Appreciate the value and benefit of a well-intended apology when mediation discourse becomes laden with emotions – whether generated by either party or by the mediator.

Course Goal 4: Students will understand the debate over whether, and to what extent culture affects mediation. Students will appreciate that culture is broadly defined ranging from that of an individual, group, organization, nationality or government.

Learning Objectives: Students will learn how to do the following:

  1. Recognize the reality of cultural differences and learn to approach them with sincere curiosity within the structure of a mediation or conflict resolution context.
  2. Examine the ways culture impacts thinking, behavior, decision-making and outcomes in a mediation context.
  3. Analyze various mediation outcomes to assess the impact of cultural behavior by participants.
  4. Evaluate the nature and extent of cultural norms, values, and behaviors (one’s own as well as others) on mediation outcomes from thecase studies and role plays used in this course.

Course Requirements

  1. (15%) Attend all classes and simulation sessions. Develop sufficient familiarity with course readings to respond during class discussions – both large and small group sessions.
  2. (20%) Short written assignment
  3. During the term there will be one short written assignment.
  4. The first short written assignment is an individual 3-page, summary of the fundamental and core concepts covered in sessions 1 – 3. This assignment is due on February 4th, 2016. This assignment will be double-spaced, inTimes New Roman and in 12pt font. More details will be covered in class.
  5. (25%) Course Journal
  6. Students are required to keep a personal course journal and make weekly entries covering the following topics:
  7. What key insights did you learn from the readings? (No more than 3 points here)
  8. What new concepts or lessons have been learned from class discussions regarding mediation theory? (Two or three lessons here)
  9. What practical concepts did you learn from the weeks Mediation Exercise? (Two or three concepts here)
  10. NOTE: Individual personal journals are to be turned weekly. They are due the Wednesday prior to each weeks class.No more than 1 page. Double Spaced,Times New Roman and in 12pt font.
  11. Further instructions on journal preparation and submission will be announced in class.
  1. (40%)Final Paper
  2. FinalPaper (consisting of 10 to 12 pages) The paper will be due onMarch 15th, 2016. In the paper, students are to select two or three mediation concepts from the class such as: role of the mediator, managing difficult conversations, multi-party techniques, dealing with emotions, etc. Your paper should summarize the fundamental concepts you select, give examples, references to class exercises, and draw from the course readings to reinforce your topics. Your final paper should have at least 8 sources for the bibliography.The subject matters foryour final paperwill be ones of your choosing. I will be happy to meet with students during the term to assist you with this process.This assignment will be double-spaced, in Times New Roman and in 12pt font.
  3. In addition to the final paper you will have opportunity to revise your journal entries to improve your grade. Your TA will return all entries prior to your final paper due date with notes and questions to assist you.These edits will be due on March 15th 2016 as well.
  1. Final Grade: The final grades in this course will be based on a combination of factors including the following:
  1. Your individual short written assignment
  2. In-class discussions and role-play participation
  3. Journal reflections
  4. Final paper and journal revisions.

(See the rubric above for % of grade breakdowns)


If you have a documented disability on record at Brandeis University and require accommodations, please bring it to the instructor’s attention prior to the second meeting of the class. If you have any questions about this process, contact Mary Brooks, Disabilities Coordinator for The Heller School at .

Attendance, Punctuality, and Active Participation

In order to benefit from experiential learning, you are required to attend every class session barring illness or emergency. Please also arrive on time at the beginning of class and after the break. If you know you will be absent or late for a legitimate reason, make sure you inform your instructor in advance.Should you miss more than two classes, additional make-up work will be required or you will fail the class.Attendance is a responsibility andis more than just coming to class. You are expected to have prepared all readings and assignments before class and to actively participate in class discussions and formats.

Writing Requirements and Academic Integrity

The writing requirements listed below are intended to encourage you to approach reading materials critically, to foster improved research and writing skills, and to serve as a basis for contributing to class discussion with a diversity of opinions. You are expected to devote careful attention to the technical quality of your written work, as well as its substance. Honesty matters in all academic work, and is strictly enforced by the instructor. (See:

Academic Integrity is central to the mission of education excellence at Brandeis University. Each student is expected to turn in work completed independently, except when assignments are specifically authorized as a collaborative effort. It is not acceptable to use the words or ideas of another person – be it a world-class philosopher or your classmate – without proper acknowledgement of that source. This means that you must use footnotes and quotation marks to indicate the source of any phrases, sentences, paragraphs or ideas found in published volumes, on the internet, or created by another student. If you are in doubt about the instructions for any assignment in this course, please ask for clarification.

You are expected to be honest in all of your academic work. The University policy on academic honesty is available annually asSection 5of theRights & Responsibilities Handbook. Instances of alleged dishonesty will be forwarded to Office of the Dean of the Heller Graduate School for possible disciplinary action. Potential sanctions include failure in the course and suspension from the University. If you have any questions about my expectations, please ask.We cannot insist strongly enough on the fact that all written work for this course must include appropriate citations of the sources you use.

  • See section 56c (“Avoid Plagiarism”) of theConcise English Handbook.
  • See ‘Truth even unto its Innermost Part’ and in particular the section dealing with citations.

Academic Integrity References:

  • “Academic Integrity”,available from: (Accessed 9/16/15)
  • “Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices”. Council of Writing Program Administrators. Available from: (Accessed 7/31/12)
  • The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) Available from: (Accessed 9/15/15)


Session 1 (Jan. 14): From Conflict to Coexistence-- Laying the Groundwork for Effective Mediation – Introduction.


  • Discovering approaches for managing & resolving conflicts
  • The nature and context of conflict
  • “Conflict Management” and “Conflict Resolution”
  • Introduction to approaches and procedures
  • Exploring Mediation as a “Process”
  • The mediator’s role
  • Setting the stage for mediation

Required Readings:

  • Beer, Packard and Stief, “Overview, Definitions, and Terms,” The Mediator’s Handbook (1997) pp. 3-11.
  • Moore, Christopher W, “Approaches for managing and resolving conflicts,” The Mediation Process (2014 – Fourth Edition) pp. 3- 60.

Mediation Exercise:

  • Managing Growth in Rockville (Part I)
  • A multi-party mediation involving environmental and agricultural interests over growth and planning.
  • Objectives for the exercise
  • Demonstrate how mediation techniques can be used to deal with environmental growth and management disputes.
  • Mediators develop the skill at setting ground rules and an agenda that allows all parties to speak.
  • Setting realistic expectations
  • Developing joint gains, understanding trade offs as a means of increasing value as opposed to “zero-sum” outcomes.
  • Establish good two-way communication between the parties
  • Focus on the skill of good listening
  • Preparation (30 Minutes) Mediation (30 minutes) – debrief (15 minutes)
  • Journal entries (5-7 minutes)

Session 2 (Jan. 21): Laying the Groundwork for Effective Mediation – Continued.


  • Structuring a mediation process
  • Describing the process to the parties
  • Dealing with questions from the parties
  • Developing an agenda
  • Starting a mediation
  • Opening statements by parties
  • Practice and demonstration of active listening
  • Clarifying the issues to be decided
  • Managing and concluding a mediation
  • Asking clarifying questions
  • Evaluating Options
  • Seeking closure and commitments

Required Readings:

  • Moore, Christopher W, “Types of Mediation and Mediators, Functions, Approaches and Procedures,” pp. 181-209, 303-337, 342-355, and 387-411.
  • Beer and Packard, “Opening Stages,” pp. 31-38 and 39-54.

Mediation Exercise:

  • Managing Growth in Rockville Part II
  • Complete the mediation exercise
  • Mediation exercise (60, minutes)
  • Debrief (30, minutes)
  • Obtain agreements and commitments (if possible)
  • Obtaining an agreement is NOT required
  • Debrief and Discussion of Lessons Learned (30 minutes)
  • Journal Entries (5-7 minutes)

Session 3 (Jan. 28). The Impact of Partisan Perceptions in Mediation


  • Recognizing and dealing with perceptions
  • Appreciating the difference between conversation and debate
  • Treating perceptions as an opportunity for a Learning Conversation
  • Conducting and managing a Learning Conversation
  • Providing feedback to counterparts

Required Readings:

  • Stone, Patton and Heen, “How to avoid damaging perceptions and develop the skills to engage in a Learning Conversation”,Difficult Conversations, How to Discuss What Matters Most, (Second Edition 2009) pp. 1-58.
  • Stone and Heen, “Separate Appreciation, Coaching, and Evaluation” and “Shift from ‘That’s Wrong’ to ‘Tell Me More’”, Thanks for the Feedback, (2014) pp. 29-75.

Mediation Exercise:

  • Neighborhood Care, Inc.A two-party mediation between church and neighborhood representatives over the possible use of church facilities for services for the mentally challenged.
  • In this exercise, students will work in small groups of 5 = two parties on each side and one mediator.
  • Reading and Preparation
  • Initial Meeting of the parties and mediator
  • Agenda Development
  • Mediation meeting
  • Debrief and discuss
  • Journal Entries

Session 4 (Feb 4). The Impact of Strong Emotions in Mediation


  • Discovering and identifying feelings
  • The emotional footprint
  • When feelings are translated into judgments or attributions.
  • Perceptions based on race and stereotypes
  • Describing feelings rather than venting them

Required Readings:

  • Stone, Patton and Heen, “The Feelings Conversation,” (1999) pp. 85 -108.
  • Moore, “Listening and Feedback”, pp. 253-256 and, “Responding to beliefs or values without trying to change them,” pp. 537-544.
  • Harris, Geoff: “If Your Only Tool is a Hammer, Any Issue Will Look Like a Nail: Building Conflict Resolution and Mediation Capacity in South African Universities” Higher Education, Vol. 55,No. 1, 2008, pp. 93-101.

Mediation Exercise: Community Conflict, a multi-party and multi-issue mediation exercise involving South African black squatters, white Residents, Town Council representatives, and a local school principal.

  • Read and Prepare by side and role
  • Role Play
  • Debrief and discussion of lessons learned.
  • Journal Entries.

Session 5 (Feb 11): Cross-Cultural aspects and dynamics of mediation


  • Developing a working definition of “Culture”
  • Understanding and appreciating ways that culture tends to be invisible until confronted
  • Appreciating the importance of developing inter-personal and cross-cultural awareness
  • Working with ways that culture impacts problem analysis and problem solving skills

Required Readings: