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understanding conflict
a resource for use in English, Humanities, Social Science or General Studies

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Understanding conflict


Ground Rules


Working in threes, students take turns to interview each other about their experience of a conflict situation. Notes are taken, the data is discussed and subsequently brought back to the whole group for further analysis.

to demonstrate that personal experiences can be used as evidence and as a basis for learning;
to help students engage with the concept of conflict, applying conflict to realistic situations.

Other objectives
to validate students’ previous experiences;
to encourage respect for others;
to involve students as active participants in their own learning;
to offer an opportunity to get to know other students in small groups.

Skills development
listening, note-taking;
collaborative learning;
describing, classifying, analysing.

This activity is useful when an introduction to the concept of conflict is needed at a particular time in a course. It is particularly suitable for Years 11 and Sixth Form students.

Class size
An ideal number is from18 to 20 students, but anything between 9 and 30 students would be acceptable.

Number of sessions
This will vary according to the tutor, the students, the time available. This can be done in one session. However, if several sessions are possible, and they can be run consecutively, then five would enable an examination of different conflict situations (see later) and an exploration of conflict management and conflict resolution.

Duration of session
Two hours per session

Students work in groups of three to ensure that they have the opportunity to discuss a range of experiences. The groups should, as far as possible, contain a mix of gender, ethnic groups, social class etc.
Within each group students take turns as ‘interviewer’, ‘interviewee’ and ‘recorder’. The Interviewer takes a prompting role in collecting the relevant experience (life history) of the Interviewee and the Recorder notes key points. Note that there are various ways of conducting an ‘interview’ and the more informal it is the closer it gets to becoming a ‘conversation’. At the end of the interviewing period the recorder feeds back the notes which the group can then discuss and clarify or amend as appropriate. Students should spend 20 – 25 minutes in each role. The teacher should tell students when it is time to change roles.
The aim is for students to talk about their life experience of a particular conflict. It will be necessary for the teacher to specify an area – for example conflict within the family, at school, with peers, at a club etc.
When everyone has taken a turn in each role, students examine their data, looking for similarities and differences in experiences. They then begin a tentative analysis. 15 – 20 minutes for this.
The final part of the session involves a plenary. Here the teacher’s job is to lead the discussion and help students to analyse, classify and typify their experiences. Teachers are also responsible for encouraging a reflective approach, and, where possible, for introducing other relevant ideas and concepts.The teacher should ensure that each group is given the opportunity to contribute.


1. Whatever is said during the session(s) is confidential and should not go beyond either the small or the whole group to which it is revealed.

2. Everyone is entitled to be listened to with respect.

3. Opinions and beliefs should be ‘owned’ and acknowledged as being personal.

4. No-one is expected to reveal anything about themselves or to say anything which they are reluctant to reveal.

5. Interviewers should respect interviewees’ rights to privacy. Do not pursue points which the interviewee does not wish to talk about.

6. The job of the interviewer is to prompt and help the interviewee explore their experiences.

7. The job of the recorder is to listen carefully and to note down significant points and themes in the conversation.

8. At the end of the conversation the recorder should feed back what they have heard and noted.

Note: at the end of the session group members will be expected to:
identify common themes and experiences
draw attention to any discrepancies which may have emerged
feed these back into the whole-group discussion.

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