Unit 1: Conditions & Connections

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Unit 2: Physical Well-Being
Unit 3: Social Well-Being
Unit 4: Emotional Well-Being
Unit 5: Mental Well-Being
Unit 6: Academic Well-Being
Unit 7: Character

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Unit 8: Citizenship

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Unit 9: Supplemental Lessons

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Lesson 14: Conflict Resolution

Sticky notes

Schools Resolve Conflicts By Getting Kids To Talk Things Out:


Take 5 Breathing: A Breathing Exercise for Kids:


The Runaway Bride Does It Again:


Failure Is Not an Option:


Not Here to Negotiate Scene:


Are We Good Now?:


Do You Have Any Place to Stay?:


Why Conflict is a Good Thing (starting at 9:30):


What Makes the Highest Performing Teams in the World:


Win-Win Vs. Win-Lose:


Students Learn the Skill of Conflict Resolution in a Multi-Age Class:


Learning to Measure the Size of a Problem:


How to Teach Students to Manage Their Own Conflicts:


The Beauty of Conflict:


  • I take time to calm down before crucial conversations.
  • I face conflict rather than avoid it.
  • I listen with empathy and ask questions to understand.
  • I take responsibility for my words and actions.
  • I consider the needs of the person I am speaking with.
  • I work cooperatively to solve problems.

Parent Guide

The purpose of this lesson is for educators to discuss and strategize for conflict in schools. Teachers will analyze conflict patterns, apply different conflict styles, discuss how to use conflict for good, resolve common workplace conflicts, create a school-wide student conflict resolution plan, and reflect on deep needs exposed during conflict.

Conflict has been around since the beginning of time. History is riddled with examples of peoples who could not get along, sometimes escalating into full-blown warfare. Conflict is defined as “the occurrence of mutually antagonistic or opposing forces, including events, behaviors, desires, attitudes, and emotions.” (American Psychological Association) It must be accepted that conflict is part of life, due to the inherent differences in opinions, backgrounds, and practices of the people around us. In fact, healthy conflict is a good thing; it helps us grow from feedback and resolve disagreements, increasing trust in relationships. However, our response to conflict is not always so healthy. 

The Danish Centre for Conflict Resolution describes how basic conflict can escalate from a simple disagreement (“We see things differently.”) to abandoning dialogue (“What’s the use?”), to full-blown polarization (“Get away from me!”). Although our personal conflicts rarely become physically violent, we may experience significant inner turmoil when we are at odds with the people around us. It can be helpful to know your conflict style when resolving issues with others: competing, avoiding, accommodating, compromising, and collaborating. (see image from Management Training Specialist)

Activity 1: (30 minutes) CONFLICT PATTERNS

As teachers are coming in, play the video, “Schools Resolve Conflicts By Getting Kids To Talk Things Out,” by PBS NewsHour. As a group, make a list of populations who interact in your school (e.g., students, teachers, parents, etc.). Write them on the whiteboard.

Display the Conflict Curve by the United States Institute of Peace. Explain that this graphic is meant to be used for global peace, but perhaps it can be applied to schools. Ask teachers to think-pair-share about the question:

In which part of the graph does our school generally live? 

What evidence supports your opinion?

Pass out the Conflict Resolution Terms handout to each teacher. Ask them to read through the definitions and jot down different school scenarios that come to mind, based on the list from the whiteboard. After sufficient time, pass out 2 sticky notes to each teacher. Ask them to write down the top conflicts that they see occuring at their school. 

Collect the sticky notes, read them aloud and sort into categories, until you have the top 5–10 conflicts from the pile. Ask teachers to keep these in mind throughout the lesson.

Before moving on, share a quick mindfulness minute together. Explain that this strategy can be used for students who get overwhelmed with conflict. Watch the video, “Take 5 Breathing: A Breathing Exercise for Kids,” by Christie Childhood101. Invite teachers to participate along with the video.

Activity 2: (30 minutes) CONFLICT STYLES

Introduce the different conflict styles designed by Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann in 1974 by displaying the graphic. Then have various individuals read each of the Conflict Style quotes

Read and discuss these accompanying quotes. To practice identifying the different conflict styles, have teachers watch the following clips and label them with one of the conflict styles. Each clip may include multiple conflict styles, depending on which character you focus on. We have provided one answer, but leave room for interpretation during discussion:

  • Video #1: “The Runaway Bride Does It Again” (Answer: Avoiding)
  • Video #2: “Failure Is Not an Option” (Answer: Collaborating)
  • Video #3: “Not Here to Negotiate Scene” (Answer: Competing)
  • Video #4: “Are We Good Now?” (Answer: Compromising)
  • Video #5: “Do You Have Any Place to Stay?” (Answer: Accommodating)

Invite teams to meet together and discuss what their desired conflict style would be and why. If they are comfortable with the idea, have each group share their chosen style with the greater group. 

Extension: Purchase the Thomas-Kilmann assessment for teachers to take. 

Activity 3: (30 minutes) CONFLICT AT WORK

Walk through the steps on the slides for some recommended steps when people face conflict at work. Watch the video, “Why Conflict is a Good Thing,” by Dale Feinauer at TEDx Oshkosh (start the video at 9:30).

Invite collaborative teams to sit together and revisit the norms that they follow while working together (e.g., during their collaboration meetings). If they have not written team norms before, have them brainstorm some basic behaviors that everyone should follow. They should decide what steps should be taken when conflict arises within the group. Teams can take inspiration from the article “Conflict Resolution: 8 Strategies to Manage Workplace Conflict,” by Zen Business. To wrap up the team-level discussions, watch the video “What Makes the Highest Performing Teams in the World,” by Simon Sink. Have a discussion:

  • How might increased service improve conflict within teaching teams?
  • What can our school do to better promote this caring culture?

Finally, collaborate as a group to decide what norms should be followed during faculty meetings. Invite teams to share some of their norms that might apply to the whole group. Limit the list to a reasonable amount. Share these norms and refer back to them regularly. 

Extension: Invite a district HR representative to come in and share stories and strategies for effective (and ineffective) conflict resolution that they have witnessed in schools. 

Display and study the graphic “Safety is Not the Same as Comfort.” Ask the group to explain how the graph relates to conflict and teamwork. Have a discussion:

  • What are the main challenges with productive conflict at our school?
  • How does conflict allow us to solve problems in school?


Watch the video, “Win-Win Vs. Win-Lose,” by the United States Institute of Peace.

Read the quotes defining 3 types of conflict: task conflict, relationship conflict, and value conflict. 

Divide teachers into teams of 3–4. Ask them first to sort the 5–10 conflicts from the sticky note activity into the 3 types of conflict. Then, have the team select one conflict to focus on by following these steps: 

  1. Acknowledge the problem with sufficient detail.
  2. Be a think tank and brainstorm a list of what could be done.
  3. Define underlying concerns that various people may have.
  4. Based on the discussion, select a recommended solution that is mutually agreeable for all parties involved.

After sufficient time, invite each group to summarize their discussion for the group. From this point, you can form committees to execute these plans or bring these topics up again to come to an agreement at a later time. Follow-through on these ideas is key!

Activity 5: (30 minutes) STUDENTS RESOLVE CONFLICT

Invite a few educators to answer the question:

“How much time do you spend resolving conflict with students?”

Read and discuss the 3 quotes on the slides.

Explain that the group will now watch 3 videos. As teachers watch, have them take notes on what strategies and approaches they like and dislike:

Video #1: “Students Learn the Skill of Conflict Resolution in a Multi-Age Class”

Video #2: “Learning to Measure the Size of a Problem”

Video #3: “How to Teach Students to Manage Their Own Conflicts”

Have a discussion:

  • What strategies did you like or dislike from these videos?
  • Which ones might work well at our school?
  • How could parents benefit from being involved in these interventions?
  • What is one strategy you could apply from these videos starting today?

Divide teachers into small teams and give them time to brainstorm what they think the school-wide approach to conflict resolution should look like at your school. Ask them to consider lessons to be taught, procedures to implement, etc. After sufficient time, have each group share their ideas. You can create a plan together or table the discussion for now, coming back to a final decision at a future meeting.

Activity 6: (30 minutes) CONFLICT WITHIN OURSELVES

Watch the TED talk video, “The Beauty of Conflict,” by Clair Canfield at TEDxUSU. 

Have a discussion:

  • What was your favorite part of Clair’s message?
  • How does Clair’s message apply to power struggles with students?
  • How can we create safe learning environments when we are feeling conflict with our students?
  • Why is it important to think about our deepest needs during conflict?
  • How does conflict from the world or in the news affect you at work?
  • How do you generally handle conflict? What is your conflict style?
  • What is an example of healthy conflict resolution that you have seen?
  • What are the challenges of disagreement at work?
  • How can you disagree while maintaining respect for others?
  • What are some top disagreements that you see among students?
  • What populations in our school struggle with conflict resolution the most?
  • How do power dynamics play into conflict resolution?
  • Do not wait too long to have the hard conversation. 
  • Keep small problems small. 
  • Ask for help from a mediator if you cannot solve it on your own.
  • Consider the needs of each person.
  • Ask questions and listen louder than you speak.
  • Focus on the problem, not the individual.
  • Avoid letting the discussion drag on or resurface.
  • Provide time for apologies and closure.