Date of Award

Spring 1994

Project Type


Program or Major

Reading and Writing Instruction

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Thomas Newkirk


The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe from students' perspectives how a peer mediation program became part of one urban elementary school's culture during six months of program implementation. Peer mediation is a process which enables disputing students to voluntarily resolve conflicts with the help of a pair of trained student mediators and without the direct participation of adults. Descriptions of students' perceptions of the role of mediator and the mediation process grew from field notes, interview transcripts, video transcripts and print documentation gathered by the researcher in her roles as participant observer and mediation program coordinator/trainer.

The focus that emerged during analysis of data was the mediators' propensity for problem finding and solving within the mediation model with respect to issues of time, problems with students (teasing, joking, interrupting, honesty, no solutions to conflicts) and problems with co-mediators. Mediators perceived these behaviors as problematic because of their acquired knowledge of mediation Discourse and their expectations of what constituted a normal relationship to trust and confidentiality also developed as a result of adults' indirect involvement in the process.

Data were interpreted in two ways: mediation perceived by students as a complex social interaction and, at times, as an adversarial "us" versus "them" relationship that appeared to conflict with the cooperative problem solving beliefs of mediation. Parallel findings were related to the school's socially and economically diverse neighborhood, which was suggested as being a microcosm of the current urban American culture.