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Problem Resolution

Page history last edited by Martha Hickson 12 years, 5 months ago

The ninth element, problem resolution, helps to maintain synergy when difficulty arises.


In a strong disagreement both sides show emotion, and they posture to protect from loss of dignity. When the two don’t know how to work together to find a solution, the conflict can escalate. Both people fight to prove they are right, copping a defiant attitude, neither willing to back down. 


This contest of wills may be over who is right, who won, whether a standard is met, or who can have a toy. The players can be students or teachers.  The stubborn refusal to back down, if unchecked, can lead to a physical altercation. 


What to do?

In the past most teachers would resolve a conflict by “laying down the law” and telling the class or individual students what to do (go to the principal’s office, stay after school, issue a punishment). In a synergetic classroom the teacher would call a class meeting before the conflict escalated out of control to discuss possible solutions (121-35).


The procedure for resolving problems involves (126-27):


  • Addressing the problem immediately
  • Clarifying the problem, making sure that each person has a chance to talk
  • Allowing for a cooling off period, if necessary
  • Ensuring that all parties remain honest and open
  • Helping the parties try to see each other’s point of view
  • Discussing problem solutions in a friendly way
  • Avoiding arguing back and forth or put downs
  • Striving to find a solution that makes both parties feel that they got what they want (win-win)
  • Selecting one solution as a joint agreement
  • Trying that solution



The teacher guides any private discussion between the two parties, remaining calm and non-judgmental. If necessary, the teacher can call a class meeting, refer to the posted agreements, and guide the students to resolution.


The teacher models a non-confrontational approach by:


  • Encouraging the parties to use “I” messages instead of “you” messages
  • Reminding students to focus on the problem behavior, not the person
  • Coaching students to concentrate on the immediate problem, not past problems
  • Guiding students to take charge of their negative emotions
  • Allowing students to save face
  • Not taking the situation personally
  • Remaining calm, professional and caring 


When students internalize these techniques, classroom relations stay on an even keel. Student motivation remains intact because students are willing to continue working instead of withdrawing or sulking.  

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