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School Conflicts: Causes and Management Strategies in Classroom Relationships

By Sabina Valente, Abílio Afonso Lourenço and Zsolt Németh

Submitted: June 16th 2020Reviewed: December 7th 2020Published: December 23rd 2020

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.95395

Downloaded: 45

Abstract

Conflicts cannot cease to exist, as they are intrinsic to human beings, forming an integral part of their moral and emotional growth. Likewise, they exist in all schools. The school is inserted in a space where the conflict manifests itself daily and assumes relevance, being the result of the multiple interpersonal relationships that occur in the school context. Thus, conflict is part of school life, which implies that teachers must have the skills to manage conflict constructively. Recognizing the diversity of school conflicts, this chapter aimed to present its causes, highlighting the main ones in the classroom, in the teacher-student relationship. It is important to conflict face and resolve it with skills to manage it properly and constructively, establishing cooperative relationships, and producing integrative solutions. Harmony and appreciation should coexist in a classroom environment and conflict should not interfere, negatively, in the teaching and learning process. This bibliography review underscore the need for during the teachers’ initial training the conflict management skills development.

Keywords

  • school conflicts
  • classroom conflicts
  • school conflict management
  • teacher-student relationship

1. Introduction

One of the most striking characteristics of human beings is the diversities. Different ways of being, thinking and existing, different needs, world views, ethical positions mark the relationships between people. In this sense, interpersonal conflicts are understood as tension that involves different interests or positions, are inherent to human relationships, and are present in various social organizations, among them, the school.

The school as microcosms of society brings together different views of the world, different ways of being, thinking, and living, thus becoming a space for representing social differences and being a place where different conflicts occur daily. Dealing with this situation type requires learning and that is why teachers need training in conflict management so that they can correctly manage the classroom conflicts and educate also your students for conflict management.

Recognizing that the school is an organization that brings together social diversity and adopting as an assumption that interpersonal conflicts are inherent to human relationships, we define the school conflicts as this chapter theme. In this sense, this chapter addresses school conflicts with a focus on classroom conflicts in the teacher-student relationship. In the first part, a brief reference is made to the conflict. This is followed by a review of the bibliography on school/classroom conflict causes.

Due to its intrinsic characteristics, school is a favorable medium for conflict situations development. So, the conflict in the education system can be seen from the dialectic between the macrostructure of the education system, the general policies oriented towards it, and the management processes that prevail in each school [1].

The conflict presents formative possibilities, since the perception of the differences existing between people/or groups and their needs, values, ideas, and different ways of living are essential to a democratic society [2]. In this sense, it is important to enhance positive conflict characteristics and reduce the negative ones. So, the difficulty in resolving conflicts is largely due to the difficulties existing between those involved in the conflict to be able to communicate effectively. Therefore, the constructive and educational potential of conflicts depends largely on the skills of those involved. Thus, knowing how to communicate, and respecting the rights of others and existing differences are essential for conflicts to revert to social and human development benefits.

The concern with improving coexistence in schools, centred on the conflict variable, is addressed in different studies, whose objectives mark both understanding the school conflict [3, 4, 5, 6], as well as preventing its occurrence [7]. Since it is impossible to eliminate school conflicts, it is essential and urgent to reduce their intensity, duration, and severity, so that the teaching and learning process is not harmed. In this sense, this chapter addresses also the strategies used to manage classroom conflict, and some examples of programs that work these skills on teachers and students.

2. Conflict

The conflict is defined and classified from different perspectives, and its definition can differ, in context, process, intervention, and study areas [1, 8]. Conflict is a phenomenon of incompatibility between individuals or groups with irreconcilable ends and/or values ​​between them, considering it a social process [1]. For this author, four elements are present and must be addressed in all conflicts: the causes that give rise to it; the conflict protagonists; the process and the way the protagonists face the conflict; and the context in which it occurs. In turn, Chrispino [9] understands conflict as to any divergent opinion or a different way of seeing or interpreting an event, that is, the conflict originates in the difference of interests, desires, aspirations, or positions between individuals. He adds that conflicts can arise from difficulties in communication and assertiveness.

In this way, we can say that there is a conflict when two or more people interact with each other and perceive incompatible differences, or threats to their resources, needs, or values and when they respond according to what was perceived, then the ideal conditions for conflict are created. The conflict intensity, duration, or severity can then increase or decrease depending on the strategies used to resolve it. Regardless of the different conflict definitions, there is no conflict if the individuals involved are not aware of its existence. This conclusion is consensual to the majority of the definition proposals and to the attempts to conceptualize the conflict found in the specialized literature.

In addition to different conflict definitions, there are also different proposals for classifying it. Concerning the different conflict classification [8, 10, 11] the emphasis is placed on the theoretical proposals of [8, 11]. Conflicts can be classified into five different types: structural, value, relationship, interest, and data [11]. In structural conflicts, causes are associated with unequal control situations, possession or resource distribution, unequal power, and authority, geographical, physical, or environmental factors that prevent cooperation and time pressures. In value conflicts, it highlights situations of opposing ideas or behaviors, different ways of life, ideology, or religion. Relationship conflicts are caused by strong emotions, misperceptions or stereotypes, inadequate or deficient communication, and negative and/or repetitive behaviors. The causes of interest conflicts are perceived or real competition over fundamental interests (content), procedural interests, and psychological interests. Finally, about data conflicts, [11] highlights the lack of information or wrong information, different points of view on what is important, different data interpretations, and different assessment procedures.

In turn, Torrego [8] presents a typology that seems to reflect the type of school conflicts: relationship-communication conflicts; interest/needs conflicts; and preferences, values, and beliefs conflicts. As for the relationship-communication conflicts, it cannot be said that there is a concrete cause that justifies their appearance, however, it appears as a result of the relationship deterioration itself. As such, aggressions, struggles, offenses, defamations, rumors, humiliations, misunderstandings are part of this type of conflict, but also perception conflicts, because, despite the conflict reality being only one, this fact does not invalidate that those involved have their view of it. Interest or needs conflicts usually occur when one party considers that it will only be able to satisfy its needs/interests if the other gives in to theirs. This conflict type can include those that stem from disagreement about how to perform jobs or tasks and those that result from the need felt by one of the parties to own or be coerced into giving in: objects, time, space, or any type of appeal. Finally, preferences, values, and beliefs conflicts result when these systems are discordant or viewed as such by those involved in the conflict. However, this conflict type can be resolved if the parties identify higher values ​​common to both.

It is important to say that the conflict constructive paradigm indicates that the conflict has positive and negative aspects, advantages, and disadvantages. This new model is opposed to the classic model and indicates that moderate levels of conflict are perceived as positive [12]. The conflict effects are positive, when they are well managed, to establish more cooperative relations and seek to reach an integrated solution, for the benefit of those involved in the conflict [10]. In any organization, the existence of low levels of conflict leaves the organization vulnerable to stagnation, to making impoverished decisions, even to the lack of effectiveness; on the other hand, having too much conflict leads the organization directly into chaos.

Given the above, we can say that conflicts are inherent to human relationships since human beings are characterized by diversity. The school, by bringing together people from different social groups with different values and worldviews, becomes a locus for conflicts.

3. School conflicts

The school is a society microsystem, in which are reflected constant changes. Thus, one of the most important school functions is to prepare students, teachers, and parents to live and overcome the difficulties of a world full of rapid changes and interpersonal conflicts, contributing to the development process of each individual. For being a society microsystem and bringing together different ways of life, thinking, feeling, relationship, constitutes a space conducive to interpersonal conflicts.

School conflict is defined as the disagreement between individuals or groups regarding ideas, interests, principles, and values within the school community, perceiving the parties their interests as excluded, although they may not be [13], being that the most frequent school conflicts occur in the relations between student–student and between student-teacher [14].

Conflicts in the school can be classified according to their causes and those involved. For Martinez [15], the conflicts between teachers are mainly caused by lack of communication, personal interests, previous conflicts, issues of power, or political and ideological differences. This author indicates that conflicts between students and teachers, as they happen due to the lack of understanding of the teacher’s explanation, due to arbitrary grades and divergence in the evaluation criteria, lack of didactic material, discrimination, disinterest in the study material, and because the students are ears. In turn, conflicts between students can arise due to misunderstandings, fights, the rivalry between groups, discrimination, bullying, use of spaces and assets, dating, sexual harassment, loss or damage of school assets, diverse elections, travel, and parties. Conflicts between parents, teachers, and administrators can arise due to aggressions that occurred between students and between teachers, due to the loss of work material, problems in the school canteen or similar, lack of teachers, lack of pedagogical assistance by teachers, evaluation, approval and disapproval criteria, failure to meet bureaucratic and administrative requirements of management [15].

From the literature review, it is possible to infer and highlight the different causes pointed to the school conflict. Participating teachers in the Göksoy and Argon [16] study indicate as causes for school conflict: the communication failures, personal, political/ideological, and organizational causes.

With a very similar rating, Jares [1] indicates four main causes: ideological-scientific, related to different pedagogical, ideological, and organizational options, and the type of school culture or cultures that coexist; power causes, related to organization control, professional promotion, access to resources and decision making; causes of structure, related to the ambiguity of objectives and functions, organizational fragility, organizational and variable contexts; and personal and interpersonal causes, related to self-esteem, security, professional dissatisfaction, and communication. Also, Burguet [17] points out as possible causes for the school conflict in the school’s organizational structure.

In this sequence, and given the increase in school conflicts, Ibarra [18] recognizes as school conflict causes: the increase in compulsory schooling, the increase in the number of students per class, teachers perceive a progressive decline in their authority about students, and students are less likely to comply with certain rules and limits, which results in conflict situations. Regarding the increase in compulsory education, this leads to a greater number of unmotivated and undisciplined students, which implies an increase in school conflict. Likewise, the increase in the number of students per class, without increasing the facilities or associated conditions, increases the conflict occurrence, because of their negative changes in the physical and psychological environment, in overcrowded classrooms, with a lack of space for practical and collaborative activities.

In addressing interpersonal relationships in schools cannot neglect family background. When dealing with interpersonal relationships in the school context, it is necessary to take into account the family reality of each student, since the family interpersonal relationships have a strong connection with the school conflict [19]. Distinguished authors indicate that school conflict situations often have their genesis at the family level [17, 20] since they are the most deprived families, where alcoholism, domestic violence, and unemployment problems occur, being that all these violence and incivilities manifestations that arise in the students’ lives are transported to school. Burguet [17] points the dismissal of families as educational agents. This author highlights the overprotection with a sense of guilt for not dedicating more time to children, the experience of fatherhood as a “burden” of those who educate in aggressiveness, and the criticisms of parents, and society itself, to teachers, instigates conflicts. In other words, the role of the family often does not seem to offer a good foundation in the education of young people, which is reflected in their behavior in the processes of interaction at school. As Berkowitz [20] indicates, many of the interaction problems originate in the family, and the student reproduces the behaviors he learns with his parents.

It should be noted that the context experienced by the Covid-19 pandemic has a greater impact on students from poorer families. The situation of these most vulnerable students was a problem whose dimension grew with online classes, as they encountered immense barriers and lack of support for quality education during confinement. Thus, students who before the pandemic were unmotivated and presented conflicting behaviors at school should be the target of more support during this pandemic phase, to minimize the conflicting behaviors. It should also be noted that although family-school relationships are extremely important for students’ learning and development, family participation in school is not always satisfactory.

So, the family and the school must go together to contribute to the conflict becoming part of a process of growth, acceptance of the other, and accountability. Learning to deal with school conflicts positively is essential for the development of healthy relationships.

Another cause of school conflicts is pointed to society and the values it conveys, Burguet [17] points to the example of social communication, which encourages violence through violent programs, broadcasting news with prejudiced and conflicting messages. All of these situations enhance the conflicting attitudes of children and young people, which are reflected in school behaviors.

3.1 Conflict in the classroom

The school builds a social interface favorable to involvement, where conflicts proliferate in the educational process complexity, being common and daily in classes. Thus, in the classroom different types of conflict occur, being a challenge for most teachers to know how to face, manage, and resolve these conflicts [7].

Teachers often perceive conflicts as indiscipline, violence, disrespect, and like all situations threatening his authority, and inexperienced and experienced teachers emphasize the teacher-student conflict as a frequent situation in difficult classes [21]. In this context, Silva and Flores [19] refer to the negative effect that these situations have on attainment and student motivation, so it is urgent to find solutions to avoid or mitigate such effects.

The classroom coexistence problems are mainly related to social and pedagogical changes [22]. In this sequence, there are several conflict situations that teachers can face during classes. Some of those indicated by the teachers are, namely: the student’s presence that did not focus on activities; students with serious learning and communication difficulties; students groups who do classroom not work and maintain an aggressive and provocative attitude; students with destructive attitudes towards school material, theirs and/or colleagues, as well as aggressive and violent attitudes towards colleagues and teachers; apathetic students, who do not show classes enthusiasm; and in extreme situations, students who take and display instruments in the class that can be used as weapons, in an attitude of defiance to the teacher [23].

Given the increase in the classroom conflicts, multiple causes, which include a combination of external and internal factors in the school environment, are indicated, such as the increase in compulsory education, the increase in students per class, the progressive decline in the teacher’s authority about students, and students are less likely to comply with rules and limits, which results in conflict [18]. The increase in the year of schooling also leads to greater difficulties in living and learning in the classroom, and older age student’s groups consider themselves inserted in an educational system that sometimes does not respond to their needs and some of them consider not be essential to your life. So, the increase in compulsory education leads to a greater number of dissatisfied, unmotivated, and undisciplined students. Likewise, the increase in students per class, without increasing the facilities or associated conditions, negatively affects the psychological environment in overcrowded classrooms, with a lack of space for practical and collaborative activities. In turn, the progressive decline in teacher authority in relation to students and students are less likely to comply with certain rules and limits, results in conflicts in the classroom.

Conflicts in the teacher-student relationship are recurrent in the classroom, and [17] indicates as causes generating conflict, not only concerning the expectations of the teacher-student but also the student towards the teacher. In this sequence, the authors highlight the following problems that cause conflict: discipline problems, adaptation to individual differences problems, and evaluation problems.

As for discipline problems, these are the result of provocation and contempt of the student towards the teacher, or the teacher towards the student, to exercise their authority. In turn, problems of adaptation to individual differences are related to heterogeneous behaviors and diminished personal relationships. As for the problems related to the evaluation, result mainly from the personal rhythms of each student and teacher.

Students’ undisciplined classroom behavior can lead to conflicts that divert the teacher’s attention to issues that blur him from his teaching function [19]. In this context, Pérez-de-Guzmán et al. [7] indicate disinterest, mainly academic, as the main source of classroom conflict, also mentioning that one of the conflicts that persist and continues to be common is the lack of study habits and the carrying out work, leading to a negative attitude during class. Also, the mandatory stay in the classroom, away from the interests and expectations of some students, is recurrent as a conflict cause.

There are many and diverse classroom conflict situations that disturb the class dynamics. And in situations where the conflict remains latent, the result of the diversity of class interests, if the teacher does not create a good environment, acting positively about communication, the use of legitimate authority, and the conflict management, he will see conflicts increase exponentially within the classes [24]. Thus, regardless of the classroom conflicts type, if they are not managed, they accumulate, which makes them more cohesive and complicated, triggering negative feelings in those involved, and negatively affecting the educational quality [24].

The causes of the aforementioned conflicts are linked to personal issues and interpersonal relationships. And, most of these conflicts reveal an undisciplined character and increase daily in the class context. In this way, the teacher in the absence of solid guidelines can develop discontent, insecurity, and dissatisfaction that are reflected in his conflict face performance. Another aspect to be highlighted is that related to the power or lack of it that, increasingly, the teacher presents, and that reveals itself in discontent. In short, there is a gap in society, between the values ​​it promotes and demands the school and the lack of credibility that is given to the teacher, questioned before the disapproval of parents and society itself, which instigates an even greater student’s conflict, in classes.

3.2 Positive and negative impacts of school conflicts

Conflict can inspire innovations and creative strategies in addressing challenging issues, as well as improving work, results, and encouraging organizations to achieve higher levels of quality and achievement. In this context, Göksoy and Argon [16] argue that school conflicts have positive and negative impacts on psychological, social, and organizational results.

Negative psychological impacts include discomfort, insecurity, insignificance feelings, sadness, resentment, frustration, and stress. In turn, at the social level, results of hostility, intolerance, and violence are present [16]. As for the negative results within the institutions, the author highlights the existence of a tense environment, weakened cooperation, communication failures, poor performance, and an undisciplined environment. Inevitably, in this way, there is a decrease in education quality.

The conflicts traditional and negative view has implications for the training of students, as the current discourse in many schools is about how to avoid conflicts since their educational potential is sometimes not perceived by the school community. This discourse conceives the conflict by the violent consequences that result from its non-management.

Conflict is recognized as an engine of social development and its effects are positive when the conflict is managed well. Thus, about the positive impacts arising from the school conflict, these have various levels of benefits [16]. At a personal level, the conflict allows learning to be related to the perception of errors, and to develop new ideas. On the other hand, at the social level, it enables the reinforcement of communication, respect for others, and enhances commitment. Regarding the benefits at the organizational level, it makes it possible to understand problems, seek and develop new solutions, and develop a democratic and enriching environment in the school. Thus, conflicts can contribute to the construction of broader visions of certain situations and, at the same time, guarantee rights and opportunities for all, regardless of interpersonal differences.

4. Strategies for classroom conflict management

Teachers’ perceptions of conflict indicate that they focus mainly on the conflicts’ negative aspects [6, 25]. It is noteworthy that the methods most used at school, face of students conflicting behaviors, include warning, disapproval, summoning guardians, and in some cases, student suspension. Methodologies that provoke negative feelings and, later, originate new undesirable behaviors, being applied without taking into account the needs, personal conflicts, problems, and students expectations [26]. As indicated by Torrecilla et al. [22] if the teacher is not an effective conflict manager, he will project this lack of skill, resulting in negative learning for students.

As noted earlier, classroom conflict is an unavoidable reality. Thus, being inevitable, adequate strategies are needed to resolve it so that the conflict potential advantages are taken advantage of and its harmful effects are minimized or canceled out. Conflict management strategies are understood as the behavior types that are adopted in the conflict context, that is, they are basic strategies to manage a situation in which the parties consider their interests to be incompatible.

It is important to note that the choice between different conflict management strategies depends on the conflict level and the various situations that must be managed effectively [27], that is, to manage conflict functionally, it is important to recognize that one strategy may be more appropriate than another, depending on the conflict situation, being considered appropriate if its use leads to the effective formulation or resolution of the conflict [27]. So, strategies refer to specific patterns of behavior that are adopted in conflict situations. Following this approach, Rahim and Bonoma [28] established five conflict management strategies using two dimensions “self-concern” and “others concern”. They are different strategies for conflict management and correspond to the attitudes to confront and conflict resolutions.

These five strategies for conflict management are [27]: (a) Avoiding: when conflicted parties show low levels of concern for others’ interests and a low level of concern for oneself. Strategy characterized by a low degree of assertiveness and a low degree of cooperation, where neither its interests nor those of its opponents are satisfied; (b) Dominating: reflecting the attempt to satisfy one’s interests without consideration of the interests of the other. Characterized by a high assertiveness and lack of cooperation, in which the acquisition of objectives is viewed with supremacy over the interests of the other party. Furthermore, it is often considered an aggressive strategy; (c) Obliging: tends to be adopted by those individuals who attempt to play down the differences and emphasizes commonalities to satisfy the concerns of the other party. Represents a conflict management strategy where the cooperation is high, and assertiveness is low; (d) Integrating: individuals who use this strategy manage conflicts directly and cooperatively, seeking to solve in collaboration with the other, is a strategy connected with problem-solving. The use of this involves openness, exchanging information, looking for alternatives, and examination of differences to reach an effective solution for everyone involved in the conflict. Is a strategy useful for effectively dealing with complex problems; and (e) Compromising: represents the attempt to satisfy, moderately and partially, the interests of all those involved in the conflict, and shares commonalities with all of the other four strategies. Is a strategy that requires compromise and assignment. Compromising is an intermediate strategy on assertiveness and cooperation, which implies a compromise in the search for an acceptable intermediate position for everyone involved in the conflict.

Among the variables that influence the choice of different conflict management strategies, the teachers’ emotional intelligence stands out. Valente and Lourenço [24] conclude that teachers who tend to have higher levels of emotional intelligence use more integration and commitment strategies, for conflict management in the classroom, and fewer strategies of consent, avoidance, and domination. Too, the findings of Aliasgari and Farzadnia [29] indicate that teachers prefer the integrating strategy over the other conflict management strategy. So, in the presence of classroom conflict, the teacher proposes alternatives, applies open lines of communication, makes concessions, accepts responsibility, maximizes similarities, and minimizes existing differences between self and student [24]. Therefore, the integrating strategy is connected with classroom problem-solving, the use of this strategy involves openness and exchanging information, being the ideal strategy in dealing with complex classroom problems [24]. When applying a commitment strategy, the teacher’s objective is an intermediate solution for conflict management, for this, he knows how to reduce differences with the student suggests an exchange of proposals with the student, and provides a quick solution to conflicts in the classroom [24]. This is an intermediate strategy on assertiveness and cooperation, which implies a compromise in the search for an acceptable intermediate position for everyone involved in the conflict [27]. In this way, teachers’ emotional intelligence allows for better conflict management, which supports the development of interpersonal relationships in the classroom and enables a favorable environment for teaching and learning.

So, conflicts involve, in addition to interpersonal skills such as availability for dialog, emotional intelligence skills, which require the perception and recognition of the affective dimension, and the feelings of those involved. In this sense, we can say that the evolution of interpersonal relationships has not kept pace with scientific and technological developments. We were not educated to know how to interpret the language of emotions, just as we did not learn to solve conflict situations. We do not learn to perceive and manage emotions. Thus, the emotions that emerge from conflicts must be the target of attention and discussion, so that teachers and students are aware of their emotions and know how to deal with them.

The concern with improving coexistence in schools, namely about conflict, is mentioned in several studies, whose objectives refer to the understanding of school conflicts, as well as preventing their occurrence through programs aimed at teachers and students [4, 5]. Thus, the school community must develop effective skills for conflict management, increasing self-awareness, and understanding of conflict through formal education sessions.

The manage conflict ability is not innate, so it must be learned through educational interventions. There are different programs that work these skills in the educational context, of which they stand: Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, Regulating (RULER), Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), and the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

RULER program was created based on the emotional intelligence Mayer-Salovey’s model [30]. This training program focuses on emotional intelligence development and involving the students, parents, teachers, and the entire educational community [31]. RULER focuses on learning skills that deal with issues of interpersonal conflict and teach strategies for emotional regulation. Empirical evidence regarding the effectiveness of RULER programs indicates that they enhance students’ academic performance, improve the quality of learning environments, improve teacher-student relationships and reduce student behavior problems, being a success in reducing violence and abusive classroom behavior [32].

The SEL was developed with the aim of preventing school violence and includes five areas of interconnected skills (self-knowledge, social awareness, self-management and organization, responsible problem solving, and relationship management). Teaching these skills is vital to deal with behavioral, academic, disciplinary, and safety problems, promoting self-awareness, managing emotions, and acquiring skills such as empathy, the ability to perceive different perspectives and points of view, respect for diversity, and the ability to make the right decisions [33]. SEL programs refer to processes of developing socio-emotional competencies, which depend on the individual’s ability to recognize, understand, and manage emotions. These skills are the main building blocks for other outcomes that SEL programs include, such as the ability to persist in the face of challenges, stress management, the ability to develop healthy relationships, build trust in others, and to thrive both in the academic context, as in personal and social life. In a study carried out on more than 213 SEL programs, it was concluded that a school that successfully applies a quality curriculum of the SEL program can achieve behavioral improvements and a positive increase in the results of assessments [34].

CASEL program was created with the aim of establishing social and emotional education in a school context and making it a reality in today’s education. Its purpose is to apply high-quality, evidence-based SEL programs, from pre-school to secondary education [35]. The results of this program reveal significant changes in the socio-emotional capacities, social interactions, and academic results of the students who attended these programs. Among the results, it should be noted that students show greater communication skills, are more collaborative in teamwork, and more resistant to challenges and difficulties [36].

4.1 School conflicts management

The school is a space for socialization par excellence and, precisely, due to the variety of styles, cultures, and values, it becomes an environment rich in conflicts. Conflict, commonly seen as something negative, destructive, and generating violence, is, in fact, extremely necessary for individual evolution. It should be noted that the conflict itself does not generate violence; this comes when there is a lack of peaceful solutions to conflict resolution, when there is no conflict constructive management.

Among the conflict management methodologies used in the school, the following stand out: arbitration, conciliation, negotiation, and mediation. School arbitration is a dialog process that takes place between the involved in the conflict with the presence of a third party that determines the conflict resolution based on the benefits of the parties with their authority and knowledge [37]. The school conciliation is a dialog process carried out between the involved in the conflict, with the support of a conciliator, who helps them decide, based on their interests and needs. This may present proposals for solutions that the parties can accept or not. The decision-making power belongs to the parties, even if the solution comes from the conciliator [37]. In turn, the school negotiation is a dialog process focused on conflict resolution between the involved in the conflict, which either meet face to face to work together unassisted to conflict resolution. Negotiation is one of the most used conflict management mechanisms in the classroom. The school mediation, this is a dialog process carried out between the parties in conflict, assisted by a third party, the mediator, who should not influence the conflict resolution, acting as a communication facilitator. Inserted in a socio-constructivist paradigm, it is considered not only as of the most current and flexible instrument for peaceful conflict resolution at the educational level, and promote a new culture for conflict management. Arising not only to solve school problems, but equally as a feasible way for creative conflict modification [38].

A more detailed approach to school negotiation is presented as it is considered the most appropriate method for resolving classroom conflicts, in teacher-student relationships. Negotiation includes a set of behavioral skills that teachers must master. It is essentially a well-structured process and based on some tacit behavior, being understood as a process of communicative interaction in which two parties seek to resolve a conflict of interest, use dialog, and progress gradually through mutual concessions. The negotiation process implies several skills, which stand out, effective communication, considered the main tool of the negotiation process.

Effective communication is essential to the school conflicts negotiation, as it enhances: the fear decrease of being rejected, the anxiety reduction produced in the struggle for acceptance and recognition, a greater predisposition to listen to the other and recognize their positive aspects, a strengthening of self-esteem, an increase in the degree of security, and a decrease in defensive-offensive behavior [39].

Concerning the negotiation phases, although there is no consensus on the definition of the negotiation stages, there are at least three that are classically identified [40]: definition of the content and limits of the negotiation (exploratory stage), with the manifestation of antagonism, facing individuals the “dilemma of trust” and the “dilemma of honesty”; negotiation dynamics (dynamic and tactical stage), with manifestations of concession flexibility, systematically assisting proposals and counter-proposals, constituting the central moment of the negotiation process; and, the resolution and agreements stage, this more integrative, brief, and intense phase, almost always implies tension and uncertainty.

These phases testify to the transformation that the negotiations must undergo and must respond to the three negotiation objectives, namely: identification of differences between the parties, making joint decisions, and building a commitment to resolve the conflict.

It should be noted that during a conflict negotiation, it is also important to highlight the importance of [39]:

  • Empathy: the pillar of good communication and the connection between teacher and student, which allows one to understand each other’s feelings and motivations;

  • Assertiveness: being able to expose your point of view, emotions, or opinions without provoking a defensive attitude, through a self-affirmative phrase that tells students what to think without blaming you, not putting you as an opponent. Being assertive requires understanding limitations to do another. The teacher when negotiating a conflict must establish his position and build self-confidence thus limiting abuse situations without attacking students;

  • Active listening: a tool is useful to obtain more information, corroborating data so that the student knows that he was heard. When we listen actively, we are asking, paraphrasing, asking for clarification, defining, and contextualizing. Some ways of they appear can be by echo, repetition of what the other said, reformulation, expressing in words what was understood, resolving points or questions, summarizing and ordering information or reflection of the feeling, an expression of what we perceive of the other; and

  • Feedback: the teacher must support and encourage positive behavior, correcting the inappropriate ones. To put feedback into practice, it is necessary to let the student know what the teacher feels and what he thinks.

That way, thinking of the joint construction of solutions to the conflict, through the correct use of empathy, assertiveness, active listening, and feedback can make those involved in the conflict evaluate their actions and rethink their attitudes, discovering ways to solve the problems, trying to maintain respect and balance. Knowing how to listen, evaluate, rethink with everyone involved in the conflict, creating the habit of dialog. Because when those involved in the conflict participate in the construction of possible actions for solutions, relationships can be restored, and the conflict constructively resolved. Therefore, classroom conflicts when managed constructively contribute to the preservation of interpersonal bonds and promote the socio-emotional skills of involved, since it makes possible to develop skills to know how to see reality from the perspective of the other, knowing how to cooperate, and also learn that conflict is an opportunity for growth and maturation.

As seen, although conflicts have negative impacts in general, the constructive and destructive consequences of conflict depend on the management skills of the individuals who experience it [25]. Effective conflict management strategies minimize the conflict negative impacts and enhance the positive ones, helping to improve interpersonal relationships and job satisfaction at school.

In general, teachers and the school ignore the importance of conflicts in the integral development of the student and training as autonomous citizens. In this way, most schools do not conceive of conflict resolution as an integral part of the curriculum, emphasizing only the contents of the curricular subjects. They leave aside interpersonal relationships, homogenizing the training of students without promoting the development of problem and conflict management skills. Thus, for the educational potential of the conflict to be truly used in the school context, it is necessary that the community, and especially teachers and management bodies, recognize the conflict possibilities. Constructive management of school conflicts is important and necessary for new generations to learn to live with social differences.

In this sequence, educational action is required, intentionally aimed at conflict management as an element inherent to the human condition and indispensable to democratic societies. Therefore, the formative potential of the conflict depends on the strategies used to resolve the conflict and the management that takes place. The way to conflict management, in turn, depends on how those involved experience the conflict. Therefore, the negative view of the conflict and the lack of perception of its educational potential can prevent those involved from developing essential skills such as respect for diversity, respect for the rights of others, and availability for dialog.

Pérez-de-Guzmán et al. [7] indicate that training in conflict management, generates very positive results in all members of the educational community, verifying a reduction in the interpersonal conflict between teacher-student. Also, Massabni [41] defends the urgency to prepare teachers to face professional conflicts; otherwise, we will have a generation of teachers able to succumb to the pressure that the profession is going through, to accept the reduction of their action, their status, and to share their commitments with other professionals, who take away the property of regulating their work. It is necessary to support teachers and provide them with tools to develop their ways of managing conflicts.

By making conflicts the subject of reflection and explaining the professional context in which teachers work is, in the opinion of [41], the commitment of the different higher education institutions that form them. It is important to work not only on the training of future teachers but also on training in the active teachers in conflict management, small or large, which inevitably emerge in the teacher-student relationship, throughout their professional life. Also, the Freire et al. [42] results support the importance of professional development opportunities with a focus on facilitating the relationship of teachers with students with perceived challenging behavior.

5. Conclusions

The school is an institution that reproduces a microcosm of society, bringing together diverse identities. This context with diverse personalities, rules, and values is full of conflicts, problems, and differences between the different actors that make up the school (students, teachers, staff, and parents). Thus, the school system, in addition to involving a range of people, with different characteristics, includes a significant number of continuous and complex interactions, depending on the stages of development of each one. So, school is a place where individuals with different characteristics, backgrounds, experiences, and personalities live together daily. Among so many differences, naturally, divergences of the most diverse species arise. It is essential, then, the proper management of conflicts that may arise so that harmony and respect are present in the school of the main causes presented for the school conflict, we highlight family problems. Being the family the main student emotional support, it becomes the life model of this. In this way, unstable and weakened family relationships directly affect the behavior of your children, behaviors that these after reproduced in the school social relationships. The families of the most deprived students are considered less functional. They do not contribute to the growth of positive feelings, they do not carry out good communication between family members, nor do they assist in healthily making decisions that are, based on the exchange of ideas together instead of imposition. In this sequence, students from more dysfunctional families need school increased support to learn and develop interpersonal skills. Thus, family and school must go together to contribute to the conflict becoming part of a process of growth, acceptance of the other, and accountability. Learning to deal with conflicts positively is essential for the development of healthy relationships.

The school, by bringing together people from different social groups with different values and worldviews, becomes a locus for conflicts. Thus, the conflict must be understood as a reality inherent to the educational context, and the school, as responsible for the education of values and skills for living together must be differently prepared to deal with the conflicts that occur in it.

Conflicts of various types have always been present in the classroom, and the causes that originate them are of great importance, as they allow a better conflict understanding and, consequently, a more correct intervention to its management. It should be noted that personal harmony and the development of attitudes that promote understanding, dialog, and tolerance are indispensable for negotiating conflicts in the teacher-student relationship. The way to intervene in classroom conflicts is essential in education, not only in terms of content, but also as a series of vital procedures in interpersonal relationships. As Lapponi [39] points out, for conflicts correct negotiation with the student, it is necessary to communicate effectively, cooperate, decide responsibly, and so teach to resolve conflicts.

Ending school conflict is impossible, since they are intrinsic to the human being, being an integral part of their development and the interpersonal relationships they experience daily. Learning to live with school conflict requires creating attitudes of openness, interest in differences, and respect for diversity, teaching how to recognize injustice, taking measures to overcome it, resolving differences constructively, and moving from conflict situations to reconciliations. So, it is essential that the initial and continuous training of teachers encompasses conflict management, providing them with tools so that they can resolve the conflicts they experience in the classroom.

In summary, it is important to conflict face and resolve it with skills to manage it properly and constructively, establishing cooperative relationships, and producing integrative solutions. Harmony and appreciation should coexist in a classroom environment and conflict should not interfere, negatively, in the teaching and learning process.

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Sabina Valente, Abílio Afonso Lourenço and Zsolt Németh (December 23rd 2020). School Conflicts: Causes and Management Strategies in Classroom Relationships [Online First], IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.95395. Available from:

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