Mediation at School
5/16/12

Assessment and prospects

Mediation as an operational system still does not have an acquired legitimacy within the institutions. ‘The reception of mediation is variable and never occurs without some conflict as it brings into question the in principle asymmetrical practices and power relationships between pupil and teacher. This bringing into question, in particular for the adults who are expected to be the ones who implement it, is always difficult. For a school Head Teacher, for example, it involves accepting into his or her school somebody over whom he or she has little or no influence: one can understand that it is difficult, all the more so in that, in practice, the mediators sometimes take on a role that others were fulfilling already. We in any case have observed that mediation obliges the actors of the school world – parents, pupils and teachers – to reposition themselves in relation to each other. In this context, the relationships these people have with the mediators take time to be consolidated,’ explains Baptiste Dethier. And Professor Kuty adds: ‘the mediator arrives on a terrain on which certain actors intend to maintain a function which they consider legitimate. Others, on the other hand, appreciate the evolution. What outcome will this conflict lead to? Let us hope that it goes in the direction of a normative pluralism, thanks to new alliances between the actors of the school world.’ The long chapter by Baptiste Dethier nonetheless brings out the fact, from the mouths of the mediators he has patiently interviewed, that mediation remains relatively well accepted, when all is said and done, in particular by pupils, and meets a need. ‘It provides a remedy to a real suffering in relationships at school, which we could summarise by saying that both the pupils and the teachers feel that they are neither heard nor acknowledged in their respective roles.’ Mediation, apparently in step with a society in which it is practiced today, manages to encourage a relational climate within schools. ‘A doctor one day confided to me that he saw himself as a resources consultant in the life trajectory of the patient,’ adds Olgierd Kuty. ‘This is something other than having the role of instilling standards of conduct and practice. It was an attitude involving making available resources, which the patient however consumes in complete autonomy. There is something of that in the role of the school mediator today.’

In its final pages, the book by Kuty, Schoenaers, Dubois and Dethier, offering thoughts on the next diffusion of mediation in the school world, puts forward the hypothesis of a mediation ‘in a structuring and operationalisation phase,’ beyond the polysemy, polycentrism and polymorphism which characterises it at the moment. ‘Any organisational innovation generally begins with a ‘chaotic’ moment of birth. [...] Mediation-scolaire1Actors linked together take possession of a new idea, appropriate it in their own manner and give it a particular consistency without necessarily interacting with each other. It is only subsequently that an action structuring phase comes into being,’ writes Frédéric Schoenaers. It is to the study of this structuring phase and thus the legitimisation of school mediation that Baptiste Dethier will devote part of his doctoral research, which will examine ‘how mediation in schools is made concrete,’ and will raise the question, amongst others, of mediation as a new dimension in teachers’ professional practice.

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