I'm doing an Alternative Dispute Resolution course at UWA at the moment - it's run through the Law Faculty by Jill Howieson and David Rogers and goes for ten weeks, with an optional accreditation examination at the end of it. We're over halfway through now, so I thought I should look back on the experience so far.
I'm doing the course because I'm the Equity & Diversity Adviser for the Education faculty, so having some dispute resolution skills will/do come in handy. At the same time, though, mediation is a process I've been interested in for a while anyway, so I'm pleased I have the opportunity to take the course from a broader perspective as well.
Having said that, I was a little bit concerned about the course in advance - ten weekly three-hour sessions after a full day at work? With potentially very procedural and legalistic content? You'd have to be mad!
Fortunately the course has been a lot more exciting - we've really focused on negotiation, interest exploration and the underlying motivations and feelings that drive people to say and do particular things. Talking about feelings all evening is something I rather enjoy, and I end up feeling peculiarly energised from the session.
There are roughly thirty of us on the course: some are UWA staff and some are external from law firms or government departments. We do a lot of role-playing, with everyone getting a chance at some point to be a mediator in a dispute between two aggrieved parties. It can be challenging to phrase things appropriately, to avoid negative language ("well it looks like you've come to a stalemate here") and to focus on the process and getting the parties to work through to an outcome (not a "solution"!) of their own doing. There are also some similarities with teaching that I appreciate - you
don't want to give away the solutions, you want to make silences work
for you and so on.
I'm still getting my head around the different stages of the mediation process and how to progress from one to another, but I'm enjoying the experience and quietly committing myself to take the examination at the end of the course.