In the summer of 2016, ASM Associate Brendan Schütte, provided accredited mediation training to a group of enthusiastic trainees from across the Island’s public sector departments including the local NHS Service.

The motivation behind this initiative came from Nina Hogan, Training Manager, a passionate advocate for mediation. An initial group of mediator volunteers had been trained previously and demand for the service had increased due to their successful interventions.

One of the interesting aspects was that the participants were drawn from sectors such as schools, hospitals, administration, and other civil service functions, rather than all being from the same background. While the training was based on workplace issues, the participants had no difficulty realising how the process and skills could be used in other areas. These included:

mediating with parents in schools,
peer mediation in schools,
patient treatment complaints,
personal injury issues,
negligence in services,
restorative justice in offender cases,
community mediation,
family law and other legal cases.

The depth of the experience in the room and the breadth of their responsibilities led to many stimulating discussions about how the status quo could be changed for the better using the mediation mindset and approach.

Another aspect of the diversity in the room meant that different learning styles needed to be catered for. We used Honey and Mumford’s four styles of learning to plan for this:

Activist – Reflector – Pragmatist – Theorist.

The activist style learns best from ‘doing’. This meant that skills practice and the dreaded role play suited well and there was plenty of this.

The reflector style learns best from talking things through and thinking about it. Again, plenty of opportunity for discussion was given and each day started with ‘any questions from yesterday’ as reflectors will often think of a question later on.

The pragmatist style likes to learn by understanding exactly the steps involved and will have a hundred and one questions about what to do, how to do it, and what to do when it goes wrong. As both Irene and Brendan are highly experienced the ‘how to’ was explained in detail and interrogations of their experience meant that everyone learned a bit more. A robust process is also helpful for pragmatists and this was, naturally, provided.

The theorist style likes to place the learning in a model or concept and so these were provided without being overly academic. Some simple models are helpful for all and provided a common language and visuals for the whole group.

The skills taught ranged from process management, active listening, remaining impartial, handling apology, to more advanced skill such as reframing. With carefully guided practice the participants increased their confidence in using these skills over the course of the six days.

One of the great learning’s from such a course is that the skills can be used anywhere – in one’s personal life as well as work – as they are really just good interpersonal skills.

The group itself was very mutually supportive and, together with the trainers, created a safe learning environment in which it felt acceptable and helpful to give and receive feedback. This definitely benefitted the learning experience.

Following the course the participants were awarded with Associate Accreditation in the Mediators Institute of Ireland, one of the longest established and most recognised mediator bodies.