Handling Conflict Between Students

Jun 20, 2023

No matter how hard you try, sometimes students are going to have disagreements with one other. When those disagreements happen while on a trip, it can become even stickier of an issue to deal with. The good news is there are strategies and steps to take to help handle an unfortunate situation so the trip can continue as planned.

First, ensure students and parents have a thorough understanding of what the behavioral expectations are for the trip. Setting those standards early on and communicating them often will leave students with no excuse for less than stellar behavior. Establish ahead of time that if a student fails to behave as expected on the trip, they’ll be asked to leave at the expense of the parents.

When a conflict arises, keep the goal of conflict resolution in mind—while students might not ultimately agree or see eye-to-eye on an issue, they should arrive at a place of mutual respect and understanding for one another (and their fellow students and group leaders) to move forward. Make sure students understand they can come to you or any one of the chaperones on the trip with any concerns.

According to Cornell, educators can use the SOAR approach when conflict arises (stop, observe, assess, react). Avoid being dismissive and instead acknowledge the emotions your students are displaying. Present the moment as a learning opportunity and ask students to take time to reflect upon their actions and feelings before regrouping. This might mean asking a student to stay behind on the bus with a chaperone during an activity the rest of the group takes part in. It’s also important to avoid calling out students in front of their peers and instead pull them aside in private to address concerns.

Remember to have empathy and understand that there are often underlying or outside factors to why a disagreement happens in the first place, and that a student’s frustrations might not actually have anything to do with the other student in question. For many students, this might be their first time traveling away from home without their parents—an event which can stir up a bevy of emotions. If you feel the situation warrants it, ask the students to come together with just yourself and take a short walk to calmly talk things through. Sometimes, students just want to be truly heard. Having a moderator of sorts to guide them through a difficult conversation can often be helpful.

In more serious instances, loop in parents immediately and discuss with your chaperones next steps so everyone is on the same page.

Courtesy of Educational Tours, Inc.