Opinion Wanted: A Theoretical Construct for Mediation Practice - Chapter 3 - AAA Handbook on Mediation - 2nd Edition
Cris M. Currie holds a M.A. in Conflict Resolution from Antioch University and is a registered nurse. He is a retired mediator and conflict management instructor and was a founder and co-director of the Dispute Resolution Center of Spokane County, Washington.
Disagreement concerning the legitimacy of different styles of mediation, such as evaluative and facilitative, has preoccupied mediators for many years.1 Theory and research are critical elements in the rather circular process of developing a profession. Typically, observations (regarding how best to resolve a dispute, for example) suggest a new theory. Theory attempts to explain the “why” behind the event or action, but in doing so, it demands careful methodology and precision as to what exactly is being assessed. In other words, professional theory building leads directly to professional goal setting. Goals determine the definitions and boundaries of the field and provide benchmarks for differentiating success from failure. With a good foundation of goals, definitions, boundaries, and benchmarks, acceptable strategies and techniques can be determined. Acceptable strategies then suggest standards of practice, which are necessary for consistency and predictability. Public confidence and use typically rises with greater predictability. Problems with predictability indicate the need for further research and theory refinement so that the cycle continuously repeats itself. While anecdotal evidence abounds to support whatever views practitioners may hold on the subject, the discussion generally lacks a research-based, theoretical foundation.