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New Pedagogical Tool


New Pedagogical Tool
(source: Final Progress Report 2006-2007)

            In addition to our conceptual and empirical work, we collaborated to co-design a new pedagogy for teaching negotiations in a complex world. It was first conceptualized as a methodology for working with stakeholders attempting to comprehend and address chronic patterns of destructive conflict and violence in New York City public schools. It has since been developed as a platform for teaching multi-stakeholder negotiations in various situations of protracted social conflict. In the workshop we engage participants in a series of hands-on exercises that demonstrates the complex dynamical properties of conflict systems in a simple and accessible way. The workshop employs a newly developed computer simulation, The Attractor Software® , which assists conflict-practitioners, policy-makers and conflict stakeholders in negotiating complex agreements without neglecting the dynamical properties and the complexity of the systems with which they work. This approach suggests that it is particularly useful to conceptualize ongoing, destructive conflicts as strong attractors: a particular form of self-organization of multiple elements of conflict systems. Thus, the centerpiece of this teaching platform is a computer simulation of conflict attractors, which allows participants to visualize and work interactively with the dynamics of conflict as they unfold overtime.

            Two outcome studies were conducted on the tool which compared the effects of a workshop which employed the simulation with one which employed only a traditional integrative problem-solving method. Results showed that the training that employed the attractor software tool in addition to integrative negotiation training led to more sustainable solutions. A paper describing the tool and the findings from these studies is being drafted and will be submitted to Negotiation Journal.

       To date, this tool has been used in courses at Columbia University (a dynamical systems course and a genocide prevention course), and West Point Military Academy, and in workshops at the International conference on Dynamics and Complexity of Intractable Conflicts, Kazimierz October 2006, for the International Association for Conflict Management conference in July, 2007, in Budapest Hungary, and the University of Maryland, May, 2007.