head of the Section of Social Work, 

the Department of Sociology and Social Work, 

the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences at Lviv Polytechnic National University

 Teaching mutual understanding and trust in social relations as a component of university education 

An issue of teaching mutual understanding and trust in social relations will be considered on the example of the professional education programfor social workers, that has been taught in Lviv Polytechnic National University since 1999.


Social work has an important role in building democratic, civil society in Ukraine. Today’s issues of training specialists, capable in their practice to promote social changes in individuals, families, groups and larger ecosystems in the context of solving social and economic problems in Ukraine, are related to the formation of specialized knowledge and skills in social work. Requirements in applying new approaches and innovative technologies, the accumulated international experience in social work professional education determine feasibility of integrating the theory and practice of mediation in the content of social workers training as an interconnected system of professional knowledge and skills that contribute to the formation of future professional competencies of specialists in this field. 

The role and place of mediation – Alternative Dispute Resolution (ARS) – in an effective problem solving is an integral part of determining the practice of social work. Oriented towards professional intervention in conflict situations, mediation creates a tremendous opportunity for conflicting parties to make independent decisions to resolve disputes. The third, neutral party – the mediator manages process of conflict resolution.

Mediation allows to highlight the important sociological and psychological categories such as trust and mutual understanding. The category of trust indicates open, positive relationships between people (parties of trust), reflecting confidence in integrity and goodwill between them. Trust can be viewed as a moral choice that allows a person to operate in an extremely difficult situation, when you have to make tough, rational decisions, especially in conflict resolution [4]. In its turn, the category of mutual understanding provides for effective conflict resolution and problem solving based on trust and common, particularly Christian values ​​[2].

In modern conditions of democratic transformations in Ukraine, mediation takes on special significance. Like social work, the approach ARS stresses the importance of communication and human relationships, the desire to achieve social justice. Social work and mediation share common values ​​and principles according to which every person in society has the inherent value and dignity. Both disciplines are marked eclectic, interdisciplinary character. These factors cause the increase in demand for training specialists in the field of social work for the implementation of mediation. Thus there are fundamental differences:

Social work and mediation share common values ​​and principles according to which every person in society has inherent value and dignity. Both disciplines have eclectic, interdisciplinary character. These factors cause an increase in demand for training specialists in the field of social work for the implementation of mediation. Yet there are fundamental differences:

1. Mediation is widely used in international experience. There is even a new profession “a mediator (also an expert on conflict resolution) [7]. Mediation is used in the family, as an alternative to the court between a victim and an offender, in education, the workplace, in health care, for resolving international conflicts in hot spots of the planet. Representatives of different professions, including teachers, educators, social pedagogues, psychologists, managers, lawyers and diplomats use the approach ARS in their professional activities. Knowledge and skills of mediation is important for the formation of professional competence of social workers [5, 6, 8, 12].

The process of establishing a new area of professional activity is characterized by the emergence of new opportunities for application of acquired knowledge and skills. Over 50 countries have already created a legal framework for the practical use of mediation and other approaches of ARS in different fields [7, p. 222]. Ukraine is only beginning to get a similar experience.

2. Training mediation specialists involves a broad range of skills. Combined efforts of scholars and practitioners, exchange of information between them, participation in professional associations, partnerships between universities and scientific and practical centers on local, national and international levels, geographical expansion of use of mediation effectively influence its further development as a process of professional educational and scientific activities. An important role in the development of this sector is played by educational institutions in the sphere of social work. Responding to the growing need for training social workers in mediation, these institutions conduct appropriate training at all levels – from a short-term concentrated refresher course to university programs for Doctor of Philosophy. In Ukraine, the only a few institutions of higher education provide the training.

Thus, there is a problem of the social workers training for mediation on the basis of progressive ideas of international experience in the sphere of conflict resolution and adapting new experience to the conditions of our country.

In response to the need of new approaches in social work, at the Department of Sociology and Social Work of Lviv Polytechnic National University a program for professional mediation training of social workers was developed. The program is based on the model of mediation teaching for students of social work based on the analysis, generalization and systematization of theoretical and practical experience of mediation and training of specialists.

As the study of foreign experience of training mediators (U.S., Canada) in the field of social work showed, the formation of new areas of professional activity is accompanied by attempts to outline the most essential elements of professional competence and identify strategic directions in the organization of the content of training mediators. Thus, the formation of professional competence in mediation is seen as a dynamic process of development of these stages: 1) beginner  " 2) apprentice" 3)expert-practitioner" 4) professionalexpert[10]. The process involves integration of theory and practice, as well as interactive activities in working with clients on the path of becoming a professional mediator.

The analysis of curriculum and syllabus of colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada has allowed to distinguish three main groups of professional skills in the field of mediation, namely: 1) ability to analyze the conflict as a phenomenon in terms of its features, dynamics and approaches to its solution, and 2) the ability to assess a specific conflict situation and determine: a) possible approaches to its solution and acceptance of mediation, b) disputes, c) possible undetected needs, d) features of communication, e) a level of anger / hostility, f) possible elements of injustice, and g) ability to apply technology mediation, to follow clear ethical principles.

The specific type of social workers training in mediation emphasizes the need to create sufficient capacity for future social workers to concentrate on such areas of the formation of professional skills as: 1) higher professional level of application of interviewing and communication skills, reflection and interaction (between parties to negotiations), 2) management of emotional expressions, including expressions of anger, to prevent personal emotional overload, 3) strategies of evaluation of distribution of power / force in a relationship and ability to balance on a professional level the distribution of power / force, where this equilibrium is disrupted, preventing violence, and 4) establishment of clear ethical principles of mediation, 5) the conclusion of business documents (including drafting the text of an agreement that is reached as a result of negotiations between conflicting parties), 6) understanding the basics of public law. 

Mediation training is carried out on undergraduate and graduate levels and is characterized by a concentric way of exposition of educational content, interdisciplinary approach to its structuring, with special emphasis on the psycho-pedagogical and ethical aspects of professional intervention. Much attention is paid interrelated activities of mediation – directive and transformative. Directive activity aims at achieving a specific, mutually acceptable agreement between conflicting parties. However, the process of mediation involves also transformative activity through which an important result of positive personal change of conflicting party, the formation of trust and understanding between the parties are achieved (Table1).

 Transformative mediation emphasizes the idea of ​​constructive dialogue, building relationships, achieving positive organized changes both in people, and in the ways of solving their problems. This allows participants to exercise control over their own lives and really achieve greater access to justice. Hence the conclusion that mediation goes beyond fast enough resolution ofa conflict. There is also a potentional to transform society.

Table 1

Positive personal change of a conflicting partyas a result of mediation

Before the process of mediation After the process of mediation
persists in one’s positionoperates from a position of power / strengthsuspectscrashes relationshipsdoes not recognize differencesmanipulativeaccuses and threatensresistsadamantsecretiveperplexedcountering othersenraged determines interests cooperatestrustsmaintainsrecognizes differencesacts openlycommunicates effectivelysupportsflexibleopenconfidentsupports otherswell-balanced 


For the purposes of teaching specialized subjects, manuals on mediation and other educational materials published [2, 3, 4]. The main form of educational process (developed on the basis of international experience) is integrated (lectures and laboratory) studies. Active and interactive teaching methods are used. Much attention is paid to integrating theory and practice. Training courses in mediation for representatives of social services are also conducted. In particular, this gave impetus to establishing of the charity foundation Space Without Conflict in Lviv, which is also involved into activities of the Ukrainian Centre for Mutual Understanding, aimed at use of mediation in criminal sphere. These initiatives open new perspectives for further development of educational programs in the field of social work in Lviv Polytechnic University.

To assess current training programs of social workers to mediation an experimental study was conducted. Considering the specifics of this study its objectives were formulated: 1) to test the effectiveness of training programs to social workers of mediation, 2) to establish the relationship between competencies in the field of mediation, acquired by the students of an experimental group, on the one hand, and pedagogical conditions (factors) in which the program is implemented, on the other. The experimental results are interpreted by the methods of known Polish researchers in the field of educational research methodology, Łobocki and Pilch [9, 11]. Such research methods were applied: pedagogical observation, self-assessment, questioning, summarizing independent features, interviews, discussion, analysis of documentation.

Summarized results of experiments indicate that the tasks of the experiment were realized and the goal was achieved. In particular, it was found that: 1) the level of mastering knowledge and skills in mediation by students of social work is defined as high and very high, and 2) the pedagogical conditions (factors) (see Figure 1) affect the formation of future professional competencies in mediation. Thus, the program training of social workers of mediation, developed at the Department of Sociology and Social Work of Lviv Polytechnic National University  is declared effective. It is also concluded that the program which is based on research and summarizing of international experience and its adaptation to our country, not only meets modern demands, needs and social order for social services specialists in Ukraine, but also creates the basis for training of social workers on international educational standards.

The extension of mediation in the world, including the European experience, Ukraine's joining the Bologna process and the global educational community allow to make a prediction regarding the need for integration of mediation, peacemaking, ARS approaches into curricula and programs, particularly in the field of social work of higher education in Ukraine . The evaluation of the social workers training program in mediation in Lviv Polytechnic allows to justify research and methodological proposals, with which we would like to apply to the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine: a) to include subjects on mediation in the curricula of higher educational institutions (including postgraduate education) which train social workers and other professionals of the social sphere, and b) to introduce a specialization in mediation, and for this purpose to use foreign experience in master's programs in professional education, c) to legitimize social work as a separate branch of scientific research and establish a specialized board in this field, and d) to train highly qualified professional – candidates and doctors of sciences in social work, e) to display the content of training in mediation in relevant documents; f) to translate into Ukrainian and publish international publications on the theory and practice of mediation and ARS , g) to undertake comparative analysis in this area; h) to adapt international experience of mediation to the conditions of Ukraine; i) to include Ukrainian terms of mediation in new editions of Ukrainian and bilingual dictionaries.

The following aspects require further research and development: the use of mediation in social work with families, preparing students to resolve conflicts among peers through mediation, the use of mediation in the process of resolving educational conflicts, development of specialized training courses on mediation including "Mediation in Work with Families."



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13.         Career Description (Mediator). URL http://www.career.edu.my/path/desc.asp?career_id=118