Use this lesson plan to gauge students’ preferred conflict styles (based on the Thomas-Kilman Model) and open a discussion around how this knowledge might be used to help navigate conflict with others and in specific situations.
15-30 minutes depending on the discussion
Conflict Styles Worksheet (1 per student), writing utensil
Applicable Content Areas:
This activity is intended to be self-reflective and can be conducted in a variety of content areas, especially those that have a strong focus on group work, peer-to-peer collaboration, or debate.
After completing this lesson, students will be able to:
- Identify the conflict style they tend to prefer most.
- List both the advantages and disadvantages of all conflict styles.
- Explain the importance of adapting their preferred conflict style in certain situations.
Distribute the Conflict Styles Worksheet to each student.
- Ask students to read the descriptions of each conflict style from the worksheet and choose the one that best describes how they prefer to approach conflict. NOTE: Conflict in this context can be defined as a physical or verbal altercation, an argument or disagreement, difference of opinion, or any other moment of tension between at least two or more people.
- Give students 2-3 minutes to explain why they chose what they did in small groups/pairs. It may be helpful to prompt discussion by asking “What about the style you chose resonated with you the most?” or “How does the style you chose align with your personality characteristics, values, and beliefs?”
- Then, tell students that although we all tend to have our own preferences to how we approach conflict based on our individual identities, every person will use each style from time to time depending on the situation. This idea is what the rest of the worksheet will ask students to think about.
- Next, in those same small groups, give students an additional 3-5 minutes to discuss the advantages and disadvantages to each style and write their answers in the spaces provided on the worksheet. It may help to prompt discussion by asking “What types of situations might each conflict style help to resolve?” or “What kinds of situations might each style be harmful?”
- After time is up, ask students to reconvene in a large group and debrief the activity using the attached Conflict Styles Answer Key.
- Go over the listed advantages and disadvantages for each conflict style. You may also consider asking your students these questions to spark discussion:
- Were there any advantages or disadvantages that surprised you? Did you think of any that were not listed?
- What specific situations have you experienced in the past where these styles were helpful or hurtful to resolving a conflict you were having? Explain.
- How would you navigate a conflict with someone whose preferred style is different from your own?
- When might you need to consciously choose another style?
- How can this new insight be helpful in navigating future conflicts that you may experience?
This lesson can easily be replicated virtually either by assigning the worksheet in advance of an asynchronous session, or by using breakout rooms to simulate the small group portion of the activity. Each breakout room could cover all the styles as is described above, or as an alternative option, you could assign one style to each breakout room to have them discuss the advantages and disadvantages in depth before briefly presenting back to the larger group before the final debrief. You could also consider handing out the AFS and Friends Handout in the case students want to learn more about this or other conflict styles models.