Programs that Work
Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (RCCP)
Healthy and Safe Children
Children Succeeding in School
Students performing at grade level or meeting state curriculum standards
Children and youth not engaging in violent behavior or displaying serious conduct problems
Age of Child
Early Childhood (0-8)
Middle Childhood (9-12)
Type of Setting
Type of Service
Type of Outcome Addressed
Cognitive Development / School Performance
Evidence Level (What does this mean?)
The Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (RCCP) is a comprehensive, school-based, violence-prevention program designed for use with children in kindergarten through eighth grade. The 51-lesson program curriculum and accompanying activities are tailored to be developmentally appropriate for a given age group. Through promoting positive conflict resolution and understanding of different cultures, the program strives to create a more caring and peaceful school environment. RCCP now serves over 400 schools in 16 urban, suburban, and rural districts across the country.
The program is based on the theory that aggressive and violent behaviors are learned and therefore can be affected through education. The primary goal of RCCP is to increase children’s levels of knowledge regarding ways in which to approach conflict situations, to develop children’s conflict resolution skills, and to promote children’s positive interpersonal and intergroup relations. In addition, RCCP attempts to combat prejudice and stereotypes, and the various types of conflict and violence that may arise as a result of these issues, by teaching children how to recognize and oppose prejudice and by increasing their respect for and understanding of diversity. Finally, RCCP aims to transform the overall school culture into one that exemplifies nonviolent conflict resolution and a respect for and openness to diversity.
RCCP involves classroom instruction of children by trained teachers. In addition, the program includes the recruitment, training, and supervision of children to act as peer mediators. These mediators help facilitate the resolution of conflicts among children both in the classroom and elsewhere in school.
The program is designed for use with children in kindergarten through eighth grade. To date, however, the impact of the program has been evaluated on children of elementary school age only (grades one through six).
The first study of RCCP was conducted by the National Center for Children in Poverty (Aber et al., 1998, and Aber, Brown, and Henrich, 1999). The evaluation employed a quasi-experimental research design, with a sample of 5,053 children in grades two through six and nearly 400 teachers in 15 public elementary schools across four major school districts in New York City. At the start of the study (fall 1994), the participating classrooms were divided into four groups in varying stages of intervention: non-intervention (control), the beginning stage of intervention, integration of some program components, and integration of all program components. The schools participating in the evaluation were drawn from among the 87 schools across New York City already involved with RCCP (with the exception of the year-one "no-intervention" group). Schools were selected equally from the four school districts and were chosen so that student race/ethnicity, poverty status, and school size were comparable. Participating children were evenly distributed across the grades. Overall, 48 percent of the sample was female; 43 percent was black, 36 percent was Latino, 16 percent was white, and 6 percent was of another race/ethnicity; and 82 percent received free lunch. Data were collected in fall 1994 and spring 1995. Outcomes, such as aggressive fantasies, attributional biases about aggression, interpersonal negotiation strategies, psychological symptomatology (e.g., fighting, teasing), and depression, were assessed at the end of the first year of the study (spring 1995).
For analytic purposes, classrooms were observed to assess teacher level of RCCP implementation and then grouped accordingly. Three distinct profiles of implementation were identified. The High Lessons profile was characterized by teachers who received a moderate amount of training and taught many RCCP lessons (an average of 23 lessons), and had a classroom composition with relatively few peer mediators (children nominated for additional training in mediation skills; see Implementation Detail at the end of this program description). The Low Lessons profile was characterized by teachers who received the most training and coaching and taught few RCCP lessons (an average of two lessons) and had a classroom composition with the highest percentage of peer mediators. Finally, the No Lessons profile was characterized by teachers who received no RCCP training and taught no RCCP lessons. They may, however, have had some peer mediators included in their classroom. Teachers were not assigned to their implementation profile — in other words, they self-selected the amount of lessons they taught and the amount of training they received.
Aber, Brown, and Jones (2003) reported a second study of the effects of RCCP in a sample of 11,160 first through sixth graders from the same 15 New York City public elementary schools. The study took place in the 1994-1995 and 1995-1996 academic years. As in the first study, the elementary schools were initially divided into four groups on the basis of stage of intervention: nonintervention, the beginning stage of intervention, integration of some program components, and integration of all program components. Among those in the sample, 48 percent were female, 41 percent were Hispanic, 40 percent were black, 14 percent were white, and 5 percent were of another race/ethnicity. Approximately 86 percent of the students were receiving free school lunches. Data were collected at four points in time in the fall and spring over the two academic years. Of the 11,160 children, approximately 9 percent participated at only one data-collection time point, 42 percent participated at two time points, 4 percent participated at three times points, and 45 percent participated at all four time points. Children who participated at fewer time points scored significantly lower in reading and math achievement in the spring of 1994 (Year 1) and had higher rates of absence during Years 1 and 2 than did children who participated more frequently. Multilevel growth curve modeling (a statistical technique that looks at children’s developmental trajectories, or rates of change, over time) was used to analyze program outcomes similar to those explored in Aber et al. (1998).
A dissertation by Brown (2003) addressed a quasi-experimental study of RCCP in a sample of predominantly low-income, minority children in the second and third grades. The students were from 15 New York City public elementary schools in four school districts, and the study took place over three years in the mid-1990s, with data collected at three or four points in time, depending on the outcome studied. The schools were initially divided into four groups in varying stages of intervention of RCCP: non-intervention, beginning stage, integration of some program components, and integration of all program components. Groups of schools were chosen whose student race/ethnic background, poverty status, and school sizes were comparable both across the districts and across stages of RCCP implementation. Among the total sample, 49 percent were female, 40 percent were Hispanic, 39 percent were black, 16 percent were white, and 4 percent were of another race/ethnicity. A total of 2,543 children had California Achievement Test math scores at pretest in spring 1994, with 22.5 percent (n = 572) missing in spring 1995 and/or spring 1996. Compared with children who completed follow-up math tests, children with missing math scores had significantly lower math scores in spring 1994, were more likely to be Hispanic, and were more likely to receive free lunch. In addition to math achievement, other outcome measures included teachers’ perceptions of children’s aggressive behavior. Latent growth curve modeling was used to analyze program outcomes.
Key Evaluation Findings
Aber et al. (1998) and Aber, Brown, and Henrick (1999) found the following:
- Children in all three analytic profiles (High Lessons, Low Lessons, and No Lessons) experienced an increase over time in their hostile attributions (e.g., when presented with a hypothetical ambiguous vignette, the child was more likely to attribute hostile, rather than benign, intent to the actors in the scene). In addition, children in all three profiles experienced an increase over time in their aggressive interpersonal negotiation strategies (i.e., by selecting from responses to hypothetical situations categorized on a four-point scale ranging from aggressive to nonagressive) and a decrease in their positive, proactive interpersonal negotiation strategies.
- The rate of negative changes was significantly slowed for those children in the High Lessons profile as compared with children in the other two groups.
- The High-Lessons profile children did not experience a significant decrease in their ability to positively and proactively problem-solve and negotiate, whereas for both the Low Lessons and No Lessons (control) group, the decrease was significant.
- The largest negative increases were found in the Low-Lessons profile children. Their rate of increase in negative behaviors exceeded that of the No Lessons population.
- Children in all three analytic profiles experienced an increase over time in their aggressive fantasies (e.g., responses to questions such as, Do you sometimes have daydreams about hitting or hurting someone you don’t like?) and conduct problems.
- Among children in the High Lessons profile, the increase in aggressive fantasies was not statistically significant, although children experienced a significant increase in conduct problems.
- The size of the increase in both aggressive fantasies and conduct problems was significant for both the Low Lessons and the No Lessons profiles. The average level of increase of aggressive fantasies and conduct problems at the end of the year in children in the Low Lessons profile was significantly larger than the average level of increase in both the High Lessons and Low Lessons groups.
- Program impact was different for boys than it was for girls. While boys in the High Lessons profile did not have a significant decrease over time in their positive negotiation strategies and behaviors as compared with the girls in the High Lessons profile, boys in the other two profiles had a significantly larger decrease than did girls in those groups.
- Program impact was found to be slightly less effective with older children and children in high-risk classrooms and neighborhoods. This finding was consistent across the analytic profiles.
- Higher levels of classroom instruction in RCCP were associated with lower levels of hostile attribution bias, aggressive strategies, depression, and conduct problems, and with higher levels of competent interpersonal strategies.
- In contrast, higher levels of teacher training and coaching were significantly associated with an increase in hostile attribution bias, aggressive strategies, depression, and conduct problems, as well as with a decline in competent interpersonal strategies.
- Children receiving higher levels of classroom instruction relative to teacher training and coaching ("high lessons") had a slower rate of increase in aggressive fantasies than did children receiving higher levels of teacher training and coaching relative to classroom instruction ("high training and coaching").
- Children in the High Lessons group were reported by teachers as being generally consistent in their levels of aggressive behavior over time compared with the "high training and coaching" children, whose aggressive behavior was reported as steadily increasing over time.
- Similarly, the High Lessons children’s teacher-reported prosocial behavior steadily increased over time, whereas such behavior in "high training and coaching" children declined slightly during the same period.
- Intervention effects were for the most part consistent across different demographic groups, such as race/ethnicity, gender, and economic resources (as defined by school lunch eligibility).
- A higher level of exposure to RCCP lessons (analyzed on a continuum) predicted significant growth in math achievement, as well as significant decreases in teacher perceptions of negative behavior. In addition, a significant, negative relationship was found between teacher perceptions of negative behavior and growth in math achievement.
- The program was effective for both boys and girls, and for both students receiving free/reduced-price lunch and those receiving full-priced lunch.
- Differences between groups based on race/ethnicity included the following:
- The direct effect of RCCP lessons on math achievement was significant for black and Hispanic children but not for white children.
- The relationship between RCCP lessons and teachers’ perceptions was not significant for black children, nor was the relationship between teachers’ perceptions and math achievement. These findings suggest that the indirect effects of lessons on math achievement through reductions in teachers’ perceptions of negative behavior are evident only for white and Hispanic children.
Public or private elementary and middle schools
The research on RCCP was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the W.T. Grant Foundation. Additional funding for program research was provided by the Pinkerton Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, and the Kellogg Foundation.
- RCCP is introduced into a school gradually over the course of several years. Initially, a few motivated teachers are recruited to participate, and a relatively low number of RCCP lessons is offered. This marks the "beginning" phase of implementation. From that phase, a school moves to the "consolidation" phase, in which additional teachers are added and the administrator training and peer mediation components are introduced. Next comes the "saturation" phase, in which even more classrooms are added to the program. Finally, a school reaches the "full model" of intervention, in which the program has been implemented schoolwide and a targeted intervention for high-risk youth has been added.
- The peer mediation component of the program is designed to give children opportunities to practice skills they have learned. Children in grades four through six are nominated by their classmates or appointed by teachers. Nominated children receive a three-day training session and are then identified as peer mediators who may intervene in conflicts during non-classroom time. Mediators wear special T-shirts and work in pairs. They do not intervene in physical fights.
- RCCP offers instruction to school administrators to educate them about the program and to provide implementation support.
RCCP has a set curriculum. The number of lessons included in the curriculum, however, varies with the individual teacher and level of implementation. The number of lessons given over the course of the years can range from zero to 55, with an average of 13 lessons. The number of lessons included is determined by the level of implementation in the school. As the school moves through the four levels of implementation (beginning, consolidation, saturation, and full model), additional lessons are added to participating classrooms. The RCCP curriculum is designed around several core skill areas: building communication, learning to effectively recognize and express feelings, dealing with anger, resolving conflicts, fostering cooperation, respecting and appreciating diversity, and countering prejudice. The lessons are organized into units based on these skills. Each unit is designed to take from one-half to one full hour. Lessons are presented in a "workshop" format, that is, the teacher’s role in the lesson is not to lecture and impart specific knowledge, but rather to facilitate student-directed discussions and learning. Skills are taught through role-playing, interviewing, brainstorming, and small-group discussions. Different versions of the curriculum have been developed for children in the lower and upper elementary school grades and for students in junior high and high school.
The program is implemented by classroom teachers. In addition to an 18- to 24-hour introductory course in which teachers learn about and practice the skills they will be teaching in the RCCP, curriculum teachers receive follow-up support and development from RCCP program staff.
Issues to Consider
This program received a "promising" rating. The research was conducted using a well-implemented, semi-randomized controlled experiment and involved a large sample size. Despite some positive findings, there are some methodological limitations to the evaluations, and there were conflicting outcomes. The first study suggests that while there were positive findings, those outcomes were limited to one intervention group—the High-Lessons students. Further, the findings indicated that the program may not be as effective with higher-risk populations that are likely to be more prone to violent and aggressive behaviors. In addition, the individual program components were not analyzed to assess their relative contributions to outcomes (positive or negative) or level of implementation (High or Low). As such, it may be difficult to determine what aspects of the program are producing the positive or negative outcomes.
While children’s assignment to classrooms was random, teacher participation was not. Only teachers who agreed to participate in RCCP training, or who had completed RCCP training, participated in the evaluation. The program’s materials describe the teachers who are recruited to participate in the program as "highly motivated." It is possible that the characteristics of teachers who are willing and interested in participating in the RCCP program differ from the characteristics of other teachers, and that it is these differences among teachers, rather than the program curriculum, that are producing the observed outcomes.
An issue of considerable concern from the first study (Aber et al., 1998) is in regard to the findings that indicate that individuals who received low numbers of lessons had poorer outcomes relative to those in the other two groups. It is worth noting that if low levels of lessons are detrimental or in fact produce worse outcomes than no exposure to the program whatsoever, then the issues of fidelity of implementation and teacher motivation become very important to the success of the program.
A finding of interest from Aber, Brown, and Jones (2003) is that higher levels of classroom instruction and lower levels of teacher training and coaching were related to significant reductions in the risk of a child having poorer outcomes. The authors suggest that this somewhat counterintuitive finding may be due to the positive relationship between classroom instruction and teacher training. In other words, if RCCP program staff perceived that a teacher needed additional help, in part because they believed the teachers were not delivering the intended amount of RCCP classroom instruction, they focused more intently on training those teachers. Therefore, those teachers who received lower rates of training and coaching may be those who were successfully implementing the classroom instruction to begin with, which in turn led to the children’s observed positive outcomes.
Finally, it is important to note that positive program effects may not be consistent across all populations. The findings from Aber et al. (1998) and Aber, Brown, and Henrich (1999) indicate that the program is less effective on older children. At the same time, the baseline measures indicate that the behaviors and attitudes that the program targets increase with age. The program has been evaluated to date with children of elementary school age only. Additionally, the results from Brown (2003) suggest that the RCCP lessons’ direct effects on math achievement extend only to Hispanic and black children and not to white children, while the effects of RCCP on reductions in teachers’ perceptions of negative behavior are evident only for Hispanic and white children.
Anchorage, Alaska; Atlanta, Georgia; Boston, Massachusetts; Lawrence, New York; Lincoln County, Oregon; New Orleans, Louisiana; New York City Public Schools; Newark, West Orange, and South Orange-Maplewood, New Jersey; Roosevelt School District, Arizona; and Vista Unified School District, West Contra Costa, and Modesto City Schools, California.
23 Garden Street
Cambridge, MA 02131
phone: 617-492-1764 x31
The Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR) Web site provides assistance with RCCP training and implementation online at http://www.esrnational.org/es/rccp.htm; assistance with the online training and implementation may be obtained by calling 1-800-370-2515.
ESR’s services include a locals needs and resource assessment to guide the development of the program and provide baseline data for future tracking of RCCP’s effectiveness, professional development for teachers, on-site classroom support, leadership training for administrators, support staff workshops, parent workshops, advanced training workshops for experienced RCCP classroom teachers, peer mediation training for selected students, and district capacity building.
Costs of services include a four-day on-site workshop ($4,800), on-site follow-up services ($1,200 per day), and program materials ($55 for every 25 students).
Aber, J. Lawrence, Joshua L. Brown, and Christopher C. Henrich,
Teaching Conflict Resolution, An Effective School-Based Approach to Violence Prevention,
New York: National Center for Children in Poverty, 1999.
Aber, J. Lawrence, Joshua L. Brown, and Stephanie M. Jones, "Developmental Trajectories Toward Violence in Middle Childhood: Course, Demographic Differences, and Response to School-Based Intervention," Developmental Psychology, Vol. 39, No. 2, 2003, pp. 324-348.
Aber, J. Lawrence, Stephanie M. Jones, Joshua L. Brown, Nina Chaudry, and Faith Samples, "Resolving Conflict Creatively: Evaluating the Developmental Effects of a School-Based Violence Prevention Program in the Neighborhood and Classroom Context," Development and Psychopathology, Vol. 10, 1998, pp. 187-213.
Brown, Joshua L., "The Direct and Indirect Effects of a School-Based Social-Emotional Learning Program on Trajectories of Children's Academic Achievement," dissertation, Columbia University, 2003.