To be an effective educator and manager, it is important to be able to manage conversations, expectations and complaints.
The ability to take on the role of conciliator in 2017 at Coventry University London allowed me to apply my communication skills, my dual expereinces as teacher-student and my ability to handle difficult conversations.
I initially engaged in training for this role in 2017 and with continuing my journey as an educator, I was more than willing to engage with training again in May 2019.
The training provided a very important reminder of the purpose of conciliation from the students perspective, as well as the institutions. For students. conciliation avoids a long and difficult formal process, which could impact academic studies, by finding solutions or resolving the issue early on. For HEIs, conciliation leads to an overall more positive student cohort, with fewer formal complaints, as seen at Coventry University since inception.
As part of the training, staff engaged with conciliation techniques from other universities, such as the University of Huddersfield: see here.
In addition, we gained a better understanding of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), a body similar to an HEI’s ombudsman but without regulatory authority or the ability to fine (although they can make recomemndations). The OIA offers a Good Practice Framework to handling complaints and appeals for staff, as well as guidance leaflets for students.
It was clear to all that there are certain attributes needed to be an effective conciliator, such as the ability to: listen, communicate, build rapport, offer respect, reflect/analyse information, be fair, etc. These are skills I am confident myself and my colleagues use on a day-to-day basis and can apply successfully within our role.
We were recommended the following steps when considering a concilliation case:
- Prepare: what has happened? why?
- Meet: with the student and/or staff
- Next steps: investigate further and meet with other parties/hold a joint meeting
- Outcome: share outcomes will all involved parties via written communication methods
I found this refresher useful for my role as a conciliator, but also as an educator to understand better the perspectives of the student and the university I represent. I feel the skill would be useful in 1:1 interaction with students that have grievances inside or outside of the HEI.