Final Exam

Students were provided the following list of questions to help them prepare for the final exam. The exam, which was administered in class in session 24, consisted of five questions drawn from the list; each student was asked to choose three out of those five to answer. (Length guideline: roughly two pages, double-spaced, for each question answered.)

Grades were based on how effectively students presented their ideas, not on the point of view they took. Students were free to disagree with any and all of the ideas presented by the instructors during class presentations or in the readings.

  1. Give two examples of current public disputes that you know about that should probably not be mediated. Explain why. How should these conflicts be handled instead?
  2. Assume you are a mediator selected to assist in a public dispute in which race, ethnicity, and/or religion are relevant to the dispute and that your personal identity is the same as one of the groups in the conflict. How (if at all) would you modify your style or approach to intervention because of the similarities and differences in race, ethnicity, or religion represented by you and the disputants? Do you think a mediator in the exact opposite situation from you, that is, a member of one of the other ethnic, racial, or religious groups represented in the dispute, would answer the same way? Why?
  3. Describe a public dispute in which you consider the bargaining power of the parties to be unequal. What is the basis for your determination that power is unequally distributed? How and under what circumstances would you try to convince both the most powerful and the least powerful party in the dispute that it would be in their interest to negotiate with the other side(s)? How would you expect the power imbalance to affect the ultimate outcome of the negotiation?
  4. Every group can benefit from skilled facilitation. What are the most important contributions a facilitator can make to a collaborative problem-solving or dispute resolution effort?
  5. We’ve talked about the emergence and impact of spoilers in multiparty negotiation. As a mediator, what can and should you do to minimize the impact of a spoiler?
  6. Democracy requires public engagement in decision-making and not just transparency. The mediation of public disputes is one approach to deepening our commitment to public engagement. Provide at least two reasons why the mediation of a public dispute might be more of an obstacle than an aid to public engagement. That is, how might mediation actually reduce public engagement?
  7. Anchoring is an important phenomenon in negotiation. Explain how you would use anchoring to your advantage in a complex multiparty negotiating situation.
  8. What do you see as the major obstacles to “exporting” the idea of public dispute mediation to all parts of the world? Illustrate with reference to a particular country you know something about.
  9. Breaking Robert’s Rules suggests that parliamentary procedure is outmoded. Instead, it argues for a consensus-building approach to group decision-making. Do you agree? Please explain your reasons.
  10. Getting the right parties to the table in a public dispute is often difficult. Given time constraints and financial limits, how would you go about undertaking an “abridged” stakeholder assessment? How can we know that the “right” parties are, indeed, at the table?
  11. The most important assumption underlying this class is that people can improve their negotiation capabilities. But perhaps this is wrong. Perhaps some people are just doomed to be terrible negotiators. Maybe this is because they are just “too nice” or “too honest.” Do you agree? Why? What are the most significant obstacles to becoming a more effective negotiator?
  12. The Mutual Gains Approach is based on empirical (i.e. practice-based) insights. Ideas about value creation and integrative bargaining have been around for many decades. Why is there still so much resistance to using this approach to negotiation?
  13. Some stakeholder groups can be difficult to represent. What can a mediator do to help stakeholder interests that are not well organized, especially those that are not spatially defined, ensure that they are well represented in a mediation effort? Can this be done in a way this is consistent with the mediator’s non-partisan role?
  14. How realistic is it to expect that public dispute mediators can remain non-partisan? If just one party to a public dispute resolution effort claims that a mediator is not neutral, should that mediator be dismissed?
  15. Multiparty negotiation differs from two-party negotiation in a number of ways. The most important might be related to the emergence of coalitions. As a mediator in a public dispute resolution context, do you want to encourage or discourage the formation of coalitions when there are many stakeholders? Why?
  16. Dispute handling systems offer ways of handling streams of similar conflicts or cases. Describe a setting in which there is a stream of public disputes that might be, but is not currently, resolved using a purposefully-designed dispute handling system. What are the key obstacles to implementing such a dispute-handling system?
  17. Preparation is a critical step in any negotiation, but it is hard to do well. Describe the most important things to think about during preparation. What makes it difficult to prepare well for a negotiation? What are the three most important lessons you learned about negotiation preparation from the games we played in class?
  18. Ground rules set the tone for a public dispute resolution effort. From your standpoint, what are the three most important ground rules for any public dispute resolution effort? Explain why.
  19. Value creation is at the heart of the Mutual Gains Approach to negotiation. What are the keys to creating value in a public dispute?
  20. What are the strengths and weaknesses of using role-play simulations as a pedagogical device in a negotiation course like 11.255? How would you recommend that such teaching tools be used to get the most out of them?
  21. Deeply-rooted cultural conflict can make it doubly difficult to resolve a public dispute. What can and should a mediator do to enhance the levels of effective cross-cultural communication when cultural differences are at the heart of a public dispute?
  22. In what ways do you think gender correlates with negotiating or dispute resolving styles? What makes you think so? Please give two actual examples to substantiate your assertion.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2021
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments
Lecture Notes