In generating international criteria, IMI first assembles an international and representative taskforce to consider the issues and produce a draft. This then goes to the public for feedback prior to finalisation, and potential implementation for IMI-recognised programs.

The training criteria were first launched in 2017, and IMI launched the possibility to have training programs recognised beginning in January 2019. People completing recognised programs could be submitted to IMI and then be recognised as ‘IMI Qualified Mediators’.

In October 2019, we advised that the guidelines had been designed for the training of mediators who would mainly be mediating in a face-to-face physical environment. Language was tweaked accordingly, at which point IMI said it would not be recognising training conducted entirely online.

When the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic began, IMI started receiving increased requests from mediation training providers, asking whether IMI would revisit its stance on online-only programs, and whether training delivered via existing IMI-recognised programs, out of necessity being conducted online, could be recognised as meeting IMI’s standards during the pandemic

IMI recognised that it did not know how long this crisis would last, and it wished to support its mediators and the organisations with which it was associated.  To that end, the IMI’s Training and Competency Assessment Taskforce agreed that organisations that have existing Certified Mediator Training Programs would be permitted to temporarily deliver that training online if they submitted a methodology document indicating how they would ensure they are delivering the same program to the same standards, identifying challenges and how they will be overcome, and;offered an in-person role-play component to be undertaken in future once it becomes possible. Only once that in-person role-play component had been completed would course graduates be entitled to become IMI Qualified Mediators.

However, even preceding the pandemic, IMI had received questions about the recognition of online-only training.  This referred specifically to delivering initial mediation training online (rather than in-person), as opposed to training specifically in online mediation, which is associated with IMI’s existing ODR competency criteria.

To this end, IMI invited training providers who had made the move online and mediators who had taken the training online to provide feedback on protocols and lessons learned.  Based on those learnings and discussions, the IMI decided to accept training delivered in part or entirely online as meeting the standards required of IMI Certified Mediator Training Programs.

To this end, the guidelines were again reviewed. Reviews were first performed by the Taskforce, then sent for public feedback and consideration, and then finalised in the format found below. The guidelines now apply equally to programs that deliver training in-person, in hybrid formats, and online.

Page last updated 25 June 2021.

1. Registration

If there is a requirement within a jurisdiction that a training course should be registered, then it should be complied with by the training provider, and the training course should be registered.

Commentary:

Within some jurisdictions, there may be a type of formal regulation of mediation training courses in place. This can take the form of self-regulation through a professional body, or direct regulation by the relevant government entity/ministry of law or justice. Where such external registration exists, it provides minimum standards of training that can be applied objectively to all courses in any jurisdiction. It not only serves as a point of reference for new entrants to satisfy but also may help to raise overall standards of training across the industry.

In addition, trainer providers could consider setting entry requirements for their course to ensure that those attending will have the necessary level of ability to fully engage in the course. In a course with assessment this is less important as the assessment process will ultimately determine competence.   Since being a mediator involves a multi-disciplinary skill set, it is not necessary or advisable for mediator training to be restricted to lawyers. Finally, any legal requirements of any jurisdiction in this respect will also need to be followed.

2. Course Content

Course content can be divided into Knowledge Development and Skills Development topics.

a) In terms of Knowledge Development, the essential KNOWLEDGE topics that should be included in any training programme are:

  • Mediation principles – neutrality, its voluntary nature, confidentiality, party self-determination; and process – the opening statement by the mediator, the steps of mediation and the mediator’s role within each step. Note that while these must be covered, it is up to the training provider to adopt a format that is consistent with the focus, approach and ethos of the course, e.g. facilitative, transformative, on-line, co-mediation, etc.
  • The roles of legal counsel and representatives
  • An overview of negotiation and conflict resolution theory
  • Mediator ethics, including any appropriate ethical standards existing in the region in question.

b) In terms of Skills Development, the essential SKILLS topics that should be covered, demonstrated and practised in any training programme are:

  • Forms of listening skills and communication strategies
  • Process management skills including but not limited to the use of joint and private meetings
  • Negotiation strategies and skills to manage the content of the dispute
  • Ways of responding to the diverse behaviours of the parties.

Commentary:

While seeking to maintain the flexibility of trainers to include content in the course which meets the needs of their social, cultural and legal context as well as the ethos of their course, there are certain topics that are fundamental in any mediator skills training programme and must be covered. These are the topics specified above.

The training provider could include other knowledge topics including but not limited to: legal framework for mediation and settlement; administrative procedures if required in that jurisdiction or mediation venue (such as agreement to mediate forms); court-connected or programme specific laws/rules; history of mediation; international development and trends; psychological factors in mediation and cultural and diversity aspects of mediation.

Trainers may include other skills-based topics including but not limited to management of emotions, dealing with difficult people, responding to impasse, neuro-linguistic programming, etc.

3. Competency Framework

A training course must have a ‘competency framework’ which clearly and concisely sets out the core competencies that an effective mediator should possess. This framework should be consistent with the content and skills requirements of the course as set out under Section 2 of these guidelines.

Commentary:

A competency framework is used throughout the course to give clarity to participants as to what mediator competencies they should achieve. It can also be used by the trainers, coaches and assessors, to provide consistent input, coaching, assessment and feedback to participants measured against a clear set of competency criteria.

In developing a competency framework for use on a course, training providers could draw on:

  • Their own individual and organisational knowledge of mediator skills training
  • Existing external sources, including relevant legislation and other published frameworks.

4. Course Duration

For a course to cover adequately the necessary content using appropriate methodologies, (both of which are set out in these guidelines), courses should have a substantial number of training hours being not less than 40 hours. This does not include pre-course preparation, lunch and breaks.

This minimum level of 40 hours, however, should not prevent training providers from aspiring to a higher number of practical hours, given that more practice will translate into better learning opportunities for participants. Therefore a number of training hours higher than 40 is suggested, whenever that is possible.

Commentary:

This minimum level has been set, as it is regarded as an acceptable minimum benchmark for the teaching and practice of the practical aspects of mediator skills, bearing in mind that these trainings are only intended to train people to a base level of mediator competence. Courses may vary in duration for many reasons including local requirements, venue of the course (university, court or private) context within which mediation takes place, as well as the approach of the training providers. Certainly, trainers must offer trainings or sufficient length to meet the laws or regulations of their particular jurisdiction.

Where courses are online-only, the minimum of 40 hours may include up to 10% asynchronous learning undertaken as part of the course.

5. Group Size

It is recommended that courses have a maximum class size of 30 students, with the trainer-student ratio ranging between an ideal of 1 trainer to every 6 participants; to a maximum of 1 trainer to every 10 participants.

Commentary:

One of the key factors affecting the quality of a course is to ensure that students have sufficient opportunities to interact with each other and the trainers. It is generally accepted that overly large class sizes and a low trainer- high student ratio can compromise this course quality.

Some of the factors to be taken into account when determining the participant to trainer ratio include:

  • overall class size
  • whether the training is taking place on an in-person basis or online
  • breakdown of teaching, coaching, assessing and number of days
  • the presence of assistant trainers, facilitators or coaches.

For example, if the class is only comprised of 12 students, then a ratio of 1:12 might be appropriate for delivering presentations. However, one or two coaches could be brought in when the students are practising role plays. (See Section A.8. ‘Setting up Role Plays’ for more information).

6. Minimum requirements for delivering online-only training

In order to facilitate effective online learning the training provider must ensure that participants are fully engaged on the course for the minimum required 40 hours. This will be achieved by the following:

The training provider:

  • Subscribing to a platform with appropriate video conferencing facilities and becoming familiar with the functionality of the platform, including ensuring trainers, coaches, and assessors have adequate equipment and training in its use.
  • The platform should enable the course content to be delivered in an engaging manner, for example by including videos and dynamic presentations, using asynchronous learning tools where applicable, and breakout rooms for exercises, discussion, roleplaying, coaching and assessment.
  • Providing written guidance on software and hardware requirements, and pre-course video conference practice sessions. This is to ensure that the participants, trainers, coaches and assessors are able to interact on the platform.
  • Providing guidance in advance of the course about the environment in which the participants and trainers, coaches and assessors should undertake the course in order to minimise distractions.
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