Education for a Culture of Peace experts say that structure, form and content are very important when using Education for a Culture of Peace within both formal and non-formal settings. The interchange between local issues and international or global problems is just an example of the concerns that educators need to take into consideration once they design and implement lesson plans on Education for a Culture of Peace. This week we are sharing with you part of a great article written by Eleni Kotziamani on the importance of content, form and structure in education for a culture of peace. Enjoy!
When developing plans in Education for a Culture of Peace and generally in education, one should relate the micro with the macro. It’s important not only to mention problems or situations that appear in our own environment and affect our everyday lives, but also to focus on international and global problems. Of course, one should not underestimate the impact that different situations have on the lives of individuals. In order for learners to make sense of their educational experiences, the content must be related to the social environment of the individuals and draw from the personal experiences of those. A relation between the macro and micro should be maintained in order to enable the learners to integrate the “here and now” with “there and then”. This correlation enables the learners to have a broader picture of the factors that affect a specific situation and become aware of how the problem or the situations have developed throughout the years (Haavelsrud, 1995). It is also important to emphasize the enjoyment of rights, and not just the violations (University of Minnesota, 2000).
Another factor that should be taken into account is the journey throughout time. The transformative power of education and of human rights education in particular, is the trip to the past and the future, while considering the now. We need to be aware of the truth of the past in order to be able to shape the future. By learning from the past, individuals are becoming more capable to envision the future and take actions in order to achieve it.
The teaching methodologies used are as important as the content taught (Haavelsrud, 1995). For that reason, the lessons developed and delivered throughout must aim toward triggering the creativity of the learners and inspiring them to search by themselves to find answers and ‘construct’ new knowledge. A variety of methods should be employed in the teaching process to ensure a high level of interest between individuals. Throughout the process, learners must be able to acquire problem-solving skills and to become able to identify problematic situations and work toward finding creative alternatives that will fit their vision of a better society.
It is also important that the teaching procedure is participatory. According to the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2000), participatory methods must be interactive, flexible, relevant, and varied (p. 4). Teaching procedures must be modified according to the needs of learners and a constructive feedback must be provided by all the actors in order to inform the learning process. Learners must be able to make decisions regarding their education, their learning, and school life.
The variety of teaching methodologies mentioned above can take the following forms (this list is not exclusive): ice-breakings and introductions, brainstorming, case studies, creative expression, discussion, debates and negotiations, dramatizations, energizers, films and videos, field trips, games, hearings and tribunals, interpretations of images, interviews, jigsaw activities, journal writing, media, mock trials, open-ended stimulus, presentations, research projects, ranking and defining exercises, simulations, story-telling, surveying opinion and information gathering, webbing activities (University of Minnesota, 2000).
There can be an inter-teaching of the same concept in different subject areas, and not to be taught in stagnation. The evaluation of learners is also part of the structure and needs to be modified when assessing the gains from Education for a Culture of Peace. The traditional methods of evaluation, which is the use of paper and pencil tests, are not valuable tools, since they only measure the knowledge that individuals gain, and they do not capture the reality concerning that knowledge. Since in the ECoP the knowledge, attitudes and behavior of the learners are being employed, evaluation should take such a form in order to cover all three aspects. Alternative ways must be applied to make evaluation more comprehensive (i.e. portfolio assessments). Self-evaluation is also another method that can be used in the field. Another option would be to provide learners the opportunity to evaluate each other’s behavior. On-going evaluation is also more important on this field than an end-product evaluation. Group marks can be used instead of individual marks, while presentations from groups can be evaluated by other groups based on specific criteria set in advance.
Another guiding principle of Education for a Culture of Peace is the empowerment of individuals. “When working with youth, it means encouraging them to help create the programs in which they take part” (Cronkhite, 2000, p. 162). Empowered individuals are subsequently more likely to be active citizens in their current and future life, to become involved in political and social affairs, and to strive to build better societies.