A Unified Approach to Peace Learning

By Linda Freeman, Adjunct Professor, Psychology; Judi Addelston, Professor, Psychology; and Diana Ciesko, Professor, Psychology

peace-learning-groveA Unified Approach to Peace

Achieving peace is both an intricate and multi-faceted process demonstrated by the on-going complexities of global and national crises. Both national and global tragedies reverberate through political, social and economic structures while leaving their marks on the psychological functioning of individuals and communities.faculty-insight-news-id

Uprooting the causes of these social hardships is indeed achievable. However, it will require learning and activism of equal magnitude. The fabric of a comprehensive peace-building effort is interlaced with solutions gathered from historical, economic, political, social and psychological disciplines. Nationwide institutions providing peace and justice studies, including Tufts and Fordham universities, are driven by the consensus that peace and activism can be learned through interdisciplinary efforts.

The Peace and Justice Initiative at Valencia shares the same vision by utilizing an interdisciplinary format to explore, learn and engage in practices and principles that cultivate peace, health and sustainability within the individual and the community.

This interdisciplinary peace-building effort was supported by the psychology department through the development of two core peace-building courses, namely “Positive Psychology” and the “Psychology of Peace.” The formulation of these courses was built upon the Roadmap model, taken from the Metta Center for Nonviolence, depicting peace-building as a transformational learning process that places primary importance on the “self” as a peace-builder and extends out to the interrelated social, political, institutional and ecological spheres of peace. Peace-building then generates within the individual and flows in the direction of outward change.

The course objectives of “Positive Psychology” and the “Psychology of Peace” were created to complement the peace-building process described in Roadmap. Positive psychology is the newest discipline in psychology stemming from the humanistic psychology. A central theme of humanistic psychology is that people have a tendency toward growth and the fulfillment of their potential.

As such, positive psychology emphasizes the “intrapersonal” domain of human functioning as a primary conduit to peace-building. Specifically, positive psychology explores the human strengths and virtues that enable individuals to thrive through studying and applying topics such as gratitude, optimism, hope, wisdom, courage, mindfulness, forgiveness, love and positive development across the lifespan.

Peace psychology draws upon the tenets of social psychology and personality psychology to exemplify the relational foundations, or interpersonal foundations of conflict and the transformational role of conflict resolution techniques.

The objectives of the course are met through exploring public policy issues of violence, the psychological effects of non-violence, conflict resolution and the potent force of social movements toward peace.

The peace psychology curriculum is designed to investigate the causes and consequences of violence on an interpersonal and intergroup level. The topical areas noted in positive psychology are balanced by the course goals of peace psychology. Together, both courses create a comprehensive understanding of the peace-building process.

Approach to Learning

Both courses embody a style of learning that emphasizes the full development of the peace-builder through engaging in modes of self-reflection and analytical thinking necessary for internalizing and practicing the principles and processes of peace.

It is a learner-centered process that combines both “introspective” and “extrospective” learning practices. All lecture content and practical exercises are designed to nurture the essential capacities needed for students to be agents of change, while encouraging participation in action-oriented problem solving in the community as a path to creating possible solutions to current social problems.

The foundation of peace building is initially set through lecture and dialogical techniques and expanded upon through experientially based exercises selected to demonstrate the necessity of concrete action in the peace-building process.

Experientially-based exercises in positive psychology were designed to emphasize the role of personhood and self-reflection in the peace building process. Peace psychology includes exercises that emphasize both social context and relational practices in the cultivation of peace.

These points are illustrated through a three-dimensional exercise incorporating critical thinking, cooperative learning and conflict resolution in order to foster a deeper understanding of social conflict and problem solving.

Peace-building exercises were selected from an active learning model in order to provide students with a set of tools to apply and incorporate into their lives. As with any social movement, participants need two key elements: strategy and unity.

Incorporating experiential-based exercises, positive psychology and peace psychology empowers students with tactical approaches to cultivate peace in their own life and the social contexts in which they live.

Students also learn unity as an important core of the peace-building process. Through unity, students go beyond dualistic thinking to realize the power of human interconnectedness as a transformative pathway in the peace-building process.

1 Comment

  • Rachel Allen said:

    Congratulations to our colleagues. Drs. Ciesko, Addelston and Freeman for developing this integrated approach to Peace Education. We are fortunate to have faculty across the curriculum advancing peace education. Your leadership in this work is greatly admired and appreciated.

    AMFri, 25 Apr 2014 08:34:29 +0000Fri, 25 Apr 2014 08:34:29 +0000am14,8:34 am

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