El camino se hace caminando: Using Participatory Action Research to evaluate and develop Peace Education practice in a Secondary School in Northern Nicaragua
Peace education (PE) is included in the cross-curricular themes of the Nicaraguan curriculum, yet in the Secondary School in Northern Nicaragua (SSINN) where this research was conducted there was varied implementation by teachers. The SSINN was selected for this research due to particular problems with violence. Based on a critical and post-development theory perspective and using participatory action research (PAR) methodology, teachers, school psychologists and administrators were led through a facilitated process of reflection upon the culture of peace/violence in the SSINN and teacher practice. This was guided by the concepts of education about (content), for (skills and behaviours) and by peace (pedagogy). PAR is guided by a series of principles that allow for flexibility and response to participant needs. In this case SSINN educators and I engaged in a process of building trust, gathering reconnaissance data, developing action plans and taking action. This was guided by our unofficial motto ‘the path is made by walking’ (el camino se hace caminando), implying that we were learning as we worked together and the process had to be adaptable to new circumstances. Through workshops and coffee chats we evaluated staff definitions of a culture of peace, priorities in relation to peace values, behaviours and content, and teacher practice in regards to peace principles. As part of the reciprocal process, educators gave feedback and directed the research, which was designed to emphasize educator voice and minimize the neo-colonial imposition of values from outside actors. In this way I sought to balance critical theory’s need to take action for positive change with post-development theory’s prioritizing of local educator voice. The primary goals of the research were to develop an understanding of how PE was practised in the SSINN and, if the educators requested it, to provide support in taking positive action for change, while assessing the effectiveness of the PAR methodology. In the beginning the educators had differing definitions of a culture of peace, but they were very consistent in their ideas of what content, skills and values should be included in PE. Although they regularly mentioned problems that were directly relevant to students’ lives that should be addressed in the classroom, not all of the teachers were actively doing this. Due to a lack of resources, time, teacher stress and overcrowding, many teachers were unable to translate those ideas into action. Also due to those factors, many teachers fell into habits of traditional teaching practice that were inconsistent with peace pedagogy. Recognizing these issues, the teachers requested workshops on non-violent communication and conflict transformation in the hope that that knowledge would aid them to more positively manage behaviour. They also created and implemented an action plan. Although positive steps were taken, this was the first stage of a long-term process of change. Partnering with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has provided the possibility of the continuation of the process; nevertheless those NGOs have stated that they need continued external support. This flexible PAR methodology was effective at exploring and developing PE practice in the SSINN, and has the potential, if continued, to lead to fundamental positive change.
Advisor: Devere, Heather; Sandretto , Susan
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies & College of Education
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: peace education; participatory action research; Nicaragua; secondary school; pedagogy; human rights education; culture of peace; violence; cross-cultural research; teacher education; teacher professional development; non-governmental organizations
Research Type: Thesis