Back to School and Peacebuilding

Most community college faculty have now started back for the fall semester.   As the year progresses, opportunities may present themselves to provide a peacebuilding dimension to a class, an activity, or a college wide event.  It is often difficult once classes have started to shift or create new content. With many community college educators teaching 5 courses, often several nights a week, coupled with committee work and student advising, most faculty don’t have the luxury of time!

However, there are often easy ways in which a faculty member can refocus a lesson or bring an added dimension to a topic.   Simple changes can in turn lead to  long term more permanent course revision.  And more comprehensive programming can be considered now for things that might take place later in the year.

Here are a few resources and activities that you might consider.

Conflict Styles

A simple conflict style assessment can be done with students outside of class (online) and then shared in class.  The Thomas-Kilmann Mode Instrument is a respected devise for examining personal approaches to conflict.   Online you will find the assessment instrument and ways to process it with your students.   If you teach in a career field (nursing, paralegal, business, etc.) it is important for students to understand how they look at personal conflict and strategies for working with others.  My nursing instructor wife has been using it with her students at Anne Arundel Community College for several years.  In her classes it provides a context for students to consider conflict and communication with coworkers including “lateral violence” issues.  There is no cost to using the assessment which is part of USIP’s Global Peacebuilding Center efforts.

Role Play

Experiential education has been found to be the most effective means to learning.   Following in the tradition of John Dewey and Maria Montessori, faculty often use “role play” as a means for students to get into the “lives” of both contemporary and historic individuals.   Setting up a “conversation” between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass in a history class could be a transformational means to addressing race issues.   Role-play (and simulation) can be used in a number of ways including by having students play the role of diplomats engaging in global negotiations.  The International Negotiations Modules Project (INMP) which runs a spring semester long web-based simulation is used not only in social science courses, but also in humanities (i.e., language arts, communications, etc.) courses.   For more information about the INMP contact Joyce Kaufman at Whittier College at  jkaufman@whittier.edu.

College Wide Programming

Often colleges struggle in promoting college-wide experiences that can create a unifying experience for students that is interdisciplinary and can foster a collaborative effort.   International education approaches are often uneven, sporadic, and don’t always leverage college-wide assets.   Recently in a Chronicle of Higher Education blog, I discussed an approach using the child soldier issue in which the entire academic community could engage in exploring a topic, thus creating a college-wide experience for students.   Other approaches include focusing on a book, and bringing students together across classes to engage in exploration.  Montgomery College’s “In the Shadow of the Banyan” project is an example of this approach.  Watch this YouTube to learn more or contact Jennifer Haydel at Jennifer.haydel@montgomerycollege.edu.

Service Learning

Finally, service learning, internships, and other forms of applied learning are important ways of having students connect the classroom with the real world.   Peace and conflict resolution education is most effective when students understand “the ways and means” for building capacity for peace, security, and justice.   Consider embedding in your course service learning opportunities, even if only for one class.   As chairman of the Rockville (MD) Human Rights Commission, I had the opportunity in the spring to host local community college students in our office.   For them it was a meaningful experience and though the semester is over, they are still volunteering with us.

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