ERG SES H 04, Efficacy and Success in Education
The Northern Irish conflict is based around differing political viewpoints of individuals who would see the country united with the Republic of Ireland, and others who believe it should remain within the United Kingdom (Cairns & Darby, 1998). During this conflict over 40,000 individuals were victims of violence over twenty five years, resulting in substantial movement of the main “religious/political communities” into segregated areas to escape the dangers of conflict (Connolly, Purvis & O’Grady, 2013). There have been deep psychological marks left on the country in terms of segregation, fear, and lack of intergroup trust between Catholics and Protestants.
Allport’s (1954) contact theory is often championed as a solution to problems arising from the Northern Irish conflict and other forms of religious or ethnic conflict worldwide. Yet, despite efforts made in post-conflict societies to promote positive intergroup relations, the implementation of contact policies can often be less effective than planned (Hodson & Hewstone, 2012). In Northern Ireland for example, intergroup difficulties persist between Northern Irish Catholics and Protestants even in contexts involving Allport’s optimal conditions, for example cooperation to achieve common goals. Negative emotional preconceptions of contact may limit potential benefits of initiatives such as Shared Education, where segregated schools collaborate for certain subjects.
The alternative interventions imagined contact (Turner, Crisp & Lambert, 2007) and extended contact (Wright, Aron, McLaughlin-Volpe, & Ropp, 1997) have been shown to improve intergroup attitudes and may increase the efficacy of face-to-face contact. The overall aim of the research is to investigate how effectively these interventions reduce prejudice and encourage contact between young people in Northern Ireland and therefore determine how theories of imagined and extended contact can be best applied to educational contexts in post-conflict societies.
The structure of this project involved four stages, culminating in the final widespread testing of school-based interventions based on theories of imagined and extended contact. The other three stages which gathered information to aid in this final testing study were; a survey study gathering information on the current in Northern Ireland context to aid sampling, an interview and focus group study to understand the specific contact issues in this context, and intervention design and initial testing to gain information on the practicalities of intervention testing.
The mixed-methods research presented here will focus mainly upon the final intervention testing study, with some insights provided by the findings of the interview and focus group study where appropriate.
Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. (3rd Ed, 1979). Basic Books; Perseus Publishing. New York. pp.1-518 Cairns, E., & Darby, J. (1998). The conflict in Northern Ireland: Causes, consequences, and controls. American Psychologist, 53(7), 754. Connolly, P., Purvis, D. & O’Grady, P. J. (2013). Advancing Shared Education Executive Summary: Report of the Ministerial Advisory Group. Queen’s University Belfast. 1-152. Hodson, G., & Hewstone, M. (Eds.). (2012). Advances in intergroup contact. Psychology Press. Turner, R. N., Crisp, R. J., & Lambert, E. (2007). Imagining intergroup contact can improve intergroup attitudes. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 10(4), 427-441. Wright, S. C., Aron, A., McLaughlin-Volpe, T., & Ropp, S. A. (1997). The Extended Contact Effect: Knowledge of Cross-Group Friendships and Prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(1), 73-90.
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