07 SES 09 B, Promoting Social Justice in Higher Education
Objectives and theoretical framework
While Jews and Arabs in Israel live together as citizens they actually constitute two different ethnic groups, each with its own religious, cultural, social, and national identity. As a result, they form two opposing societies that live within one state. The relationship between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs has long been tense, conflict-ridden, and fraught with negative emotions and mistrust toward one another (Goldberg& Ron, 2013; Oren & Bar-Tal, 2007).
Social scientists, educators, and practitioners on both sides of the Arab‒Jewish conflict have been engaged in educational efforts aiming to improve relations between Israeli Jews and Arabs and lessen the hostility between the two groups (Goldberg & Ron, 2013; Maoz, 2004; 2011).In this regard, educational and governmental organizations have initiated and developed a variety of coexistence interventions such as face 2 face as well as online intergroup encounters and peace educational programs in order to facilitate an open dialog between the groups (Maoz, 2004; Walther, Hotter, Ganayim, & Shonfeld, 2015). Designing such interventions is particularly difficult since the tension between Arabs and Jews is high and the level of trust is low (Ross, 2000; Mor, Ron & Maoz, 2016).
Educational Intergroup encounter programs are important means of connecting between individuals from different cultures and societies. Intergroup encounter programs between Jews and Arabs are essential in a country like Israel, exposed to intractable socio-political conflict (Hoter, Shonfeld, & Ganayim, 2009). Such programs aim to develop personal relationships between participating members, enhance the feeling of closeness, which, in turn, may result in deeper insights and empathy between the people as individuals. Such programs provide an opportunity to interact with the 'other' on the individual- group level and to strengthen the connection between two opposing groups.
This study followed one such program of a group of 12 Arab and 12 Jewish college students who took part in a one-year intervention program. The program was held during the 2013‒2014 academic year for nine consecutive months. The students participated in both separate and joint encounters in which they discussed cultural, social and educational issues. Additionally, they jointly prepared teaching units and lesson plans which they taught in schools of the 'other' community. These teaching units contained topics related to cultural awareness, learning about the 'other' culture and beliefs, democratic citizenship, respect and tolerance. Although the participants’ mother tongues are either Arabic or Hebrew, and Hebrew is the dominant language commonly used in other similar intergroup encounters, in these encounters English was the common language used for communication and instruction.
Based on the belief that education is an important key to any societal change, this program sought to create a positive, collaborative learning experience with the hope of bringing about a change in the participants’ views regarding one another (Shonfeld, Hotter, & Ganayem, 2013). More specifically, the research question that guided this study was:
1: Does participating in this program impact participants' attitudes and views regarding the 'other', as reflected in the discourse and outcomes of the single and intergroup encounters, personal reflections, and classroom teaching?
Methods and analysis This study employed a variety of qualitative data collection tools. The focus on qualitative methods was important for several reasons: First, the number of participants was small (n=24) and any generalization would be limited. Second, the aim of this study was to obtain a thick description of the program, a deeper and wider picture of the experience that the participants underwent, in order to capture their views in real time and in their own words. Furthermore, the nature of the program, with its diverse practical components, focused on process, contact and communication. Data were collected and assembled on a continuous basis throughout the duration of the project (October 2013 to June 2014). They comprised: (1) notes and transcriptions of discourse generated from four single-group encounters (two in each sector), four intergroup encounters, and two informal social meetings; (2) 24 personal reflective essays and journal entries; (3) notes and transcriptions from eight classroom observations in both Arab and Jewish schools; and (4) notes from discourse generated in focus group interviews with sample participants. For the personal essays, participants answered the following questions in writing: (1) What are your expectations of the program? (2) Were they met or not met? (3) Describe what you felt during and after the encounters. (4) What are you taking away from this experience? and what insights did you gain from it? (5) What did you learn about yourself personally and as a future teacher? (6) What did you learn about the 'other'? In order to achieve validation, the authors applied the following steps: (1) the pedagogical instructor for the Jewish students reviewed the notes and transcripts collected by the author. Following her independent review and coding of the data, the authors compared the emergent themes, seeking the dominant themes and categories present in both sets of analysis; (2) an additional research colleague with expertise in sociocultural theory reviewed the data independently, following a similar procedure of thematic coding and analysis. Analysis followed a systematic, thematic analysis (Holliday, 2010) using an inductive approach and grounded theory procedures (Glaser and Straus, 1967),
Data revealed rich information concerning participants' views, beliefs, and attitudes. All 24 participants thought the program was good and effective, and had met their expectations. Four Jewish students wrote that this was the best course in their entire teacher education curriculum. Four Arab students wrote that it exceeded their expectations (This project gave me more than I gave back”; “I think it was a wonderful experience and I liked it”). Participants highlighted the need for empathy toward one another and conveyed the desire and hope for peace, for change in the relationship between the peoples ("This program was the best I ever had… It strengthened my hope for a better country”). Findings, presented via vivid testimonies of the participants, show that they gained knowledge on their respective cultures. More specifically, findings reveal that this program effected participants' attitudes and views regarding the 'other' which can be summarized in three stages: (1) preliminary stage: fear, and apprehension regarding intensive meetings with the 'other' (2) interim stage: teaching in unfamiliar context; (3) reflection stage - learning about the 'other' and facing biased beliefs. Findings also show that some of the apprehensions held by the participants did not materialize, and negative views were replaced by positive ones. While participants were aware of deep cultural, social, and religious differences between them, they recognized the similarities that brought them together, and chose to focus on them as the basis for collaboration and communication. The safe environment provided by this program helped them become more aware of their own multiple identities and be better attuned to those of others. Implications suggest that intergroup contact, in its various forms, can play a pivotal role in intercultural communication and mutual understanding, particularly among societies in conflict.
References Glaser, B. G., & Strauss A. L. (1967). The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. Chicago, IL: Aldine Publications. Goldberg, T., & Ron, Y. (2013). "Look, each side says something different": The impact of competing history teaching approaches on Jewish and Arab adolescents’ discussions of the Jewish-Arab Conflict. Journal of Peace Education DOI:10.1080/17400201.2013.777897 Holliday, A. (2010). Analyzing Qualitative Data. In B. Paltridge & A. Phakiti (Eds.), Continuum Companion to Research Methods in Applied Linguistics (pp. 98-110). London and New York: Continuum. Hoter, E., Shonfeld, M., & Ganayim, A., (2009). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Service of Multiculturalism. IRRODL, 10 (2). Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/601/1207 June 2016 Maoz, I., (2004). Coexistence is in the eye of the Beholder: Evaluating Intergroup Encounter Interventions between Jews and Arabs in Israel. Journal of Social Issues, 60 (3), 403-418. Mor, Y., Ron, Y., & Maoz, I. (2016). “Likes” for peace: Can Facebook promote dialogue in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict? Media and Communication (ISSN: 2183-2439) 2016, Vol. 4, Issue 1, pp. 15-26. DOI: 10.17645/mac.v4i1.29. Oren, N., & Bar-Tal, D. (2007). The detrimental dynamics of de-legitimization in intractable conflicts: The Israeli-Palestinian case. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 31, 111-126. Shonfeld, M., Hoter. E., & Ganayem, A. (2013). Connecting Cultures in Conflict through ICT in Israel. In R.S.P. Austin & W.J. Hunter (Eds.), Linking Schools: Online Learning and Community Cohesion. New York NY: Routledge. Walther, J. B., Hoter, E., Ganayim, A., & Shonfeld, M. (2015). Computer-mediated communication and the reduction of prejudice: A controlled longitudinal field experiment among Jews and Arabs in Israel. Computers in Human Behavior, 52, 550-558.
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