20 SES 07 A, Learning for Peace and Citizenship
The contact hypothesis (Allport 1954) has been one of the most frequently applied theories to the design and implementation of educational initiatives aimed to reduce prejudiced attitudes in the context of intergroup conflict with the ultimate goal of sustainable peacebuilding within societies. Recent meta analytic research has shown that generally intergroup contact does have a small to moderate effect on prejudice reduction (Pettigrew & Tropp 2006). Factors, such as equality of status, which are theoretically hypothesised to facilitate effective contact between groups, appeared to be important but not necessary preconditions (Pettigrew et al. 2011). Despite such recent reviews relating to the effectiveness of such educational programmes based on the contact hypothesis and other theoretical perspectives, Paluck and Green (2009) conclude on the basis of their review of a range of educational interventions that the causal effects for many of these educational interventions remain largely unknown. These concerns are echoed in the field which has seen numerous calls for more rigorous research to examine the effectiveness of educational initiatives aiming to reduce prejudice and to promote positive intergroup attitudes and reconciliation through specific curricular programmes and cross-community contact (e.g. Aboud et al 2012, Salomon 2009).
In Northern Ireland, a society emerging from decades of political and sectarian conflict, the potential role of education in promoting positive intergroup attitudes and reconciliation has long been acknowledged (Dunn 1986). As a consequence, a range of initiatives aimed at promoting long-term peacebuilding has been introduced into the formal education system. The segregated nature of the education system, which mirrors society as a whole, has often been considered as one of the main challenges for such initiatives in Northern Ireland. Educational initiatives therefore focused on intergroup contact through integrated schools and school collaborations as well as on curricular programmes. While there have been a number of studies exploring the impact of such initiatives on pupils’ attitudes, there is much consensus that more rigorous research is required in this context to establish factors facilitating or hindering effectives interventions of this nature (Gallagher Niens & Cairns 2008).
The current research thus aimed to address this issue by rigorously evaluating the impact of a specifically designed programme for primary and post-primary curriculum subjects, which directly addresses prejudices and reconciliation in Northern Ireland within cross-community and single-school settings. The programme was designed, implemented and supported through the Western Education and Library Board (WELB) and funded by the International Fund for Ireland. The findings of this evaluation were intended to provide rigorous research evidence on the impact of the programme on pupils’ attitudes and the additional role that intergroup contact may play.
Aboud, F., Tredoux, C., Tropp, L., Brown, C., Niens, U. & Noor, N. (2012) Interventions to reduce prejudice and enhance inclusion and respect for ethnic differences in early childhood: a systematic review. Developmental Review, 32(4), 307-336. Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books. Dunn, S. (1986) The Role of Education in the Northern Ireland Conflict. Oxford Review of Education, 12(3), 233-242. Gallagher, T. (2010) Building a shared future from a divided past: Promoting peace through education in Northern Ireland. In G. Salomon & E. Cairns (eds) Handbook on peace education. New York: Psychology Press. Niens, U. & Cairns, E. (2008) Integrated education in Northern Ireland: A review. In D. Berliner & H. Kupermintz (Eds.), Fostering Change in Institutions, Environments, and People: A Festschrift in Honor of Gavriel Salomon. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Pettigrew, T. & Tropp, L., (2006) A meta-analytic test of intergroup contact theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 751–783. Pettigrew, T. F., Tropp, L. R., Wagner, U., & Christ, O. (2011). Recent advances in intergroup contact theory. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35(3), 271-280. Paluck, L. & Green, D.P. (2009) Prejudice reduction: what works? A review and assessment of research and practice. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 339–367. Salomon, G. (2009) Peace Education: Its Nature, Nurture and the Challenges It Faces. In J. De Rivera (ed.) Handbook on Building Cultures of Peace. New York: Springer.
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