Reflexive Pedagogy: Teaching and Learning in Peace and Conflict Studies

Published date01 December 2014
Date01 December 2014
C R Q, vol. 32, no. 2, Winter 2014 109
© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. and the Association for Confl ict Resolution
Published online in Wiley Online Library ( • DOI: 10.1002/crq.21107
Re exive Pedagogy: Teaching and Learning
inPeaceand Con ict Studies
Jay Rothman
I suggest and illustrate how teaching students to become refl exively
self-aware is an empowering process and philosophy for both teaching
and learning about peace and confl ict. Developing tools and meth-
ods to encourage refl exivity—such as journals, exercises, and refl ex-
ive confl ict engagement in the classroom—can help students develop
a deep self-awareness about their own thoughts and refl ections and
greatly enhance education and its liberating potential. In addition
to learning critical thinking about the “reality out there,” students
and teachers will greatly benefi t by refl exive study of their own reac-
tions to confl ict and cooperation, empowerment, and peace in order
to gain deeper perspective and new skills for studied choice making
and modeling to others.
Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, published in 1970, has become a
foundational text of critical pedagogy.  is movement, in which teach-
ing and learning are collaborative activities of discovery and liberation,
is defi ned by another of its founders, Henry Giroux, as an “educational
movement, guided by passion and principle, to help students develop con-
sciousness of freedom, recognize authoritarian tendencies, and connect
knowledge to power and the ability to take constructive action” (2010,
B15–B16).  is is relevant for confl ict resolution education in particular
since it “aims to empower students to exercise their own self-determination
I am grateful to Nofi t Amir for her very skillful editorial assistance, Susan Raines for her
support and encouragement, and my anonymous reviewers whose input greatly strengthened
my article.
C R Q • DOI: 10.1002/crq
and respect and support the self-determination of others, crucial elements
for any democracy” (Hedeen 2005, 186).
Freire advocated an alternative to the “banking model” of education,
where the teacher “deposits” “usable” information into students’ heads
and then society withdraws that investment, in the service of perpetuating
the status quo. He called this alternative “problem-posing” education, in
which the teacher raises the consciousness (“conscientization”) of students
by exploring their life situations, constraints, and contexts as a probléma-
tique to be studied and overcome.  e educator and students together
engage in explorations about how current social structures may be oppres-
sive for those within them and explore what kinds of liberating alternatives
are available or may be fostered (see also Coy [2014] and his discussion
of “collective learning agreements” among students and teachers, and the
concept of “decentering the teacher” expanded by Hedeen [2005], who
also emphasizes the role of experiential learning in the confl ict resolution
Freire’s approach, which was radical more than four decades ago when
it was introduced, is now a familiar approach in education and other fi elds
as well. In fact, John Paul Lederach (1997) enshrined it as the core of his
elicitive approach to confl ict transformation. As Lederach explains, only
by making explicit and eliciting from students and disputants their native
knowledge within their specifi c cultural contexts, needs, skills and defi -
cits can confl ict resolution educators or third parties become partners with
them. Such a process, educational by defi nition, is aimed at the discovery
and cocreation of models that emerge from the dialogue. Individual expe-
riences and their contexts, cultural, historical, and so forth, are regarded
as sources of insight for program or internal model development, with the
third party/educator as a catalyst, and not an expert in a particular external
model to be delivered. As Maiese (2004) describes, the aim of this elicitive
approach is to provide a highly participatory and empowering educational
process in which participants gain a better understanding of their own
confl ict situation. “Finally, the design and goals of the training process
are formulated by the participants, rather than dictated beforehand by the
Fostering a liberating educational experience that is consistent with
empowerment in terms of voice and participation is, I believe, a core ethi-
cal and procedural stance of our fi eld. Just as education is more of a process
than an outcome (though outcomes like degrees and professional training
are also important), so, too, confl ict engagement is more about the journey

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