Please enjoy this four part video series on facilitating difficult conversations with youth!
— Liz London
Please enjoy this four part video series on facilitating difficult conversations with youth!
— Liz London
Introduction and Background
The following lesson plan was used by a group of Conflict Analysis and Resolution Master’s and PhD Candidates for a day-long peace education workshop with a class of 8th grade students from Washington D.C. The students were a part of a U.S. History course, but had been studying peace education and the history of nonviolent conflict in their course and were interested in learning more.
The following lesson plan is broken down into three main sections: Introduction and Ice Breaker, the Counter-Rally Activity, and Exercises in Identity.
-Introduction and Ice Breaker:
-Exercises in Identity:
Total: 4.5 hours
Breakdown: Intro and Ice Breaker (45 minutes)
Counter-Rally Activity (2.5 hours)
Exercises in Identity (1 hour)
Dry erase markers/board
Computer w/ Internet connection
-Introduction and Ice Breaker:
1). Provide 20 pieces of spaghetti, 1 marshmallow, 1 yard of masking tape, 1 yard of string for each group of 4-6 participants
2). Explain the rules:
3). Time is limited to 18 minutes. Depending on the need, this may be shortened, but leave enough time for the participants to actually have the opportunity to build something.
4). Start the challenge, preferably with some appropriate music.
5). In case the teams are all having a difficult time, hints can be given at set intervals, which also serve as time reminders.
6). A round of applause should be given to the team that has the tallest structure
7). Debrief Questions
8). This activity itself should be fun and active, while the debrief should serve as a “calm down” session.
1). Screen video clip for students of Donald Trump campaign rally: http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/02/donald_trumps_build_that_wall.html
2). Conduct de-brief after video:
* What images and stories of Mexican immigrants is he not including or giving voice to? Why do you think that is?
3). Pose the Situation and Project
Trump supporters are holding a rally in support of the wall. You’ve been tasked with holding a counter-rally against the wall. You have two hours on a Saturday to plan an event for that day.
You’ll be able to break up into teams to plan different parts of the rally. Allow students to choose groups, unless they’re really out-of-balance and then encourage a few volunteers to change groups.
Before picking groups, choose a name for the rally. If they don’t decide in the time allotted, encourage the messaging group to choose one from the current options.
Also, encourage the groups to communicate with each other to ensure that they have a collective vision for the event.
4). Independent Working Time in Groups
5). Group Collaboration on Presentation
Give the group 10 minutes to come back together as one large group and check in on their progress. Encourage them to make a plan for how they will present to the leaders and who will present.
6). Presentation to Leaders
7). Debrief the activity:
-Exercises in Identity
This activity works best with even numbers, so the students can pair up. To begin, divide your group in half and create two concentric circles: one inner circle and one outer circle. The students in the outer circle should face inside and the students in the inner circle should face outside. Each inner circle student will pair up with an outer circle student. Students may stand, sit on the floor, or use chairs for this activity.
1). Hand out the index cards and pens for each student
2). Ask the students to think about their individual values and what makes up their identity.
3). Instruct them to write one value or identity on each index card, with the goal of having around 10 index cards. Some example of these values:
4). Once everyone has their values and identities written down, have the students share with their first partner why they chose to write down the values they did.
5). After the discussion is complete, ask all students to rip up one of their cards. This part of the activity gives participants an opportunity to reflect on how they prioritize their identities. Ripping up the card should help the participants imagine living without that part of their identity.
6). After the participants rip up one card, the outer circle will rotate one partner to the right. Everyone should have a new partner now.
7). The students will now discuss with their partner why and how they chose the card to rip up.
8). The process continues until all participants are each left with one card – their most important value.
9). Debrief the activity:
“When you talk,
you are only repeating what you already know,
But if you listen you may learn something new.”
This is a reflective, emotional, cognitive exercise that explores the impact words have on our reactions to stimuli. Those interested in exploring verbal responses to negative and positive stimuli could be interested in the pedagogy activity below.
Since one of the main objectives of critical pedagogy is to problematize the world, and it is believed to be through language that problematization (and, later conscientizacao) occurs (see Paulo Freire – Pedagogy of the Oppressed), this lesson plan seeks to problematize the restriction of a particular category of language – language we use to express our feelings .
The audience for this activity depends on your objectives as a teacher/facilitator. The activities below can be adapted for facilitation with middle schoolers, high schoolers, university students, students of pedagogy, psychology, counseling, conflict, and/or other adults. The role of “recorder” in the activity would be particularly relevant to students of third-party interventions into conflict.
Here are some possible objectives for the activity. They are posed as questions, in the spirit of problematization, and can be mixed and matched:
Violence is an emotional response to an individual conflict. As such, to use Paul Maclean’s triune theory of the brain, violence as a response is rooted in the reptilian and limbic brains, and the neocortical brain – where abstract thought and problem-solving take place – is deactivated or overrun by the two. The use of “feeling words” to express feelings is viewed as a strategy, by the authors of this lesson, for the problem-solving brain to reassert itself and prevent violent responses to situations/stimuli.
THE LESSON PLAN
This pedagogy activity was created by Andrew Della Rocca and Chimalang Ngu for Dr. Arthur Romano’s Conflict Resolution Pedagogy course at George Mason University School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution. We hope this lesson plan can be used and shared by peace educators all over the world.
Point of Departure
Situations of injustice – especially those related to structural violence– are often taken for granted and receive less attention than incidents of direct violence. Within organizations constituted by a variety of socio-demographic profiles, cases of structural injustice can become ‘normalized’ as part of the hierarchical or bureaucratic scenario.
In universities and research centers with programs on peace and conflict studies, the wide variety of research interests of students and professors are usually focused on conflicts unfolding in other places, external to the university space. One might expect that the further the conflict is, the less relevant it is for us, yet notions of proximity can be seen from a more complex perspective regarding our attention to structures of violence and conflict.
The university is by itself a space of where situations of injustice actually occur, but this is rarely the focus of its own academic studies. Within programs on conflict resolution, we find it particularly vital to develop a sensibility to identify contexts of conflict, no matter how close and integrated into our own spaces they are. Such capacity is an essential feature when reflecting on our positionality within webs of conflict, whether we participate by reproducing, ignoring, or resisting these conflicts. In some cases, it is not about asking how do we think of, for or with a certain group of people experiencing situations of injustice (a la Freire), but how come we don’t even think at all about the specific issue? What allows it to stay hidden? This activity prioritizes precisely this need to re-think our own space(s).
The need to re-think the way in which we relate with our surrounding space is in line with Vinicius de Moraes Netto’s reflections on space as referential to communication, as a dimension that “produce the sense of ‘world-relationality’ or structure” (2007: 4). Thus, developing a critical awareness of our own space means also developing new ways of relating within the world, which includes new forms of thought, but also of communication and practice.
This activity is designed to develop critical, reflexive awareness of situations of injustice that occur in spaces in which we cohabit but that, most of the time, we do not identify as conflicts. The skill is an individual/collective capacity to ask the right questions through understanding our role within structures of conflict/violence, like:
What are my/our assumptions about conflict?
Within which organizations/spaces is it more difficult for me/us to identify situations of injustice?
How do notions of proximity play a role in my/our perceptions about conflict?
How are we constantly participating –in different ways– in structures of conflict?
How can critical, reflexive awareness promote action that will have a positive impact on such structures?
The activity has been designed to address undergraduate and graduate students on peace and conflict resolution programs. However, it can be adapted to students in other programs and at different educational levels. The necessary condition is that participants share, on a regular basis, a physical space around which the reflection about conflict and injustice can be elaborated, in order for the discussion to be limited to the extreme complexity that a single case of a co-habited space can provide. You’ll want to do this with a sizable but not huge group: ideally, 8-15 students.
Timing: 30 minutes
Note: The instructions below are specific to the space in which we led this activity, the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (SCAR). Please adapt to whatever setting in which you plan to use it.
Note: Here, and throughout this exercise, the group may ask questions for clarification, do you mean this? Should we do this? Etc. Just return to the original prompt and tell them that they can take it any way they want.
Note: Group leaders may choose at some point to share some of these questions/people/potential conflicts that the group may or may not have missed in order to deepen conversation and encourage a critical reflexivity about how we are implicated in violent, powerful, or conflictual systems within our own academic institutions.
 De Moraes, Vinicius, Practice, Communication and Space. A reflection on the materiality of social structures. [Thesis] University College London, University of London. 2007.
Privilege Walk Lesson Plan
Many educators and activists use privilege walks as an experiential activity to highlight how people benefit or are marginalized by systems in our society. There are many iterations of such walks with several focusing on a single issue, such as race, gender, or sexuality. This particular walk is designed with questions spanning many different areas of marginalization, because the goal of this walk is to understand intersectionality. People of one shared demographic might move together for one question but end up separating due to other questions as some move forward and others move back. This iteration of the privilege walk is especially recommended for a high school classroom in which the students have had time to bond with each other, but have never taken the time in a slightly more formal setting, i.e., led by a facilitator, to explore this theme. It is a good tool for classes learning about privilege or social justice and could also be used to discuss intersectionality in classes that have the danger of singling out a single aspect of social injustice. It is important that the students or group members are already acquainted and are not doing this activity as strangers, since an immense amount of trust in the people and the environment are needed to help people feel comfortable with acknowledging that certain statements apply to them.
Many people with certain privileges never notice them, because they are so woven into the mainstream that those who have them cannot see them. For youth, understanding and acknowledging privileges is key to understanding why and how they react and perceive their surroundings. The capacity for youth to objectively reflect on their interactions with the world will be invaluable. The focus on intersectionality in this practice will allow practitioners and students alike to understand that having one privilege does not make up for another marginalization and that every privilege or marginalization exists on a different but intersecting plane from another. This focus will help to avoid having positive developments being derailed by debates over who is more oppressed. It also helps youth understand ideas of intersectionality and be aware of marginalized groups within the marginalized group. Privilege walks have previously been criticized for being most beneficial to straight, white, able-bodied men, since it is supposed that they learn the most and that more marginalized students are made to feel vulnerable. The particular walk posted on this page works to avoid falling into these issues and has given detailed reasoning for recommended debrief questions, since the nature of the debrief discussion can either exacerbate or alleviate some of these issues. Even though it is not a perfect exercise, the privilege walk is a less confrontational way to discuss privilege and promote reflection. It helps people to open up, literally, in steps instead of difficult to articulate words and relate to each other in a different way.
To discuss the complicated intersections of privileges and marginalizations in a less confrontational and more reflective way.
15~20 minutes for the Privilege Walk
45~60 minutes for the debrief
Privilege Walk Statements:
During and after the Privilege Walk, participants might experience an array of intense feelings no matter their position in the front or the back. While the point of the Privilege Walk is indeed to promote understanding and acknowledgment of privileges and marginalization, it would be detrimental to end the activity with potentially traumatic or destructive emotions. The point of the debrief session is twofold. First, through the reflection provoking questions, help participants realize what exactly they were feeling and muster the courage to articulate it to each participant’s acceptable level. This process will relieve possible negative emotions, preventing possible damage. Second, as negative emotions are relieved, the debrief will help participants realize that either privileges or marginalizations are integral to the person’s being. Instead of casting off either privilege or marginalization, participants can learn how to reconcile with themselves, and through the utilization of newfound knowledge of the self, have a better relationship with themselves and others around them.
At the end of the exercise, students were asked to observe where they were in the room. This is a common question to use to lead into the discussion and allows people to reflect on what happened before starting to work with those idea in possibly more abstract ways. It keeps the activity very experience-near and in the moment.
This asks students to reflect in a broader sense about the experiences they might not think about in the way they were presented in this activity. It opens up a space to begin to discuss their perceptions of aspects of themselves and others that they might have never discussed before.
This question focuses on the concrete experience of separation that can happen during the activity. For some students, a physical aspect like this can be quite powerful. There are many iterations of the privilege walk that do not involve physical contact, but this extra piece can add another layer of experience and be an opening for very rich student responses.
The first part of this question asks students to reflect more on the activity and the thoughts behind it. The second part of this question is very important for creating knowledge. Students might suggest a question about which instructors had not thought. Asking students how they would change the activity and then working to incorporate those changes is an important part of collaborative learning.
This question invites people who would like to share about the ways they experience marginalization. It is a good question to ensure that this part of the conversation is had. That being said, it is also important to not expect or push certain students to speak, since that would be further marginalizing them and could cause them to feel unsafe. It is not a marginalized person’s job to educate others on their marginality. If they would like to do so, listen. If they would not like to do so, respect their wishes.
This question is based on the idea that people can always use knowledge and awareness of the self to improve how one lives with oneself and those existing within one’s life. It also invites students to think about ways that this understanding can create positive change. This is not only for the most privileged students but also for marginalized students to understand those in their group who may experience other marginalizations. This can bring the discussion form the first question, which asks about how they are standing apart to this last question, which can ask how can they work to stand together.
This activity was developed by Rebecca Layne and Ryan Chiu for Dr. Arthur Romano’s Conflict Resolution Pedagogy class at George Mason’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Some walk activity questions are commonly seen on other privilege walks while others were written by these students for this specific walk. Procedures were written from experiences participating in other walks. Debrief questions, excepting question one, were written by these students with the goal of this walk in mind. Question one is fairly universal for this activity.
One House of Peace is a nonprofit organization which provides services to youth through classes, workshops and retreats. They teach practical tools to help people manage their emotions and stress to resolve conflict in their lives. Their main program, Peace in Schools provides resources which are practiced in schools, youth shelters, and social service agencies around the country. Details can be found on their website, onehouseofpeace.org.
I believe the practices and resources of One House of Peace is best placed for middle and high school students in public education. The awareness and meditation practices can be implemented in classrooms and workshops. These skills can help students focus better in the classroom and empower teens in the community.
An educator may incorporate the initiative “Peace In Schools” through mindfulness exercises, group circles, or individual based therapy. Meditation practices can be used in the classroom daily or referred to as a service in the school. By looking at the Peace Value Model, peace conflicts can be resolved through regular self-analysis of the conflicting situations. It is important to solve conflicts at the individual level to achieve peace at the societal level as well. Educators can provide students with mindfulness activities, but also provide private consultations for teens experiencing individual conflict.
The awareness practices and different meditation programs in this organization will enable students to have a better understanding of how to effectively deal with stress, learn to have healthier relationships with themselves and others. Students also develop skills that will help them focus and be more engaged in the classroom. Mindfulness programs in peace education helps teens with self-awareness and emotional resilience which are key tools in a time when school violence is so widespread.
Content: I found Ed Change through the New Century College at George Mason University where Paul Gorski is the associate professor of Integrative Studies, as well as the founder of EdChange. Their initiative is to gather the skills and resources of experienced educators dedicated to the principles of “equity, diversity, multiculturalism, and social justice” (EdChange).
Context: EdChange and their collective staff have decades of training, exposure, and experience with teaching, as well as facilitating a variety of workshops, seminars, consultations, etc., for P-university level Their aim is to move institutions, along with the people within them, towards an approach to education that incorporates diversity, equity, and multicultural narratives. Due to their systemic focus, coupled with their extensive experience, EdChange can be addressed to classrooms of any size or level, in a multitude of contexts, and depending on the expected results, can be presented formally or informally. The main purpose is to develop a common understanding of the personal needs and/or expectations of the organization and then developing relevant procedures, programs, and tools in accordance. By doing so, there is not only a level of flexibility, but the approach is personal and helps strengthen both sides through their collaboration and growth.
Implementation- A major factor is the success of EdChange is building momentum and ensuring that the organizations will continue to strive for transformation even after they are done with the training. Many of these skills are developed through the workshops and training seminars to solidify not only their particular approach, but their ability to maintain a productive trajectory. While the different exercises are directed towards individual needs, there are a set of themes that EdChange considers their expertise. For example, Introductory and Framework Building is the initial step of introducing the conversation about topics such as diversity and multicultural education and subsequently building forward thinking approaches. Another focus is on the Curricular/ Pedagogical; teachers are aided in strengthening their lessons to include transformative practices and how to engage the classroom in dialogue revolving around broadening their perceptions on the subjects of diversity, equity, and multicultural education.There are several other main focuses which can be found here. The time that it takes to incorporate their mission/ vision and their specific approaches depends on which focus(es) they are addressing, to which audience, and what goal does the organization have in mind. Where a introductory class could take an afternoon with grade-school children, their leadership development program could be a week-long and dialogue intensive. Due to these drastic differences, the pedagogies may vary, but they are continually aimed at shifting the mindsets toward embracing and implementing the diverse, the equitable, and the multicultural.
Goal- EdChange’s ultimate goal is to give people, all people regardless of any identity, the opportunity to achieve and grow, while simultaneously feeling comfortable in themselves, a well as valued and empowered. Through their continual approach towards the three main principles, they seek to reshape the way schools, communities, society, etc approach and build dialogue around those topics. However, an aspect of discomfort and challenge is essential in transforming power dynamics. By addressing those feelings of vulnerability, dialogue can be constructed from deep within the individual and it presents them with a chance to develop themselves as a part of their environment. To continue affecting change, EdChange will work with anyone or any group at any stage in this process of building awareness and development as long as they are committed and honest to their goal of positive change. There are also three main side-projects that are developed through EdChange to help the individual build their interests: Multicultural Pavilion is a collection of resources for artists, educators, and activists; SoJust is one of the only documented histories of social justice and activism on the Internet, and JUSTICE – the People’s News which is an actively updated journal on human rights and social justice related topics.
Audience- Two main parties that would contribute from the curriculum built by EdChange are local communities, especially those challenged by systemic pressures or identity issues, and educators within school systems that have more restrictive approaches towards personal identification. On the community level, it would give the participants a change to gain insight on themselves and the intrapersonal aspects, while simultaneously placing them in a situation that gives them insight on their surroundings. Through this, individual identity becomes strengthened, individuals have confidence in dialogue construction, and they are more equipped to challenge the factors that limit them. In a educational environment, especially in places such as standardized public systems, identity development is not a major concern nor is it something that is appropriately addressed. Through giving the students the ability to open up and explore their interests, it will breed appreciation and positive change, which potentially can alter larger systematic procedures such as the education pipeline. Additionally, it gives the educator the skills to develop curriculum that would address diversity, equity, and multicultural narratives; topics that are essential to the growth of peace.