This session shares the process and findings of a qualitative research study, which sought to better understand UWCSEA students' conceptions about peace, a central concept in the UWC mission. The session will explain how students' thinking about peace differs across the K-12 continuum, and how we can take developmental approaches to teach peace education.
The research study was conducted at UWCSEA's two campuses in Singapore during UWC Day celebrations on 21 September 2021.
Carla: Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for joining our presentation about how we can better understand students' conceptions of peace. Before we begin, we're just going to do some introductions. My name is Carla Marschall. I'm the Director of Teaching and Learning on East Campus.
Erin: Hi, I'm Erin Witthoft and I happen to work across both campuses as the Head of Curriculum Development and Research.
Carla: In terms of the scope of this presentation, we're going to be sharing some of the information about a research project that we undertook, both Erin and I, with the other director of teaching and learning, Ellie Alchin from Dover campus. We're going to share the research process that we took, some noticings that we have from across the K-12 continuum and then some potential next steps.
Essentially, in this research project, you can see an example here on the screen, what we did was a visual project, where we asked our students to think about what they understand about peace to represent that visually, and then complete the sentence, “To me, peace means ... ” And then to share something related to their drawing.
Before we begin, we'd like to encourage you to make some connections to our own guiding statements. We have a few areas where peace is very explicit for us at UWC. Obviously in our mission, we have this idea that the UWC movement makes education a force to unite people, nations, and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.
The other thing that we have, which may be new for you as you're listening, is this idea of mission competencies. These are the competencies that we hope that students develop in their time with us to be able to enact the mission. And one of these explicitly is peace building. We'd like to ask you to just pause this video for the moment and think about what do you think our students understand about peace before we share what we found out.
All right. Hopefully, you had a chance to think about that for a moment, maybe jot down some notes. We're going to start with how we approached this research. And so essentially when we were thinking about doing research across the K-12 curriculum, we needed to think about first, what were our research questions, and then what were some of the implications for being able to address these questions with both young and older learners. So we really wanted to dig into the questions, what are our students' current understandings of peace, and how can we develop recommendations for practice from these?
And so in terms of principles that underpin these questions, we needed the research methodology to be accessible. It needed to work for children with varying levels of literacy skills. So those which were pre literate all the way to highly literate in our grade 12s. It needed to be open ended so that students could show their understanding without us leading their thinking in one particular way and it needed to be simple. So it needed to be completed in class by teachers without additional supports and interventions from us essentially. And so those were some things that we thought about as we were coming to the design of this particular project.
And so what we used for our model is the Draw-A-Scientist Test from Draw-A-Scientist Test. This was developed in the 1980s as a way to look at students' conceptions of scientists. And so you can see two examples of that here. The research around the Draw-A-Scientist Test is really interesting because time and time again, they've uncovered kind of misconceptions around scientists wearing lab coats and having beakers and being in labs. What's interesting about this research since it's been done from the ‘80s is now more than 50% of girls actually draw female scientists, which was not the case in the 1980s. So you are starting to see changes in perceptions around this idea. So we wanted to take this idea of visual methodologies and this notion of being able to get a picture of students thinking through drawing as part of this research.
And so when we're doing research with children and thinking about visual methodologies, there are some real benefits of this. The first thing is that we have a richness of data. So we have multiple layers of meaning because you can read the images. Literally, you can compare the image with the text. You can also think about symbols, which are represented visually. And so you have multiple layers that you can be reading for. It allows communication beyond the verbal and written skills, which allows us to include those who are the youngest. Thus, we're increasing participation access and student voice for our youngest learners at UWC. And there's a complexity of findings. So when you're looking at these cards and you can see, we had hundreds of these cards that we had to code, we have a complexity of the findings where the data can confirm, compliment, elaborate, or even contradict at the same time. And that is because of the multiple layers of meaning that are represented in these cards.
Erin: So what we did was we wanted to then be able to take a snapshot from all of those cards so that way we could start to look for trends or patterns across the data. So we looked at grades one, three, five, seven, nine, and 11. And from each campus, we took 22 cards. So that way we would have a balanced inquiry from both schools to be able to look at trends that came across those.
On the day that students were at asked to interact with this, it was on UWC Day and both Carla and Ellie created a very similar loom. And in it, it gave information about how to participate as a class. They used a common template for this. We had the same question that we were asking students, and that scaffolding then was being provided through that video to ensure that there was that reliability in how students were going to interact with this tool.
Our first step was to really start to get all of these cards together and how are we going to look at it to break down this data. And so we started just by looking through and sorting out cards by the grade levels, looking across all of those cards, just to see what was written on them, what was drawn on them and how we could interact with them. In this process, we looked at different types of coding that you could do. That way, we could start to create some reliability with how we would break down these cards. So do you want to go to the next slide, Carla?
And before we jumped right into looking at how we might have some commonality of looking across these, we broke down just some of our noticings, what were things that we saw when we looked at all of the cards across grade one or grade nine, just to give us some idea of what we were seeing.
From there, we came up with, okay, how are we going to have a consistent methodology of looking at these cards before we can actually conclude that we have trends? And so when we looked at the initial coding, we looked at two ways, we either looked at descriptive coding, which is looking at how would we describe what's there. So are we looking at this and seeing weapons that are representing negative peace in the drawing? Are we seeing a depiction of someone being calm? Where are we looking at in interaction between people? And then we also looked at doing in vivo coding, which is what words were chosen to represent peace on the cards. So we actually went through and you can see that we highlighted on some of the cards. This one happens to say, “No war.” And so we specifically pulled out that.
And so those gave us an intercoder reliability because we were looking at this through a similar process. And what we were able to do is be able to use similar wording when we were looking between the cards to create codes. So that way we could then tally how many times we were seeing these types of codes. So we created a bank that all of us were able to use, and we were looking for those in a similar way. And we spent a good amount of time deciding what words were appropriate based on that sample that we initially were looking at.
Carla: So what did we find out? Basically, in that process of creating the codes, it allowed us to be able to look for patterns and trends within the spreadsheet that related to those codes. And then we could bring it back to our initial observations that we had made when we spread out the cards on the table by grade level. And so what we thought about was how we could use models that we're currently using to be able to talk about peace education as a way to interpret some of the results. And so we really wanted to think about how do students' conceptions of peace relate to our recently adopted model showing peace at different scales. And so this model is modified from Crawford and Shelit, which is work that they did for UNICEF. In particular, how to teach peace and peace building to young children.
And the idea here is that we move between these different scales, that we have personal peace, such as through identity, wellbeing, and self-awareness. And after we identify kind of personal peace, what it means to feel peaceful, to feel calm, we start thinking about interpersonal peace or relationships with others, human rights, how we may impinge on people's human rights sometimes depending on our behavior. And then going into that global piece around international conflict, thinking about youth being agents of change and the idea of peace building at the global level. So it's really about starting from the self and then radiating out to these more external scales.
And so what we noticed when we were doing our coding and then looking at those trends within the spreadsheet is that we actually could see many connections between those code and patterns within Grade 1, Grade 3, and Grade 5.
In Grade 1, a lot of the examples they gave were specific to personal peace. To them, feeling calm, sitting and reading a book in the library, for example, or doing sport and feeling calm after sports. As they moved into grade three, there was a lot more about interpersonal peace, a strong focus on relationships and kindness. And in grade five, they started to develop some initial understandings of global issues related to peace. They started talking about sustainable development goals and other things.
And so we really see that there's an additive nature of peace learning, starting from the personal to interpersonal, to global. As they're moving between these grades, it builds a nuance and complexity over time and also from concrete to abstract. So the examples that the grade one students gave and of course, this makes sense in terms of the developmental stage of those learners, they were very much giving concrete situations where they feel calm compared to the older students not represented here, like Grade 7, Grade 9, Grade 11, where it becomes increasingly abstract.
And so something we tried to think about was, what does this look like if we thought about trends across the K-12 continuum? And so as I mentioned before, we had that personal focus in grade one. We had specific places in context being named, such as the playground or the library. And then we have this interpersonal shift that seems to be the dominating kind of mindset around peace. And what peace means in grade three, a lot more about collaboration, communication, helping others being of service. And they do start talking about discrimination and bias in particular around stereotypes. But it's still very much of that interpersonal level as opposed to kind of a systemic perspective on that. As they move into grade five, they're able to start showing more understanding of those global goals and other things, as I mentioned.
Before I keep going on, I'll show some examples of this in practice. Here, you can see some Grade 1 students cards and here you can see, this is a child who's reading a book. Here, again, someone being quiet saying, “Shh!” I believe also reading, these are some children in the image who are meditating. So it's very contextual. And then with that Grade 3 example of that interpersonal shift, here, you can see, these are two people talking and then it says, “Being kind to other people.” And then it spreads or here, “No war.” Because that was something that starts coming up in Grade 3 is the negative peace aspect. And so you can see that being represented in that card, which we talked about earlier. Yeah, so that's that negative peace aspect and the symbols of violence being represented from grade three.
In Grade 5, as I mentioned before, we start are seeing those global goals. We see a shift to the global. The notion of equality and fairness comes in as well as inclusion. This is the first time when we start seeing representations of race, culture, and indigenous groups being represented through skin color, the clothing that people are wearing, those types of things. And so we'll show an example of what that looks like as well. So here, you can see all of these cards, these are some of the codes here, inclusion, respect, and inclusion. And these are some students that are talking to each other and it's very much about being kind to people, even though they're different. So it's about that idea of including people who may be different to you. And so we're starting to see that in Grade 5.
As they get older, we see that they're able to start going across these scales. But in grade seven, what we found quite interesting is whereas grade five talks more about equality and fairness and kind of the notion of some of these global issues and the idea of rights, grade seven focuses a lot more on the idea of equity and the role of political agreements and bodies such as the UN. And there seems to be more awareness about particular issues, such as LGBTQIA rights and about the role of the community in supporting peace. And so it's starting to move from that interpersonal to much more of that systemic.
As the children go into High chool, we see that they're shifting between personal, interpersonal, and global perspectives and lenses. And part of this is also just that we didn't have one clear particular trend across the data as the children got older. And that is something that we've asked ourselves about in terms of the usefulness of this methodology, K-12, and what needs to be supplemented as a next step.
Erin: So some surprises and concerns along the way. As we looked across all of the cards, some surprises for us was seeing the role of faith and how much that came up throughout the different grade levels consistently. So that was a surprise as we were digging into this work. We looked at all of the UWC values, but the one that consistently came up was compassion. And so that was really clear that there was a connection between that value and what students were indicating about what peace meant to them. And this idea about identity was really difficult to see within the cards and the way that students were depicting this. It wasn't really explicitly featured yet we know that this is a key concept that we work on throughout our curriculum. So that was a surprise for us to not unpack and see that a bit further.
Some concerns that we had along the way was the predominance of negative peace that regardless of again, that age level, pictures were depicting that idea that negative peace was prevalent in this world, or what it means to the students. There were few practical strategies. I know that you saw some examples of students being able to meditate or that calmness, but what did that look like throughout ... As students get older, do they walk away with that idea of how they could use those practical strategies?
The absence of community or unity was not really prevalent throughout the cards. We saw it in small pockets, but not consistently. And then we also were a bit surprised that we didn't see more of human rights or other rights being featured. And so that was something that, as we look at interpersonal peace, that human rights is one of the areas that describes that. And so we just thought it might come out a bit more. So just some of our takeaways when we step back and look at this.
So what might we do next? What we were able to do is we worked cross campus. Dover and East each had a peace pod one afternoon where we invited participant to come in and to hear the same information that you've just heard about, how we kind of collected this information, what were the trends. And then we asked them, what further questions do you have? And so some questions that we might need to start to unpack is, what was happening at the time that the curriculum is written, assembled, and what does that mean for the way that we use terms within our curriculum as well? And so that was something that was pretty big to us. And then, how is this work related to our UWC competencies? You saw at the beginning that we made a connection back to our peace building. And so just making sure that we've provided those opportunities to unpack that with students, to help them to make connections with that.
Another question then that we asked within our pod groups were, what implications do you these findings have for our practice? And so we really felt like some of the feedback we got from staff was looking at using this model with our students, that idea of talking about the three circles and talking about how it moves out towards that global, but we need to start with ourself first.
And so just making that connection with our students where appropriate and building the scaffolding of that out as students grow. Looking at using peace as a lens, when we talk about working with teams for units, how do we build this in as one of our lenses within our unit planning? How do we make sure that piece is there as a lens when we're picking case studies or are talking about it with our students? But then also taking us work into the building of our new 9, 10 UWC program. And just making sure that peace education is not just an afterthought, but part of that embedded process with our teams to make sure that's mission aligned as we go through this journey with developing new courses.
And then the last question that we looked at is, what recommendations would you make for us as we continue our inquiry? And so really one of the big takeaways we had from here is this idea that we need to unpack more through dialogue that this tool was perhaps somewhat limiting. And so just having those opportunity to have further conversations with teachers, which weren't represented in these cards, but then also further conversations with students as well to maybe dig a little deeper, where perhaps we found some of the tool a bit limiting, we could dig deeper to really unpack this.
And then also the idea that we really need to continue with this around peace education and how it connects in with our diversity equity, inclusion, and justice, and just that it's not a separation, but that in order to have that action, we need to be able to talk about peace education as part of this and that there shouldn't be a disconnect between those two, that they're very much connected. And so helping us to frame that work through that piece of education would be that connection we want to see and start having more of.
So areas for us to further inquiry is around this idea of how, do we develop our service curriculum? Where does peace explicitly develop through this element? How could we unpack that and just dig a little deeper into that? So this spring, we've been looking at that and we'll continue to unpack that this, this coming term. Another piece that we're looking to do is to have some focus group with high school students, just so that way, we make sure that we're getting that dialogue developed. So we might look at a question like, how might they speak differently about peace than in their drawings or their writing? So that limitation in the tool. And the last part is to explore teacher understanding, which we said wasn't necessarily represented in these cards directly, indirectly as a part of how we teach, but just really making sure that we have a chance to see how did they conceptualize peace and then how is that similar or different to our students. Just have a chance to make those comparisons and look for trends across that group as well.
Erin: So we just want to take a moment to just thank you for your time today. We appreciate you listening, and we look forward to updating the community further as we continue this work, but we were excited to share this journey with you so far. So thank you.
Carla: Thank you so much.