George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Experiential Learning Program

Linking Theory to Practice: Conflict Analysis and Resolution Pedagogy builds the capacity of the interdisciplinary field of Conflict Analysis and Resolution (CAR) to play a key role in improving undergraduates’ ability to apply theory to practice in CAR courses, in general education, and beyond the classroom.

The project consists of three initiatives in curricular innovation, each involving development, testing, and dissemination:

Initiative 1: Design introductory course materials in Conflict Analysis and Resolution, particularly experiential learning activities (ELAs) suitable for general education.

Initiative 2: Create a model for intensive service learning activities (SLIs) in domestic and international contexts.

Initiative 3: Promote best practices in designing CAR curricula so as to enhance students’ ability to link theory and practice, including models for strengthening partnerships between two- and four-year institutions and better aligning curricula across those institutions.

Through wide dissemination of curricular materials, approaches, models, and best practices, the project is designed to have significant, positive sustainable impact on educators and institutions locally, regionally, and nationally.

Susan F. Hirsch (Principal Investigator)
Agnieszka Paczynska (co-Principal Investigator)

Project Abstract

Linking Theory to Practice: Conflict Analysis and Resolution Pedagogy builds the capacity of the interdisciplinary field of Conflict Analysis and Resolution (CAR) to play a key role in improving undergraduates’ ability to apply theory to practice. The activities likely to help students gain this competency—experiential learning, internships and service learning, practicums, and simulations—tend to be marginalized in university curricula and rare in two-year institutions.  The CAR field is uniquely positioned to deliver educational experiences that help students to achieve competency in making the crucial link between the abstract ideas of the classroom and practical activities, such as problem solving, yet CAR educators have only begun to develop the field’s potential.

Linking Theory to Practice consists of three initiatives designed to improve undergraduates’ ability to apply theory to practice not only in CAR courses but also in general education and beyond the classroom. Each initiative involves the development, testing, and dissemination of CAR curricular materials and models.  Initiative 1:  design course materials in the forms of Experiential Learning Activities (ELAs) suitable for all levels of CAR classrooms and general education courses. Initiative 2:  create a model for intensive service learning activities (SLIs) in domestic and international contexts. Initiative 3:  promote best practices in designing CAR curricula so as to enhance students’ ability to link theory and practice, including models for strengthening partnerships between two- and four-year institutions and better aligning curricula in and across those institutions.  Through wide dissemination of curricular materials, approaches, models, and best practices, the project is designed to have significant, positive, and  sustainable impact on educators and institutions locally, regionally, and nationally.

Project Personnel.  Linking Theory to Practice is led by CAR faculty in consultation with leading educators in the CAR field. The project is based at the first-ever School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) located at George Mason University (GMU). With over 20 members the project team includes faculty, staff, and doctoral, masters, and undergraduate students. Dr. Susan F. Hirsch (PI) and Dr. Agnieszka Paczynska (co-PI) have long experience as CAR educators and have each directed GMU’s undergraduate CAR program.  Two other project team members, Dr. Patricia Maulden and Lisa Shaw, are also skilled CAR educators with particular expertise in experiential learning. Dr. Edward Lazarus joined the project as a post-doctoral fellow in August 2011.  Dr. Andria Wisler (Georgetown University) is the project’s external evaluator.

Project Accomplishments.  Since the project began in January 2011, seven Experiential Learning Activities (ELAs) were developed and tested in 40 GMU classrooms.  In June 2011, a group that included three project team members and the external evaluator traveled to Liberia to engage in the project’s first Service Learning Intensive (SLI) designed over the previous months.  The SLI focused on engaging students in conflict assessment, training, and problem solving in partnership with a Liberian NGO. In June 2012 in addition to a modified version of the Liberia SLI, two new SLIs were mounted to: 1) Charleston, West Virginia, to engage in conflict assessment, conflict resolution training in a Jobs Corps facility, and field-based analysis of several community conflicts and 2) Colombia, South America, to engage in conflict assessment, conflict resolution training with partner NGOs, and field-based analysis of conflict over transitional justice. 

The ELAs are being improved for continued use at GMU and prepared for delivery at community colleges in Spring 2013. Curricular best practices and models are being developed and disseminated in several ways. Project team members contributed to scholarship on CAR pedagogy through multiple conferences and workshops, including the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting (November 2011); the FIPSE Project Directors' Meeting (October 2011); the American Association of Political Science Pedagogy Conference (December 2011); the 5th International Conflict Resolution Education (CRE) Summit (March 2012), the International Studies Association Annual Meeting (April, 2012), the Association for Conflict Resolution (September 2012), and the Innovations in Teaching and Learning Conference (September 2012). The project also hosted a workshop for 80 participants in December 2011. An article ("Pursuing Research through Focus Groups: A Capstone Experience that Meets Disciplinary and General Education Goals" was accepted for publication by Council of Undergraduate Research Quarterly (upcoming).  

Upcoming Project Activities.  At least two additional ELAs will be developed and tested in GMU classrooms and made available through the website. Collaboration with community college partners will increase, and project team members will work with community college faculty to incorporate ELAs into their teaching. Moreover, ELAs will be used outside GMU, such as the University of Malta and Grinnell College, among others. One new SLI will be developed. The project team will host a workshop on Service Learning Intensives in February 2013 to define and share best practices with interested regional colleagues. A large conference in Spring 2013, hosted on the GMU campus, will bring together community college partners and other educators to discuss lessons learned about experiential learning and the conflict field. The project team will also deliver at least six conference presentations and public talks related to the project. Internal and external evaluation of project activities will continue and increasingly yield final results. 

Project Members
Principle Investigators

Susan F. Hirsch Ph.D.
Agnieszka Paczynska Ph.D

Participating Factuly, Students, and Staff

Lisa Shaw, Patricia Maulden, Mara Schoeny, Leslie Dwyer, Andrea Bartoli, Paul Snodgrass, Andria Wisler, Gina Cerasani, Ned Lazarus, Dhirendra Nalbo, Linda Keuntje, Sigrid Nuckolls, Lori-Anne Stephenson, Molly Tepper, Kwaw de Graft Johnson

Partners

FIPSE - The primary partner and funder of the project is the United States Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of  Postsecondary Education.

S-CAR Undergraduate Program - We also partner with the Undergraduate Program of the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution to implement the project's initiatives and activities. 
 

Service Learning Intensive Partners

Don Bosco Rehabilitation and Skills Training Programme 

Founded in 1991 through a joint initiative of UNICEF and the Salesians of Don Bosco the DBRSTP aims at reaching disadvantaged youth in Liberia aged between late teens and 26 with rehabilitative skills training and counselling.  S-CAR's students, through the Service Learning Intensives, have the opportunity to work with this organization assisting youth in Liberia's post-conflict society.

Javeriana Pontifical University

The Pontificia Universidad Javeriana is a private higher education institution founded in 1623. It is one of the older and most traditional Colombian universities, directed by the Society of Jesus, with its main facilities in Bogotá and a sectional division in Cali. The Javeriana University in the near future will mainly promote research and curricula-centered integral education; it will strengthen its interdisciplinary university nature, and it will reinforce its presence in the country contributing to the solution of its major problems.

Partnership of African American Churches
The Partnership of African American Churches (PAAC) is a collaborative, non-profit, faith based community development corporation, based in Charleston, WV. While PAAC serves all communities, it intentionally targets African American communities in West Virginia. The PAAC is a specific initiative driven organization focusing on community and individual well-being which involves both policy change and programmatic implementation.

PAAC has recognized the need and is presently advancing as an intermediary resource agent to assist community grassroots projects in capacity building and securing support for various programmatic activities. This support is currently being provided to 4 Communities in 3 Counties and will ultimately expand to 13 counties within West Virginia.

(information detailed above is copied from the respective organizations' websites)

Best Practices

Best Practices in Writing Role Plays by Susan F. Hirsch, Mara Schoeny, and Gina Cerasani

Best Practices in Debriefing by Molly Tepper

Contact Us

UELP welcomes any inquiries and feedback:

Dr. Susan F. Hirsch
Professor and UELP Principal Investigator
School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution
Email: Shirsch4@gmu.edu
Phone: 703 993-9407
Fax: 703 993-1302

Dr. Agnieszka Paczynska
Associate Professor, UELP Co-Principal Investigator,
School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution
Email: apaczyns@gmu.edu
Phone: (703) 993-1364
Fax: (703) 993-1302

Lisa E. Shaw
Director of Field Experience
School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution
Email: lshaw2@gmu.edu
Phone: 703-993-7130
Fax: 703-993-8285

Mailing Address:

4400 University Drive, MS 2E5
Fairfax, VA 22030
 

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