Some Reflections on the Links between Teacher Education and Peace Education: Interrogating the Ontology of Normative Epistemological Premises

Jul. 01, 2014

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 41, (2014), 52-59
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article provides a critique of the essentialized assumptions about identity, culture and education that are found in contemporary peace education literature.
Furthermore, it explores the implications that these assumptions have for teacher education in conflict and post-conflict societies.

In their own ethnographic research, the authors found that peace education and teacher education are shown to be related in a manner which diminishes the possibility of developing critical teachers. Specifically, they have come to realize how teachers are educated to put enormous emphasis on identity-be this religious, cultural, ethnic, national or other-and/or the ways in which they can nurture culture through schooling through conflict with other groups.

The emphasis on essentialized identity/culture and the strong links between individual and large-group psychology in conflict situations lead to a number of problematic consequences for teacher education and peace education. For example, many teachers who have participated in their research during the last ten years are reluctant to develop pedagogies that may upset taken-for-granted perspectives of identity for a number of reasons: teachers may find these hegemonic perspectives too powerful to oppose (Bekerman & Zembylas, 2012). In all of these situations, it is shown how important it is to identify and expose the complexities resulting from the prevalence of nation-state structures in efforts to support teachers conducting peace educational efforts. A major challenge for teacher education, then, in conflict and post-conflict societies is how to create openings that take these complexities into consideration and create openings which address the limitations imposed by the nation-state.

The authors would also argue that the rhetoric of teacher education reform in peace education settings in which identity/culture are still perceived and enacted in essentialized ways is grounded in problematic assumptions that reproduce the hegemonic power of the nation-state.
The authors argue, then, that there is a national rhetoric- which they have all become used to that puts on schools and teachers the responsibility to find ‘solutions’ to problems which ache modern societies.
Finally, the authors want to suggest some restricted moves that may create openings for a renewed relationship between teacher education and peace education.

Teachers as ‘critical design experts’
To show the practical significance of this argument, the authors propose the idea of teachers becoming critical design experts. ‘Critical design experts’ are the teachers who become experts in their contexts and the ways these are interactionally engineered given the social participants and the material and symbolical resources available to them; at the same time, teachers as critical design experts are able to critique the manifestations of nation-structures in everyday practices and design educational interventions that create cracks to these structures. Critical design experts understand very well how the macro-level design comes to get organized at the micro-level of everyday school activities.
The authors end this article, by discussing how this could actually be done in the context of teacher education and how the education of teachers as ‘critical design experts’ may renew the relationship between teacher education and peace education in conflict and post-conflict areas.

Renewing the relationship between teacher education and peace education
The authors argue that teacher education efforts in peace education settings need to interrogate the entanglement between the ontological and the epistemological, without ignoring the power relations involved that often make the ontological and the epistemological difficult to distinguish. It is important for teachers to be educated to become critical design experts about the ways social categories are constructed and the ways in which their work is engineered in society. Teacher education programs need to be redesigned to encourage prospective teachers to become explorers who uncover the ways society is organized and have the knowledge and skills to envision an alternative ‘design’ of this society.


Bekerman, Z., & Zembylas, M. (2012). Teaching contested narratives: Identity, memory and reconciliation in peace education and beyond. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Updated: Jan. 08, 2017