ACTS MA Modules

Module One: INTRODUCTION TO CONFLICT TRANSFORMATION: THEORY AND PRACTICE

Good peace practice is grounded deeply in a clear articulation of theory, and a deep and ever evolving analysis of a conflict system. Module One provides students with frameworks, theories, experiences, and skills towards strengthening their analytical approach, which grounding it in a solid theoretical framework.

Fundamental to this approach is the collaboration of adult learners who together create a learning community of practice. ACTS students are grounded in their own realities, and already hold significant insights and learning to share with each other. While learning more about, and critiquing, existing theory, a fundamental aspect of the module is that students also formulate their own theories of conflict.

Research shows that practitioners are effective in addressing conflict when their interventions are grounded in ongoing analysis. Robust analysis and the ability to understand the dynamics of conflict is fundamental to conflict transformation. Towards this end, a session on systems analysis will be presented during the residential seminar of this module.

The ACTS programme is designed so that students can articulate their own theory of conflict as a guide for their work. By reviewing existing theory, students can begin to formulate their own. During the residential seminar, a range of conflict theories and concepts will be introduced. A guest lecturer will introduce key themes such as adaptive peacebuilding, inclusivity of peace process, in order for students to begin the process of deepening their theoretical understanding.

During this module, students will also work towards further developing their competencies in academic reading, critical thinking, active listening and writing to articulate their analysis as well as understanding of different theories of conflict. Such academic discipline and rigor provide the possibility to strengthen peace practice.

Throughout the two years of studies, Action Research and Transformative Peace Leadership run as two threads through all modules of the ACTS programme, enabling personal and academic reflection. Action Research is a radical, self-reflective and rigorous approach to research, and allows for integrating the students’ practice and academic learning in a way that seeks to strengthen both. Transformative Peace Leadership takes students on a journey that connects their personal commitment, emotional intelligence and work-life balance to their study and wider peace practice.

Overall, Module One serves as the foundation for the following modules of the ACTS Programme, and establishes the community of learning, which enriches and is core to the essence of the ACTS approach.

Module One Objectives:

  • Establish a learning community of practitioners.
  • Foster a commitment to academic discipline and rigor as a means to strengthen peace practice
  • Develop a conflict analysis understanding the systemic nature of conflict.
  • Commit to transformative leadership as a core component of peace practice.
  • Develop a foundation for conducting an Action Research Project.
  • Increase academic skills in reading, writing, active listening and critical thinking

Module Two: STRATEGIES FOR INTERVENTION AND SUPPORTING PEACE PROCESSES

This module focuses on peace processes, and interventionstrategies for meaningful and positive impact in peace processes. It defines the structures, roles and complex dynamics of peace processes and the function of mediation, facilitation, and dialogue while drawing on illustrations from case studies around the region.

The Residential Seminar for this module will be held in other conflict contexts provide a cross-regional exposure experience that enriches the basis for learning. The first half of the Residential Seminar consists of an in-depth study of a peace process and learning about the various components of that process as a way to explore broader themes and concepts in peace processes. Fundamentals of third-party intervention using mediation, negotiation and dialogue are critically analysed as practical means for supporting peace processes.

The second half of the Residential Seminar consists of comparative studies of elements of healthy peace processes, including an examination of peace processes in Myanmar, Philippines and Korean Peninsular. Students will apply this new knowledge to the theoretical frameworks that shape their Action Research studies, and meet with their academic advisors during this residential seminar to discuss their plans for conducting Action Research.

Throughout this module, students will also continue their reflections on leadership through the Transformative Peace Leadership component of the programme. Students will further reflect on their leadership styles and identify key strengths for peace leadership practice. During the Residential Seminar students will begin integrating their reflections on their peace practice into a guide for daily personal leadership.

Module Two Objectives:

  • Critically asses the nature of peace processes & the multiple avenues peace practitioners can use to support their positive development
  • Develop an understanding of the role of meditation, facilitation, and dialogue and their applications within the context of peace processes
  • Develop a deeper understanding of strategic interventions in peace processes and fundamental skills for these interventions
  • Develop the first draft of an Action Research Proposal relevant to the students’ current peace work and present it to the ACTS Faculty
  • Develop skills in active listening

Module Three: SUSTAINING PEACE

This module critically assesses and explores a society’s transition out of violent conflict. It addresses the question of what it means to be a “post-conflict” society and its implications for peace work and transformation.

This module utilises the ACTS Programme’s local grounding and resources in Cambodia as an in-depth case study to understand the country’s transformative journey from violent conflict, genocide and civil war towards peace. Issues to be addressed include how a society heals from the wounds of conflict, what role trauma plays in the healing process and what a peace worker needs to understand about trauma to be most effective and sensitive in their work. The ACTS programme recognizes the important role of the variety of processes necessary to build a society anew after horrendous experiences of violent conflict. Cambodia serves as a insightful and relevant case study for the examination of mechanisms for handling election violence, peace processes, the role of justice (retributive and restorative), cultural models of reconciliation, the role of collective memory in conflict and healing as well as the establishment of peace museums to help in the process of preserving memory and healing from conflict.

With Cambodia as a base case study, the module will also examine other experiences of normalization after conflict in the region. These comparisons will examine many different mechanism used to connect the military and armed groups in the peace process. Of particular importance is the notion of reconciliation and justice in post-conflict contexts, especially the role of collective memory, history, trauma, and healing in these post-conflict contexts. Through the study of multiple cases, larger lessons learned in regards to normalization and the shared responsibility of the past after conflict and indicators of success will be extrapolated, grounded in experience, and critiqued.

Throughout this module, students will also finalise their Action Research proposals, and design their research cycles. Students will also continue their reflections on leadership through the transformative peace leadership component of the programme.

Module Three Objectives:

  • Gain a deeper and nuanced understanding of Cambodia’s journey from conflict towards a more stable peace and identifying the elements of change in Cambodia.
  • Identify critical issues & dilemmas in sustaining peace, and relate these actively to the student’s own situations and, where possible, their practice.
  • Understand the importance of history and memory in the path to healing, justice, and future peace.
  • Develop the final draft of the Action Research Proposal, and make adequate preparations for beginning research.
  • Further explore personal leadership as a core component of peace practice.

Module Four: BECOMING AGENTS OF CHANGE 

Action Research (AR) is the systematic, self-reflective, scientific inquiry undertaken by practitioners. AR is grounded in the belief that research with human beings should be participative and democratic. Researchers working within this frame are charged with being sensitive to issues of power, open to the plurality of meanings and interpretations, and able to take into account the emotional, social, spiritual and political dimensions of those with whom they interact. The primary purpose of action research is to produce practical knowledge that is useful to people in the everyday conduct of their lives.

The focus of module four is working with students to complete the development of the students’ respective AR Proposals and further develop student’s capacity to be an agent of change in their communities and organisations through their Action Research. Students will finalise their preparation towards skillfully designing and implementing a contextually relevant AR Project.

During the Residential Seminar, supervisors will work with each student to refine their research design, and to ensure that any remaining problems are tackled prior to the student beginning their research work.   Sessions are focused on linking theory to practice, honing academic writing skills and using peer learning and feedback to help students take the next steps in their proposals.  This module is a combination of lecture seminars, student presentations and time to work individually with academic advisors on AR proposals.

The Transformative Peace Leadership programme during this Residential Seminar is designed to develop skills to balance work, academic work involved in research, and personal life going into the second and final year of the ACTS programme.

Module Four Objectives:

  • Finalise Action Research Proposals.
  • Practice giving and receiving feedback on AR proposals as part of peer-learning process.
  • In preparation for implementation, complete the research cycle work-plan.
  • Understand the relevance of different methods for different research goals and how to analyse information in order to understand your findings.
  • Cultivate personal skills to balance work, research, and personal life for use during the second year of the programme.

Module Five: REFLECTING ON YOUR PEACE PRACTICE

In this module, the final development of the students’ Action Research is the primary source of learning. During this module students will focus on building theory from their practice and drawing out the findings from their Action Research. By this time students should have a complete picture of the programme and flow of the topics, and should be able to see how their own learning objectives and their work fits in this picture.

The focus of the Residential Seminar during Module Five is on individual work and separate tutorials for each student in writing their final thesis.  Students will have time allocated for writing and for meeting with their academic advisors for preparing their formal presentations and monographs. In particular, emphasis will be placed on turning the action research findings into a thesis and ensuring adequate development of, and connection between, the theoretical framework, the research methodology, the findings, and the conclusions and recommendations. The Transformative Peace Leadership Programme during this Residential Seminar centers on reflecting on students’ peace practice more broadly and the implications their work has for personal change.

Module Five Objectives:

  • To continue building theory from practice by developing the Action Research project into the final thesis.
  • Develop a deeper understanding of what it means for research to be an intervention, and to identify any further skills and knowledge needed.
  • Present findings from Action Research Project to fellow students and CPCS staff.

Module Six: APPLIED THEORY FOR CONFLICT TRANSFORMATION

Module Six is the culmination of twenty-one months of reflecting, critiquing and evaluating both theory and practice towards strategic and applied conflict transformation work.  There are three core requirements to complete this module and the overall ACTS Programme:

  1. A formal defense of the students’ Action Research project papers in front of a Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia panel and CPCS peace builders. Successful defense of the Action Research project papers is the final step towards the university requirement of earning the ACTS MA. The defense is usually 45 minutes, followed by questions and answers from the defense panel.
  2. Participation in CPCS’ annual Peace Practitioner Research Conference, a two day conference which brings together Asian peace researchers and practitioners to share perspectives, theories, ideas and experiences around a certain theme.
  3. A retreat in Battambang in northwestern Cambodia. Students will have the chance reflect on the journey of ACTS and what lies ahead. Fundamental to this retreat is bring to a close the Transformative Peace Leadership journey that students have made through the ACTS programme.

The Residential Seminar will also include a CPCS graduation ceremony marking the end of the ACTS journey, presentation of an ACTS certificate, and a celebration of the graduating students.

After their defense, students are expected to polish their Action Research papers based on the university panel feedback and re-submit for final approval. These papers are then published and kept in CPCS’ and PUC’ libraries. A copy is sent to each student along with their transcript.

Module Six Objectives:

  • Present and defend Action Research findings to PUC panel.
  • Interact and test Action Research findings with the wider community of Asian peace builders, practitioners and researchers
  • Reflection on the journey through ACTS and consider how to apply key learnings to practice going forward.

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