An action research-based intervention to tackle intergroup conflict: A case study of work with educators in a South African secondary school


Abstract


Inter-group tensions have long and complex history in South Africa (SA) and appear to flare up particularly at times of increased societal discontent. The limited recent redress of profound race-based economic inequalities, compounded by a decade of incompetent service delivery and seemingly widespread governmental corruption, have led to a resurgence of expressions of race-based conflict. These are also somewhat fuelled by the global economic downturn, along with the conservative and authoritarian turn evident in a number of countries.
Action Research (AR) is valuable in conflict situations, though its utility in applied psychology has been somewhat under-reported. It provides a framework for communication about different perspectives and power differentials; aspiring towards active negotiation, changed interpersonal relationships and structures. This paper explores the unfolding processes in a case study involving secondary school educators and two trainee psychologists; including reflections to promote deeper understanding. We were invited to work with the head teacher and her staff members in a secondary school in the Eastern Cape, to address conflicts between two groups of educators. These appeared to be race-based tensions. In order to work collaboratively with the educators, AR was employed, to explore some solutions and improve relationships. This article describes the shifts that occurred and the challenges of translating ideals into practice.

 


Keywords: action research, inter-group conflict, conflict resolution, peace-building, community-based practice

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