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December 2020 - Year 22 - Issue 6

ISSN 1755-9715

Working Towards Peace through Peace Education and Transnational Writing Education

Jimalee Sowell is a PhD candidate in Composition and Applied Linguistics at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include teaching writing, teacher education, and disability studies. Email:

Danning Liang is a PhD candidate in Composition and Applied Linguistics at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include collaborative writing, multimodal composition, and multiliteracies. Email:


Peace is not the absence of war. It is virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, and justice.

Baruch Spinoza, Dutch philosopher



Numerous recent events and occurrences in Europe and the US as well as some other nations have been indicative of a resurgence of nationalism (Donahue, 2018; Elliott, 2016) or neo-nationalism and isolationist ideologies, which have at their center an us and them worldview (You, 2018). These occurrences and the divisiveness they create are often accompanied by violence and violations of human rights. Boulding has pointed out that “Conflict is ubiquitous” (Boulding, 2000), and unfortunately, violence now also seems to be ubiquitous, which means that now perhaps even more than ever, education needs to play a critical role in helping students develop the skills of conflict resolution, respect for difference and diversity, and compassion for others. Through the principles of Peace Education (PE) and Transnational Writing Education (TWE), teachers in the fields of English language education, applied linguistics, and composition can use their positions as leaders to help learners develop the tools for peacebuilding and respect for difference and diversity (Oxford et al., 2018; You, 2018). As language or composition instructors or both, we are in a privileged position from which to create situations and activities that provide students with opportunities to practice these skills. Drawing on the philosophies of both PE and TWE, we can work to counter separatism of nationalism to create a more equitable and just world where people learn how to solve conflict peacefully and see themselves in the other. Although these frameworks and philosophies have already been suggested for and enacted in the English language and composition classroom, they have done so separately. This paper first introduces the core principles of PE and TWE and the ways in which their philosophes overlap. Subsequently, this paper offers practical suggestions and strategies for carrying out activities that combine PE and TWE in the language or composition classroom.



Literature Review


Transnational Writing Education

TWE works to repudiate monolinguistic approaches to writing practices and instruction that view nations and languages as static and territorialized (Kilfoil, 2016). A transnational orientation to writing education recognizes that writing supports the exchange of ideas and resources across national borders; as such, transnational approaches to writing education often involve cross-language work and/or the analysis of literacy practices (Kilfoil, 2016). According to You (2018), transnational writing education is composed of the theoretical pillars of transculturalism, translingualism, and cosmopolitanism.



Originally defined by Fernando Ortiz, transculturalism refers to métissage (mixing of peoples), which recognizes that we are all part of a cultural hybridity. Transculturalism encourages the understanding of how we are part of the other. One can understand and see oneself in the other through reading and writing across languages, taking part in diverse cultural dialogues, and moving between cultures and communities (You, 2018).



Translingualism recognizes that languages are fluid and dynamic, never stable or bound. In the translingual model, writing involves the negotiation of language differences (Canagarajah, 2013; You, 2018). This negotiation occurs between reader and writer, with the responsibility for communication shared between reader and writer (Canagarajah, 2013). The translingual model emphasizes communicative competence over standard language use (Canagarajah, 2013; Horner et al., 2011; You, 2018). Writers might make use of any available language resources in their repertoire (Canagarajah, 2013; You, 2018) either mentally during the composing process or in their written products. The term codemeshing refers to the use of different languages in the written product (Canagarajah, 2013). Translingualism is characterized as a mentality of flexibility and adaptability (Donahue, 2016; Horner et al., 2011) that resists the monolinguistic notion of language, nation, and sociocultural identity as intrinsically linked. A translingual orientation to writing education recognizes that writers work across languages, dialects, genres, and registers to achieve communicative purposes (Horner, et al., 2011).



At the core of cosmopolitanism is the realization that in spite of different nations, ethnicities, classes, or other groupings, we are all part of the human race, and as such have an obligation to those outside of our categories or communities and the agency to develop and foster cross-cultural relationships. Differences should be respected and appreciated (You, 2016, 2018). Cosmopolitanism recognizes the need to educate students not only as national citizens, but also as global citizen (You, 2016, 2018).


Peace education

PE, also sometimes called peacelearning, is a both a philosophy and a process that examines the causes of violence and focuses on the teaching and learning of skills for resolving conflict non-violently and creating a sustainable environment with the aim of creating a more just and equitable world (Bajaj & Hantzopoulus, 2016; Harris, 2008; Harris & Morrison, 2013; Oxford, 2013). Although PE might seem to be a new trend in Western education, in fact, methods of non-violent conflict resolution have been practiced by many indigenous communities for millennia (Harris, 2008). PE focuses on developing skills such as listening, reflection, cooperation, problem-solving, and conflict resolution, and in many contexts focuses on human rights (Harris, 2008). Many people mistakenly assume that, by definition, peace means absence of war (Galtung, 1969). However, nations not at war are not necessarily peaceful as they might still have conflicts and violence within the nation (Brock-Utne, 1985). To attain comprehensive peace, both negative and positive peace must be achieved. Negative peace refers to the of abolishment of direct and physical violence manifested through aggressive acts inherently a part of torture, war, rape, and other forms of direct aggression. Positive peace refers to the eradication of structural and cultural forms of violence that privilege some groups at the exclusion of others—acts that are manifestations of racism, sexism, and colonialism, and other forms of exclusion and marginalization (Bajaj & Hantzopoulus, 2016; Galtung, 1964, 1969). In addition to developing social skills for practicing and achieving peace, PE also emphasizes the importance of inner transformation as an essential first condition for enacting social change leading to peaceful situations (Harrison & Morrison, 2013). In other words, PE starts with the self. PE aims to create models of learning though curricula, pedagogy, dialogue-based interactions, and analysis of multiple perspective of historical narratives (Bajaj, 2014; Hantzopoulos, 2010, 2011). PE activities can be carried out in any setting, either formally in institutions of learning or informally through community-based PE initiatives, with participants of various ages, from pre-school to beyond higher education (Harrison & Morrison, 2013). There is no one single way to design a PE curriculum as each context and each group of learners is necessarily unique (Bajaj, 2008), and the tools and techniques of non-violent conflict resolution in a particular group will necessarily hinge on the sociocultural context in which they are enacted. 


Peace Education in the English Language Classroom

Several teacher-scholars and educators in the field of English language education have worked to carry out the philosophies and practices of PE in the English language classroom. Gomes de Mato’s work (1982, 2000, 2013, 2018) has focused on teaching language-based, peace-building skills to students as well as ways in which English language instructors can adopt a humanitarian approach to classroom instruction by, for instance, approaching student errors and grading practices with an understanding that errors should not be harshly judged but recognized as an important part of the learning practice. Oxford et al. (2013, 2014, 2018) developed an approach called Language of Peace Approach (LPA), which focuses on achieving peace understanding and peaceful communication by means of peace language activities that are an integral part of the fabric of the language learning curriculum and teacher education endeavors in addition to research that includes multimethod research design and linguistic analysis. Johnson and Murphey developed the Peace, Altruism, Activism, and Love (PAAL) model, which incorporates these key concepts implicitly and explicitly into classroom activities (2017). Although each model has its own unique framework through which PE is realized in the English language classroom, all of these frameworks have the shared goal of Peace-building through Language Teaching and Learning (PLTL) (Curtis, 2018).


Peace Education in the Language Classroom

There is no one exact formula for carrying out PE activities in the English language classroom. Decisions for PE activities are necessarily influenced by curriculum requirements, student proficiency levels, the sociocultural context, and various other factors. To date, some of the goals for PE in the language classroom have focused on developing the following skills: considering, reflecting, and developing definitions of peace and beliefs about the meaning of peace (e.g., Duffy, 2011; Johnson & Murphey, 2018; Oxford, 2013); learning the language of non-violence (e.g., Duffy, 2011; Oxford, 2013); developing conflict-resolution skills (e.g., Duffy, 2011; Friedrich, 2007a, Friedrich, 2007b; Friedrich, 2012; Friedrich & Matos, 2012, 2016; Oxford, 2013); improving methods of cross-cultural understanding (e.g., Duffy, 2011; Gomes de Matos, 2018); learning and developing social-competence skills (e.g., Duffy, 2011; Sun, 2017); developing attitudes for peacemaking and peacekeeping (e.g., Duffy, 2011; Oxford, 2013; Oxford, 2018); considering global issues and sustainability (e.g., Arkion, 2009; Oxford, 2013; Spiri, 2013; Rothman & Sanderson, 2018); and practicing methods for embodying a humanitarian approach to English language teaching (e.g., Gomes de Matos, 2014, 2018; Olivero, 2017). Scholars and practitioners have suggested achieving these goals through such activities as creating representative artwork (Johnson & Murphey, 2018); writing peace poetry (Oxford, 2013); writing definitions of peace (Johnson & Murphey, 2018; Oxford, 2013); learning about PE through graphic novels (Sun, 2017); developing knowledge of environmental PE through contextualized grammar lessons (Arkion, 2009); reading, discussion, and presenting on global issues (Spiri, 2013); and using visual images to initiate dialogue (Oxford, 2013). PE in the language classroom is not limited to the aforementioned goals and activities, but they might serve as a springboard for ways to carry out PE in the English language classroom.  


An Absence of Writing Activities in PE  

Although a number of educators in the field of English language teaching have developed ideas and activities focused on PE in the language classroom (e.g., Duffy, 2011; Gomes de Matos, 2014, 2018, Johnson & Murphey, 2018, Oxford, 2013), little attention has been given to PE and writing instruction. Thus far, most activities related to PE in the English language classroom have been speaking-oriented. This is perhaps, at least in part, due to the continued emphasis on speaking skills in many English teaching methodologies, but might also relate to the importance of spoken communication in conflict resolution. Although meaningful communication should always be an important goal in English language instruction, writing is also an important form of meaningful communication, and written communication might be especially important, and even sometimes essential across nations and time zones when spoken communication may not always be a practical choice. Writing practice that has been executed within the fold of PE in the English language classroom has primarily focused on reflective writing (e.g., Duffy, 2011; Johnson & Murphey, 2018), and while reflective writing is an important part of developing writing and metacognitive skills, PE and writing practice should not be limited to reflective writing. There are a number of ways in which writing instruction can be incorporated in the language classroom that can benefit students in learning the principles of PE and developing writing skills. To our knowledge, to date, no scholarship has focused specifically on combining PE with TWE.


Where Peace Education and Transnational Writing Education Meet

There are several points where the philosophy and principles of PE, especially as PE relates to the language classroom, and the philosophy and principles of TWE intersect. TWE calls for a degree of flexibility towards differences in language use rather than a demand that writing adhere to rigorous guidelines or normative standards (Canagarajah, 2013; Donahue, 2016, 2018; Horner, Lu, Royster, & Trimbur, 2011; You, 2018). In the same light, PE as practiced in the language classroom recognizes the need to think beyond a demand for idealized language use (Birch & Nasser, 2017; Gomes de Matos, 2014, 2018). Both TWE and PE call for respect for diversity in language use. Each person uses language in their own way based on a variety of factors and influences, and differences and deviations should be respected and not used as a means of separatism (Friedrich, 2012; Gomes de Matos, 2014; Horner, et al., 2011; Lu & Horner, 2013; You, 2018). Furthermore, both TWE and PE support and promote creative uses of language, whereby learners might make use of any available repertoire in order to communicate (Canagarajah, 2013; Gomes de Matos, 2019). Both PE and TWE are concerned with developing global citizens (Birch & Nasser, 2017; You, 2018) as a part of helping learners attain global citizenship, both PE and TWE focus on some aspects of instruction on developing cross-cultural awareness and understanding (Friedrich, 2009; Gomes de Matos, 2018; Kilfoil, 2016).



In the following section, we present some activities that English language or composition teachers can carry out in their classrooms. We will introduce each activity from the aspects of (1) the goal(s) of the activity, (2) a description of the activity and (3) a short background of the activity. Many activities focus on peace as a topic; some focus on peace and cross-cultural work; and some focus on writing in digital spaces in order to develop and expand cross-cultural awareness. These activities are suggestions that could be suitable for a wide range of contexts. However, these activities might still need some adaptations in some contexts. In the spirit of peace and humanity, we encourage teachers to adapt these activities as needed to fit in their particular contexts. In some instances, the following suggested activities could be carried out in the students’ first language when students share an L1.


1 Peace Wall

For this activity, introduced by Oxford et al. (2013), and later also carried out by Johnson and Murphey (2018), participants focus on the meaning of peace. In Oxford’s activity, participants wrote their responses to the prompt Peace is… on index cards which were later posted on a wall. Johnson and Murphey created a similar peace wall, but in their version, participants were not restricted to index cards and used different shapes of paper as well as pictures of peace activists. In Johnson and Murphey’s activity, some of the participants made the activity interactive, responding to other participants’ posts about the meaning of peace. Participants might use index cards, A4 paper, or even poster-sized paper depending on the materials and space available to create their response to the Peace is… prompt. Writing responses can be accompanied by drawings or pictures. This activity might also be carried out on a virtual wall. For instance, students might create a class Facebook page where they can post their ideas about the meaning of peace in an interactive format. Mentimeter ( can be used to make a word cloud with definitions of peace.


2 Peace poetry

Gomes (2014) recommends using poetry in the language classroom as a method for cultivating peace, but he does not specify topics or specific forms of poetry. Writing poetry, even if not on peace-specific topics, could promote peace. In other words, the act of writing poetry in of itself can be a path towards peace. Oxford (2013) suggests that peace poetry can serve as a means of connection with the true self and other people, cultures, nations, and nature. A peace poem might be an expression or reflection of peace, instructions toward achieving peace, or poems toward peace by opposing violence (Oxford, 2013). Oxford suggests that a peace poem contain the key elements of sound, imagery, metaphor and simile, point of reference, emotion, and catharsis. Teachers can incorporate these elements to the degree they believe appropriate given their students’ language proficiency levels, age, familiarity with poetry and poetry writing, keeping in mind that writing poetry should be an enjoyable activity.

Peace poetry can take many forms. Peace poems could be written in forms or in free verse. Peace poems might be codemeshed, where writers bring in resources from other language repertoires, or they might be composed in a single language. Peace poetry might also be accompanied by pictures, drawings, music, sound, or any other modes the writer selects to communicate their message.


3 Poetry frames

For students who might want or need a structure for composing a poem, teachers can introduce poetry frames. Poetry frames can be used with students of all ages and proficiency levels.


a Poetry frame: Acrostic









Purposefully mediating conflict

Expressing consideration for others

Acting with respect

Carefully choosing words

Exchanging lived experiences


b Poetry frame for five-sense poem


It tastes like __________.

It sounds like _________.

It looks like __________.

It makes me feel (like)_________.





It tastes like strawberry ice cream in the hot summer days. 

It sounds like songs sung by a choir in the church.

It looks like the Mona Lisa in the Louvre.

It makes me feel like having a sun spa on the beach in California.


c Codemeshed Peace Poems


The followings are examples of codemeshed peace poems.


Sample Codemeshed Peace Poem 1

Peace 和平


What is PEACE?

You asked me

It is the free birds flying in the sky

It is the polychrome flowers blooming in my mind


What is PEACE?

You asked me

It is the lively bunny jumping on the grass

It is the innocence children laughing in the class


What is PEACE?

You asked me

It is 和平


和 --- harmony

平 --- stability


Sample Codemeshed Peace Poem 2

August 9, 11:02AM in Nagasaki—ナガサキ


Cicada, siren, prayer

Wishing for peace


Don’t Forget – No You Should Forget


We shouldn’t forget this

“No you should” – My grandpa said

“Thank for the peace now”


Wishing for “the” Peace – Where are you?


Peace, where are you for us?

What can I do?


4 Visual poem

To create a visual poem, students first brainstorm ideas about peace and think about how they might represent that idea visually. Teachers should help students think about potential diverse linguistic resources that can be used in writing (e.g., first/second languages, local dialects the use of various modes to deliver meanings in writing (e.g., imagines, sounds, videos, shapes), and useful software or online websites to create visual poem, such as 3D Poetry Editor.

Example visual poem about peace


5 Writing peaceful song lyrics

Cabedo-Mas (2015) has pointed out that inherently music is neither peaceful nor violent. However, music has the capability to achieve interconnectedness amongst cultures as it is not necessarily composed according to specific cultural or geographical boundaries. For this activity, students first listen to a song with lyrics about peace, such as the song Peace, which can be found at Students are then tasked with writing their own song lyrics based on the topic of peace. Although students can individually write songs, this activity might be best carried out in groups. Students are encouraged to incorporate various language and musical resources into their song composition. If writing an entire song might be too time-consuming, the instructor can divide a song or musical score into sections and have each group remix one section. Once students have finished writing their songs, they should be encouraged to perform them—either for their classmates or a community event. Students might also want to record their performances and upload them to an appropriate website in order to share them more widely.


6 Virtual exchange activities

An important principle of both TWE and PE is the element of cross-cultural learning and exchange. While in-person exchanges have shown positive results in developing intercultural competency through study abroad (e.g., Pilonieta, Medina, & Hathaway, 2017) and through an on-campus exchange (e.g., Smolcic & Arends, 2017), exchanges might also be carried out virtually. Lindsay (2017) posits that technology can be instrumental in connecting people to integrate different ideas and viewpoints. Virtual exchanges can be carried out through digital communication platforms, such as Google, Facebook, Viber, and Skype, and while virtual exchange projects might take many forms, typically the main goal of a virtual exchange is to develop intercultural competency. Pairing students from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds is important in helping them develop strategies for communicating across different cultures and linguistic backgrounds (You, 2016) and, therefore, developing a translingual orientation (Canagarajah, 2013). Students can demonstrate what they have learned through the exchange with a written product at the end of the project. Students might also be tasked to collaborate on writing projects with their exchange partner.

Previously reported exchanges in the literature can help shape teachers’ own ideas for developing a virtual cross-border project:

  • Margaret Willard-Traub (2018) had her US-enrolled students set up an exchange with an overseas partner to interview them about their literacy profiles. Learning about their partner’s literacy practices helped these students learn not only about the literacy practices of their partners but also reflect on their own practices.
  • Lin (2018) recounted an e-pal project where American preservice teachers were partnered with Turkish students for a virtual exchange. In this project, the American participants were not given guided questions, but were asked to get regional information about certain topics, such as traditions from the region, the educational system, and the impact of refugee children. The preservice teachers later reported on what they had learned from the exchange with their Turkish counterparts.
  • In the Clavier Network, students at the University of Warwick in Britain were partnered with students at the Université Blaise Pascal Clermont Ferrand in France. The pairs communicated through various digital platforms over the course of the semester. At the end of the semester, each student was required to make a “language learning history” in the target language. In another task, students worked collaboratively to write stories in English and French (MacKinnon, 2016).
  • First-year English majors from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in China communicated virtually with preservice teachers from Millersville University in the United States. The preservice teachers read and offered feedback on a narrative written in English by their partners from Guangdong University. At the end of the semester, the preservice teachers discussed their reflections of the activity and showed their partner their teaching philosophy (Zhang, 2018).



This paper is not a complete curriculum of Peace Education and Transnational Writing Education. It is meant to be a starting point for introducing ways to implement the principles of PE and TWE in a composition or language course. Instructors are encouraged to be imaginative and creative in using the suggested activities or creating other activities that integrate PE and TWE activities in their classes. Instructors might want to create an entire thematic unit on peace, or they might choose to weave various peace-oriented activities through the entirety of a course. Instructors with curricular and time restrictions might focus on only a few activities or one project related to PE and TWE. Even using only one or a few activities can go a long way towards finding ways toward peace in our classrooms, our schools, our communities, and our world. There is no exact template or rubric to measure attainment of peace. Students might be making progress in ways that are not visible, and a great deal of learning might come through experiences that happen outside of class or after the end of the course. Rather than trying to exactly measure outcomes of peace and transnational writing, the goal should be to help students find peace within themselves and see themselves in the other, which can go a long way in making the world a better place for all. This is the unique work we have the privilege of carrying out in our language classes.



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Please check the Pilgrims courses at Pilgrims website.

  • Fish is Fish – Making the Most of a Story with a Twist
    Uwe Pohl, Hungary

  • Forests and Climate Change in Canada
    Bill Bhaneja, Canada

  • On Activating Students’ Background Knowledge: Marine Debris
    Radhwan Munir Ahmed, UAE

  • Working Towards Peace through Peace Education and Transnational Writing Education
    Danning Liang, China;Jimalee Sowell, US