The Open University of Cyprus (OUC) has secured funding for the implementation of a new research project aiming to “Develop a Web Based Learning Environment for Supporting Students’ Argumentation Skills and Reducing Prejudice”. The proposal will be funded in the framework of the competitive Excellence Hubs Programme of the RESTART 2016-2020 Call of the Cyprus Research & Innovation Foundation. Principal investigator is Professor Michalinos Zembylas, Academic Coordinator of the OUC MA Programme in “Educational Sciences”; the proposal was developed in collaboration with Associate Professor Kalypso Iordanou (UCLan Cyprus), adjunct faculty of the OUC MA Programme.
The project consortium incorporates OUC, the Center of INterdisciplinary Science Promotion & Innovative Research Explorations (InSPIRE) (hosted at UCLan Cyprus), the Cypriot Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Youth, and Columbia University of the USA.
The research project aims to shed light to the question of how beliefs and emotions change, and to develop tools for addressing one of the major objectives of education, namely tackling prejudice. It aims to add knowledge on a cutting edge field in social sciences as it proposes the engagement in dialogic argumentation and reflection to serve as a pathway for developing critical thinking and reducing prejudice in schools. The project will develop research-informed curriculum and a web based learning environment to be implemented in public Greek-Cypriot elementary schools. Students will engage in dialogues with peers on controversial social issues, such as refugees, migrants, and in reflective activities. Workshops for teachers and policy makers will be offered at the end of the research project to facilitate the incorporation of the proposed curriculum in the national educational programmes. The project is innovative in the sense that it interlinks various disciplinary areas, such as psychologically-oriented work on argumentation and beliefs with socio-political work on difficult emotions in education focusing on prejudice reduction, which is a fundamental prerequisite for democracy.