Diversity and Democracy

Recent Assessments of Practices and Environments that Influence Student Learning

The effect of specific practices and experiences on student learning continues to be an underresearched area. However, a few recent studies have provided evidence of the positive effects of practices and environments that engage students with campus and community diversity.

High-Impact Educational Practices

In a recent report for AAC&U, George D. Kuh examines the effect of high-impact educational practices--including diversity/global learning and community-based learning, among others--on student learning and success. Kuh's research indicates a positive correlation between participation in high-impact activities and self-reported gains for students of all races and ethnicities. In addition, the findings suggest that historically underserved students gain more from these practices than their majority peers, both in terms of first-year GPA and in the probability of enrolling in a second year of college. The findings underscore the need for colleges and universities to engage students in several high-impact practices during the college experience. The report, which details findings by race and ethnicity and suggests specific effective educational practices, is available for purchase at www.aacu.org.

Participation in Formal and Informal Campus Diversity Experiences: Effect on Students' Racial Democratic Beliefs

In an article published in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, researchers Lisa B. Spanierman, Helen A. Neville, Hsin-Ya Liao, Joseph H. Hammer, and Ying-Fen Wang reveal the results of their yearlong study of the effects of both formal diversity activities and interracial friendships on the "democratic dispositions" of students at a midwestern university. Through voluntary surveys of students collected at the beginning and end of the freshman year, the researchers determined that courses and organized activities improved white students' "openness to and appreciation of diversity" (the result was not confirmed for black, Latino, or Asian American students). Results also indicated that interracial friendships improved "openness to diversity" for white and Asian American students (again, this result was not supported for black and Latino students). The article, including detailed statistical analysis, is included in the June 2008 issue of the Journal (Volume 1, Number 2), available for purchase at psycnet.apa.org/journals/dhe.

Still Serving: Measuring the Eight-Year Impact of Americorps on Alumni

New From AAC&U

High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter by George D. Kuh
The latest report from AAC&U's LEAP initiative defines a set of educational practices that research has demonstrated have a significant impact on student success. Author George Kuh presents data from the National Survey of Student Engagement about these practices and explains why they benefit all students, but also seem to benefit underserved students even more than their more-advantaged peers.

More Reasons for Hope: Diversity Matters in Higher Education
Honoring the late Edgar Beckham and his profound influence on higher education, More Reasons for Hope examines the trends in diversity education since the publication of Reasons for Hope in 1998. It features an address by Edgar Beckham that identifies intellectual, structural, and political challenges that need to be addressed in the next generation of diversity work. It charts progress and setbacks and includes more than thirty current exemplary campus diversity programs, policies, and practices.

A Measure of Equity: Women's Progress in Higher Education by Judy Touchton with Caryn McTighe Musil and Kathryn Peltier Campbell
Women have made considerable advances in higher education over the past several decades, yet the journey toward full equity is not yet complete. A Measure of Equity: Women's Progress in Higher Education presents a comprehensive overview of data, marks areas of progress, and identifies action items that would advance gender equity in colleges and universities. The research examines women's access to college, areas of study in undergraduate and postgraduate work, status as faculty, and leadership as administrators and presidents.

To order, visit www.aacu.org.

In a report issued in May 2008, the Corporation for National and Community Service summarized the findings of a longitudinal study on former Americorps participants' life experiences. As compared with a control group whose members expressed interest in Americorps but did not enroll, Americorps participants indicated greater connections to their communities (including higher volunteer participation rates), a greater sense of empowerment through community engagement, and greater satisfaction with all aspects of their lives. Americorps participants, particularly those from racial or ethnic minority groups, were also more likely to work in the public service sector. Although not directly applicable to higher education, the results hold promise for sustained service learning initiatives at colleges and universities. The full report and executive summary are available at www.nationalservice.gov/about/role_impact/
performance_research.asp#AC_ LONG_2008

Diversity-Related Outcomes in U.S. Medical Schools

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association explores the impact of medical schools' racial and ethnic composition on student attitudes related to diversity. The study found that white students who attended more diverse schools expressed greater confidence in their abilities to work with diverse patient groups, and greater support for equal access to care. This correlation was particularly high at schools where students perceived a more positive climate for diversity and among students who reported interaction with diverse perspectives. Higher proportions of underrepresented minority students also correlated with positive outcomes for nonwhite students. The authors thus emphasize that schools should "actively foster positive interaction...to derive the benefits of diversity." To access the full study, visit jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/ abstract/300/10/1135.

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