Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Campus diversity and perspective-changing: Students describe the impact of their interactions with diverse peers and viewpoints
by Talmadge, Rosemary A., Ph.D., Fielding Graduate University, 2014, 178; 3614922
Abstract (Summary)

Preparing students to become effective citizens in an increasingly interdependent world is one of today's most critical challenges. Effective global citizens need to be able to do more than imagine themselves in another's position, a common definition of perspective-taking. To bridge current divides of culture, religion, and nationality, they also must be willing to deeply question and sometimes revise their own prior beliefs and assumptions.

This study explored how interactions with diversity at a highly diverse and international community college impact students' capacity for perspective-changing. Through a hermeneutic inquiry, it brought community college students' voices into the scholarly conversation about the impact of campus diversity. Eighteen students from 11 countries participated in semi-structured interviews, discussing their pre-college experiences with diversity, their own definitions of diversity, critical incidents in their interactions with diversity, and the impacts of those interactions.

Several strands of scholarship informed this research. The first was the literature on perspective-taking particularly Piaget's original work as it was extended by Robert Selman and Jack Martin and his colleagues. Other core contributions included Jack Mezirow's theory of perspective transformation, Robert Kegan's work on self-authorship, and recent research on campus diversity conducted by educational researchers including Patricia Gurin, Sylvia Hurtado, Rona Halualani, and Victor Saenz.

Findings suggest that pre-college experiences shaped students' interactions with peers and the benefits they accrued. Almost all benefited from their interactions with diversity, but they benefited differentially. Work and family demands, limited English speaking ability, lack of prior experience with diversity, and deeply engrained cultural norms sometimes hindered their ability to engage with diverse peers and perspectives.

The analysis indicates that interactions with peers led to a range of outcomes including learning about and becoming more open to diversity, being able to engage with diversity, questioning and revising prior beliefs, and changing behaviors. A key finding was that engaging with diverse viewpoints did not occur informally, only in structured settings and almost always with the support of faculty or staff. Findings pointed to a need for more opportunities for engaging with diverse viewpoints, more targeted approaches, specific professional development for faculty and staff, and more research on community college campuses.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Schapiro, Steven
Commitee: Chesler, Mark, Gallegos, Placida V., McCall, Mary E., Millar, Patricia A.
School: Fielding Graduate University
Department: The School of Human and Organization Development
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 75/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Community college education, Social studies education
Keywords: Campus diversity, Community college, Hermeneutic inquiry, Perspective transformation, Self-authorship, Viewpoint diversity
Publication Number: 3614922
ISBN: 9781303806209
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