Americans are more polarized politically than at any point in the last 20 years. On college campuses, students have struggled to engage in productive, reciprocal deliberation and dialogue around political issues. This study seeks to examine college students’ ability and willingness to engage across political difference in structured deliberative dialogue. How do college students experience structured, deliberative forums? What factors of the deliberative experience shape students’ ability and willingness to encounter diverse political views? Deliberative dialogue is a promising tool in higher education to address growing political polarization and apathy, but we must know more about the specific interventions that make a significant impact.
In this qualitative study, seven deliberative forums were conducted at four campus sites in North Carolina. Students from liberal groups (e.g., College Democrats), conservative groups (e.g., College Republicans), and identity-based groups (e.g., multicultural, LGBTQ, and religious) participated in each deliberation. Following the deliberative forums, which centered on immigration policy in the United States, students participated in focus groups about the experience. Across all sites, students displayed differences in the ways in which they constructed arguments, expressed emotion, and engaged with one another. Despite these differences, students appreciated the structure of deliberative dialogue, and demonstrated key outcomes of democratic engagement, including listening to different perspectives, thinking critically about pressing issues, and considering the larger impact of decision-making.
In the study, students identified aspects of a deliberative forum—employing a moderator, establishing ground rules, framing the deliberation with an issue guide and film, sharing a personal stake in the issue, considering the pros and cons of proposed ways forward, and identifying tensions and tradeoffs—as being valuable, and offering a new way to engage across political difference. Administrators, faculty, and staff should asses their campus cultures for dialogue and develop action plans to implement institutional changes, as needed.
|Advisor:||Hartley, J. Matthew|
|Commitee:||Grossman, David, Thomas, Nancy|
|School:||University of Pennsylvania|
|Department:||Higher Education Management|
|School Location:||United States -- Pennsylvania|
|Source:||DAI-A 80/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Civic learning, Deliberation, Democratic engagement, Dialogue, Issue forum|
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