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Diversity and Education Benefits: New Directions for Institutional Research, Number 145

Diversity and Education Benefits: New Directions for Institutional Research, Number 145

Serge Herzog (Editor)

ISBN: 978-0-470-76727-6

Apr 2010

112 pages

Select type: Paperback

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Campus climate studies and research on the impact of diversity in higher education abound. On closer examination, however, the corpus of findings on the role of diversity and how diversity is captured with campus climate surveys reveals both conceptual and methodological limitations. This volume of New Directions for Institutional Research addresses these limitations with the inclusion of studies by institutional research (IR) practitioners who make use of data that furnish new insights into the relationships among student diversity, student perception of campus climate, and student sociodemographic background?and how those relationships affect academic outcomes.

Each chapter emphasizes how IR practitioners benefit from the conceptual and analytical approach laid out, and each chapter provides a framework to gauge the contribution of diversity to educational benefits. The findings revealed in this volume cast doubt on the benefits of student diversity purported in previous research. At a minimum, the influence of student diversity is neither linear nor unidirectional, but operates within a complex web of interrelated factors that shape the student experience.

This is the 145th volume of New Directions for Institutional Research. Always timely and comprehensive, New Directions for Institutional Research provides planners and administrators in all types of academic institutions with guidelines in such areas as resource coordination, information analysis, program evaluation, and institutional management.

EDITOR'S NOTES (Serge Herzog).

1. Working with Large-Scale Climate Surveys: Reducing Data Complexity to Gain New Insights (Steve Chatman)
This chapter used 2008 University of California Student Experience in the Research University survey findings (sixty-three thousand responses, 40 percent response rate) to accomplish two goals. First, to greatly reduce variable complexity, the study applies a combination of factor and cluster analyses. The second objective focuses on producing a more granular data picture that relates student development and campus climate factors to sociodemographic attributes of students. This approach yields a more sophisticated view of campus diversity and its impact on students’ perception of campus climate.

2. Campus Climate in the Twenty-First Century: Estimating Perceptions of Discrimination at a Racially Mixed Institution, 1994-2006 (Berkeley Miller, Sutee Sujitparapitaya)
Research documenting lower academic success of ethnic and racial minority students is based almost exclusively on data from predominantly white institutions (PWI). But are these findings applicable to racially mixed institutions (RMI)? This study uses survey data to compare white and minority student experiences at one RMI between 1994 and 2006. The chapter explores the presence of discriminatory experiences and the effects of such experiences on overall satisfaction, retention, and graduation. Results show that the continuing shift in the ethnic and racial makeup of students on American campuses challenges us to rethink accepted concepts of the effects of diversity on student perception and academic success.

3. Assessing Learning and Development Among Diverse College Students (Nicholas A. Bowman)
Assessment of student outcomes constitutes a fundamental issue in determining the impact of college diversity experiences. Recent evidence suggests that student self-reported gains, which require relatively little time and money to collect, may not serve as adequate proxies for gains measured longitudinally. However, it is possible that certain groups of students might be reasonably accurate in attempting to estimate their own learning and development. A sample of more than three thousand first-year college students from nineteen diverse institutions was used to examine whether the correspondence between longitudinal gains and self-reported gains varies by gender, race, firstgeneration status, and academic performance. Analyses showed that the relationship between longitudinal and self-reported gains is low among all groups of students, though first-generation, Latino, and black students are more accurate than other students in reporting their own learning and development. Implications for measuring the effects of diversity experiences are discussed.

4. Gauging the Effect of Compositional and Curricular Diversity on Freshman Success (Serge Herzog)
The imperative for ethnic and racial diversity in U.S. higher education rests largely on evidence from survey-based studies that suggest such diversity enhances the academic success and cognitive growth of all students. To go beyond impressionistic questionnaire data that underpin the research corpus on diversity benefits, this chapter lays out how to construct objective metrics of ethnic and racial diversity in the classroom and its contribution to academic success in first-year students. The chapter addresses the importance of ""data triangulation"" (relying on multiple information sources) in conducting studies that may directly bear on institutional or national policy, such as the role of diversity in education.

5. The Impact of College Student Socialization, Social Class, and Race on Need for Cognition (Ryan D. Padgett, Kathleen M. Goodman, Megan P. Johnson, Kem Saichaie, Paul D. Umbach, Ernest T. Pascarella)
Using longitudinal data from the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education, this analysis revisits Weidman’s Model of Undergraduate Socialization, including both socioeconomic and diversity factors to control for student background and account for ongoing socialization. The model’s application is expanded by analyzing the effects of socioeconomic status and diversity on three cognitive outcomes to discern how socioeconomic status, diverse experiences, and other socializing factors work together to influence learning. The study demonstrates the importance of estimating interaction effects between socialization experiences, including interaction with diverse peers, and a student's socioeconomic and racial background.

6. Insights Gained to Guide Future Research (Serge Herzog)
This chapter synthesizes the contribution of the chapters with the aim of enhancing our understanding of how best to approach, both conceptually and analytically, a topic often fraught with policy considerations that tend to promote advocacy over hard-nosed research. The discussion examines the congruity of findings presented in this volume with what we know from other studies. Given the sociodemographic and racial shift on American campuses, coupled with mounting pressure faced by the higher education community to demonstrate tangible

enrichment of students, what considerations should guide institutiona research practitioners in conducting climate surveys and diversity studies? The author offers some advice on that question.