The Research Digest, March 2016, Issue 53

The Research Digest highlights new research in learning and teaching. This month, we are highlighting recent work on diversity and inclusion in the classroom. This issue was developed in conjunction with March’s issue of Best Practices on The Inclusive Classroom. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, or have any suggestions for us, please send an email to To access past issues of the Research Digest, visit the LTO website.

New research on diversity and inclusion in the classroom:

College diversity courses and cognitive development among students from privileged and marginalized groups
Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 2009
Previous research has suggested that diversity courses generally have positive effects on college students’ cognitive development. However, it is unclear how many courses students need to take to maximize their cognitive gains, or whether some groups of students benefit more from taking these courses. Within a longitudinal sample of over 3,000 first-year students at 19 institutions, students who take at least one diversity course have greater gains in their general interest in ideas and effortful thinking than those who take no courses; however, taking more than one course is not associated with greater benefits than taking a single course. In addition, the number of diversity courses taken is virtually unrelated to gains in critical thinking and moral reasoning. Further analyses reveal that students from middle- or lower-income families and White students experience the greatest cognitive growth from taking diversity courses. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.

Racial Diversity Matters: The Impact of Diversity-Related Student Engagement and Institutional Context
American Educational Research Journal, 2009
This study addressed two questions: (a) Do different forms of campus racial diversity contribute uniquely to students’ learning and educational experiences when they are simultaneously tested utilizing multilevel modeling? (b) Does a campus where students take greater advantage of those diversity opportunities have independent positive effects on students’ learning? Consideration of racial diversity extended beyond student composition and included social and curricular engagement. Results suggest that benefits associated with diversity may be more far-reaching than previously documented. Not only do students benefit from engaging with racial diversity through related knowledge acquisition or cross-racial interaction but also from being enrolled on a campus where other students are more engaged with those forms of diversity, irrespective of their own level of engagement.

Measuring the Diversity Inclusivity of College Courses
Research in Higher Education, 2011
Most studies of curricular diversity have focused on the effects of participation in diversity courses on student outcomes. Though the results have been positive, these studies have used limited measures of curricular diversity and there is a great need for a complimentary body of research demonstrating what faculty and what types of courses are more likely to include diversity. This study relies on 12 diversity inclusivity items derived from a comprehensive model of how diversity is included into a course to investigate how much diversity is being included in collegiate courses and what predicts diversity inclusivity, as measured by two scales: diverse grounding and inclusive learning. The results, based on 7,101 responses from faculty participating in the 2007 Faculty Survey of Student Engagement, suggest that most faculty are including diversity in their courses in some way, but that women and faculty of color tend to include diversity to a greater extent than their colleagues. Also, courses taught in the soft fields are more likely to be inclusive of diversity.

Enacting Inclusivity through Engaged Pedagogy: A Higher Education Perspective
Equity & Excellence in Education, 2011
The purpose of this article is to describe a curricular change process used to incorporate inclusivity and diversity in a Higher Education Ph.D. program. The efforts of faculty members and students to practice engaged pedagogy as advocated by bell hooks are also described. Accounts from two agents, a professor and assistant professor working in the graduate program, of the re-envisioning and development processes focus on three types of changes: strategic administrative actions, curricular change, and pedagogical change. The authors use critical race and feminist perspectives and personal narratives to describe their experiences and how these led to incorporating radical and transformative perspectives in the classroom as they worked collaboratively with students to recognize various kinds of racism, sexism, and inequalities in their lives at the university and in society. Students were supported to find dissertation methodologies and topics consistent with their values.

Establishing Differences Between Diversity Requirements and Other Courses with Varying Degrees of Diversity Inclusivity
Journal of General Education, 2011
This study examines how diversity requirements differ from courses that are highly inclusive or less inclusive of diversity. Results suggest that instructor characteristics are statistically different and that highly inclusive and less inclusive diversity courses score highest and lowest, respectively, on measures of effective teaching compared with required diversity courses.

Engaging Issues of Diversity in the Political Science Classroom
APSA Teaching and Learning Conference Paper, 2013
Increasing student awareness of diversity is a core value and goal of many colleges and universities, and is particularly of concern for many Political Science programs. Using surveys administered to instructors and students at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, this article identifies how Political Science instructors incorporate tools to increase student awareness of aspects of diversity such as race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality. The survey data also assesses how effective these are related to student reported outcomes.

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