The benefits of racial diversity in the classroom

The Impact of racial diversity in the classroom: Activating the sociological imagination

From Teaching Sociology 

Diverse college campuses have been conclusively associated with a variety of positive outcomes for all students. This article provides evidence that diversity has the potential to play a positive role in the formal learning environment by uncovering the differences in the ways that black and white students engage with course material and integrate their own experiences with theories and concepts presented in the classroom. When examined it has been found that black students are more likely than whites to find connections between course material and daily life, a central task of the sociological imagination. Black students are significantly more likely to discuss minority groups, bring up personal experiences with course topics, discuss anger or other emotions, and make connections to social theory or theorists in their journal entries. They discuss course material in ways that are autobiographical. The need to understand how diversity impacts college classrooms has arguably never been greater as higher education in the United States continues to attract a broader base of students who bring with them a variety of life experiences.

Abstract

Diverse college campuses have been conclusively associated with a variety of positive outcomes for all students. However, we still know very little empirically about how student diversity directly impacts the core task of the university: classroom learning. While students vary based on race along a broad spectrum of experiences and backgrounds, we have yet to establish how those varying backgrounds might impact the ways students engage with course material. In this study, I examined student journals in order to understand how race influenced the ways students engaged with course material and found that black students are much more likely than their white student peers to find connections between course material and daily life, a central task of the sociological imagination. The results of these findings are important for sociologists in particular and educators in general as we seek to maximize the effects of increasingly diverse educational settings.

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Article details
Josh Packard (2012). The Impact of Racial Diversity in the Classroom: Activating the Sociological Imagination Teaching Sociology : 10.1177/0092055X12451716

     
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