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Racial Diversity Effects on Students’ Thinking Essay (Article)

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Updated: Nov 1st, 2021

Introduction

This paper covers a study on the effects on complex thinking in college students. The study was conducted using three hundred and fifty seven students from three universities. They were grouped in small groups and given tests on perceived novelty of contributors. Racial diversity was the key element and major source of reference for the study. The study is to establish whether racial diversity has any effect on complex thinking.

The study also sought to establish whether racial diversity had any effect on integrative complexity. Minority opinion in groups is another issue evaluated by the study. The level of perceived novelty is measured to determine whether it is higher in heterogeneous groups compared to homogeneous groups. The significance of race in higher education is highlighted by this study in relation to retention, intellectual, and social of students. (Lising et al 2004)

Method

The study was conducted using white students who were then assigned small group discussions. A social issue was picked and assigned two independent variables. The variables comprised of group opinion composition and its racial composition. A collaborator to the social issues discussed was included in the discussion groups. The collaborator was either black or white depending on the type of group membership. Collaborators (thirty one in this case) were identified prior to the tests depending on whether they agreed or disagreed with opinions raised by white participants. Three universities were used in this study. Students interested in the study were supplied with a questionnaire that required information on the following:

  1. Race
  2. Background characteristics
  3. Contact with other races (if any)
  4. Their opinions on a number of social issues

The main social issues that were used to determine students’ qualification were their opinion on child labor and capital punishment. Successful participants were unaware of the purpose of this study. A total of 357 participants both male and female were allocated same gender experimental groups. The small groups consisted of three members and one collaborator. Group members were supplied with written description of the target social issues.

They were required to read them, indicate whether they agree or disagree, and write a brief essay explaining their stance before discussions commenced. A fifteen minutes discussion then followed. A fifteen minutes post discussion essay then followed. Participants were then asked to indicate their stance on one of the target social issues followed by another essay on the second social issue. Participants were then handed out a questionnaire requiring them to indicate the rating of other members’ contribution.

Sample survey

White students from three universities were allocated four member discussion groups randomly in a 2 by 2 factorial design. After the first essay, fifteen percent of participants changed their opinions expressed in the screening test. As a result of this, group variables were expanded from two to four levels. The four levels were collaborator agrees with everyone, disagrees with everyone, agreed with one member, and agreed with two members.

A hundred and eight members of the 357 participants were in groups where the collaborator disagreed with everyone, a hundred and twenty three in those that the collaborator agreed with everyone, sixty in groups where the collaborator agreed with one member and sixty six in those whereby the collaborator agreed with two members. (Lising et al 2004)

Results

The four variables mentioned above were analyzed with the first issues to be examined being whether the race and opinion of the collaborator was of any significance. The impact of the collaborator race on IC was then measured. Measuring the race and opinion effect of the collaborator on the group was the next step. The transfer effect was the last variable to be measured. The groups that did not record any effects were dropped from the model.

Perceived novelty among groups was statistically represented as follows: t.(108)=2.05, p=.042, d=0.29, and t(108)=-6.39, p.001, d=-1.07, respectively. This means that participants saw the contribution of the collaborators as being more novel if the collaborator was black. This was despite white collaborators following the same line of discussion. Participants also rated the collaborator higher for perceived novelty with a relation to opinion minority groups. The interaction of variables in the study was however not statistically significant. But overall perceived novelty of black collaborators was rated higher than their white counterparts.

In groups where the collaborator had a minority opinion recorded a higher integrative complexity. This was compared with groups whereby the collaborator had the same line of thinking with all the group members. A significant effect of racial diversity contact was recorded. A high level of integrative complexity was noted among participants who had a diverse racial contact. (Lising et al 2004)

Discussion

The study had the following findings:

  • The presence of a black collaborator led to higher perceived novelty of the collaborator.
  • The presence of a black collaborator led to a greater level of integrative complexity.
  • The presence of minority opinion led to increased integrative complexity.
  • Racially diverse contacts improved integrative complexity.
  • Prolonged contact with members of another race had a strong and significant impact on complex thinking. (Lising et al 2004)

Conclusion

Racially diverse colleges provide a good environment for regular interactions on ethnic and racial issues. Such interactions provide a basis for prediction on the intellectual and social capacity of the student. Interracial communication also determines whether a student will be satisfied with his or her college or would rather get a transfer. There is evidence that in organizational behavior, racially diverse groups have a better problem solving capability compared to homogenous groups. (Nemeth 1992)

Homogenous groups presumably tend to have unanimous opinions which ultimately result to poor decision making. Having a racially diverse group creates a good basis for divergent thinking. Varying perspectives are also a feature of heterogeneous groups compared to single race groups. Minorities have been found to have very positive effects on organizational behavior. Having a racially diverse group encourages divergent views, complexity, and integration. Single race groups have a deficit in terms of producing minority opinions. (Chang 1999)

A heterogeneous has the following characteristics that are the source of its strengths in terms of results delivered:

  • Different backgrounds. Black and white students most of the time come from different settings. They therefore bring diverse experiences and opinions in the group.
  • Different races have different values mainly informed by their varying cultures.
  • Different cultures also give rise to different attitudes. The environment that one grew in is also contributes to the divergent perspectives that different races have. (Astin 1993)
  • Different experiences. A white student from Orange County would have different experiences from an African American from Brooklyn, New York as would have a Hispanic from Los Angeles.

Heterogeneous groups have been found to have new, original and diverse views and perspectives. The idea of novelty is therefore a regular feature of racially diverse groups. A single dimension (characterized by a single race group) results to simple reasoning in contrast to integrative complexity acquired by a racially divergent group.

References

Astin, A.W. (1993). What matters in college. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.

Chang, M.J. (1999). Does racial diversity matter? : The educational impact of a racially diverse undergraduate population. Journal of College Student Development.

Nemeth, C.J. (1992). Minority dissent as a stimulant to group performance. Newbury Park,CA.

Lising, A., Chang M.J., Hakuta, Kenji, Kenny, D.A., Levin, Shana, L. (2004). Effects of racial diversity on complex thinking in college students. American Psychological Society.

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