The assessment of general education has been ongoing at Capital Community College (CCC) since 2001. The overarching goals of the General Education curriculum are effective communication, scientific and quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and global understanding. To date, assessment focused on writing, mathematics and critical thinking. Assessing the global perspective of students at CCC completes the initial General Education Assessment cycle.
During the 2004-2005 academic year, the Student Learning Assessment Team’s (SLAT) goal was to gather evidence that identifies our students’ intercultural awareness. The SLAT defined a global perspective as a student’s intercultural awareness, delineated by 1) knowledge of cultures other than his or her own, 2) skills in learning about other cultures and 3) attitudes towards individuals from other cultures. To assess the 3 components of intercultural awareness the SLAT developed a survey, which contains eighteen questions and is based upon the National Public Radio [NPR] Immigration in America Survey.
In 2004, National Public Radio [NPR], the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government developed a survey to assess the public’s view of immigration after the 9/11/2001 attack. NPR surveyed 1,100 native-born Americans and nearly 800 immigrants on their attitudes toward immigrants and immigration. Modeling the SLAT survey after the NPR survey was appealing because of the source credibility associated with the survey originators and the availability of national norms for comparative research and analysis.
Faculty and student participation in the survey process was voluntary and was emphasized regularly in all communication. Faculty from Business and Technology, Social Sciences, Mathematics and Science and Humanities administered the 30 minute survey from January 18, 2005 through March 10, 2005. 317 students completed the survey.
The remainder of the report provides a view of respondents’ awareness in relationship to the NPR national poll and CCC survey results. Recommendations are proposed to encourage the implementation of appropriate interventions, which will enhance students’ global perspective.
In order to gather evidence regarding CCC students’ global perspective, SLAT randomly distributed over 400 surveys to the student population. The survey is divided into four parts. Part one is based on the NPR survey and was geared primarily to assess students’ attitudes toward immigrants and their opinions regarding increased diversity in the United States. The second part of the survey is designed to assess attitudes using two qualitative gauges: (1) the student’s ability to be introspective about the affect the presence of immigrants has on their education and (2) the students’ ability to be empathetic about the experience of immigrants in the US. The third part of the survey consisting of two sections assessed students’ knowledge of other cultures. The first section asked students to provide facts about the cultures represented at Capital and the second tested students’ knowledge of geography. The fourth section surveyed students’ willingness and analytical ability to learn about other cultures by requiring them to provide strategies for inquiry and learning.
The results for Section One were compared to the results of the NPR national survey. The results for Section Two were scored based on a scale system rating answers on whether a student was able to be introspective or empathetic and whether the answers showed thorough consideration of the question prompt. The answers to Section Two were also analyzed qualitatively to generate an understanding of the types of attitudes students have regarding immigrants and diversity. Section Three responses were analyzed qualitatively to generate categories of knowledge that students seem to be familiar with. Additional analysis regarding bias based on culture was completed. Finally, Section Four was analyzed quantitatively to measure how many strategies students could generate to learn about other cultures as well as qualitatively to understand the types of strategies students preferred.
During the Spring of 2005 SLAT distributed over 400 surveys and received 302 completed surveys representing over 10% of the total student population. The demographics of the surveyed population were representative of the overall student body characteristics in terms of gender and age distribution. In terms of race and ethnicity, 63% of the surveyed population was identified as non-white while 55% identified themselves as immigrants.
From a quantitative standpoint, the attitudes of our students are at or above the national average for attitudes toward diversity as measured by the national survey. Students also seem to have a moderate to good capacity to be introspective about their place in a multicultural environment and can be reflective about how diversity impacts their educational experience. Students have a moderate to good capacity to be empathetic toward those of other cultures and ethnicities but need improvement in their factual knowledge base. (A finding expanded upon in the qualitative analysis of the data). As a whole, CCC students’ written responses describing methods of learning about different cultures are vague at best. These learning methods included additional reading, speaking to others, and researching diversity topics on the Internet.
From a qualitative perspective, most students surveyed felt neutral to positive about being in a class with immigrants. The respondents frequently associated these positive and neutral responses with learning, sharing knowledge and enjoying social experiences with immigrants. Respondents often cited the ideal of ‘human equality’ to explain why they felt positive or neutral about being in a class with immigrants. Most native-born respondents hypothesized that they would feel both positive and negative about being an immigrant in a classroom with native students. There was also a high frequency of negative responses indicating that the CCC students surveyed can empathize with immigrants. The also appeared to feel that being a minority, encountering language and cultural barriers, and being treated/perceived negatively were factors that would contribute to their negative feelings about being an immigrant in a classroom with native Americans.
When asked about types of knowledge regarding other cultures, most students cited social knowledge about countries, especially from the realms of pop culture and dominant languages. The second most frequently listed type of information was about geography or nature. In this section of the survey, respondents provided a fair amount of value-laden statements (both positive and negative) about the listed countries and cultures. Therefore, students may desire to be more positive or neutral toward immigrants than they actually are and/or may not realize the biases and affinities they have for particular cultures. This points to the possibility that while students know what constitutes a positive attitude in general, they cannot recognize the ways that they themselves are biased.
Not surprisingly, the three most popular strategies to learn about a culture were reading, social interaction with knowledgeable people, and surfing the Internet. Although these responses failed to be more detailed, it suggests that students may need to learn more about the resources available to them should they wish to learn about other cultures.
When asked how they feel about being in class with immigrants, the >3.5 cohort revealed a greater number of “both positive and negative” responses suggesting that students with stronger academic records interpret situations with greater complexity than those with weaker records that typically responded either positively or negatively. In addition, the >2.5->3.5 cohorts were unique in indicating that diversity in education promotes peace/unity.
When natives were asked to hypothesize how they would feel about being an immigrant, increasing GPA corresponded with more positive responses indicating that stronger students are more adventuresome or confident with their abilities to adapt in this situation. In contrast, when immigrants with higher GPAs imagined being a native in class with immigrants, they were more likely to provide negative responses suggesting that they can empathize with being a native.
High GPA also corresponded with factual responses that spanned categories (for example facts placed in the social/history/government category) suggesting that better students may be analyzing and interpreting factual information with greater complexity than lower GPA students. Low to mid-range students reported more judgment and beliefs than higher GPA students suggesting that education may help one to separate fact from opinion. 0 GPA students were the least likely to cite the Internet as a source for information, indicating that new students may be good targets for educational efforts about the use of the World Wide Web (www).
When asked how they feel about being in class with immigrants, increasing credits correlated with more positive and neutral responses which may mean that CCC is doing an effective job of promoting cultural appreciation and open-mindedness (this pattern also held true when immigrants imagined themselves as natives in class with immigrants). Higher credits correlated with high responses for reading/going to the library for sources of information, while 0 credits corresponded with low responses for using the Internet. These patterns suggest that lower credit students may benefit from programs that introduce them to the resources of the library and the Internet.
When describing how they feel about immigrants, younger respondents indicated more neutral to negative feelings. However, those in the 46-64 age cohorts provided more issues and judgments than younger students. Thus, while older students felt positive about immigrants, they also were more likely to share biases.
When asked to hypothesize and see things from another perspective, the 46+ age groups were more neutral to positive in their responses. The natives in the <20-35 cohort brought up issues and stereotypes when imagining themselves as an immigrant in a class with natives, and the immigrants in the same age cohort were more negative when imagining themselves as a native in a class with immigrants. The correlation between increasing age and increasing comfort with being in a minority situation could be due to many reasons including the increased self-confidence that may develop with age and/or a decreased value placed upon social interaction with increasing age.
The 46-64 age cohort provided the fewest examples of social knowledge and was the most likely to list judgments or beliefs as facts suggesting a need for increased cultural awareness in this group; but, the sample size was small and perhaps not representative of this age bracket. The 21-35 age cohorts had high responses for social interaction as a method of gaining knowledge suggesting that these groups may view group activities and socializing in general as sound global awareness learning opportunities. The 65+ cohort and the 21-25 cohort had low reports for Internet use, pointing to potential targets for www education efforts.
When asked about how they feel about immigrants in class, citizens were more neutral; permanent residents were more positive; and non-citizens were more negative and more likely to present issues/judgments. While non-citizens seemed more negative, they did optimistically indicate that diversity in education promotes peace and unity.
When asked to look from a different perspective, permanent residents were more positive, non-citizens were more neutral, and citizens were much more negative about being in the minority. This indicates that citizens can empathize with the immigrant condition. In addition, non-citizens and permanent residents may be more positive because they feel that being a native is beneficial, much can be learned from immigrants, and/or because from their experiences they feel they can easily adapt to this new, hypothetical situation.
Non-citizens provided more complex analysis/interpretation of information than the other cohorts by citing facts that spanned categories. Citizens provided the least number of facts about religion and governments indicating potential room for expanded education in these areas among members of that cohort.
Non-citizens were the least likely to cite reading/going to the library as a source of information, while citizens were the least likely to list the Internet as a source. This information implies how to effectively focus resource education among citizen-based cohorts.
Overall, those surveyed were quite neutral to positive about being in class with immigrants and valued the contributions and presence of immigrants in the classroom environment. Respondents also showed an ability to relate to, and sympathize with, being an immigrant in a new country. Many students could list facts about at least one of the given countries and were most familiar with social information about different countries. In addition, students surveyed were aware of sources of knowledge that could be used to learn more about foreign countries/cultures from their homes in United States, and when on the ground abroad. Negativity, issues and judgments appeared in numerous responses, emphasizing the point that many of those surveyed value diversity yet still hold biases and affinities for certain cultures.
The survey results suggest that CCC fosters an environment that values and respects differences. This, in fact, appears to be a strength of the institution that should be emphasized in recruitment and marketing communications strategies. The survey results also reinforce the need to address the breadth and depth of CCC students’ knowledge of world cultures and their information literacy skills. In terms of knowledge of world cultures, the survey results should be considered by the social sciences and humanities departments in their ongoing curriculum assessment.
The value of information continues to be emphasized in higher education and the workplace. Currently, information literacy skills are a cornerstone of the College Success course, which is a course requirement for liberal arts majors, only. The survey results suggest that students’ information literacy skills need to be enhanced. SLAT suggests the administration of a test to evaluate student information literacy skills. If the test results suggest a skills deficiency, SLAT recommends the establishment of the College Success course as a requirement. Further evaluation of this approach is required by the Academic Division.