Dialogue Across Difference: Practice, Theory, and Research on Intergroup Dialogue

Russell Sage Foundation
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Due to continuing immigration and increasing racial and ethnic inclusiveness, higher education institutions in the United States are likely to grow ever more diverse in the 21st century. This shift holds both promise and peril: Increased inter-ethnic contact could lead to a more fruitful learning environment that encourages collaboration. On the other hand, social identity and on-campus diversity remain hotly contested issues that often raise intergroup tensions and inhibit discussion. How can we help diverse students learn from each other and gain the competencies they will need in an increasingly multicultural America? Dialogue Across Difference synthesizes three years’ worth of research from an innovative field experiment focused on improving intergroup understanding, relationships and collaboration. The result is a fascinating study of the potential of intergroup dialogue to improve relations across race and gender.

First developed in the late 1980s, intergroup dialogues bring together an equal number of students from two different groups – such as people of color and white people, or women and men – to share their perspectives and learn from each other. To test the possible impact of such courses and to develop a standard of best practice, the authors of Dialogue Across Difference incorporated various theories of social psychology, higher education, communication studies and social work to design and implement a uniform curriculum in nine universities across the country. Unlike most studies on intergroup dialogue, this project employed random assignment to enroll more than 1,450 students in experimental and control groups, including in 26 dialogue courses and control groups on race and gender each. Students admitted to the dialogue courses learned about racial and gender inequalities through readings, role-play activities and personal reflections. The authors tracked students’ progress using a mixed-method approach, including longitudinal surveys, content analyses of student papers, interviews of students, and videotapes of sessions. The results are heartening: Over the course of a term, students who participated in intergroup dialogues developed more insight into how members of other groups perceive the world. They also became more thoughtful about the structural underpinnings of inequality, increased their motivation to bridge differences and intergroup empathy, and placed a greater value on diversity and collaborative action. The authors also note that the effects of such courses were evident on nearly all measures. While students did report an initial increase in negative emotions – a possible indication of the difficulty of openly addressing race and gender – that effect was no longer present a year after the course. Overall, the results are remarkably consistent and point to an optimistic conclusion: intergroup dialogue is more than mere talk. It fosters productive communication about and across differences in the service of greater collaboration for equity and justice.

Ambitious and timely, Dialogue Across Difference presents a persuasive practical, theoretical and empirical account of the benefits of intergroup dialogue. The data and research presented in this volume offer a useful model for improving relations among different groups not just in the college setting but in the United States as well.

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About the author

PATRICIA GURIN is Nancy Cantor Distinguished University Professor Emerita of Psychology and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan.

BIREN (RATNESH) A. NAGDA is associate professor of social work and Director of the Intergroup Dialogue, Education & Action (IDEA) Center at University of Washington.

XIMENA ZUNIGA is associate professor of social justice education at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Russell Sage Foundation
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Published on
Mar 15, 2013
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Pages
500
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ISBN
9781610448055
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Language
English
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Genres
Education / General
Education / Multicultural Education
Psychology / Social Psychology
Social Science / Gender Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Book 115
Intergroup dialogue promotes student engagement across cultural and social divides on college campuses through a face-to-face, interactive, and facilitated learning experience that brings together twelve to eighteen students from two or more social identity groups over a sustained period of time. Students in intergroup dialogue explore commonalities and differences; examine the nature and impact of discrimination, power, and privilege; and find ways of working together toward greater inclusion, equality, and social justice.

Intergroup dialogue is offered as a cocurricular activity on some campuses and as a course or part of a course on others. The practice of intergroup dialogue is considered a substantive and meaningful avenue for preparing college graduates with the knowledge, commitment, and skills essential for living and working in a diverse yet socially stratified society. The research evidence supports the promise of intergroup dialogues to meet its educational goals?consciousness raising, building relationships across differences and conflicts, and strengthening individual and collective capacities to promote social justice.

This volume outlines the theory, practice, and research on intergroup dialogue. It also offers educational resources to support the practice of intergroup dialogue. Addressing faculty, administrators, student affairs personnel, students, and practitioners, this volume is a useful resource for anyone implementing intergroup dialogues in higher education.

This is the 4th issue of the 32nd volume of the Jossey-Bass report series ASHE Higher Education Report Series. Each monograph in the series is the definitive analysis of a tough higher education problem, based on thorough research of pertinent literature and institutional experiences. Topics are identified by a national survey. Noted practitioners and scholars are then commissioned to write the reports, with experts providing critical reviews of each manuscript before publication.

Patricia Gurin
Over the past fifteen years, a New Black Politics has swept black candidates into office and registered black voters in numbers unimaginable since the days of Reconstruction. Based on interviews with a representative sample of nearly 1,000 voting-age black Americans, Hope and Independence explores blacks' attitudes toward electoral and party politics and toward Jesse Jackson's first presidential bid. Viewed in the light of black political history, the survey reveals enduring themes of hope (for eventual inclusion in traditional politics, despite repeated disappointments) and independence (a strategy of operating outside conventional political institutions in order to achieve incorporation).

The authors describe a black electorate that is less alienated than many have suggested. Blacks are more politically engaged than whites with comparable levels of education. And despite growing economic inequality in the black community, the authors find no serious class-based political cleavage. Underlying the widespread support for Jackson among blacks, a distinction emerges between "common fate" solidarity, which is pro-black, committed to internal criticism of the Democratic party, and conscious of commonality with other disadvantaged groups, and "exclusivist" solidarity, which is pro-black but also hostile to whites and less empathetic to other minorities. This second, more divisive type of solidarity expresses itself in the desire for a separate black party or a vote black strategy—but its proponents constitute a small minority of the black electorate and show surprisingly hopeful attitudes toward the Democratic party.

Hope and Independence will be welcomed by readers concerned with opinion research, the sociology of race, and the psychology of group consciousness. By probing the attitudes of individual blacks in the context of a watershed campaign, this book also makes a vital contribution to our grasp of current electoral politics.

Book 115
Intergroup dialogue promotes student engagement across cultural and social divides on college campuses through a face-to-face, interactive, and facilitated learning experience that brings together twelve to eighteen students from two or more social identity groups over a sustained period of time. Students in intergroup dialogue explore commonalities and differences; examine the nature and impact of discrimination, power, and privilege; and find ways of working together toward greater inclusion, equality, and social justice.

Intergroup dialogue is offered as a cocurricular activity on some campuses and as a course or part of a course on others. The practice of intergroup dialogue is considered a substantive and meaningful avenue for preparing college graduates with the knowledge, commitment, and skills essential for living and working in a diverse yet socially stratified society. The research evidence supports the promise of intergroup dialogues to meet its educational goals?consciousness raising, building relationships across differences and conflicts, and strengthening individual and collective capacities to promote social justice.

This volume outlines the theory, practice, and research on intergroup dialogue. It also offers educational resources to support the practice of intergroup dialogue. Addressing faculty, administrators, student affairs personnel, students, and practitioners, this volume is a useful resource for anyone implementing intergroup dialogues in higher education.

This is the 4th issue of the 32nd volume of the Jossey-Bass report series ASHE Higher Education Report Series. Each monograph in the series is the definitive analysis of a tough higher education problem, based on thorough research of pertinent literature and institutional experiences. Topics are identified by a national survey. Noted practitioners and scholars are then commissioned to write the reports, with experts providing critical reviews of each manuscript before publication.

Patricia Gurin
Over the past fifteen years, a New Black Politics has swept black candidates into office and registered black voters in numbers unimaginable since the days of Reconstruction. Based on interviews with a representative sample of nearly 1,000 voting-age black Americans, Hope and Independence explores blacks' attitudes toward electoral and party politics and toward Jesse Jackson's first presidential bid. Viewed in the light of black political history, the survey reveals enduring themes of hope (for eventual inclusion in traditional politics, despite repeated disappointments) and independence (a strategy of operating outside conventional political institutions in order to achieve incorporation).

The authors describe a black electorate that is less alienated than many have suggested. Blacks are more politically engaged than whites with comparable levels of education. And despite growing economic inequality in the black community, the authors find no serious class-based political cleavage. Underlying the widespread support for Jackson among blacks, a distinction emerges between "common fate" solidarity, which is pro-black, committed to internal criticism of the Democratic party, and conscious of commonality with other disadvantaged groups, and "exclusivist" solidarity, which is pro-black but also hostile to whites and less empathetic to other minorities. This second, more divisive type of solidarity expresses itself in the desire for a separate black party or a vote black strategy—but its proponents constitute a small minority of the black electorate and show surprisingly hopeful attitudes toward the Democratic party.

Hope and Independence will be welcomed by readers concerned with opinion research, the sociology of race, and the psychology of group consciousness. By probing the attitudes of individual blacks in the context of a watershed campaign, this book also makes a vital contribution to our grasp of current electoral politics.

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