The Assessment of Changes in Intercultural Sensitivity Among Undergrad Students in the College of Agriculture: Measurement Over Three Semesters

By Pamala V. Morris and Myron D. McClure.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Colleges and universities across the nation are responding in a variety of ways to the imperative of increasing students’ intercultural sensitivity in emerging diverse environments. Intercultural sensitivity is defined and conceptualized in this article as “sensitivity to the importance of cultural differences and to the points of view of people from other cultures.” It is also important to note that empirical evidence on instruments and other methods of assessing the impact of these varying experiences for developing intercultural sensitivity has been very limited to date and remains a challenge. This research examines shifts in students’ attitudes toward cultural difference while students participated in a semester long diversity consciousness course. The course is offered every semester but the data reported in this study was secured from three consecutive semesters beginning in the fall of 2008 thru fall of 2009.
Our research question: “Students’ participation in a diversity consciousness-raising course can effect positive changes in developing students’ intercultural sensitivity.” By employing a developmental model of intercultural sensitivity and an associated survey instrument, we measured students’ degrees of sensitivity toward cultural difference and how they may have changed following intercultural exposure through lectures, discussions and hands-on experiences.
Preliminary results indicate that attitudes shifted on one dimension of intercultural sensitivity in the predicted direction of greater openness to other cultures. The most notable shift was toward greater engagement with Minimization of cultural difference. Students began the semester with the predominant orientations of Denial/ Defense, but after taking the course, most students moved slightly into the orientation of Minimization where emphasis is on commonality of human beings in terms of physiological similarity as a way of approaching different cultures, e.g., “After all, we’re all human” (Bennett, 1986, 1993). The findings suggest that a combination of diversity related course offerings, special cultural events on and off campus, and a campus that is welcoming and inclusive in nature can make an enormous contribution to the development of greater intercultural understanding.

Keywords: Culture, Intercultural Sensitivity, Cross Cultural Communication, Diversity Consciousness, Cultural Competence, Assessment

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 10, Issue 6, pp.169-182. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 816.748KB).

Dr. Pamala V. Morris

Director and Assistant Dean, College of Agriculture, Office of Multicultural Programs, Purdue University, W. Lafayette, Indiana, USA

Dr. Pamala V. Morris is currently an Assistant Dean/Director of the Office of Multicultural Programs and an Associate Professor for the Department of Youth Development and Agricultural Education, in the College of Agriculture at Purdue University. As faculty, her primary focus is to inform youth and adults, on an international, national and local level, about the changing faces of our global society and to increase their understanding and appreciation of cultural differences and similarities within, among, and between groups. As Dean, she provides leadership in the area of multicultural education for faculty, staff, and students in the college. She developed and implemented two diversity awareness courses that serve as two out of three ways to fulfill a new Multicultural Understanding requirement in the college. Dr. Morris has been actively involved in the National Association for Multicultural Education since 2000. She served as Region 5 Director from 2004-2007 and has served as chair for the NAME Awards Committee for the last four years. In 2002, Dr. Morris was awarded the National Award for Diversity by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the significant impact her diligent work in diversity, international programs and service-learning has made in many Indiana communities. She also currently serves as the Project Leader for eXtension’s virtual Community of Practice (CoP) “Diversity Across Higher Education” this CoP can be accessed at www.extension.org/diversity. In her former life she served for many years in the Indianapolis Public School system as an elementary school teacher and for three years as an elementary school principal.

Myron D. McClure

Program Manager, Office of Multicultural Programs, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA

Myron D. McClure is a California native, matriculating in a Doctoral program in Agriculture and Biological Engineering, with an emphasis on Health and Safety Education in Agriculture at Purdue University. He received a B.S. degree in Agriculture System Engineering from Purdue University in 1999 and his M.S. degree in Agriculture Extension & Education from The Pennsylvania State University in 2003. His research interests in agricultural health and safety are in the areas of mechanical design, and curriculum evaluation of educational materials pertaining to reaching underrepresented audiences. Mr. McClure has aided in the increase of underrepresented students from the high school to undergraduate and from undergraduate to graduate school for the College of Agriculture and the University respectively. He also assisted in the development of a diversity course and diversity course book at Purdue University as well as serves on the national board for Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) national organization.

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