Author: Pitt, Richard N., & Packard, Josh
Title: Activating Diversity: The Impact of Student Race on Contributions to Course Discussions
University Affiliation: Vanderbilt University, University of Northern Colorado
1) Are Black students more likely than their White peers to bring up different issues or topics in these classes? If so, are there significant race differences in the degree to which students reference different sociological institutions, cultural symbols, and demographics categories?
2) Do students with different race backgrounds utilize different strategies or resources in these course discussions?
Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation: The Sociological Quarterly
Journal Entry: Volume 53, No. 2, Pp. 295-320.
1) Intersection with Key Sociological Categories: Research found that students, regardless of race, were more likely to deal with intersections between race and social institutions than they were to bring up intersections of class, gender, or sexual orientation, or intersections with primary relationships like marriages. There was a difference in intersection between race and social institutions with 19 percent of Black students dealing with three areas: politics, education, and criminal justice systems, and 31 percent of White students dealing with these issues and various others.
2) Mentions of Racial/Cultural Institutions or Racial/Ethnic Groups: There are no significant differences between Black and White students in the frequency at which they mention racial/ cultural institutions. Qualitatively, the researchers did observe differences in the student mentions of particular ethnic and racial groups. Postings by both Black and White authors were more likely to mention non-Blacks and non-Whites than they were to mention specific White ethnics. White students were significantly more likely to mention these groups than their Black peers.
3) Invocation of Supplementary Materials: Black and White students both contributed to the blogs invoking some supplementary material, which accounted for nearly one third of the blogs overall. There was no significant difference between Black and White student mentions of discussion occurring in other courses or in the average number of posts including a link to a news story. There were racial differences in the number of posts that mentioned the media, with Black students contributing nearly two thirds of these, with an average mention of two per Black student.
4) Experiences with Race or Racism: White students were more likely than Black students to introduce their secondhand experiences with race or racism into the course discussion. Black students were much more likely to describe their own experiences with race and to express some emotion about it than their White peers.
5) Extending the Race Findings to Religion Discussions: There was no significant difference between Black and White students on the number of blog posts referring to religious holidays or institutions. Whereas in the race course, Black students mentioned other races 1.3 times on average, in the religion course Black students averaged 3.3 blog posts in references to non-Christians which is a significant difference. Mentions of non-Christians between Black and White students were not significantly different.
Overall, this study shows that racial diversity in a classroom is necessary for diverse contributions. However, the findings complicate the argument, as the researchers find that Black students contribute in two major ways: invoking media depictions or race and religion as well as describing personal experiences or emotions related to these social phenomena. The researchers argue that the value of these contributions, especially the latter, should not be taken for granted.
Scholarship Type Journal Article Empirical Research
Keywords: Affirmative Action, Classroom Composition, College, Diversity, Race, Racial Composition
Research Designs: Content Analysis
Method of Analysis: Descriptive Statistics, Qualitative Techniques
Sampling Frame: Blog postings, or “threads” by students in sociology of race and sociology of religion courses at a university in the Southeast.
Sample Types: Random
Unit of Analysis: Document
Data Types: Mixed-Cross Sectional
Web blog postings from two undergraduate sociology courses: sociologyof race and sociology of religion. The race course had 50% Black students and the religion course 28%. Each student in each course contributed 10 “threads” of discussion. The chosen sample included 18 Black and 18 White student contributors across two race courses. For the religion course, all 10 Black contributors were used and a random sample of 10 White contributors were used from that course. 360 race blog threads and 200 religion blog threads were used in the analysis.
DV: For the race course variables included mapped intersections of race White other key sociological categories or institutions, direct mention of particular racial institutions, groups or individuals, supplementary materials related to the topic of race, personal/ secondhand experiences with race. For the religion course variables included the same categories, substitution religion for race where appropriate.