Academic journal article College Student Journal

Assessing Graduate Students' Sensitivity to Gender, Race, Equality and Diversity: Implications for Curriculum Development

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Assessing Graduate Students' Sensitivity to Gender, Race, Equality and Diversity: Implications for Curriculum Development

Article excerpt

Knowledge about graduate students' awareness of and sensitivity to issues of gender and race is crucial to constructing effective curricula. The purpose of this study was to assess the existing levels of awareness toward issues of race and gender to plan more effective programs and classes for graduate students. Findings indicated that the group surveyed had moderate sensitivity to and understanding of women's and minority issues. When the scores of the sub-categories were examined, however, differences in scores became apparent. Implications for curriculum planning are that faculty members should encourage sensitivity to diversity in all of their classes through small group discussions, case studies, presentations concerning racial and gender issues, and readings that encourage multiple views of issues.

Racism and sexism are persistent problems in our society and these problems continue to grow even as our country becomes more diverse. These societal problems manifest themselves through individual behaviors or through institutional practices that perpetuate racist or sexist habits or customs. Practitioners who work with a diverse population in educational institutions increasingly find themselves in situations that require them to engage effectively in cross-cultural exchanges between themselves and their students or clients. As professional educators who work within the fields of counselor education, adult education, higher education student services (a counseling related program), and educational administration, we are concerned with the level of sensitivity and awareness our graduate students have concerning race and gender issues. It is our view that we should play an important role in introducing issues concerning diversity and fostering awareness and tolerance of differences among our graduate students.

Knowledge about individual awareness and sensitivity to issues of gender and race have been discussed as crucial to constructing effective counselor-based education (Pederson, 1988; Ponterotto 8,: Pederson, 1993; Sue, 1978) and adult education programs (Cunningham, 1989; Hayes & Colin Ill, 1994; Tisdell, 1995). Since graduate education courses should provide training for adult educators, counselors, student affairs professionals and school administrators who will in turn practice in settings where they interact with the larger diverse population of learners, curriculum should incorporate readings, reflection and discussions concerning the important issues of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation (Cunningham. 1989; Bailey, Tisdell, & Cervero, 1994). However, to plan programs and classes that focus on these topics and stimulate discussion, active listening, and increased understanding among students, more information is needed concerning the current awareness and sensitivity of graduate students in these programs toward issues of race and gender. The problem this study addressed, then, was the lack of information concerning the level of awareness of racial and gender issues of typical graduate students in adult education, counselor education, higher education student services, and educational administration programs. The purpose of this study was to discover the existing levels of awareness toward issues of race and gender in order to plan more effective programs and classes for graduate students.

Incorporating readings, reflection and discussions concerning the important issues of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in graduate level curriculum means being inclusive of the diverse student body that may populate graduate classes. "Inclusivity means attempting to provide curricular course content in pedagogical style that reflects the gender, racial and economic class makeup of the participants themselves as well as attention to the wider institutional societal contexts in which they live and work" (Tisdell, 1995, p. 3). Tisdell goes on to describe levels of inclusivity in curriculum and pedagogy: Level One reflects the diversity of the participants in the class or learning activity, Level Two pays attention to the diversity of the institution sponsoring the activity and the wider contexts in which participants live and work, and Level Three reflects the changing needs of a diverse society. …

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