Magazine article Multicultural Education

Diversity Initiatives in Higher Education: Intergroup Dialogue as Pedagogy across the Curriculum

Magazine article Multicultural Education

Diversity Initiatives in Higher Education: Intergroup Dialogue as Pedagogy across the Curriculum

Article excerpt


The Intergroup Dialogue as Pedagogy Across the Curriculum (INTERACT) Pilot Project was a two-year (2002-2004) exploratory grant funded by the Ford Foundation. A school/college/university partnership initiative, the project, was structured as a facilitated learning opportunity primarily for the University of Maryland, Prince George's Community College, and Prince George's County Public Schools faculty to examine the efficacy of adapting intergroup dialogue-based pedagogy to classroom teaching across disciplines/subject areas, academic levels, and educational contexts.

Toward that end, ten pilot project participants, representing a broad range of interpersonal, academic, and professional diversity, were identified through a competitive selection process. These participants, named INTEACT Scholars, formed the project's Scholars Cohort. This Cohort met twenty-four times, grouped into three distinct semester initiatives, over the life of the project.

The first semester (Spring 2003) focused Scholars on developing an understanding of intergroup dialogue theories and practice models. The second semester (Fall 2003) Scholars were facilitated through the development of a teaching and learning portfolio, an intergroup dialogue facilitation and participation portfolio, and the integration of these two portfolios into a hybrid portfolio that teased out the intersections of content-based teaching and learning and intergroup dialogue facilitation and participation that was unique to each Scholar's class responsibilities and educational settings. The third semester (Spring 2004) the Scholars implemented their hybrid portfolios-"walking the talk" of intergroup dialogue as pedagogy across the curriculum-and assessed the impact of this instructional strategy on their students' learning engagement and outcomes.

In sum, the project explored, examined, and investigated the connections between increases in student motivation, interest in learning, and academic achievement, and the use of non-traditional educational processes, especially student-centered dialogic pedagogy.


The idea for the INTERACT pilot project emerged, quite organically, from the cross-pollination of two major initiatives of the Office of Human Relations Programs (OHRP), the equity compliance and multicultural education arm of the Office of the President at the University of Maryland, College Park. These initiatives are OHRP's Words of Engagement Intergroup Dialogue Program-the core component of its Student Intercultural Learning Center (SILC)-and OHRP's Multicultural Curriculum Change Program-a major offering of its Diversity Training and Consultation Services (DTCS).

The Words of Engagement Intergroup Dialogue Program typically brings together various bi-communal groups of primarily undergraduate students where there is a history of tension or conflict between the groups related to their respective community's social identities (e.g., women and men, Black American and White American, Muslim and Jewish, etc.). Guided by formally trained and otherwise experienced facilitators, students confront these tensions in order to build meaningful and sustained bridges across groups through engagement in intergroup dialogue.

More specifically, intergroup dialogue is a collaboratively structured form of group conversation characterized by participants' willingness to "listen for understanding." It is different from discussion, where participants generally engage in serial monologuing-each offering their perspective on a given topic, as well as from debate, where participants typically learn to "listen to gain advantage"-each seeking to trump the perspectives offered by others on a given topic.

OHRP established the Words of Engagement Intergroup Dialogue Program in response to University of Maryland student focus group research results indicating that students across race were dissatisfied with: (1) the campus-wide diversity initiative; and (2) the university's diversity course requirement-both of which were seen by students as failing to engender much sought-after multicultural interaction competence and relationship building. …

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