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
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.
Tisdell's levels of inclusivity give faculty members a
background from which they can frame their own curriculum content
concerning race and gender issues. While faculty members may want to be
inclusive of all racial and gender issues, frequently the politics of
knowledge production and dissemination at local levels may get in the
way for planning inclusive curricula. "What counts as knowledge in
a particular learning context--and decisions about what gets included in
the curriculum for a given learning activity--are decisions made with
attention to the politics of ....educational context and to what is seen
as `real' knowledge relevant to this educational context"
(Tisdell, 1995, p. 11).
The "real knowledge" Tisdell mentions reflects the power
and politics of knowledge production and dissemination, both inside the
educational institution and in the outlying communities from which
graduate students come and subsequently return. This real knowledge,
many times seeped in historic and institutionalized oppression, provides
the background for students' beliefs and actions concerning gender
and racial issues. As teachers and researchers, we endeavor to plan
classes and curricula and "become instruments though which our
students begin to reflect on the multiple and varied realities that
they, like we bring to the classroom" (Sheared, 1994, p. 27).
However, in order to plan curricula that encourages an understanding of
reality of racial and gender issues, we wanted to first know how aware
our students typically are concerning these issues. The purpose of our
study, then, was assess the existing levels of awareness toward issues
of race and gender in order to plan programs and classes for graduate
students that address these issues.
The site for this study was a mid-size southern university whose
graduate school enrolls about 1800 students. The university is located
in a rural southeastern state, and students typically are from and
return to practice in rural settings. The programs of interest in this
study are located in the College of Education, whose graduate enrollment
during Fall 1997, the period of this study, was 7.2% of the total
university population. Masters, educational specialists and doctoral
degrees are all available in this College of Education. In any one
quarter, 70-75% of the graduate students attend school part time (J. R.
Diebolt, personal communication, March 25, 1998). Demographics were
collected to help us understand the population surveyed. The Quick
Discrimination Index Social Attitude Survey (QDI) (Ponterotto, Burkhard,
Rieger, & Grieger, 1995) and a short demographic survey were given
to 73 students enrolled in master of education courses in adult
education, counselor education, or higher education student services.
The majority of participants in this study were between the ages of
2040. Eighteen percent were adult education master degree students, 50%
were in counselor education programs, 14% were higher education student
services majors, and 18% were in educational administration or other
graduate education degree programs. Twenty-four percent of the
participants were African-Americans, 75% were European-Americans, and 1%
were of other ethnic backgrounds. Of the total participants, 75% were
female and 25% were male. Only 19% of those surveyed had taken a
multicultural or cross-cultural counseling course; the rest reported
never participating in either of these classes. The demographics
reported are consistent with the enrollment patterns in the programs
examined and reflect actual population of students.
Two graduate courses specifically designed to address issues of
race, class, and gender are available in the College of Education in
this university: Foundations of Multicultural Education, offered as a
curriculum course, and Cross-Cultural Counseling, offered as a counselor
education course. The College of Education conceptual framework at this
university declares that "educators must be active in dealing with
issues of culture, diversity and equity; understand the political nature
of education; and have the skills to effect change" (College of
Education Conceptual Framework, 1995). The framework indicates that
faculty members should acknowledge diversity in all of their classes.
In order to ascertain graduate students' awareness and
sensitivity to gender and multicultural issues, the researchers chose to
use the Quick Discrimination Index Social Attitude Survey (QDI),
developed by Ponterotto et. al. (1995). The QDI contains 25 Likert-type
self-report items in an inventory that measures attitudes toward racial
diversity and women's equality and can examine both cognitive and
affective components of prejudicial attitudes (Ponterotto &
Pederson, 1993). It also allows researchers to look at both racial and
gender issues together on one survey. The survey was developed to be
used with older adolescents and adults and "fill a need for a
reliable, valid, and moderate-length self-report measure of attitudes
regarding racial diversity and women's equality" (Ponterotto,
et. al., p. 1017). The QDI asks participants to choose on a Likert scale
how strongly they agree or disagree with statements such as
"Generally speaking, men work harder than women" and
"Overall, I think racial minorities in America complain too much
about racial discrimination" (Ponterotto & Pederson, 1993, pgs.
156-157). Considering the total scores, participants can fall into one
of the following groups: (Ponterotto & Peterson, 1993, p. 158)
Since raising issues of racism and prejudice frequently results in
politically correct responses, approximately one half of the items were
written in reverse order to control for response bias. Secondly, to
"control somewhat for potential subject demand characteristics and
evaluation apprehension" (Ponterotto, et. al., 1995, p. 1081), the
title Social Attitude Survey appears on the survey instrument, not the
title Quick Discrimination Index.
Ponterotto et al. initially tested the instrument with a sample of
187 women and 97 men; "66% of the subjects were Caucasian, 21%
African Americans, 6% Hispanic, 3% Asian American, 1% Native American,
and 3% `other'" (Ponterotto et al., 1995, p. 1020). The
coefficient of variation for the QDI was 13.4%, falling within the 5% to
15% range recommended by Dawis (1987). Subsequent small revisions to the
instrument and further testing revealed a final Cronbach's alphas
for the QDI of .88 for the total score. The testing "established a
measure of convergent validity for the QDI and found the instrument to
be relatively free of social desirability contamination"
(Ponterotto et al., 1995, p. 1029).
Other empirical studies involving 875 adolescents and adults were
conducted to develop and validate the Quick Discrimination Index (QDI).
The test was found to be internally consistent and stable and to have
promising validity (Ponterotto et al., 1995).
The data were collected within the same month from graduate
students enrolled in master of education degree programs in counselor
education, adult education higher education student services (a
counseling related program), and educational administration. During the
academic term of data collection, all classes that were offered by a
program area targeted above were surveyed. To avoid duplication and
provide confidentiality of responses, the last six digits of the social
security numbers were requested from participants. No other data that
would identify students was requested.
SPSS 6.1 computer program for MacIntosh computers was used for data
analysis that yielded mean and standard deviation comparisons. Except in
one instance (courses), categories that had fewer than nine entries were
excluded from data analysis.
Means and standard deviations were calculated for the group as a
whole as well as several sub-categories: Race, Age, Program Area,
Gender, and Courses Taken. Within the range of 0-125, the mean scores
for the entire population surveyed was 80.32 with a standard deviation
of 11.98, indicating that although the group surveyed had a moderate
sensitivity to and understanding of women's and minority issues,
there was some variance within the group. When the scores of
sub-categories were examined, differences in scores became apparent.
The mean score for African Americans was 87.88 with a standard
deviation of 10.77. European American's mean score was 77.88, with
a standard deviation of 11.49. African Americans' mean score
reflects their moderate, but not high, sensitivity to minority and
women's issues. Though barely above the low awareness cut-off score
of 75, European American's mean score indicated a moderate
awareness of these issues.
Age was also a variable used to sort mean scores. The descending
order of scores was: Ages 31-35 (M=83.62, SD=14.80); Ages 36-40
(M=82.45, SD=11.84); Ages 20-25 (M=80.85, SD=10.29); Ages 26-30
(M=77.79, SD=12.34); and Ages 41-45 (M=76.91, SD=8.12). There were too
few scores in the age group over 45 to report. These scores indicated
that all age groups are within the moderate category.
Data were also examined by program areas. The descending order of
scores was: Higher Education Student Services (M=86.5, SD=10.60); School
Counseling (M=81.75, SD= 12.66); Community Counseling (M=80.77,
SD=8.90); Adult Education (M=78.77, SD=14.34); and Educational
Administration (M=74.10, SD=7.77). There were too few cases in other
program areas to report data. Except for students in Educational
Administration, whose score placed them in the low awareness category,
all other program areas' scores indicated that they had a moderate
awareness of gender and race issues.
Gender was also a sub-category that was used by the researchers to
examine scores. Males scored lower on the QDI than did females. The mean
score for females surveyed was 82.89 with a standard deviation of 10.67.
The mean score for males surveyed was 72.55 with a standard deviation of
12.66. While the females' mean score indicates that they are
moderately aware of gender and racial issues, the males' mean score
indicates that they have a low awareness and sensitivity to these
Students who had taken either Foundations of Multicultural
Education or Cross-Cultural Counseling courses scored higher than those
students who had taken neither of these courses. In descending order,
the mean scores and standard deviations for the different groups are:
Students who had taken Cross-Cultural counseling (N=2, M=87.5, SD=2.12);
students who had taken Foundations of Multiculturalism (N=12, M=85.00,
SD =11.41); and students who had not taken either course (N=58, M=78.71,
SD=11.67. Only one participant reported taking both courses;
interestingly enough, her or his mean score was 105, indicating a very
high awareness and sensitivity to racial and gender issues.
The mean score for the entire population surveyed was 80.32,
denoting that the group surveyed had a moderate sensitivity to and
understanding of women's and minority issues. These scores indicate
that although the students are moderately aware, they still lack basic
understandings of issues concerning race and gender which are essential
to them in their practices as adult educators, counselors, and school
Examination of the scores by subgroups revealed that although
African American participants' awareness (M=87.88) was somewhat
higher than European Americans (M=77.88), their score was still well
within the moderate level. Women's mean score of 82.89 indicates
also that they are only moderately aware of issues concerning race and
gender, but males' lower score (M=72.55) puts them in the low
awareness category. It is noteworthy that African Americans and women
scored only in the moderate range and not the high-awareness range.
Perhaps this is due to the historic and geographic context of rural
southern culture. Ponterotto et al. (1995) and Ponterotto and Pederson
(1993) theorize that people who live in urban settings are more
accepting of racial diversity and women's issues because the
diversity of their day-to-day contacts allows them to interact with more
diverse groups of people. Since participants in our study reside in
rural communities, the low to moderate awareness scores of some groups
in our study may be an example of Ponterotto and Pederson theory.
Perhaps the most significant finding of this study, however, was
that participants within the graduate programs of school administration
had the lowest scores (M=74.10) within any of the groups surveyed, which
placed them in the low awareness category. Since school administrators
are essential to implementing diversity training programs within
educational institutions, it points out how institutionalized customs
and norms may perpetuate sexism and racism. If school administrators are
unaware or unwilling to address racial or gender issues within their
school setting, they are setting the tone for a non-responsive culture
in both educational institutions and communities. Graduate curriculum
for school administrators should include courses which heighten
sensitivity to racial and gender issues.
The most promising finding, however, was the high scores of those
students who had taken the Foundations of Multicultural Education and/or
the Cross-Cultural Counseling courses. Although the number of students
surveyed who met these requirements was very small in this study, their
high scores on the QDI may indicate that courses that focus on issues of
race, class, gender and sexual orientation issues may indeed foster
sensitivity towards these issues by students in the courses. Further
research is needed and should focus on discovering if sensitivity is
consistently raised following these courses.
This survey reflects in general a low to moderate awareness of
issues of race and gender by graduate students in a rural southeastern
regional university. This could in part be due to the rural setting
within which the study took place and the historic oppression of the
southern culture in the United States. Since students who participated
in this study come from and return to rural settings, their beliefs are
probably indicative of the larger societal view, or Tisdell's Level
Three, in this rural setting. The question becomes, then, how do we, as
educators, become, as Sheared (1994) says, "instruments though
which our students begin to reflect on the multiple and varied realities
that they, like we, bring to the classroom "(p. 27)?
Who has the power to determine what counts as knowledge is
extremely important to understanding how issues of race and gender can
be emphasized in graduate level courses. College and university faculty
members frequently serve as both teachers and researchers and have the
power to "produce knowledge in their research pursuits; they also
determine what research is `good,' what research is to be published
and disseminated, and what of the resulting literature is to be included
in the curriculum" (Johnson-Bailey, Tisdell, and Cervero, 1994, p.
65). As the College of Education Framework at our institution states,
faculty members should acknowledge diversity in all of their classes.
This acknowledgment can take many forms: small group discussions, case
studies, presentations concerning racial and gender issues, and readings
that encourage multiple views of issues. Through these activities,
students may begin to become more sensitive to and aware of issues of
race and gender that they face in their practices as adult educators,
counselors, higher education student services administrators, and school
administrators. Sensitivity and awareness are the first steps toward
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CATHERINE A. HANSMAN Cleveland State University
MARY H. JACKSON, DALE F. GRANT, LEON E. SPENCER Georgia Southern
Score 25-50 indicates that the respondent is very insensitive to and
unaware of minority and women's issues.
Score of 51-75 indicates low sensitivity and little awareness of minority
and women's issues.
Score of 76-100 indicates moderate sensitivity to and knowledge of minority
and women's issues.
Score of 101-125 indicates high sensitivity to and knowledge of minority
and women's issues.