Classroom-Based Study

It is important to understand the cognitive, social-cognitive, and democratic skill capacities of students entering the college classroom--a key arena where knowledge about diversity in society and the underpinnings of contemporary social problems can be discussed. The purpose of this study was to assess changes in such outcomes over one term and its link with students' interactions with diverse peers and communities. The Classroom-Based Survey of Thinking and Interacting (CBTI) and four other standardized instruments developed by other nationally-recognized researchers were used for this study: California Critical Thinking Skills Test, California Critical Thinking Dispositions Inventory (CCTDI), Reasoning About Current Issues Test (RCI) that measures reflective judgment, and the Defining Issues Test II (a test of moral development).

Three types of introductory courses were selected from one campus for this study: a diversity course with distinct pedagogy (that met a general education requirement), a women studies course (which addresses diversity but not necessarily involving diverse peers), and a management course (a large lecture-based course). Pre-and post-test surveys were administered. In addition, questions about the pedagogy used in the course were collected to help determine differences between the selected courses in terms of the amount of interaction with peers, content, and style of the instructor.

Status of the Classroom-Based Study
Currently data files are being merged to make longitudinal assessments. The Classroom Study will provide interesting comparisons between three types of courses. Not only will it allow us to assess the impact of the diversity course, but also provide researchers with the ability to analyze growth on selected outcomes over the course of a term. We will be able to test whether more cognitively complex thinkers demonstrate perspective-taking skills, adopt more societal perspectives on situations and problems, and are able to handle multiplicity and ambiguity. The multiple measures of cognitive, social, and democracy outcomes are organized as a coherent set of values, skills and knowledge that are interrelated. Perhaps one of the most interesting features of this project is the capacity to explore how some constructs serve as important precursors to others, and how growth in one area parallels student growth in another area. Thus, the study can explore interrelationships among these outcomes to understand how both cognitive and social development are associated with students' democratic sensibilities.