Assignment 1: Interpretation of Gurin, et al: Diversity and Higher Education: Theory and Impact on Educational Outcomes

This paper will analyze the study by Gurin, Dey, Hurtado, and Gurin that was published in 2002. Gurin’s study investigated diversity in higher education and the impact it had on learning outcomes and whether diversity helped to develop skills that would be needed to be a leader in a diverse democracy. Analysis of the Gurin study will include the purpose of the Gurin study, epistemology, theoretical framework, methods, analysis and results.

The purpose of this study was to make a case for keeping affirmative action as part of the admission process when prospective students apply to a university. Gurin states that both educators and researchers play an important part in showing that diversity “contributes to achieving the central goals of higher education” (Gurin, Dey, Hurtado, & Gurin, 2002, p. 331).  Gurin also wants to show how theory of diversity can be applied to higher education and to test that theory using data from two different sets of data (Gurin et al., 2002, p. 331).

Gurin’s research follows an epistemology of objectivism, using information that was obtained from surveys of students. A survey was given to University of Michigan students in 1990 followed by a follow up survey in 1994. These were designed to discover whether “encounters with diversity contribute to learning outcomes” (Gurin et al., 2002, p. 339) and to determine if these experiences helped develop necessary skills to be leaders in a democracy (Gurin et al., 2002).   The surveys that were given did not allow for the interaction between those doing the research and those who were participating, and the researchers were not imposing a particular viewpoint on the students who participated. The surveys were used to gather information that was analyzed using multiple regressions and allowed the researchers to control for several different variables.

The theoretical framework that is followed is post positivism. Results from the analysis showed “robust effects on educational outcomes” (Gurin et al., 2002, p. 351), giving room for someone to argue against their findings. One of the hypothesis that Gurin wanted to test was that diversity would have a “positive relationship with the learner outcomes” and the analysis of the data generated were “supportive” of this (Gurin et al., 2002, p. 351). Post positivism allows for truth to be discovered, but also allows that there could be an exception. The results that Gurin discovered were not so conclusive as to state they were the only possible outcomes. She used words like “robust” and “supportive” to show that the findings strongly matched the hypothesis that she was working with.

Methods for performing this study were to gather the data from two different surveys: one that was specific to students at the University of Michigan and one was a national study from the Higher Educational Research Institute at UCLA. The Michigan survey was administered to University of Michigan students at two different times four years apart. The purpose of the Michigan survey was to determine the student’s view of the university’s response to a focus on diversity. This survey was administered in 1990 and again in 1994 to the same group of students. The survey conducted by the Higher Educational Research Institute called the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) included students from all over the United States and was given to students entering college in 1985 and again in 1989 (Gurin et al., 2002).

The aim of Gurin’s study was to determine if diversity in higher education had a positive impact on learning outcomes and if diversity helped to develop necessary skills for leading a diverse democracy. The population that was sampled was college students as they were entering their first year of college, and this is appropriate for the stated goals of this study. Both survey instruments were given to students upon entering their first year of college, and were given again four years later. The majority of the college students sampled were white, and in the case of the Michigan study “92% of them came from segregated communities” (Gurin et al., 2002, p. 341).

The data was analyzed using multiple regressions, this matches the theoretical framework that the information is there and needs to be discovered. Regressions that were run for the CIRP survey allowed the researchers to look at the differences between classroom diversity and informal interactional diversity and compared four different variables: intellectual engagement, academic skills, citizenship engagement, and racial/cultural engagement (Gurin et al., 2002). For the Michigan survey, regressions were run on three types of diversity experiences: interactional diversity, classroom diversity, and events/dialogues. Regressions were performed on both studies for African American, Asian American, and White students groups, with CIRP also providing a regression on Latino/Latina student groups (Gurin et al., 2002).

The findings are presented through tables and a discussion about what the regressions revealed. Gurin states that the results of this process indicate a strong positive relationship between learning outcomes and diversity.   The results do follow post positivistic thought, using words like “robust” and “consistently supported” and “quite consistent.” The researchers indicated that the results of their data show that affirmative action is beneficial to creating an understanding of diversity.

Gurin, P., Dey, E., Hurtado, S., & Gurin, G. (2002). Diversity and Higher Education: Theory and Impact on Educational Outcomes. Harvard Educational Review, 72(3), 330-367. doi:doi:10.17763/haer.72.3.01151786u134n051

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