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Dialogue Across Difference

Practice, Theory, and Research on Intergroup Dialogue

Patricia Gurin, Biren (Ratnesh) A. Nagda, Ximena Zuniga

Publication Year: 2013

Due to continuing immigration and increasing racial and ethnic inclusiveness, higher education institutions in the United States are likely to grow ever more diverse in the 21st century. This shift holds both promise and peril: Increased inter-ethnic contact could lead to a more fruitful learning environment that encourages collaboration. On the other hand, social identity and on-campus diversity remain hotly contested issues that often raise intergroup tensions and inhibit discussion. How can we help diverse students learn from each other and gain the competencies they will need in an increasingly multicultural America? Dialogue Across Difference synthesizes three years’ worth of research from an innovative field experiment focused on improving intergroup understanding, relationships and collaboration. The result is a fascinating study of the potential of intergroup dialogue to improve relations across race and gender. First developed in the late 1980s, intergroup dialogues bring together an equal number of students from two different groups – such as people of color and white people, or women and men – to share their perspectives and learn from each other. To test the possible impact of such courses and to develop a standard of best practice, the authors of Dialogue Across Difference incorporated various theories of social psychology, higher education, communication studies and social work to design and implement a uniform curriculum in nine universities across the country. Unlike most studies on intergroup dialogue, this project employed random assignment to enroll more than 1,450 students in experimental and control groups, including in 26 dialogue courses and control groups on race and gender each. Students admitted to the dialogue courses learned about racial and gender inequalities through readings, role-play activities and personal reflections. The authors tracked students’ progress using a mixed-method approach, including longitudinal surveys, content analyses of student papers, interviews of students, and videotapes of sessions. The results are heartening: Over the course of a term, students who participated in intergroup dialogues developed more insight into how members of other groups perceive the world. They also became more thoughtful about the structural underpinnings of inequality, increased their motivation to bridge differences and intergroup empathy, and placed a greater value on diversity and collaborative action. The authors also note that the effects of such courses were evident on nearly all measures. While students did report an initial increase in negative emotions – a possible indication of the difficulty of openly addressing race and gender – that effect was no longer present a year after the course. Overall, the results are remarkably consistent and point to an optimistic conclusion: intergroup dialogue is more than mere talk. It fosters productive communication about and across differences in the service of greater collaboration for equity and justice. Ambitious and timely, Dialogue Across Difference presents a persuasive practical, theoretical and empirical account of the benefits of intergroup dialogue. The data and research presented in this volume offer a useful model for improving relations among different groups not just in the college setting but in the United States as well.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page

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p. 3-3

Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 4-6


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pp. vii-viii

Tables and Figures

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pp. ix-x

About the Authors

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pp. xi-xii


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pp. xiii-xviii

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pp. 1-8

I came to this class hoping to better understand racial relationships and to be able to talk honestly about race. I came to this class having gone through many stages in the past about race, thinking that if I could just explain the true history of my people, other people would understand. Failing that, I often be-came enraged, then not caring what other people think. The stage I was at ...

Part I. What Is Intergroup Dialogue?

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pp. 9-10

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1. Intergroup Dialogue: Its Role in Contemporary Society

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pp. 11-31

In this chapter, we position intergroup dialogue (IGD) within the programs and studies on intergroup relations and discuss what motivated the research on which this book is based. We discuss both why talking across differences of race- ethnicity and gender in more than superficial ways has proven difficult, and how intergroup dialogue addresses those difficulties. We also look at ...

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2. The Practice of Intergroup Dialogue

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pp. 32-73

In this chapter, we describe more fully the intergroup dialogue (IGD) practice model that addresses the divides and challenges of talking across and about race and gender highlighted in chapter 1. We have four goals: to place the foundations of intergroup dialogue in the context of social psychological research on intergroup relations and of multicultural education concerned ...

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3. A Critical-Dialogic Theoretical Framework for Intergroup Dialogue

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pp. 74-122

In the previous chapter, we described the critical- dialogic practice model of intergroup dialogue (IGD). The pedagogical features of IGD—content learning, structured interaction, and facilitation—are intentionally integrated to foster communication processes that play the central theoretical role in how IGD increases intergroup understanding, intergroup relation-...

Part II. Studying Intergroup Dialogue: Methods, Effects, and Processes

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pp. 123-124

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4. Studying Intergroup Dialogue: Using Mixed Methods

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pp. 125-146

In the previous two chapters, we described the practice and theoretical models that guided the intergroup dialogue (IGD) courses investigated in this project. The practice model involves an interactive pedagogy implemented across four stages. The theoretical model posits that dialogue pedagogy leads to distinctive communication processes that form the heart of intergroup...

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5. Effects of Intergroup Dialogue: A Focus on Processes and Outcomes

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pp. 147-179

In chapters 2 and 3, we delineated the ways in which the critical-dialogic practice model and theoretical framework of intergroup dialogue (IGD) differ from but also integrate some features of other approaches in intergroup relations and approaches to diversity and social justice education. We also described the theoretical concepts and relationships that comprise our...

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6. Empathy in Intergroup Dialogues

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pp. 180-210

In this chapter, we focus on empathy because it is such a vital component of intergroup relations. Empathy is viewed by many as the foundation of social life (see the discussion of empathy in chapter 3), and has always been an important goal of intergroup dialogue (IGD). As discussed in chapters 3 and 5, many studies have shown that empathy is linked to desirable outcomes such ...

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7. Engagement in Intergroup Dialogue: Listening, Speaking, and Active Thinking

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pp. 211-242

I would say that as people started sharing more personal experiences, it made me feel that, wow, this person really trusts the group to even share stuff like that, and maybe I can do it too, and so I kind of dipped my toes in the water and so I just eventually had my whole body in the water. (Woman of color, race-ethnicity dialogue)...

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8. Observations of Students and Facilitators: A Lens into the Practice Model of Intergroup Dialogue

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pp. 243-280

Chapter 7 analyzed data from interviews of students about their intergroup dialogue (IGD) experiences and revealed ways in which students recalled their engagement in IGDs—listening, speaking, and active thinking. In this chapter, we complement the interview data with videotape data of student and facilitator participation in three sessions of ten race- ethnicity dialogues ...

Part III. Implications: Looking Forward

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pp. 281-282

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9. Evidence, Criticisms, and Conclusions for Practice, Theory, and Research

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pp. 283-327

The preceding chapters in this book have articulated the rationale for inter-group dialogue (IGD) in higher education and in our society, the overall methodology of the study, and the practice and theoretical foundations of a critical-dialogic model of intergroup dialogue. Chapters reporting on the quantitative and qualitative investigation undertaken in the Multi- University ...

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10. Intergroup Dialogue: A Response to the Challenges of Demography, Democracy, and Dispersion

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pp. 328-354

In chapter 1, we argued that intergroup dialogue (IGD) is an increasingly important form of communication because the United States as a whole and higher education institutions in particular must deal with three major a demographic challenge arising from demographic shifts producing a much more ethnically and racially diverse United States that will be ...

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Epilogue. Intergroup Dialogue Alumni in a Changing World

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pp. 355-376

As we were finishing this book, it seemed only right that we end with words and lives of students who were actively involved in intergroup dialogue (IGD) as undergraduates and who have now graduated. We invited twelve graduates to share their experiences in intergroup dialogue, and all of them responded with reflection essays. These essays convey purposefulness as en-...

Appendix A

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pp. 377-390

Appendix B

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pp. 391-416


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pp. 417-424


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pp. 425-462


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pp. 463-480

E-ISBN-13: 9781610448055
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871544766

Page Count: 500
Publication Year: 2013