IDP collects, analyzes, and disseminates assessment information about our offerings (academic courses for undergraduate and graduate student; customized workshops for faculty, staff, alumni, and students; training sessions, etc.). Our commitment to assessment enables us to measure our impact, use data-informed decision-making when making programmatic changes, and communicate with campus stakeholders and partners in other academic contexts.
Given the breadth of our offerings – spanning from semester-long courses to single 3-hour-long workshops – we utilize a range of assessment strategies. Students enrolled in our academic courses (EDUC 2610, EDUC 4986, NBA 6870) are invited to complete pre- and post-surveys at the beginning and end of the semester, respectively, allowing us to measure how their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors change over time. Students, faculty, and staff who participate in our workshops are presented with a brief survey at the end of each workshop, with questions focused primarily on their experience connecting with others and practicing skills during their time with us and often tailored to include some questions specific to the goals of each client.
In an effort to connect our work to existing empirical evidence, many of our surveys contain scales developed and validated by researchers. For example, among EDUC 2610 students who completed both the pre- and post-survey in the fall 2018 semester, we saw a statistically significant increase in cultural humility, described by scholars as “an interpersonal stance that is other-oriented rather than self-focused, characterized by respect and lack of superiority toward an individual’s cultural background and experience” (Hook et al., 2013). We also saw a significant increase in students’ motivation to use intergroup contact as an opportunity for learning, an outcome that has been empirically linked to interest in and comfort with intergroup contact (Migacheva & Tropp, 2012).
In July 2018 we began administering a survey at the end of most IDP workshops, enabling us to get a sense of how over 350 undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff have reacted to the content and processes shared during their time with us. Overall, the data suggest that IDP’s workshops offer meaningful opportunities for members of the Cornell community to engage with intergroup dialogue practices: a majority of survey respondents reported that during the workshop they thought about their identities in a way they hadn’t thought about them before, they practiced skills that will help them communicate with someone from a different background, and the skills they practiced will be helpful when they’re engaged in a challenging conversation.
In addition to the analysis of quantitative data collected through participant and facilitator surveys, we are in the process of developing an assessment plan focusing on rich sources of qualitative data including students’ written reflections, final papers, focus groups, and interviews. The analysis of these sources allows us to learn about individual and collective processes inside and outside the classroom, to gain an in-depth understanding of the ways in which our participants use and implement intergroup dialogue skills and content, to assess unintended impacts, and to examine our overall impact on campus.
Assessment results have been shared with various partners on campus including University administration. In the future, we look forward to sharing results more broadly through conferences and academic publications. We are also eager to continue exploring our transformative impact on individual students through analysis of existing qualitative data, in addition to investigating our effect on the campus community, utilizing, for example, annual surveys that are distributed to all students.
Based on our own experiences, we understand the potential for intergroup dialogue to profoundly change the way people think about themselves, others, and the world around them. Though we will never completely capture the outcomes of this process – so much of which is ineffable – IDP remains committed to rigorous, creative, and relevant assessment as an integral component of creating community across difference through dialogue.