How Course Titles Affect Student Interest In College Diversity Courses

How Course Titles Affect Student Interest In College Diversity Courses

Diversity courses dealing with sexuality, gender, and race offer a range of benefits to the students who take them. As a result, U.S. colleges and universities are increasingly adding such courses to their curricula, with many now requiring students to take a certain number of them in order to graduate. Requiring that students take diversity courses does not guarantee that they will benefit from them, though, because the benefits of such classes depend, to some extent, upon students’ initial attitudes toward the course. Those attitudes are crucial because they shape how students approach the material and how engaged they become with it. However, we know relatively little about the factors that shape these initial attitudes. In order to address this knowledge gap, one of my colleagues (Dr. Jennifer Spoor of LaTrobe University) and I conducted an experiment to see how the title of a diversity course dealing with women’s and gender issues affects students’ perceptions of it and their interest in taking it. We focused on course title because it is usually the very first piece of information students hear about a course and, as such, may be the point at which attitudes toward a class begin to take shape.

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