The appreciation and understanding of value diversity' : an evaluation of a value diversity intervention at the University of Stellenbosch

Dittmar, Vera (2003-12)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2003.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: South Africa has made a remarkable transformation from an openly racist to a tolerant and democratic nation. The transformation process removed the legal barriers between subgroups that formerly postulated separate development for the various racial groups and restricted the contact between individuals to a major extent. In present day society, one can observe the transformation process in that South African citizens from different backgrounds have to develop new patterns of communication and interaction. This process was mirrored in the student culture of Stellenbosch. The first objective of this study was to research how individual students experienced their social and academic environment. Since student relations do not always conform to the University norm of mutual respect for human diversity, the University felt the need to facilitate an intervention for valuing human diversity. The second objective of this study was to evaluate the process of the intervention, focusing on the programme context, the programme activities and the program theory. In addition, the impressions of workshop participants were studied. In order to conceptualise the research objectives, the theoretical principles of valuing diversity were discussed in the form of a purposive literature review on the social psychology and sociology of stereotyping and related processes, which were examined as barriers to valuing diversity. The Value Diversity Intervention was implemented in August 2001. The intervention aimed to heighten students' awareness of the diversity of the student body and to improve the interaction among the various student subgroups. The intervention was designed as a workshop and included 50 students from various backgrounds who were living in the University residences. Two evaluation types were utilised in this study, i.e. the evaluation of perceived needs and the evaluation of the intervention process. The research questions were clarified and the specific methods for gathering and analysing the data were specified. In addition, the aspect of validity and the quality of the obtained data were reviewed. The evaluation of perceived needs showed that individual students perceived the student population to be divided into minority ('coloured', 'black') and majority ('white') groups. Even though group membership did not affect specific instances of intergroup relations (e.g. individual friendships), it had implications for the social atmosphere on campus, which was characterised by a lack of intergroup contact and a domination by the majority group. Accordingly, minority group members interpreted the social atmosphere more negatively than majority group members. Hence, minority group members perceived a need to improve intergroup interaction. This analysis indicates that a value diversity intervention may be beneficial. This corresponded to the view of the Department of Student Affairs, which arranged the Value Diversity Intervention. The evaluation of the intervention highlighted both negative and positive aspects. Firstly, the intervention design did not include the promotion of the intervention itself, which might have been essential making students interested in the diversity topic and in motivating students to participate. Secondly, the intervention did not address the specific diversity challenges as experienced by students of the University of Stellenbosch. Students expressed concerns regarding the applicability of the provided information in their daily life. Thirdly, the workshop focused mainly on stereotypes. Yet, the possible effects of stereotypes were not sufficiently discussed. In addition, a large number of stereotypes were listed, but these were often biased due to the lack of participants from diverse groups. Further, no workshop technique which questioned the presented lists of biased stereotypes was applied or generated. Besides these technical considerations, it should be noted that stereotypes in general perpetuate the division between subgroups. Thus, the workshop focused to a large extent on past and present aspects, which divide the student population, instead of focusing on uniting issues. The described negative aspects might have been balanced by one of the four observed workshops. This specific workshop was characterised by a small amount of participants and a positive presentation of one of the main facilitators. This resulted in a productive discussion, where the participants used the possibility to reflect on the current situation out of their perspective and reflected upon the contributions of the facilitator. Students might have been motivated to take positive impulses of this workshop in their daily life. Based upon this research, recommendations can be determined. Firstly, the promotion of the intervention should emphasize the desirability of diversity values and highlight the personal potential benefits to participants. Secondly, it might be useful to acknowledge differences between students, but to place a greater emphasis on similarities, i.e. on aspects that connect students. Thirdly, the curriculum of the intervention should be modified to cater especially for student needs. Fourthly, the selected workshop components should achieve an equal balance between lecture parts and interactive elements. Participants should have the possibility to take an active part in the intervention if they are interested in doing so. The final recommendation entails that future interventions should be based on a comprehensive, sustained strategy with long-term goals. These strategies should be integrated in the already existing infrastructure of an institution. This intervention has to be understood as a contribution to the transformation process that South Africa is currently undergoing. Based on the recent discussion at the University of Stellenbosch about the adoption of a comprehensive diversity strategy, it is hoped that this singular intervention will be linked to further contributions in this transformation process.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Suid Afrika het 'n merkwaardige transformasie vanaf 'n openlik rassistiese tot 'n tolerante en demokratiese nasie ondergaan. Voorheen het die wetlike skeiding tussen subgroepe aparte ontwikkeling en, vir verskeie rassegroepe, minimale kontak met individue in verskillende rassegroepe beteken. Die transformasieproses in Suid-Afrika het hierdie omstandighede verander en in die huidige Suid-Afrikaanse samelewing is die proses waardeur mense van verskillende agtergronde nuwe patrone van kommunikasie en interaksie moet ontwikkel, merkbaar. Die transformasieproses kan ook in die studentekultuur van Stellenbosch gesien word. Die eerste doel van die tesis was om ondersoek in te stel na hoe individuele studente hulle sosiale en akademiese omgewing ervaar. Aangesien studenteverhoudinge nie altyd tot die Universiteit se norm van wedersydse respek vir menslike diversiteit konformeer nie, het die Universiteit gevoel dat daar 'n behoefte is om 'n intervensie te fasiliteer om waardering vir menslike diversiteit skep. Die tweede doel van die tesis was om die proses van die intervensie te evalueer deur te fokus op die konteks van die program, die programaktiwiteite en die programteorie. Verder is die indrukke van die deelnemers aan die werkswinkelook bestudeer. Die teoretiese beginsels onderliggend aan die waardering van diversiteit is bespreek ten einde die navorsingsdoelwitte te konseptualiseer. Dit is verwesenlik deur 'n "doelgerigte" literatuurstudie oor die sosiale sielkunde en sosiologie van stereotipering en verwante prosesse wat gesien word as struikelblokke in die evaluering van diversiteit. Die intervensie vir die waardering van diversiteit is in Augustus 2001 deur die Universiteit van Stellenbosch geimplimenteer. Die intervensie het as doel gehad om studente 'n verhoogde gewaarwording van die diversiteit van die studenteliggaam te bied en ook om interaksie tussen die verskeie studente-subgroepe te bevorder. Die intervensie is ontwerp as 'n werkswinkel vir 50 studente van verskillende agtergronde wat van Universiteitsbehuising gebruik maak. Die tesis verduidelik hoe die navorsingsdoelwitte korrespondeer met die evalueringstipes wat gebruik is, nl. die evaluasie van waargenome behoeftes en die evaluasie van die proses. Die navorsingsvrae is duidelik gestel en die wetenskaplike metodes vir dataversameling en dataanalise word gespesifiseer. Verder word die aspek van die geldigheid en kwaliteit van die data ook bespreek. Die evaluering van waargenome behoeftes het gewys dat individuele studente die studentepopulasie sien as verdeel In 'n minderheidsgroep ('bruin' en 'swart') en 'n meerderheidsgroep ('wit'). Alhoewel lidmaatskap tot n betrokke groep rue intergroepverhoudings affekteer nie (bv. individuele vriendskappe), het dit tog implikasies vir die sosiale atmosfeer op kampus wat deur 'n tekort aan intergroepkontak en dominasie deur die meerderheidsgroep gekarakteriseer kan word. Vervolgens interpreteer minderheidsgroepe die sosiale atmosfeer meer negatief as lede van die meerderheidsgroep. Dit kan dan ook as die rede aangevoer word waarom lede van minderheidsgroepe 'n waargenome behoefte het om intergroepinteraksie te bevorder. Die persepsies van die respondente wat 'n onderhoud toegestaan het, het aangedui dat 'n intervensie vir die waardering van diversiteit voordelig sal wees en dit het ooreengestem met die siening van die Departement van Studentesake, wat die intervensie gereël het. Die evalusie van die intervensie beklemtoon albei die negatiewe en positiewe aspekte. Eerstens, het die intervensie intervensie-ontwerp, nie die promosie van die intervensie self behels nie, wat noodsaaklik sou gewees het om student geinteresseerd te maak in die diversiteit van die onderwerp en om die studente te motiveer om mee te doen. Tweedens, het die intervensie nie die spesifieke uitdagings soos deur die studente van die Universiteit van Stellnbosch ondervind is, aangespreek nie. Studente het hulle bekommernis uitgespreek oor die toepassing van die informasie in hulle daaglikse lewe. Derdens het die werkswinkel hoofsaaklik gefokus op stereotipes. Nogtans was die effekte van die stereotipes nie deeglik bespreek nie. Boonop was daar te groot aantal stereotipes gelys, maar dit was bevooroordeeld as gevolg van die gebrek van deelnemer van diverse groepe. Daar was ook geen werkswinkel tegnieke van toepassing wat die aangebode lyste van die bevooroordeelde stereotipes bevraagteken het nie. Naas die tegniese oorwegings, moet daar gelet word dat stereotipes in die algemeen die verdeling tussen subgroepe in stand hou van stereotipes in die algemeen. Dus het die werkswinkel tot 'n groot mate gefokus op huidige en vorige aspekte wat die studente verdeel het in plaas daarvan om te fokus op sake van ooreenstemming. Gegrond op hierdie navorsing, kan aanbevelings gemaak word. Eerstens moet daar klem gelê word op die bevordering van die verskeie behoeftes en waardes van die intervensie en die potensiaal waarby deelnemers kan baat. Tweedens, kan dit waardevol wees om verskille tussen studente te erken maar groter klem te lê op eendersheid, d.i. aspekte wat die studente tot mekaar verbind. Derdens moet die leerplan van die intervensie gewysig word om in die behoeftes van die student te voorsien. Vierdens, moet daar 'n balans gehandhaaf word tussen die lesings en interaktiewe elemente. Daar moet 'n moontlikheid bestaan vir deelnemers om 'n aktiewe rol in die intervensie te speel indien hulle dit verlang. Ten slotte word aanbeveel dat toekomstige intervensie gebaseer word op begrypende en volgehoue strategie met lang termyn doelwitte. Die bogenoemde strategie moet in die alreeds bestaande infrastruktuur verweef word. Hierdie intervensie kan beskou word as 'n bydrae tot die transformasie proses wat Suid-Afrika huidiglik ondergaan. Gebaseer op die onlangse gesprek by die Universiteit van Stellenbosch oor die aanneming van'n omvattende diversiteitstrategie, word daar gehoop dat die enkelvoudige intervensie kan inskakel by verdere bydraes in die transformasie proses.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/53615
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