When the Teacher is Different than the Student: The Effect of Race and Ethnicity on Student Learning

By Frank Harris III.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The standard belief in the United States has been that diversity positively affects students' learning. As such, the use of race as a criterion to bring about diversity in education has been an accepted practice for the past 30 years, though not without strife and contention. Particularly, recent years in the U.S. have brought a rising tide of opposition to race-based policies, culminating in the landmark United States Supreme Court decision in June 2007 that made it unconstitutional to use race as a criterion to achieve diversity in America's public schools. The Supreme Court ruling came a day after the preliminary results of this study were presented in Johannesburg, South Africa, a nation wrestling with its own history of race-based policies on education. In the U.S., the Supreme Court case and most other education-driven diversity initiatives centered on diversity of students in the classroom. The ruling presumably would also bar the use of race as a criterion in the selection of faculty. Whether it is America, South Africa or anyplace where there is a
majority and a minority, an empowered and a disempowered, faculty are considered the center and core of any learning institution. This paper uses a case study to examine faculty and student perceptions, to answer the question: What is the impact of diverse faculty on student learning and what implications might the findings have in education, not only in America, but across national and cultural borders.

Keywords: Teacher, Student, Faculty, Race, Ethnicity, Perception, Reality, Effect, Learning, Outcome

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 10, pp.153-162. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 557.297KB).

Prof. Frank Harris III

Chair, Journalism Department, Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA

Prof. Frank Harris III, chair of the Journalism Department at Southern Connecticut State University, has a deep interest in the role of race and ethnicity in all aspects of life -- social, political, medical, educational. In addition to teaching courses in journalism, including developing a course that deals with race, he writes a weekly column for the Hartford Courant. His conference participation in Johannesburg is an extension of his previous work as chair of Southern’s Minority Recruitment & Retention Committee, his attendance at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in 2002 (New Orleans) and 2003 (San Francisco), the Worldwide Conference on Education & Culture in Rome, Italy, in December 2006, and his participation as a panelist in the National Association for Ethnic Studies’ conference, “American Values and the Challenge to Human Rights: Ethnic and Racial Dimensions” in late March 2007 at State University of New York.

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