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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


A Comparative Study of High School Comfort Level with Student Diversity: Going Global from a Local Perspective

Kathlyn Y. Wiggins-Jones PhD.

Statistical and demographic data suggests that the United states is becoming a more pluralistic society. The proliferation of ethnic plurality is observable in the transformation of the work place, some neighbourhoods, and many schools and universities. The reality of this projection is manifesting at a dynamic rate, and is now reflected in many high school settings today.

Notwithstanding, to some high school students the concept of pluralism or diversity evokes feelings and perceptions of trepidation, negativity, and hostility because of the fear of the unknown. This has been reflected in many of the students responses to the question Why Can't we Get along? when they attended a diversity workshop conducted by the researcher as part of a program for incoming freshmen. Fear of what we don't know was the single most common response echoed from the vast majority of the students. This fear may be an invisible barrier to better interpersonal relationships among adolescents which, may negatively impact students' emotional and physical well being, their academic achievement, which may ultimately affect the acquisition of the necessary communications skills required to function in a diverse/global society.

The aforementioned data provided the framework for the studies. The research instrument, a comfort level survey was designed to collect both quantitative and qualitative data to measure high school students' attitudes and perceptions toward student differences. Students' degrees of comfort, fear/ discomfort were compared using demographic variables: gender, race, and ethnicity to the following relational variables: Race, religion, sexual orientation, intellectual abilities, and disabilities, substance users/abusers, gothic dressers, jocks, teen mothers, etc.

I will present findings from two research efforts: 1. A comparison between suburban high school students and urban high school students; 2. A geographic comparison between high school students who attend school in a Northern city (Buffalo, NY) and a Southern city (Memphis, TN). If time permits I will also present the first year findings from a four-year longitudinal study.

This research effort will measure the impact of the secondary curricula and other school programs in alleviating student fears and discomfort. The findings may point to the need for educational reform as it relates to modifying professional development and teacher education programs as a means of preparing high school students for a global society.


Kathlyn Y. Wiggins-Jones PhD  (United States)
Assistant Professor
Educational Foundations Department
Buffalo State College State University of New York

Dr. Kathlyn Y. Wiggins-Jones is an Assistant Professor in the Educational Foundations Department. Her research focus is literacy& cultural diversity in preparing future teachers.

  • Cultural Diversity
  • Global Education
  • Teacher Education
  • Professional Development

(Virtual Presentation, English)