January 30, 2015

Our Powerful Questions – Ongoing Research

I have been impressed and invigorated by the emerging research conducted through Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) and their Campus Religious & Spiritual Climate Survey (CRSCS). The survey, administered annually, measures the environment of a single campus, focusing on student experiences and the ways they perceive acceptance, inclusivity, or coercion on campus with particular attention to differences in worldview.

Lacey Sprague Option 5 3.26.15“Worldview” refers to a person’s guiding life philosophy. A person’s worldview may be based on a particular religious tradition, spiritual orientation, non-religious perspective or some combination of these.

In a partnership with the National Initiative for Leadership and Institutional Effectiveness (NILIE), the CRSCS is being expanded into a longitudinal study. This study, Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS), launches in Fall 2015 with more than 100 colleges and universities participating.

While I am disappointed my own institution has chosen not to join the cohort of public and private institutions participating in these studies, the pilot results prompt important questions for any college campus. As I have begun to share some of these pilot results with my own students, it seemed helpful to develop a few smaller surveys of our own in order to ground and connect our conversations to our particular community.

Beyond writing the survey items myself, I also wanted to hear the types of questions around which students most wanted to engage with other students. My students were invited to submit survey items and/or write what the World Café community calls “powerful questions” – short, potently phrased questions to open dialogue – and design or hand-create visuals as a way of intentionally offering their questions to our learning community.

A few of the questions are focused enough to be incorporated into future local research surveys. However, most of the students’ submitted questions are more expansive and thought-provoking, ideal as conversation starters or invitations to deeper contemplation like the one submitted by a sophomore in the image attached to this post.

There is only so far that quantitative research can take us into such realms of human inquiry. Yet, clearly differences in worldview and attitudes towards the worldviews of others require measured and long-term consideration. As we look forward to more substantive results from the IDEALS and CRSCS research projects, we must also work to make time and create safe spaces to have the important conversations around these potent questions. College campuses can be incubators for creative and critical programming for how society at large might begin to more productively engage our global differences around worldview.

More students’ questions may be found in the albums on our archived Facebook community here and here.

image credit: anonymous college student (March 2015)