Laura Rendón is a professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at California State University, Long Beach. Her teaching and research interests include K-16 partnerships, minority experiences in two- and four-year colleges, and student diversity. Rendón is the author of numerous articles and is the associate editor for the Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering. We have been using "Validating Culturally Diverse Students" as a basis for discussion at a workshop on teaching non-traditional college students and also for our "Teaching and Learning in the Diverse Classroom" teaching circle at Cal Poly Pomona.
Rendón begins her article with a discussion of the ways in which student demographics have changed on college campuses. Rendon writes that the 1990s "usher[ed] in a changing student demography" and identifies the following:
- The majority of students are women.
- A new wave of immigrants are entering schools and colleges.
- Adult students, those over 25, constitute a sizable proportion of the student body.
- African American, Mexican American, Puerto Rican, American Indian, and Asian students are emerging as a new student majority on some campuses.
- Sizable numbers of first-generation students (first in their family to attend college) are enrolling in college.
- Many students from families with poverty level incomes are seeking a college degree as a means to a better life.
- Non-racial student minorities, such as students with disabilities, gays and lesbians, and Jewish students are demanding colleges and universities to respond to their needs. (33)
The students described above are traditionally deemed "non-traditional." According to Rendón, "traditional students expressed few, if any, concerns about succeeding in college, while non-traditional students . . . communicated some doubts about their ability to succeed" (37). However, non-traditional students who were getting validation as learners both in-class and outside of class "began to believe that they could be successful" (41).
For those of us teaching at diverse campuses with a high proportion of "non-traditional" students, Rendón's findings are especially important. She points out that faculty members have a direct impact on the ways in which these students view themselves as capable or incapable of being successful learners. The role of faculty in fostering academic validation is especially important. Rendón clarifies that faculty who provide vital in class validation are those who:
- Demonstrate a genuine concern for teaching students;
- Are personable and approachable;
- Treat students equally;
- Structure learning experiences that allow students to experience themselves as capable of learning;
- Work individually with students who need extra help;
- Provide meaningful feedback to students. (40)
Rendón moves toward a definition of validation and presents a new model of learning and growth. As she discusses current models of learning, she says,
A great deal of invalidation is built into the present model of teaching and learning found in most two-and four-year institutions. Calling students by social security numbers, discounting life experiences, detaching faculty from students, promoting fiercely competitive environments that pit students against each other, are just some examples of invalidating situations that students experience. (45)
Rendón's conclusion is hopeful:
This study demonstrated that nontraditional students...can be transformed into full members of the college academic and social community.... What is needed to transform these students is for faculty, administrators, and counselors to fully engage in the validation of students and to recognize that not all students can be expected to learn ... in the same way. (51)
Rendón's article was published in Innovative Higher Education, a journal published quarterly by Human Sciences Press. The current editor is Ronald D. Simpson, Professor at the Institute of Higher Education, University of Georgia. For more information on the journal, review the web site: http://www.uga.edu/ihe/IHE.html
This article was previously published in the following newsletter:
The Newsletter of the Faculty Center for Professional Development, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona 2.2 (Spring 2001).
Reprinted with the permission of the author and of David Fite, Director of the Faculty Center for Professional Development.
Posted October 4, 2001
All material appearing in this journal is subject to applicable copyright laws.
Publication in this journal in no way indicates the endorsement of the content by the California State University, the Institute for Teaching and Learning, or the Exchanges Editorial Board.
©2001 by Carol Zitzer-Comfort