Book by Matthew Kaplan and A.T. Miller
Review by Joyce E. Howland
Mentor/Unit Coordinator, Alfred Unit
SUNY Empire State College
Alfred, New York

How can educators increase their own and their students’ understanding of other cultures? Most of Kaplan and Miller’s book describes learning activities that can be used to increase student comprehension of diversity and looks at their effectiveness.  In some cases, not only has students’ understanding of diverse populations increased, but interest and/or performance in the discipline have risen as well.  Many of the activities described would be appropriate for workshops and the training of peer advisors/tutors as well as credit-bearing courses.

This slim volume includes 12 short chapters, many with sizeable bibliographies.  These provide excellent resources for anyone who wants to know more than can be included in each 7-9 page article.    

While most of the book is devoted to research on actual teaching methods, the first two chapters take a different approach.  The first deals with the effects of California’s Proposition 209, which prohibits the use of race in state university admissions decisions, on the composition of California’s post-secondary institutions.  The second discusses the perception that students challenge the authority of female and minority faculty more than that of white, male professors.  

The more interesting part of the book explores a variety of innovative ideas for increasing the appreciation of multiple cultures in various disciplines including education, engineering, information technology, mathematics, music, political science, and theater.  

One part that may be particularly useful is an annotated list of readings on diversity that appears in the Alexander chapter.  These materials could be used for personal reading or as the basis for group discussions with students, faculty and/or staff. In another chapter 

Burgoyne, et al. investigate the use of interactive theater as a training device to help faculty deal with diversity.  This might be effective with other groups such as students and peer advisors.

For those involved in service learning, the evaluation techniques described in Pailetti, Segal and Totino should be useful to assess changes in attitudes and knowledge in a variety of placements. Not only can they be used to measure how students’ understanding of ethnic diversity has changed, but they should also be applicable to exploring how attitudes of students working with the elderly, the poor, and those with various types of physical and mental disabilities have evolved during their experiences.   

The innovations discussed in the chapters dealing with engineering and mathematics instruction were effective in increasing student interest, retention, and for minority and female students, the mastery of the material. This is especially gratifying since these majors tend to lose many prospective female and minorities. The idea that more concrete examples increase student interest is an old one. It is interesting to note that this appears to have a more positive effect on female and minority group students than on white males. The mathematics study documented increased performance on examinations as well as increased interest in the mathematics when the problems came with information on the social and cultural aspects of a practical use of the technique being studied. This happened even though less time was spent on pure mathematics for the experimental sections than for the control group.  

Personnel within centers on teaching and learning as well as advising centers will find this book a source of ideas for faculty and staff involved in increasing multicultural understanding.

Scholarship of Multicultural Teaching and Learning (New Directions for Teaching and Learning #111). (2007) Book by Matthew Kaplan and A.T. Miller (Eds.). Review by Joyce E. Howland. San Francisco, CA: Wiley Periodicals (Jossey-Bass), 110 pp. Price $29.00.  ISBN # 978-0-7879
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