Date of this Version

May 2008

Document Type



First Place winner of 2008 Graduate Research Forum


This study examined the relationship between diverse learning environments and students’ perceptions of their educational experiences within a large Northern Virginia public school system via quantitative, nonexperimental, survey methods. Five areas reflecting frequently established goals of education were explored: student diversity; curricular diversity; student learning and peer interaction, to include development of critical thinking skills; future educational aspirations; and goals and perceptions of support by the school. Subjects were 11th-grade high school students from across a selection of the 10 high schools in the subject school division. Data was derived from the Diversity Assessment Questionnaire (DAQ), an instrument that asked students to rate the value of racial and ethnic diversity experienced in different areas and included questions for students about their classrooms, future goals, educational aspirations, attitudes, and interests. Survey response data was compiled and disaggregated by racial and ethnic groups and by school diversity indices. Analysis of the general benefits of a diverse student body was accomplished by presenting direct responses to the DAQ. Descriptive statistics, specifically median scores and percentages, were used to illustrate and interpret the results. A composite variable was created from questions representing students’ aspirations for higher education, then used as an outcome in several linear regression models designed to complement the disaggregated individual survey question results. The study found that there are high levels of diversity in schools and classrooms in the subject public school system, as well in the curriculum and social exchanges; that higher levels of diversity in the curriculum are related to increased student understanding of points of view different from their own; that students that are placed in settings of higher diversity are more comfortable with members of different racial/ethnic groups and, therefore, more willing to operate in diverse classroom environments; that students that attend more diverse schools expressed a greater desire to live and work in multiracial settings compared to their more segregated peers; that perceived educational goals and aspirations are similar across ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic groups; and that there are high levels of equality between racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups in perceived educational opportunities for students. Students from all backgrounds reported benefiting from the diversity of their schools, with strong uniformity in response by all groups.