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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Ethno-cultural and Quasi-minority Characteristics Impact Acceptance of Learning (or Change) Media Interventions

by Ihor Cap, Ph. D.
Adolescents and adults bring to the learning (change) situation varying levels of readiness, knowledge, personalities, skills, cultural beliefs and life experiences. Many public survey measures are used to help us understand the status behind these phenomena. We can learn even more about these phenomena when educational researchers can change the course of such phenomena. However, this type of approach requires experimental manipulation. Has there been a lot of experimental research conducted involving the race or ancestry variable with adolescents or adults and the use of control subjects (or statistical control)?  What does the instructional designer or marketing manager need to know when planning for media interventions with adolescent or adult ethno-cultural or racial populations?
The fact of the matter is that there are merely 14 research studies that span a 52-year interval that speak to the first question. The earliest known study dates back to 1943 in New York City conducted by Smith (1943). The last study, but first and only known experimental study involving ethno-cultural characteristics and control subjects in a Canadian setting, completes the research picture and was published in 1995 (Cap, 1995). 

The findings and conclusions drawn from these studies challenge our assumptions of learners and the processes of learning or change as we consider, design or restructure our instructional and motivational interventions to achieve the purposes intended, says Cap (2001, p. 2) in his research digest.  The patterns and trends in the studies coalesced   to form the following conclusions (Cap, 2001, pp.22-24):

- Media technology can effect instructional improvements in all three learning domains.

Instructional improvements in the cognitive domain do not always carry over to improvements in the affective domain.

The affective domain is more problematic than the cognitive or psychomotor domains for effecting improvements.

Information (knowledge) gains are often greater than attitude.

Individuals’ who learn more (new) information tend to make the larger gains in attitude than individuals who learn less.

In some instances, ethnic or racial groups are not any more (or less) knowledgeable about their own group(s) than groups not of the same ethnic or racial backgrounds.

Ethnic and racial minority attitudes can be favorably affected by planned intellectual and social contacts.

Not all groups or sub-groups will be evenly affected.

An audience is much more susceptible to persuasive messages if the treatment suggestions target this audience for improvement.

Given the opportunity for active participation or choice in subsequent sequence selection during exposure to the communication enhances the likelihood of low mental ability groups to respond positively to the treatment suggestions.

Given the opportunity, ethnic and racial groups are more likely to be affected by their own student social models with positive results.

Given a context shared by both the audience and communicator, same race audience members empathize more with a recording comprising two different racial actors versus a recording using same race actors.

Racial groups treated to a message by a non-same background presenter tend to retain less information than groups treated to the same message by one of their own.

The communicator race factor tends to exercise less of an effect on individuals’ attitudes toward message content than does close-mindedness.

Females, in response to the treatment suggestions, are more inclined to perform vocational information-seeking behaviors than males.

Females belonging to an ethnic minority group, in response to the treatment suggestions, are less inclined to perform vocational information-seeking behaviors than females as a group.

Individual motives tend to mirror group motivation.

The superiority of such ethnic variables as ancestry and religion in predicting postcourse success is displaced when precourse performance scores are accounted for.

It is not only the precourse knowledge and attitudes of the learner that are important to postcourse success, but it is also a matter of the subsequent preparation of contents and activities to be in harmonious correspondence with these characteristics.

The use of preproduction testing (formative evaluation) notably increases the probability of postcourse success.

Education and marketing researchers, trainers, coaches and mentors, professionals and experienced practitioners should take heed of these conclusions to avoid any unnecessary negative post-intervention aftereffects. Consult the digest of controlled research studies to learn the details of these experiments. The patterns and trends evidenced here attest to the value and importance of ethnicity and race as factors to contend with when planning for any learning (or change) interventions with these audiences.

Author: Ihor Cap, Ph.D.

Reading list

Cap, Ihor. (2001). The Effects of Instructional Media and Ethnocultural Characteristics on Egalitarian and Utilitarian Learning: An Empirical Digest of Controlled Research Studies. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC). ED 457 856

Smith, F.T. (1943). An experiment in modifying attitudes toward the Negro (Contributions to Education, No. 887). New York: Teachers College, Columbia University.
First published October 26, 2008 in