IDEALS serves as the foundation for a multi-year study examining how undergraduate students from across the country experience—and engage with—religious and worldview diversity during the college years. IDEALS tracked a national cohort of students who entered college in Fall 2015; these students were surveyed at the outset of college, at the end of their first collegiate year, and in Spring 2019 near the end of their fourth year as undergraduates. This longitudinal design makes it possible to examine how students’ interfaith learning and development changes over time. Further, it enables researchers to identify programs, activities, and other environmental factors that play a role in shaping various student outcomes.
Sample Characteristics and Institutional Breakdown
Astin’s (1993) Input-Environment-Output (I-E-O) conceptual model guided the design of the IDEALS instrument. In keeping with its longitudinal approach, IDEALS includes a range of items to capture students’ pre-college (i.e., input) characteristics (I), their perceptions of—and experiences within—the college environment (E), and their growth with respect to different learning and developmental outcomes (O). Below are items or scales from IDEALS organized into the I-E-O categories.
Examples of Pre-College Characteristics:
- Worldview identification
- Family education
- Family income
- Gender identity
- Political leaning
- Sexual orientation
Campus Environment/Experience Scales:
For the first set of environment scales, respondents indicated the extent to which they agreed with statements about aspects of their campus climate or found them to be accurate.
Structural Worldview Diversity
Sample survey item: “This campus is very religiously diverse.”
Divisiveness on Campus
Sample survey item: “Religious and non-religious differences create a sense of division on this campus.”
Space for Support and Spiritual Expression
Sample survey item: “There is a place on this campus where I can express my personal worldview.”
Sample survey item: “This campus is a welcoming place for...” (e.g., atheists, Muslims, politically conservative people, people from different countries)
For the following set of environment scales, respondents indicated the frequency with which they experienced various aspects of the campus climate.
Insensitivity on Campus
Sample survey item: “While you have been enrolled at your college or university, how often have you been mistreated on campus because of your worldview?”
Coercion on Campus
Sample survey item: “While you have been enrolled at your college or university, how often have you felt pressured by others on campus to change your worldview?”
Provocative Encounters with Worldview Diversity
Sample survey item: “While you have been enrolled at your college or university, how often have you felt challenged to rethink your assumptions about another worldview after someone explained their worldview to you?”
Negative Interworldview Engagement
Sample survey item: “Regarding your interactions with people whose worldviews differ from yours, how often have you had hurtful, unresolved interactions?”
For the final set of environment scales, respondents indicated whether or not they had participated in various worldview-related activities at their college or university.
General Religious/Spiritual Engagement
Sample survey item: “Utilized a multi-faith space on campus”
Informal Interfaith Engagement
Sample survey item: “Had conversations with people of diverse religious or non-religious perspectives about the values you have in common”
Formal Interfaith Engagement
Sample survey item: “Attended religious services for a religious tradition that is not your own”
Other Civic and Diversity Engagement
Sample survey item: “Participated in multicultural campus activities”
Curricular Religious and Spiritual Engagement
Sample survey item: “Discussed religious diversity in at least one of your general education courses”
Outcomes Measured by IDEALS:
For the appreciative knowledge outcome scale, respondents answered eight multiple-choice questions about different religions and worldviews.
Sample survey item: “Which of the following statements correctly distinguishes atheists and agnostics?” (Response options: Atheists believe in only one God, while agnostics believe in multiple gods; Atheists are uncertain about whether God exists, while agnostics do not believe in God; Atheists do not believe in God, while agnostics are uncertain about whether God exists)
For the remaining outcome scales, respondents indicated the extent to which they agreed with statements about their beliefs, attitudes, and pluralism orientation or found them to be accurate.
Overall Pluralism Orientation
Sample survey item: “I am open to adjusting my beliefs as I learn from other people and have new life experiences.”
Global Citizenship (Pluralism Sub-scale)
Sample survey item: “I am actively learning about people across the globe who have different religious and cultural ways of life than I do.”
Goodwill/Acceptance (Pluralism Sub-scale)
Sample survey item: “I feel a sense of good will toward people of other religious and non-religious perspectives.”
Appreciation of Commonalities and Differences (Pluralism Sub-scale)
Sample survey item: “Love is a value that is core to most of the world’s religions.”
Commitment to Interfaith Leadership and Service (Pluralism Sub-scale)
Sample survey item: “We can overcome many of the world’s major problems if people of different religious and non-religious perspectives work together.”
Appreciative Attitudes (Toward 13 Distinct Groups)
Sample survey item: “In general, people in this group make positive contributions to society.”
Self-Authored Worldview Commitment
Sample survey item: “I have thoughtfully considered other religious and non-religious perspectives before committing to my current worldview.”
Guiding Theories and Models
Astin’s (1993) Input-Environment-Outcome (I-E-O) Model: The I-E-O framework enables researchers to identify the effects of specific collegiate experiences on interfaith learning and development while accounting for pre-college sources of influence (e.g., attitudes at college entry, high school educational experiences, family background, personal characteristics) that might play a role in shaping student outcomes.
Campus Diversity Climate Model (Hurtado, Milem, Clayton-Pedersen, & Allen, 1998): The model provides a framework to examine various features of college environments—in particular, the structural, psychological, and behavioral dimensions of climate—that are known to influence intergroup attitudes.
Intergroup Contact Theory (Allport, 1954; Pettigrew, 1998; Pettigrew & Tropp, 2000): IDEALS is based on the notion that students’ educational experiences with religious diversity must assume certain optimal qualities—equal status, cooperation, common goals, and institutional support—to cultivate positive attitude formation and reduce prejudice. Experiences in college, whether social interactions between students of different worldviews or co-curricular experiences that expose students to diverse perspectives, are expected to have stronger effects on outcomes when they take on these optimal qualities.
Worldview describes a guiding philosophy or outlook on life, which may be based on a particular religious tradition, spiritual orientation, non-religious perspective, or some combination of these.
Self-authored Worldview Commitment occurs when an individual autonomously determines their outlook on life, which informs how they make meaning of beliefs, identities, and relationships (Mayhew & Bryant Rockenbach, 2013). “...In other words, a self-authored individual would have an informed, critical understanding of his or her worldview, would describe him or herself in ways consistent with such an understanding, and would relate to others in a manner also consistent with that understanding” (p. 64).
Interfaith depicts the engagement of people with diverse worldviews, including but not limited to: atheism, agnosticism, Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Humanism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Secularism, Sikhism, and all other religious, non-religious, and philosophical traditions. In particular, it refers to intentional experiences, both formal and informal, that facilitate meaningful interactions across worldview differences.
Pluralism involves actively engaging with diversity; moving from tolerance to acceptance of others; recognizing commitment as distinct from, and possible amidst, relativism; and recognizing and appreciating worldview differences as well as commonalities (Eck, 1993).
Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Astin, A. W. (1993). What matters in college?: Four critical years revisited. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Eck, D.L. (1993). Encountering God: A spiritual journey from Bozeman to Banaras. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
Hurtado, S., Milem, J. F., Clayton-Pederson, A. R., & Allen, W. R. (1998). Enhancing campus climates for racial/ethnic diversity: Educational policy and practice. The Review of Higher Education, 21(3), 279-302.
Mayhew, M. J., & Bryant Rockenbach, A. (2013). Achievement or arrest? The influence of the
collegiate religious and spiritual climate on students’ worldview commitment. Research in Higher Education, 54(1), 63-84.
Pettigrew, T. F. (1998). Intergroup contact theory. Annual Review of Psychology, 49(1), 65–85.
Pettigrew, T. F., & Tropp, L. R. (2000). Does intergroup contact reduce prejudice? Recent meta-analytic findings. In S. Oskamp (Ed.), Reducing prejudice and discrimination (pp. 93–114). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.