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Research Design


IDEALS is a mixed-methods study that explores religious and worldview diversity in college by examining students’ collegiate experiences and their relationship with interfaith learning and development. Specifically, the study addresses the following research questions:

  1. What is the interfaith potential in this generation of college students?
  2. How do students’ interfaith attitudes and behaviors change during college?
  3. Which educational interventions have the greatest impact on interfaith learning and development?

IDEALS is being administered at 122 institutions from diverse regions of the U.S. The institutional sample includes public, private nonsectarian, and religiously-affiliated colleges and universities of varying sizes. The initial survey (conducted in Summer/Fall 2015) yielded responses from 20,436 incoming first-year college students. In Fall/Spring of 2016, 7,194 of the Time 1 respondents participated in the Time 2 survey administration.

In 2017-18, researchers selected 18 IDEALS campuses--diverse in terms of geography, affiliation, and size—to participate in qualitative case studies. Data is being collected via interviews, focus groups, and observations to augment and contextualize quantitative survey findings. The qualitative case studies help the IDEALS team better address the above research questions while also providing in-depth insight into a) how students, faculty, and staff experience the climate for worldview diversity on different campuses; b) factors that help or hinder institutional efforts to promote worldview diversity and interfaith engagement; and c) ways that members of distinct campus communities engage in interfaith work.

In the Spring of 2019, all Time 1 survey participants will be invited to participate in the final IDEALS administration (Time 3).