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Interfaith in Living Color: Building Confidence, Empathy, and Significant Learning Competencies in Students through Intentional Exposure, Communal Dialogue, and Creative Expression

Oriola, Emiola (2022) Interfaith in Living Color: Building Confidence, Empathy, and Significant Learning Competencies in Students through Intentional Exposure, Communal Dialogue, and Creative Expression. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Universities annually welcome students from a wide variety of locations, cultures, and backgrounds, aiming to educate them in their career of choice. However, they often hit a wall when it comes to creating opportunities for students who hold deep and often polarizing diversity markers, specifically religious preference, faith and/or worldview, to positively interact, understand, and connect with one another. Through the lens of out-of-school learning, communal dialogue, and improvement science, my Dissertation in Practice will examine the complexities of students’ interfaith attitudes, perspectives, and behaviors towards diverse communities within higher education. I address the problem of practice that students are not being intentionally engaged in this area.

My work builds from the theory that creating learning environments for students that allow for memorable experiential learning opportunities, encourage interaction, and welcome curiosity and questions, can increase confidence and the capacity for cross cultural relationships to develop. To test this theory, I recruited 10 students from the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) who are diverse in worldview, ethnicity, sex, gender, year, major, etc. and implemented five group visitations to local places of worship. During each visit, the student group was given a clergy/leader led summary and tour of the location, observed a holy service, ritual or gathering, and concluded with a private reflective discussion debriefing on their experience. After each visit and at their
discretion, the student group shared their perspectives, attitudes, and feelings about their experience privately with me and publicly with each other. In addition to data collection consisting of a mixed methods approach: questionnaires, observational noting, student journaling, drawings, letter writing, interviews, and debriefings, I examined the implications of this experience on student behavior and relationships, the influence of my office on campus, and the growth of Pitt as an equitable institution of higher education.

My findings indicated that while all 10 students expressed and/or demonstrated an increase in confidence, empathy, and significant learning competencies (appreciative knowledge, application, integration, self-awareness, caring, and learning how to learn) from their interfaith experiences, each student participant exhibited improvement, impact, and overall change in very nuanced ways and in different areas along the journey. My predictions about what changes would occur regarding common feelings before and after this experience, what feelings would grow within the student group towards each other throughout the experience, and the extent of the impact this experience would have after we concluded were correct. The students did shift from feeling hesitant and scared to surprised and curious; they did grow in intimacy and empathy towards one another; they did increase in confidence to engage with communities from various worldviews both during and after the experience. However, my findings depicted that there was more unique data present regarding where these changes occurred within the journey and data collecting tools, specifically in the areas of how the students processed and learned these competencies and skills: through conversation, through imagination, and through continuation.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Oriola, EmiolaEmiola.J.Oriola@gmail.comebo30000-0001-7348-4032
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairAkiva,
Committee MemberDelale-O’Connor,
Committee MemberBlier,
Date: 5 July 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 14 March 2022
Approval Date: 5 July 2022
Submission Date: 7 June 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 127
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Learning Sciences and Policy
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Experiential Learning, Relationship Building, Interfaith, Religion, Faith, Student Engagement, Informal Learning, Community, Dialogue, Global Competence,
Date Deposited: 05 Jul 2022 14:02
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2022 14:02


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