Engaging Diverse College Students Through Inquiry to Discover and Appreciate Civic Knowledge and Values

Peri Yuksel, Assistant Professor, Psychology, New Jersey City University, Ansley LaMar, Professor, Psychology, New Jersey City University.

In this session, two faculty members (senior professor, junior professor) from the Department of Psychology of an urban northeastern university will demonstrate two different pedagogical approaches of student civic engagement that foster self-awareness and relationship skills. The senior faculty’s pedagogical approach is grounded in Appreciative Inquiry, which is a philosophical approach that encourages the participants to discover the best that is. The junior faculty’s pedagogical approach is grounded in Inquiry-Based Learning, which encourages self-learning in students. The students belong to NJCU— one of the most diverse campuses in New Jersey. Such diversity poses a unique opportunity for social learning and developing authentic relationships among students of different racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. Social learning is much needed to gain understanding and appreciation for a broad range of civic values and dispositions in an increasingly polarized and divided world. Both faculty approaches of student inquiry give learners a unique opportunity to work together in envisioning and creating a society where everyone can thrive. In this highly interactive session, both faculty will stress the importance of confidence, curiosity, and critical communication to help students collectively outline an action plan that will result in a positive and engaging inclusive community.

The spark presentation will demonstrate a process that has been used to stimulate authentic conversations between students who are culturally different from one another and/or have differing life experiences. The goal of the session is to help educators work with the diversity within their classrooms to help develop a more nuanced view of societal issues and to stimulate authentic communication between students for a more inclusive learning experience. This highly interactive session will use experiential exercise(s) and focused discussions to demonstrate a method the presenters use to stimulate authentic conversations about a difficult topic among students who are culturally different. The session will be led by two colleagues of the Psychology Department at New Jersey City University. Dr. Ansley LaMar has 48 years of teaching experience and was awarded best presentation by Middle States Association of Collegiate Registrars and Officers of Admissions. He has published a chapter in Published in Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Psychological Pathways to Conflict Transformation and Peace Building, entitled “A Black Social Psychologist’s Perspective on Racial Forgiveness” (2009)  and co-authored with Robert Panzarella an article entitled “The Attitudes of Blacks and Whites toward Native American Revolutionary Tactics for Social Change” (1979). Dr. Ansley LaMar is a social psychologist and his pedagogical method takes advantage of Appreciative Inquiry (Cockell, McArthur-Blar, 2020; Cooperrider et al., 2003) and intergroup contact theory (e.g., Pettigrew, 1998).

Dr. Peri Yuksel has 5 years of teaching experience in New Jersey City University and is a recipient of the Isenberg Award for the Documentation of Languages of the Former Soviet Union and publication of children’s books in endangered languages. As a developmental psychologist, Dr. Peri Yuksel’s pedagogy focuses on reflective inquiry on human development and social justice with roots in John Dewey’s constructivist framework. Both presenters are inviting a broad range of audience members to participate in this highly interactive workshop, in which participants will experience an attenuated version of activities the presenters use in their classes. They will then be invited to critique and offer ideas for enhancing the procedure.


Cockell, J., & McArthur-Blair, J. (2020). Appreciative inquiry in higher education: A transformative

force. Friesen Press.

Cooperrider, D. L., Whitney, D.,  & Stavros, J.M.  (2003). Appreciative inquiry handbook. Brunswick, OH: Crown Custom Publishing, Inc.

LaMar, A. W. (2009). A Black Social Psychologist’s Perspective on Racial Forgiveness. In Forgiveness and reconciliation: Psychological pathways to conflict transformation and peace building (pp. 155-170). Springer, New York, NY.

Panzarella, R., & LaMar, A. (1979). Attitudes of Blacks and Whites toward Native American

revolutionary tactics for social change. Human Relations, 32(1), 69-75.

Pettigrew, T (1998). Intergroup contact theory. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 65-85.