Black Faculty in Higher Education Found to Have More Innovative Teaching Styles Than Their White Counterparts

The Department of Education estimates that 28 percent of all undergraduate students in U.S. higher education are African American, Hispanic, Asian American, or Native American. Blacks make up about 11 percent of total enrollments. But for faculty, only 14 percent of the total are people of color and 5 percent of all faculty are black.

Despite their relatively small numbers, black and other minority faculty make a significant contribution to American higher education. In a paper published recently in the journal Research in Higher Education, Professor Paul Umbach at the University of Iowa conducted a 2003 survey of nearly 13,500 faculty members at 134 predominantly white colleges and universities nationwide. He found that black and other minority faculty were more likely than white faculty members to interact with their students and to use a broader range of teaching techniques. He found that black faculty were also more likely than their white peers to use active and collaborative learning techniques, to create environments that increase diverse interactions, and to emphasize higher-order thinking activities in the classroom.

Professor Umbach speculates that because black and other minority faculty come from diverse backgrounds themselves, they are more likely to have unique perspectives and different teaching methods. He also believes that many black faculty feel they have to work harder at teaching to overcome stereotypical expectations that they are not up to the job.