Impact of Mentoring on African American Students at PWIs


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Impact of Mentoring on African American Students at PWIs

  1. 1. Ashley WattsResearch ProposalThe Impact of Mentoring on the Academic Achievement of African American Students atPredominantly White InstitutionsAt 46 and 47 percent respectively, bachelor’s degree completion rates within six years forAfrican Americans and Hispanics enrolled at four-year institutions in the year 1996-97 laggedbehind that of whites as much as 11 percent (Swail, 2003). Only Asians surpassed whites in thisarea (Swail, 2003). Achievement gaps between non-Asian minorities and whites students willcontinue to widen unless critical factors contributing to their success are addressed.According to Swail (2003), “lack of diversity in the student population, faculty, staff andcurriculum often restricts the nature and quality of minority students’ interactions within and outof the classroom, threatening their academic performance and social experiences;” therefore, theacademic success and social integration of minority student at predominantly white institutions(PWIs) creates a unique concern (p. 9). Mentorship of minority students at PWI, especially byfaculty and staff of color could drastically change students perceptions of the university, helpthem acclimate to university life and persist until graduation.The abundance of research about mentoring is focused the more psychological aspects ofthe mentoring relationship – student attitudes toward mentoring relationships, desirable mentorqualities and how to pair mentees with mentors to achieve higher levels of student satisfaction(Campbell & Campbell, 2007). Several studies also cite mentoring relationships as beingbeneficial in the eyes of the students (Schultz, Colton & Colton, 2001; Santos & Reigadas,2002). Again, however, these benefits are not examined in quantifiable terms.
  2. 2. Campbell and Campbell (2007) suggest that there is a need for more “goal-basedoutcome studies” in order to understand how mentoring affects student learning (p. 145). Theavailable research which concludes that mentored students do experience higher grade pointaverages (GPAs) and retention rates than that of non-mentored students to varied degrees islimited in scope and quantity (Campbell & Campbell, 2007; Vivian, 2005; Schultz et al., 2001).Furthermore, research specific to minority students at PWIs could not be found.A quantitative study of the how mentoring underrepresented students at PWIs,specifically African Americans, affects the academic achievement, retention, and involvement ofthose students will be beneficial to those seeking to gain support for such programs in anenvironment where all programs are subject to a cost benefit analysis. Such research could alsoencourage more faculty and staff to accept the responsibility of becoming a mentor or even justto understand the importance of student-teacher or student-advisor relationships.Psychological Impact of MentoringMentoring relationships impact students both mentally and academically. Psychologically,mentoring can impact students’ self-efficacy, ease adjustment to academic life and goal-settingability. Development in these areas is important for students’ continued growth and achievementpersonally, academically and professionally. This development is especially important forminority students at predominantly white institutions (PWIs).The normal challenges associated with maneuvering through the college arestressful to most students; however, minority students at [PWIs] encounteradditional stresses that come from being a minority… including social climate,interracial stresses, racism and discrimination, within-group stresses, andachievement stress (Swail, Redd & Perna, 2003, p. 57).
  3. 3. Swail et al.’s (2003) study also revealed those stressors related to campus climate “[threatenminorities’] academic performance” (p. viii).Paglis, Green and Bauer (2006) note that “formation [of self-efficacy] is subject to socialinfluence” and can impact student “motivation and performance” (p. 455). Both Paglis et al.(2006) and Santos and Reigadas (2002) saw positive correlations between mentoring and self-efficacy in the areas of research and “ability to succeed in college,” respectively (p. 46). Thatsuccess is hinged on many things. One of the greatest contributors to success is adjustment to theacademic aspects of collegiate life.According to Swail et al.’s (2003), “[s]pecial programmatic efforts, including mentoring… programs designed to support ethnic minorities’ academic and social integration, have easedsome students’ transition to college” (p. 60). Students in Shultz, Colton and Colton’s (2001)study of Kutztown University’s Adventor Program believed that their mentors had a definiteimpact on their ability to adjust to college. This is echoed in Davis’s (2008) study whose studentsfelt that “[w]orking closely with faculty mentors… helped [them] to demystify academic life”(Davis, 2008, p. 283).Another of Davis’s (2008) findings included an increased ability of participants to assesstheir own educational and career goals. The ability to set goals is an important mentoringoutcome which can carry through to mentees’ personal and professional lives. After participatingin the Faculty Mentor Relationship study conducted by Santos and Reigadas (2002), students hadbetter defined academic goals than before participating in the study. Tinto (as cited in Swail etal., 2005) also linked “goal commitment” to “college performance and persistence,” (p. 61).However, there are influences that can temper student attitudes toward the mentoringexperience. One such influence is the mentees perception of the mentors’ interest in him or her.
  4. 4. African-American McNair students at Truman State University indicated that a mentor’spersonal interest in them was more important than his/her expertise (Ishiyama, 2007). Caucasianstudents, conversely, felt they had better mentoring experiences when they perceived that theirmentor was an expert (Ishiyama, 2007).Academic Impact of MentoringOne factor that affects both student satisfactions, a psychological aspect of mentoring, andacademic achievement is ethnicity. “African-American men and women protégés believed thatmentor relationships were more personally beneficial when the mentor matched in racial identityor at least was culturally sensitive, and that such mentors were more credible and effective”(Ferrari, 2004). Santos and Reigadas (2002) found that of participants in their study, ethnicallymatched students “felt that their mentors were more helpful personally and professionally, hadmore academic self-efficacy and had greater program satisfaction than non-matched participants”(p. 42). Additionally, Pope (2002) found that students themselves felt that the needs of differentethnic groups should be considered when determining the mentoring process for students.These sentiments, although qualitative in nature, are supported by the factual data. Notonly do ethnically matched protégés attain higher GPAs, those gains are more sustained thanprotégés whose mentors are of a different ethnicity (Schultz et al., 2001; Campbell & Campbell,2007). Studies have also delved into the impact that gender matching has on student attitudes andperformances; however, academic performance among those matched by gender was found to bestatistically insignificant (Campbell & Campbell, 2007).The impact of mentoring on the academic achievement of minorities is an area in whichlittle research has been done. However, there is evidence that mentoring positively impactsstudents’ grade point average (GPA), retention, and productivity. Campbell and Campbell (2007)
  5. 5. found that within the first year of the study, mentored students had significantly greaterachievement than non-mentored students; however, the gap narrowed over time becomingstatistically insignificant by the end of the study. In Shultz et al.’s (2001) study of the AdventorProgram, a mentoring program at Kutztown University showed increased GPAs among first-yearstudents of color in the program than the control group. The students in Vivian’s (2005) studywho persisted saw an improvement in their GPA versus approximately one third of the controlgroup; even of those who withdrew more left in good academic standing.In addition, Vivian (2005) found that the retention rate for the group of mentored studentswas higher than that of the control group and that they graduated at a significantly higher rate.There were also increased retention rates among first-year students of color in the program thanthe control group in Shultz et al.’s (2001). Swain identifies “interaction between faculty andstudents… as a major factor in the ability of students to persist in college while also increasingtheir level of satisfaction” (p. 65).Although all of the aforementioned studies touch on mentoring’s impact on college levelstudents, I could find none that specific to academic outcomes of African American students atPWIs. The vast majority of research is qualitative in nature. Studies by Davis (2008), Pope(2002) and Santos and Reigadas (2002), despite focusing on minorities, are all qualitative innature, and Davis (2008) who does address the mentoring of African Americans focuses ondoctoral students. Paglis et al.’s (2006) study also centers on aspects of mentoring doctoralstudents more qualitative in nature. Ishiyama (2007) examines the psychological impact ofmentoring on low income white/Caucasian and African American students in the McNairprogram, but again more quantitative measures are not addressed.
  6. 6. The quantitative studies I located, such as Campbell and Campbell (2007) and Vivian (2005),both measure academic performance of undergrads in mentoring programs versus those not inmentoring programs; however they do not focus on African Americans. Shultz et al. (2001),while focusing on minorities, mainly focus on first-year students and do not limit their study toAfrican Americans or PWIs. Given our knowledge about social and academic challenges facedby and attrition rates of African Americans at PWIs, a study of this nature would be beneficialfor student services administrators at a number of institutions. The purpose of this study is todetermine the ways in which African American students are positively affected by mentorshipwhile at predominantly white institutions (PWIs) and intends to answer the following questions:1. How does mentoring effect African American student performance at PWIs?2. How do the GPAs of mentored students compare with that of non-mentored students?3. What is the attrition rate of mentored students in comparison with non-mentoredstudents?4. How many extracurricular activities do mentored students participate in as compared tonon-mentored students?MethodsParticipantsIn order to get a true representative sample without surveying students at every PWI in thenation, multistage cluster sampling must be used. For the purposes of this study, four-yearinstitutions must be used in order to assess retention and graduation rates. Utilizing the CarnegieFoundations institutional classifications and online tools, it is possible to create a list of similaruniversities from various locations which share enough similar qualities to eliminate extraneousvariables. Should the list include more than ten universities, ten schools will be chosen at
  7. 7. random. I would then obtain permission from each university through institutional review board.Proper documentation, as well as consent forms would be prepared and submitted as instructedby each review board. After submitting my project for review, should consent not be granted byany institution an alternate school would be selected.After narrowing down the list of universities, further provisions would need to be madeto ensure enough participants would meet the criteria to acquire the desired data without dilutingthe results. Stratified sampling within each university would be appropriate because at PWIs “thepopulation reflects an imbalance;” thus “a simple random sample from this population wouldlikely result in selection of more [Caucasians] than [African Americans] or maybe even no[African Americans]” (Creswell, 2007, p. 154). Because part of the study includes trackinggraduation and retention, students would need to be freshmen. Students would also be asked tosign a consent form outlining the purpose of the study and guarantee anonymity.InstrumentIn assessing whether or not mentorship positively affects African American students atPredominantly White Institutions (PWIs), it is first necessary to clarify what is meant bymentorship and what are positive effects. For the purposes of this study, mentoring will bedefined as a relationship between a student and a member of faculty or staff, which consist ofregularly scheduled contact, for the purposes of improvement in student academic confidenceand performance. The specific positive effects we are seeking include an increased GPA,retention, and student involvement as determined by extracurricular involvement andvolunteerism.
  8. 8. Ideally, a tested instrument would be used; however, the novelty of this research wouldrequire the creation of and instrument. A created survey would include a series of statementssimilar to the following:During the past semester: I had a mentor. I went to a member of faculty or staff about academic matter. I developed a relationship with a member of faculty or staff to whom I go for advicepertaining to my academic decisions. I regularly talk to one or more members of faculty or staff regarding my academic futureand professional goals. I participated in extracurricular activities. I am a member of one or more recognized campus organizations. I regularly attend meetings for one or more campus organizations. I held an office in one or more recognized campus organizations. I participate in one or more intramural sports teams. I participated in volunteer activities. I participated in community outreach. I find ways to help those in need.Students would then select responses on a Likert scale of strongly disagree, disagree, agree orstrongly agree. Students would also be asked to indicate their GPA for the correspondingsemester.Procedures
  9. 9. A secure website would be created on which participating students would create a profile. Theprofile would allow student anonymity for the duration of the study, while allowing me to knowthe race and sex of each student. The students would indicate their GPA at the beginning of eachsurvey and answer the aforementioned questions by selecting either response of: stronglydisagree, disagree, agree or strongly agree. Participants will be emailed a reminder at open ofeach semester to take the survey. Once the data is gathered, correlations will be performed toassess the relationship between mentorship and GPA, between mentorship and studentinvolvement and between mentorship and volunteerism.There are several considerations in using these methods. The first is that students willsimply opt not to take the survey leaving me with insufficient data to draw any conclusions.Students’ dishonesty about GPAs is another consideration. The absence of accurate informationwould skew the data rendering results useless for practical application. Finally, there is thepossibility that without clarification, students will find the statements confusing and provideinaccurate answers. Seeking a way to verify student GPA may be a consideration. Also in orderto receive as many responses as possible it may be necessary to send follow-up emails or evenletters.ReferencesCampbell, T., & Campbell, D. (2007). Outcomes of Mentoring At-Risk College Students:Gender and Ethnic Matching Effects. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning,15(2), 135-148. Retrieved from ERIC database.Creswell, J.W. (2007). Educational Research: Planning, Conducting, and EvaluatingQuantitative and Qualitative Research. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
  10. 10. Davis, D. (2008). Mentorship and the Socialization of Underrepresented Minorities into theProfessoriate: Examining Varied Influences. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership inLearning, 16(3), 278-293. Retrieved from ERIC database.Ferrari, J. (2004). Mentors in Life and at School: Impact on Undergraduate Protégé Perceptionsof University Mission and Values. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning,12(3), 295-305. Retrieved from ERIC database.Ishiyama, J. (2007). Expectations and Perceptions of Undergraduate Research Mentoring:Comparing First Generation, Low Income White/Caucasian and African AmericanStudents. College Student Journal, 41(3), 540-549. Retrieved from ERIC database.Paglis, L., Green, S., & Bauer, T. (2006). Does Adviser Mentoring Add Value? A LongitudinalStudy of Mentoring and Doctoral Student Outcomes. Research in Higher Education,47(4), 451-476. Retrieved from ERIC database.Pope, M. (2002). Community College Mentoring: Minority Student Perceptions. CommunityCollege Review, 30(3), 31-45. Retrieved from ERIC database.Santos, S., & Reigadas, E. (2002). Latinos in Higher Education: An Evaluation of a UniversityFaculty Mentoring Programs. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 1(1), 40-50.Retrieved from ERIC database.Shultz, E., Colton, G., & Colton, C. (2001). The Adventor Program: Advisement and Mentoringfor Students of Color in Higher Education. Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Educationand Development, 40(2), 208-18. Retrieved from ERIC database.Swail, W. S., Redd, K. E., & Perna, L. W. (2003). Retaining Minority Students in HigherEducation: A Framework for Retention. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report, 30(2),Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
  11. 11. Vivian, C. (2005). Advising the At-Risk College Student. Educational Forum, The, 69(4), 336-351. Retrieved from ERIC database.