Role Model Influence in Predicting Belongingness among African

Role Model Influence in Predicting Belongingness among African

Role Model Influence in Predicting Belongingness among African American Students
Freeman, T. M., Jackson, C. H., Strand, K. H., Matthews, K. F., McNally, J. L., & Brown-Wright, L.


Department of Educational & Counseling

Research that has investigated the
psychological sense of belonging at school
has found African American (AA) status to be
a negative predictor of school belonging at
both the individual and school levels
(Anderman, 2002; McNeely, et al., 2002).
Findings from the National Longitudinal
Study of Adolescent Health (ADD) have
shown that perceiving a sense of belonging in
ones academic environment has both
physical and psychological benefits (Resnick
et al., 1997; Anderman, 2002).

Both genders are equally represented in
the sample. In terms of ethnic diversity
the sample contains 15% African
American, 14% Hispanic/Spanish, 5%
Asian/Pacific Islander, 1.5% Native
American, 6% other non-white.

In an interview study, Kester (1994) found
that AA students felt a sense of belonging due
in part to the school house structure, which
promoted teacher-student relationships, as
well as to peer relationships.

In terms of school level characteristics,
22.7% were considered Small (1-400
students), 45.3% Medium (401-1000
students), and 32.0% Large (1001-4000
students); and 16.0% of (N = 23) reported
using busing practices.

In a longitudinal study, Zirkel (2002) found
that AA students who have race and gender
matched role models performed better
academically, and report higher levels of
achievement goals and career and
educational aspirations than those who do
not have such models available.
Evans (1992) found a significant role model
effect for AA students, which was related to
academic achievement.
(a) to see if there are differences between
schools on African American students
sense of belonging.
(b) to explore what factors would influence
African American students sense of
school belonging at the school level.
We hypothesized that percentage of African
American teachers in the school, school
size, and busing practices would account
for some of the differences between

Table 2. Full HLM Model Predicting School Belonging,
Using In-Home Interview and School Administrator Survey




Class Size


%African American
Teachers in School


Scale construction of the school
belongingness measure was supported
by Principal Component Analysis with
varimax rotation and produced a scale
with good reliability (a = .78).

African American

Scale items with descriptive statistics
and factor loadings are presented in
Table 1.

% African American
Teachers in School
Native American


Asian/Pacific Islander


Other Race


Dummy variables for gender (female =
1), ethnicity (Caucasian = 0) for each
ethnic grouping, and busing (1 = uses
busing) were created. Average class
size, percentage of AA Teachers, GPA,
and Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test raw
scores were transformed into
standardized units prior to entry into the




Class size


PVT Raw Score


Note: * = p < .05, ** = p < .01. Table 1. School Belonging Scale Descriptives and Factor Loadings (FL) Variable The sample for the present study comes from the ADD Health dataset. ADD health is a longitudinal study funded by various agencies, to examine physical and psychological well-being during adolescence. I feel like I am a part of this school. 2.49 1.22 .84 I am happy to be at this school. 2.47 1.25 .81 I feel close to people at this school. I feel safe in my school. 2.48 1.15 .77 2.33 1.09 .64 The teachers at this school treat students fairly. 2.62 1.15 .56 Mean SD .12** -.07** GPA Method Participants Procedures The present study included a sub-sample of 20,745 students from 132 schools nationwide. Student data come from surveys that were administered in students homes, whereas school-level data comes from a survey that was completed by an administrator at each school. -.12** .00 Hispanic Measures -.03 FL Results Hierarchical linear modeling (HLM; Bryk & Raudenbush, 1992) was used as the primary analytic tool. The Intraclass correlation (ICC) was calculated to examine between-school variance in belonging. Finally, we developed a full HLM model, examining the relations of school-level variables (e.g., percentage of African American teachers) to the slope for African American adolescents. The intraclass correlation for the full model was .0872, suggesting that approximately 8.7% of the variance in school belonging lies between schools, (130) = 1636.16, p < .01. References Anderman, E. M. (2002). School effects on psychological outcomes during adolescence. Journal of Educational Psychology Results of the full HLM model are shown in Table 2. School-level characteristics were modeled on the intercept and on the slope for AA students. After controlling for students gender, GPA, Peabody scores, SES, and ethnic group status, the percentage of AA teachers in a school was related significantly to AA students perceived sense of school belonging (gamma = .12, p < .01). Specifically, AA students who attend schools with a greater percentage of AA teachers reported greater perceived belonging. Average class size and use of busing practices were not significant in predicting school belonging among AA students after percentage of AA teachers was entered into the model. Discussion It is possible that many African American students may identify with persons with similar racial ethnic backgrounds and thus view them as role models. This perception may positively impact their psychological sense of belonging in school. These findings are consistent with research that has examined the impact of role models and mentors on the academic success, social comfort levels and retention of African American students at every academic level (Smith, 1997; Taylor & Hiatt-Michael, 1999; Freirson, 1994). Findings from the current study have enormous implications for school administrators and teacher educators. There is currently a shortage of AA teachers within the educational system at every level. School administrators must begin to realize the positive impact AA role models can cultivate in the educational experiences of AA. Similarly, teacher education programs must strive to increase the numbers of AA they train to become educators within their teacher education programs. Bryk, A.S., & Raudenbush, S.W. (1992). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Evans, M. (1992). An estimate of race and gender role-model effects in teaching high school. Journal of Economic Education, Summer, 209-217. Fierson, H.T. (1994). Black summer research students perceptions related to research mentors race and gender. Journal of College Student Development 35 (6) 475-80. Harmon, D. (2002). They wont teach me. Roeper Review, 24(2), 68-76. Kester, V. M. (1994). Factors that affect Africanamerican students bonding to middle school. Elementary School Journal, 95(1), 63-73. McNeely, C. A., Nonnemaker, J. M. & Blum, R. W. (2002). Promoting school connectedness: Evidence from the national longitudinal study of adolescent health. Journal of School Health, 72(4), 138-146. Resnick, M. D., Bearman, P. S., Blum, R. W., Bauman, K. E., Harris, K. M., Beuhring, T., Sieving, R. E., Shew, M., et al. (1997). Protecting adolescents from harm: Findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. Journal of the American Medical Association, 278, 823 832. Smith, V.G. (1997). Caring: Motivation for African American male youth to succeed. Journal of African American Men, 3(2), 49-63. Taylor, G. & Hiatt-Michael, D. (1999). Mentoring of female African American adolescents. ED431061 Zirkel, S. (2002). Is there a place for me? Role models and academic identity among white students and students of color. Teachers College Record, 104(2), 357-376. This research uses data from the Add Health project, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry (PI) and Peter Bearman, and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to the Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. Persons interested in obtaining data files from The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524 (http://www.cpc Submit requests to: [email protected]

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