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.
UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY
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
(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
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).
Scale items with descriptive statistics
and factor loadings are presented in
% African American
Teachers in School
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
PVT Raw Score
Note: * = p < .05, ** = p < .01.
Table 1. School Belonging Scale Descriptives and Factor
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
I feel like I am a part of this
I am happy to be at this school.
I feel close to people at this
I feel safe in my school.
The teachers at this school treat
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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:
Evans, M. (1992). An estimate of race and
gender role-model effects in teaching high
school. Journal of Economic Education,
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,
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.
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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