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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Journal of Vocational Behavior, Volume 74, Issue 1, February 2009, Pages 108–116
In this study, we examined the role of personal and social support factors involved in students’ decision to participate in formal academic mentoring. Three hundred and eighteen students completing Grade 11 and planning to study sciences in college filled out a questionnaire and were then asked to participate in an academic mentoring program during their first year of college. A total of 150 students agreed to take part in this program (volunteers) and 168 declined the offer (non-volunteers). The overall findings support the hypothesis that academic mentoring is more attractive for some students than others depending on their personality, help-seeking attitudes, academic dispositions, perceived support from friends, and support available during the transition to college. These findings were discussed in light of the different mechanisms proposed by mentoring and social support literatures.
Over the past 15 years, many mentoring programs have been developed and are now offered in postsecondary educational settings (Salinitri, 2005 and Tenenbaum et al., 2001). These programs typically match newly arrived students (i.e., mentees) with teachers, older students or employees (i.e., mentors). Program components vary greatly from one institution to another according to the characteristics of the mentees, the preparation and training given to mentors, the amount of mentor/mentee contact, the mentor/mentee modes of interaction and the types of activities available. They are based on the premise that a stable relationship of trust, support and expertise leads to greater stress resilience and the promotion of personal skills. Program objectives are generally to enhance the social, academic and vocational integration of young people in their academic and/or professional settings (Campbell, 2007, Eby et al., 2008 and Wanberg et al., 2006). Notwithstanding the social relevance of academic mentoring programs, the proportion of students who voluntarily agree to participate remains relatively modest, especially among higher-risk groups (Thile and Matt, 1995 and Weinberger, 2005). One of the major challenges for those who coordinate academic mentoring programs is therefore to clearly grasp the factors that determine whether or not students will accept a mentoring offer. Greater understanding of these factors could help to fine-tune the strategies used to promote mentoring programs, thereby enhancing their viability. This article examines the respective and interactive contribution of a set of personal characteristics and social support resources in the prediction of students’ decision to participate in an academic mentoring program during their first year in college. This program matched students newly admitted to a science program at college (mentees: 17 years old) with students completing their bachelor’s degree in science and engineering at university (mentors: 23 years old). Its main goal is to foster student academic integration and vocational development. 1.1. Personal characteristics and mentoring participation Some studies have explored the personality factors that distinguish mentees from non-mentees, as well as those that predict a person’s participation in more than one mentoring relationship. These studies, which, for the most part, were conducted in the workplace, indicated that mentees have a greater internal locus of control, greater needs for power and achievement, lower negative affectivity, and higher self-monitoring and self-esteem than non-mentees (Turban and Dougherty, 1994 and Fagenson, 1992). It was also shown that individuals who had taken part in many mentoring relationships throughout their lives displayed higher needs for achievement and dominance and greater self-esteem than those who engaged in one or no mentoring relationship (Fagenson-Eland & Baugh, 2001). Other studies applied the Big Five classification system to the mentoring relationship and showed that mentees’ agreeableness, openness, extroversion, and conscientiousness led to higher psychosocial support in mentoring (Waters, 2004). Beyond the mentees’ personality, other personal characteristics may influence the decision to engage in a mentoring relationship. The Youth Mentoring Model (Rhodes, 2005) and the Mentoring Socio motivational Model (Larose & Tarabulsy, 2005) both suggest that mentee characteristics such as social skills, capacity to seek help from others and beliefs and attitudes toward social support can influence mentee involvement in the mentoring relationship. Along the same lines, Keller (2005) suggests that the motivations, attitudes, values, goals and needs of mentees at the onset of the mentoring relationship may foster the youths’ involvement in the relationship and the potential benefits for their development. The student academic dispositions (e.g., academic success, test anxiety, and motivation) represent a third group of personal characteristics that may have the potential to influence their decision to participate in a mentoring program. Some studies suggest that mentoring is especially useful for students with lower academic dispositions. For example the Grossman & Johnson study (1998) showed that mentoring was more beneficial for youth with initially low or moderate achievement levels compared with youth with initially high achievement levels. Similarly, the Garceau, Larose, Cyrenne, Guay, and Deschênes (2008) study found that mentoring had greater impact on the academic persistence of college students with a low grades in high school compared to those who had above-average marks in high school. While the findings of these two studies have no specific bearing on the decision to participate in mentoring, they nevertheless suggest that mentoring may be more attractive to students who have or anticipate having difficulty on the academic front. 1.2. Available and perceived social support and mentoring participation We hypothesize that the decision to participate in mentoring may also depend on the support available when the mentoring offer is made by the institution. In fact, some counselling studies have shown that the lack of quality support provided by the students’ network (e.g., low attachment, social integration, and guidance support) was positively associated with the students’ intention to seek help from a counsellor (Rickwood and Braithwaite, 1994 and Vogel et al., 2005). However, some youth mentoring studies arrive at different conclusions. For example, mother, father, and friend support, as well as emotional support, positive feedback and advice from the mother, were shown to be positively associated with having a natural mentor among urban early adolescents (Rhodes et al., 1994 and Zimmerman et al., 2005). Similarly, a longitudinal study among late adolescents showed that youth who derive emotional support from the parental relationship had a more positive perception of mentor support and mentoring in general (Soucy & Larose, 2004). To clearly understand the links between social support and the decision to participate in a mentoring program, we propose to distinguish two different conceptions of social support: available social support and perceived social support (Pierce et al., 1996 and Vaux, 1988). Available social support is evaluated using quantitative indicators such as the number of people in the network in a position to help and the accessibility of formal support (Vaux, 1988). Available social support is directly affected by the social context and then might also be assessed using indirect contextual indicators such as the presence of an academic and social transition, belonging to a single-parent or recently immigrant household and the education and income of parents. Perceived social support refers to an individual’s general perception of being supported. This perception is rooted in past support experiences (such as attachment) and allows a person to value help-seeking and believe in the availability of support when needed (Pierce et al., 1996). By this conceptual logic, it is conceivable that students who have little support available (for instance those who must leave home and family to attend college), but who have a general positive perception of support from parents and friends might be more likely to participate in a mentoring program. However, current mentoring research does not allow us to verify this hypothesis. 1.3. The present study Overall, the studies reviewed suggest that individuals who decide to participate in mentoring may present distinctive personal and social support profiles compared to those who do not wish to engage in the mentoring experience. However, these studies entail certain important limitations. First, most are retrospective and cannot help to predict mentoring participation from characteristics that exist prior to the involvement in mentoring. For example, the fact that mentees display greater self-esteem than non-mentees might be the result of the mentoring rather than a precursor to the decision to engage in mentoring. Second, much of this literature pertains to workplace mentoring or youth mentoring. It is highly conceivable that academic mentoring, which promotes the academic integration of mentees and clarification of their career choices, involves different determinants than workplace mentoring, which, to a greater degree, features promotion, exposure and accomplishment functions (Ragins & McFarlin, 1990), and than youth mentoring which focuses mainly on emotional and connectedness functions (DuBois, Holloway, Valentine, & Cooper, 2002). Finally, most of these studies have addressed informal (i.e., a natural mentoring relationship) rather than formal mentoring (i.e. a relationship imposed by a structured program). Involvement in an informal mentoring relationship significantly differs from participation in a structured mentoring program. In the first scenario, the mentoring experience most likely flows from a previous relationship of trust and support, while the second case can result from an individual particular need that is driven by a specific context, such as a school transition. The main objective of the present study was to examine the role of personal and social support factors involved in students’ decision to participate in a 1-year academic mentoring program in college (see description in the methodology). More specifically, three sets of personal characteristics and 2 sets of social support resources were simultaneously examined: (a) the personality of students (i.e., the Big Five), (b) their attitudes toward help-seeking (i.e., seeking help from teachers and peers), (c) their academic dispositions (i.e., anticipating failure, test anxiety, academic performance and motivation), (d) their general perceptions of support (i.e., perceived support from parents and peers), and (e) their available social support (i.e., having a sibling who studied science, having had to leave home to attend college, belonging to a single-parent household, belonging to a family of recent immigrants and levels of parental education and income). Using a prospective design (i.e., characteristics were assessed before the student’s participation in the mentoring program), we hypothesized that mentoring would be more attractive for students with a sociable personality (e.g., high openness and agreeableness), positive attitudes toward help-seeking, and negative academic dispositions (e.g., low grades in high school, low motivation, and high evaluation anxiety). We also hypothesized that their decision to participate in mentoring would be positively associated with their general perceptions of support and negatively linked to the specific support available during the transition to college.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Using a prospective design, this study explored the personal and social support factors involved in students’ decision to participate in an academic mentoring program offered during the first year of college. The overall findings support the hypothesis that academic mentoring is more attractive for some students than others depending on their personality, help-seeking attitudes, academic dispositions, perceived support from friends, and support available during the transition to college. In the following, we propose some mechanisms that could explain the findings. Students featuring high agreeableness and openness to new experiences were more likely to participate in academic mentoring. These results complement other studies, which suggest that personality influences the quality and support received from informal mentors in workplace settings (e.g., Waters, 2004). Openness to new experiences and agreeableness may lead students to value relationships with others and trust well-intentioned people they do not know. Many studies have, in fact, documented the relations among personality, help-seeking, and quality of social relationships (Pugh, 2002 and Waters, 2004). Perhaps these personality traits bring students to trust the institution offering mentoring and see in a positive light the advantages they can draw from this relationship. These results also suggest that participation in formal academic mentoring is not evenly distributed among students. Those who are better socially equipped will be more likely to have recourse to this preventive measure. As suggested by previous studies (Vogel et al., 2005), attitudes toward help-seeking from peers and teachers play a role in the decision to participate in mentoring. As is the case with certain personality traits, positive attitudes toward help-seeking most likely point to the trust students have in teachers and peers in their academic setting. This trust may predispose students to accept a mentoring offer more readily. This finding supports Keller’s view (2005), which states that mentee motivation, attitudes, values, goals, and needs make youth more inclined to participate and be involved in a mentoring relationship. Once again, these results suggest that students who are better socially equipped will be more likely to participate in mentoring. Some academic dispositions also proved to be determinant in mentoring participation. Students who anticipated failure and displayed test anxiety, but were intrinsically motivated were more likely to decide to participate in academic mentoring. As suggested by the counselling literature (Rickwood and Braithwaite, 1994 and Vogel et al., 2005), students would be more likely to agree to seek help when they feel abnormally stressed or deem that their situation is more unstable than that of other students. Students may want to seek out mentors with the hope of reducing their level of stress. At the same time, students intrinsically motivated were more likely to participate in mentoring. This finding contradicts our hypothesis, but supports the claim that mentee motivation is an essential condition for effective mentoring (Karcher et al., 2005 and Keller, 2005). It also suggests that students exhibiting a mix of academic motivation and anxiety are more inclined to perceive in a positive light a mentoring offer. Academic performance in high school did not prove to be a determining personal factor in the decision to take part in mentoring. It may be possible that both high and low achievers in high school are interested in academic mentoring, but for different reasons. High achievers may perceive mentoring as a way of consolidating their learning and enhancing their performance in order to open the doors to exclusive university studies (e.g., medicine). For these students, the motivation is performance-based. On the other hand, mentoring might be perceived by low achievers as a way of gaining more security by being able to rely on the presence of a reassuring person who has experience with the high-school-to-college transition. The motivation of these students is chiefly geared toward adaptive functions, including security and belonging. However, additional research is needed to confirm these hypotheses. Additional findings of this research indicate that low support available during the transition to college (i.e., low education and income of the mother, departure from home to attend college, belonging to a family of recent immigrants, not having any siblings who previously studied science) combined with positive perceptions of peer support foster participation in academic mentoring. Furthermore, perceived parental support does not predict mentoring participation. These findings somewhat qualify previous research interpretations and support the relevance of differentiating perceived social support and available social support (Pierce et al., 1996 and Vaux, 1988). On the one hand, it is clear that students who enter college with limited support resources are more likely to participate in mentoring. More specifically, leaving home seems to constitute an important factor, which contributes to the decision to accept a mentoring offer. This finding matches what the youth mentoring research puts forth, suggesting that mentoring is more beneficial to young people exposed to impoverished environments (DuBois et al., 2002). On the other hand, the fact that perceived support from peers predisposes students to participate in mentoring calls for a more nuanced view of the links between social support and mentoring participation. Our interpretation is that perceived support represents a personal rather than an environmental resource and stems from the trust students have in their peers in general. This trust may play a role in predisposing them to agree to take part in a mentoring program with an older peer mentor. This view is coherent with youth mentoring studies, which indicate a positive link between perceived support from friends and parents and involvement in both informal and formal mentoring relationships (Rhodes et al., 1994; Soucy & Larose, 2004; Zimmerman et al., 2005). We also explored the moderating effect of gender in the relationship between personal and social support factors and participation in mentoring. There were many more similarities than differences in terms of gender-related determinants on participation in mentoring. In fact, all the indicators related to personality, help-seeking attitudes and perceived support played a similar role among males and females. However, a few indicators related to available support and academic dispositions had differing impacts on males and females. Intrinsic motivation and lack of a sibling who studied science played an important role in women’s decision to take part in mentoring. These effects are difficult to explain using mentoring literature. We can nevertheless put forward some interpretations in light of the literature on motivation. For women, pursuing an education in science is believed to involve certain obstacles, such as the necessity of dealing with an environment that is often competitive (Seymour & Hewitt, 1997). Furthermore, it is thought that parents, and sometimes teachers, do not treat girls in the same way than boys as regard to their science learning process (Jacobs, Davis-Kean, Bleeker, Eccles, & Malanchuk, 2005). Parents would tend to provide less math-supportive environments for their daughters than for their sons, by spending less time working on math/science activities with daughters and holding lower perceptions of their daughters’ than their sons’ math abilities (Jacobs et al., 2005). A high degree of motivation in a context that does not easily promote women’s perseverance in science may therefore encourage them more to participate in an academic mentoring program. Mentoring may represent a way for them to adapt to a context that has not always been supportive. For similar reasons, it is conceivable that girls who were not exposed to a sibling role model studying science would be more likely to seek out a mentor during their college studies. Exposure to “meaningful” role models is in fact often mentioned as an important factor in girls’ perseverance in science (Lockwood, 2006). Our research presents certain strengths. First, unlike studies that addressed the profile of those interested in mentoring, the links between personal and social support factors and participation in mentoring were prospectively analyzed. This allowed us to avoid an evaluation of personal mentee characteristics that could have been tainted by the quality of their mentoring experience. Second, our study is one of the rare studies to examine the determinants of mentoring participation in a formal academic mentoring context. This focus allowed us to assess the generalization of knowledge in different mentoring settings (workplace, youth mentoring, and academic mentoring). However, this study also features certain limitations. For example, other than the general mean in college, which represents institutional data, all the other variables were measured from students’ self-report. This strategy is appropriate to rank personality, perceived support, and help-seeking attitudes, but external sources could have been used to better evaluate the student academic dispositions and the available social support resources. A second limitation of the study lies in the evaluation of available support. This evaluation relied on the assessment of indirect indicators, which, when present, presupposed a lack in support resources. For example, leaving home to attend college or being from a family of recent immigrants exposed students to fewer support resources during the transition from high school to college, but did not describe the quantity or quality of the actual resources available. Including social network measures could help rectify this problem. Finally, the lack of data on the validity and reliability of the “Attachment to peers in science” scale requires to be cautious about the relationships found between perception of social support by peers and the decision to participate in mentoring. The use of other measures like the Inventory of Peer Attachment (Armsden & Greenberg, 1987) may be able to bridge this gap. This study has important implications for mentoring research and the promotion of academic mentoring programs. First, knowing the factors involved in mentoring participation can contribute to a clearer understanding by institutions of the attributes and needs of their student clientele who wish to obtain the support of a mentor. This knowledge can then be used in mentoring intervention strategies. For example, by understanding that students interested in formal mentoring are intrinsically motivated and socially adept, yet are anxious about academic performance and come from families lacking social resources, calls for providing more instrumental mentoring support, while also working on preventing negative cognitive anticipation and test anxiety. Second, the characteristics of non-volunteers also allowed us to identify the clienteles that are more difficult to attract to mentoring and reflect on the methods that could be used to approach them. This study has shown that students who are less open, have a lower level of intrinsic motivation and display more negative help-seeking attitudes are not likely to accept the support of an academic mentor. Should we be using more proactive strategies to attract these students to mentoring (for example, identifying them) or should we come up with interventions that do not focus solely on a relationship with another person? The non-volunteer profile leads us to reflect on the ways in which to approach the groups targeted by formal mentoring programs. It is conceivable that a message focusing on the development of a relationship with the mentor, but which does not mention the more instrumental aspects of formal mentoring (visits, activities, resolution of immediate academic problems) will have little chance of attracting to mentoring the students who are not fully equipped on the interpersonal front. Our study clearly demonstrated that participation in academic mentoring is not evenly distributed among students. Students with the most personal resources (attitudes, perceived support, and motivation), but fewer environmental resources will be more likely to accept the support of a mentor upon entering college. This finding raises questions as to the manner in which to help these volunteers, but also on the methods that could be used to attract students with limited personal resources.