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Multicultural Educational Issues: Research Focus on Theories, Models, and Strategies Involving Student Learning, Adjustment, and Success
Defining and Promoting Student Success
A National Symposium
November 21-22, 2008
University of San Francisco
San Francisco, California
Betty Taylor, Editor, University of San Francisco
Luz O. Moreno, University of San Francisco
Betty Taylor, University of San Francisco
Rod Waters, University of California, Santa Cruz
Gregory V. Wolcott, University of San Francisco
The breakout session focused on current research related to maximizing opportunity for student success in education with particular emphasis on multicultural populations. Specifically, the presentations address student leadership and emotional development, student persistence and participation, student retention, and a school violence prevention model, all of which can support student success and progress in education.
Luz O. Moreno
Research studies have shown that the numbers of Latino students in U.S. schools in grades K-12 will continue to grow (Banks, 2007). Moreover, the increasing presence of Latinos in our educational system also reflects increasing violence in school settings, resulting in incarcerated youth (California Department of Youth Authority, 2005). School administrators are now starting antiviolence school programs earlier in the schooling process, with opportunities for student, parent, and teacher involvement.
One notable violence prevention program, Second Step, is designed for pre-kindergarten to ninth-grade students. The curriculum teaches empathy, social-emotional skills, problem solving, anger management, and conflict resolution; introduces new behavioral skills; and explores students’ attitudes and beliefs about violence. Implemented in both the school and home setting, the curriculum has a Spanish version and a multicultural feature. The hope is that such programs will assist students with the skills to transition to into post secondary education and provide a link between ethnic identity pathways and academic outcomes.
This study utilized a qualitative, action-research methodology to examine the Second Step model with middle school children. The model is viewed by educators as an effective transition bridge in the higher education pipeline for Mexican American students.
The researcher’s findings included the following. First, parent involvement in the program is critical to its success. Second, the use of cultural norms and language is essential. Third, student-advocacy and parent-student support groups are also crucial. Moreover, the interviews with the students revealed a need for connectedness and validation related to identity formation. Students did not want to choose between two cultures: that of their parents and that of the newly found peer culture. The students’ ability to synthesize their identity and not have to choose between cultures is an important aspect of student adjustment to schooling.
The Mexican American community demonstrated an unspoken respect for the school system, allowing teachers, counselors, and administrators into their homes to learn about Mexican American cultural traits (Nieto, 1996). The researcher found that when parents, school personnel, and students work together for one common goal-ensuring that the needs of all parties are being met-it is much easier for students’ needs to become a priority. Communication, support, and role-modeling remain the cornerstone to helping Mexican American students to achieve academically and to address school violence.
Over the past ten years, there has been increasing interest in examining the underlying cause of leadership success in some individuals and why that success is not prevalent in other leaders. The early findings of neuroscientists suggested that emotions do have an impact upon how humans respond to situations and how competent they are in doing so. Some noteworthy scholars have written on this and related subjects: neuroscience (LeDoux, 1996); brain and emotions (Damasio, 1994); emotional intelligence (Salovey & Mayer, 1990); multiple intelligence (Gardner, 1993, 1999); and emotional intelligence and social learning (Goleman, 1995, 1998, 2006). Although, the term “emotional intelligence” began with the aforementioned neuroscientists and psychologists, educators introduced the term in educational and popular literatures as a result of their work involving the brain capacities “to recognize feelings of self and others”; to manage “emotions in teaching and learning environments” (Goleman, 1995); and to recognize the “intelligences to live by” (Gardner, 1993).
A review of the leadership studies suggested that varied leadership approaches were developed to decipher the complexities of the leadership process (Bass& Avolio, 1994; Burns, 1978; Blanchard, 1991). However, the studies of Goleman, Boyatiz, and Mckee (2002) found that “effective leaders in society should be sure that their organizational method resonates with the interests and desires of others.” Thus, this work laid the framework for uniting the notion of emotional intelligence and leadership. Skankman and Scott (2008) presented an approach geared toward emotional intelligent leadership and student development.
The aim of this study was to identify themes in the literature that may connect emotional intelligence and leadership development, recommending strategies to further explore this new approach and providing suggestions for educational practice. The researcher reviewed the work of Shankman and Allen (2008) as it may apply to college students in times of transitions and lifestyle changes.
Shankman and Allen’s theory (2008) has proposed that one needs to be engaged in “authentic relationships with others to truly understand that leadership is all about relationships.” The process of developing and maintaining healthy relationships is all about emotional intelligence and transforming this knowledge into action (p.8).
Shankman and Allen stated that it is important for students to expand their capacity to engage others by focusing on three core areas identified as the “three facets.” The three facets included, consciousness of self, defined as “being aware of yourself at all times” (p.25); consciousness of others, defined as “being aware of your relationships with others and the role that each of the individuals plays in the leadership relationship” p.73); and consciousness of context, defined as “the environment in which leaders and followers work-the network of operations within an organization” (p.19). Within the sub-contextual confines of the three core facets, the researchers articulated specific emotional skill areas and strategies. Shankman and Allen (2008) postulated that emotional leadership development occurs with students when they extend their capacity to engage others, reflect upon interactions and develop the right level of balance (p.122-3).
Emotional intelligence leadership development and its relationship to student adjustment in college is a long and often tedious endeavor. However, Shankman and Allen’s (2008) paradigm has the potential to help students negotiate complex college organizations. The student development strategies suggested in the literature should help students form friendships, seek involvement opportunities and connect more readily with faculty and classmates. As students identify their authenticity, this knowledge should assist them in finding their own voice. Finally, acquiring authenticity should encourage students to investigate the possibilities within themselves and others and enable them to become more culturally competent individuals.
Although enrollment of African Americans students increased at most educational institutions from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, during the late 1980’s the dropout and attrition numbers also began to increase. The resulting decrease in African American student enrollment created a renewed focus on African American student retention by university administrators and researchers, both at historically Black institutions and traditionally White institutions (Lang & Ford, 1988). A primary concern for educators is to ascertain the causes of high attrition rates among African American students and to develop strategies of redress.
This qualitative study addressed African American student retention in The Boston College Options through Education Program by utilizing the Tinto Departure Model (1987). Tinto’s work suggested that students’ personal backgrounds, occupational goals, commitment to their goals, and the degree of academic and social involvement and investment to the university are interconnected. The model became a baseline study for the work of other researchers who seek to gain a better understanding of retention issues associated with African American students in higher education.
The Boston College Program provided a setting for the qualitative observations of African American students and their program performance, as well as the decision making that may have influenced retention in a college program. The program included the testing of pre-college skills in areas of math, English, and writing; workshops focused on the development of note-taking and study skills; and introductions to campus resources. Upon completion of the program, students were given academic advising, personal and group counseling, performance monitoring, and faculty mentors.
The findings revealed that higher attrition rates among African American students could be attributed to the following variables: (a) poverty economic status and a lack of role models; (b) uneven quality of secondary school preparation; (c) increasing standards of requirements for college admissions; (d) increased reliance on standardized testing; and (e) impact of technological literacy. The findings were consistent with other researchers in the area of high attrition rates for African American students (Lang & Ford, 1990).
The study recommended that student-affairs educators include the following strategic actions in their planning: involvement of students in pre-college programs before entering college; programs aimed at bridging the transition from high school to college; mentoring programs for connecting students to faculty who can provide personal guidance and academic support; development education programs for at-risk students to increase skills for college success; counseling and academic skills improvement opportunities to meet the particular needs of students; and special-services programs that may include peer counseling, tutoring, and study-skills instruction.
College student success is largely determined by experiences during the freshman year. The preparation and persistence of college students have been studied at great length, as has the freshman year experience (Devlin, l996; Gardner & Hansen, 1993; Hunter, Skipper, & Linden, 2003). Many of these studies, however, have been conducted from a quantitative view, which has failed to capture the voice of students.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to explore the needs and experiences of college freshmen, with the hope of informing university professionals how to improve freshman preparation and persistence. The study utilized dialogues to explore the critical reflections of college sophomores who have successfully completed the freshman year.
The findings shed light on the personal and educational experiences that support the preparation and persistence of college freshmen in two ways. During the pre-enrollment phase, it was critical that students and their families experience programs and services that educate students about the transition to college and help students develop realistic expectations for college. The factors found to contribute to college freshman persistence included support for social integration, academic engagement, and student development, as well as the promotion of an internal locus of control.
College pre-enrollment programs must be viewed as critical to student success. Such programs, which should be mandatory, would optimally utilize current students who are trained in issues that arise in the transition from secondary school to higher education. A freshman seminar course should also be required, and its curriculum needs to address the challenging issues that students sometimes face as they transition from the demands of high school to those of the university. Finally, this study also found that parents are a positive source of support, and it is therefore recommended that the college institution provide parents with orientation and transitional support.
The research findings outlined in the panel presentations highlighted some common themes concerning the development of, access to, and retention of college and program models of import for students in secondary school and post secondary settings.
The studies reported by the panel researchers included the following themes:first, educational professionals need to be more aware of how powerful their interactions are with student populations. If educators are supportive and culturally sensitive, students feel that they belong in the school environment and hence become more invested in their educations. Positive interactions should be rewarded and the students’ voices encouraged. Second, student development should be encouraged at all levels of schooling. Activities that promote the development of cultural competence, emotional intelligence and leadership, values clarification, interpersonal problem solving, and alternative thinking should be incorporated into the school curriculum and campus programming. Third, more qualitative research needs to be conducted on the critical perceptions and reflections of students with regard to their experiences in schooling. Considerable work has been explored regarding the perceptions of educational professionals, i.e., teachers, administrators, counselors, and staff, concerning student success, retention, identity, and development. While such research is important, the student voice also has value and should be reflected in curriculum and activity planning.
Other themes also emerged, such as parental training programs that address topics of how to support students in areas of networking, independence, problem solving, and negotiation skills; the need for school and college programs that highlight preparation of students for academic and emotional transitions of each level of schooling, and more teacher awareness of culturally relevant teaching strategies so that students from multicultural populations feel accepted in the schooling environment.
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