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Mentoring African American Males: A Research Design Comparison Perspective

reviewed by Joanne Marciano - October 22, 2015

coverTitle: Mentoring African American Males: A Research Design Comparison Perspective
Author(s): William Ross (Ed.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1623968011, Pages: 202, Year: 2014
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William Ross’s edited volume Mentoring African American Males: A Research Design Comparison Perspective provides ten examples of mentoring programs that support the academic and social development of African American males. This book is a valuable resource for researchers and practitioners looking to develop their understanding of recent research focused on students’ experiences in mentoring programs, shedding light on the successes and challenges involved in designing, measuring, and contextualizing formal and informal mentoring opportunities across multiple research sites and methodologies.

The book’s content is organized by methodology, with the first three chapters highlighting research studies that are quantitative in nature. The fourth through ninth chapters are based upon qualitative research studies, while the final chapter employs a mixed methods approach. The authors’ focus on participants of varying ages situated in multiple contexts provides several useful entry points for considerations of how and why mentoring programs may be considered successful in academically and socially supporting African American males.

The three quantitative research studies draw needed attention to the role of mentoring in supporting the development of school administrators working in diverse settings and improving the math and reading scores of middle school students. It also focuses on understanding the impact of mentoring on African American males in a predominantly White community college setting.

In Chapter One, Barbara Freeman puts forth a conceptual framework that seeks to prepare secondary school administrators who embrace change and are committed to taking risks and action in support of the diverse communities they serve. Freeman describes a mentoring model focused on understanding the role of school leaders’ attitudes and dispositions in an increasingly diverse school district in Texas. In Chapter Two, John Gray utilizes a quasi-experimental, nonequivalent-control group methodology to determine whether students’ involvement in a formal mentoring program influenced their performance on math and language arts assessments. The answer is a resounding yes, as Gray describes a significant difference in the math and language arts scores of African American male seventh and eighth graders who participated in a school-based mentoring program as compared to those who did not participate. Leonard C. Bass’s Chapter Three also highlights the supportive role mentoring can play in the schooling experiences of African American males, specifically those enrolled in remedial classes at a predominantly White community college. Bass’ findings point to the impact the mentoring program had on creating positive and productive relationships between mentees and the faculty, academic advisors, and administrators who served as mentors, and suggest that more must be done to support the academic success of students.

The qualitative research studies featured in Ross’s volume similarly take up multiple research contexts and feature the perspectives of mentors and mentees of varying ages. Chapters written by Jillian Inge (Chapter Four), John Leonard Mason, Jr. (Chapter Six), and Nicole Patrice Allain (Chapter Eight) each utilize a phenomenological approach to data collection and analysis. Inge’s study focuses on the perspectives of African American male mentors who work with African American male high school students. Mason’s research highlights the perspectives of African American male college students who engage with adult and peer mentors across campus. Allain’s research engages Twelve African American high school students considered “successful,” four of whom participated in a formal voluntary mentoring program facilitated within their schools. Taken together, these chapters demonstrate the opportunities afforded by phenomenological research approaches in understanding participants’ experiences from their own perspectives.

The remaining qualitative research studies include Curtis Lewis’s analysis of the IMPACT mentoring program (Chapter Five), which created opportunities for high school students to serve as both mentees of college students and mentors of elementary school students. Lewis’s thorough description and analysis of the ecologically structured mentoring program prompts readers to consider the importance of mentors’ understanding of mentees’ lived experiences, the need to develop long-term relationships between mentors and mentees, and for mentors to appreciate the strengths mentees’ families contribute to their experiences.

In Chapter Seven, James McKeever considers the informal mentoring role African American volunteer coaches play in the lives of Latino basketball players who attend a park and recreation center in Los Angeles. McKeever situates his study, an autoethnography, in his own experiences as a coach considered alongside the perspectives of four other volunteer coaches. McKeever takes up considerations of ethnic and racial identity in his intersectional analysis of their perspectives, along with those of parents, staff who worked in the park, and the youth themselves. Recommendations include providing more explicit training for mentors who go beyond the duties traditionally associated with athletic coaching to challenge, rather than reinforce, oppressive societal norms.

The final qualitative study featured in the book is written by Mary E. Jenkins-Williams and Peter P. Kiriakidis (Chapter Nine). It considers the roles that teachers play as mentors, capable of developing supportive relationships with mentees that contribute to their academic achievement in school. The authors found that high school graduates who participated in a mentoring program while in high school cited that their mentors encouraged them to graduate high school and enroll in college, even though many African American male students attending the same high school did not graduate.

Curtis C. Coonrod authors a mixed methods study (Chapter Ten), but states that his initial attempts to include quantitative research approaches were set aside after he determined a qualitative methodology would better address the research questions he sought to examine. This study focuses on an intervention that invited African American college students enrolled at a predominantly White institution to participate in a consistent mentoring program. Among the findings presented in this chapter, Coonrod describes that the participating mentees developed trusting relationships with their mentors—who were supportive of their cultural experiences—while maintaining connections to their families and communities.

A primary limitation of the text is its categorization of research studies based on research methodology employed or attempted. Readers could perhaps develop a more nuanced understanding of challenges and opportunities that emerge when studying formal and informal mentoring programs supportive of African American males across the studies grouped by participant age, or type of mentoring program. In its current organizational format, readers must navigate and seek out points of convergence and divergence across the ten important research studies featured throughout the text.

Ross and the authors who contributed to this volume succeed in the clear message that mentoring programs provide necessary and valuable support to African American males who, for too long, have lacked inequitable access to educational opportunity. This book sheds light on successful mentoring programs, creating pathways for new explorations into the important role mentoring may play in the academic and social development of African American males.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: October 22, 2015
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 18178, Date Accessed: 1/18/2022 5:18:43 PM

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About the Author
  • Joanne Marciano
    Michigan State University
    E-mail Author
    Joanne E. Marciano, EdD, is Coordinator of College Access and Transitions in the Career Services Network at Michigan State University. She is co-author with Dr. Michelle G. Knight of the book College Ready: Preparing Black and Latina/o Youth for Higher Education – A Culturally Relevant Approach (Teachers College Press, 2013) and has published research findings in Literacy and English Journal. She received her Ed.D. in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University and has 13 years experience as a secondary English teacher in the New York City public school system. Her most recent research utilizes a Social Participatory Youth Co-Researcher (SPYCR) methodology to explore the role Black and Latina/o urban youth’s peers and social media practices play in their college readiness and access.
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