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Matthew T. Shannon, Carolyn Barry, Ph.D.

Social Support and Student Engagement: How Effective Mentoring Benefits the Mentor

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Student engagement is the overarching initiative for many institutions of higher education that want to maximize learning experiences through programs that connect academic course lessons to extracurricular practical applications (Fredericks et al., 2004). As part of this intellectual initiative, students can be led to recognize the ethical responsibility of harboring the growth of others, a core component of mentoring (Perry, 1970; Tinto, 1975). The existing literature on student engagement and mentoring demonstrates that mentoring facilitates the conditions for success in the undeveloped mentee, yet the impact on mentors often remains overlooked. According to House (1981), mentoring relationships afford mentees both informational and instrumental support through the provision of advice, knowledge, time, and assistance from the mentor. This study aims to explore the relation between perceived mentor support and mentors’ levels of student engagement. We investigated the possible moderation role of perceived instrumental support provided to mentees and the mentors’ self-assessed levels of student engagement.

During the fall of 2013, an online survey was administered to investigate the self-assessed levels of three types of student engagement (social interactions, community involvement, and institutional integration) for the upperclassmen mentors at Loyola University Maryland. The survey consisted of a series of seven Likert-type subscales selected from larger surveys for their simple, direct, and clear statements of specific student engagement activities. Simultaneously, the first-year student mentees used a Likert-type scale to assess the levels of informational and instrumental support provided by their mentors. It was hypothesized that the perceived instrumental support provided by mentors would moderate the relation between the perceived informational support provided by mentors and the mentors’ self-assessed levels of three types of student engagement, such that the positive relation between perceived informational support and mentors’ student engagement would be stronger for those mentors who were perceived to have provided more instrumental support compared to those mentors who were perceived to have provided less instrumental support.

In all, we collected information from 537 participants that resulted in 27 matched mentorship pairs: 222 first-year students (18-19 years) paired with 27 upperclassmen mentors (19-22 years). Contrary to the hypotheses, preliminary analyses indicated that perceived instrumental support did not moderate the relations among perceived informational support from the mentors and any of the mentors’ self-assessed levels of student engagement. Also, there was not a significant positive relation between perceived informational support and the constructs of student engagement. The lack of a positive relation between support and student engagement could have resulted from the methods of measurement being too inexact to assess the presented constructs of student engagement. In combination with national studies of student engagement, continued institutional research of the relation between aspects of mentoring programs and the practices of mentors’ student engagement should be conducted for its potential to inform best practices for recruitment, training, and development of mentors.


First thanks go to Dr. Carolyn Barry, my advisor and mentor for this thesis project. Special thanks to the Loyola University Maryland Office of Student Engagement and Sara Scalzo, in particular, for her permission and assistance in assessing aspects of the Evergreen Program. Thanks to Megan Porter and Angie Caruso for their assistance with the data input and manipulation process.

The measures included in this study used with the permission of the primary authors. Items forming the Student Acquaintances, Personal Experiences, Campus Facilities and Clubs and Organizations Subscales used with permission from the CSEQ Assessment Program, Indiana University. Copyright 1998, The Trustees of Indiana University. 


Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., & Paris, A. H. (2004). School engagement: Potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74, 59-109.

House, J. S. (1981). Work stress and social support. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Perry, W. G. (1970). Forms of intellectual and ethical development in the college years. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 45, 89-125.


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