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Program Profile: An E-mentoring Program for Secondary Students with Learning Disabilities

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on August 03, 2015

Program Summary

An e-mentoring program for high school students with mild learning disabilities to improve their ability to identify postsecondary career goals and the steps necessary to achieve them. This program is rated Promising. The program group showed significant improvement in transition competency, social connectedness, and self-determination. However, there were no significant differences on outcome measures of career/educational goals, academic connectedness, and familial connectedness.

This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.

Program Description

Program Goals/Target Population:
This e-mentoring program was conducted at urban high schools with 10th, 11th, and 12th graders diagnosed with mild learning disabilities (LD) to improve their ability to identify postschool career goals and interests as well as the steps necessary to achieve them. Students were mentored by college students on a password-secure website with virtual classrooms where postsecondary-transition-related topics were discussed, including problem-solving, decision-making, time-management, and self-advocacy.
Program Components
The program comprised two components: 1) e-mentoring to deliver transition learning modules, and 2) college campus visits.
Over 12 weeks of a college semester, college student mentors engaged high school students with mild LD in e-mentoring to deliver three posttransition-related learning modules. The student mentees accessed a password-secured website from the student resource room or the computer lab at their high schools. The learning modules covered three primary areas: 1) discovering oneself, 2) exploring possibilities, and 3) creating an action plan. Each learning module consisted of 3 to 6 weekly lesson plans. Each lesson plan provided the mentors with structured materials, a list of activities, and additional tips to guide their mentees in career and education exploration. The mentors had the option of customizing the lesson plans to suit their mentees’ needs and interests. Each weekly scheduled lesson plan was implemented over two separate electronic contacts between the mentor and mentee. At the end of each module, mentees completed the Mentee Summary Review, in which they summarized what they had learned from their weekly interaction with their mentors. The mentors reviewed their mentees’ monthly summaries to track their progress in acquiring personal transition competency.
Additionally, all participating students were invited to the mentors’ university for two events during the semester. The first campus visit was an orientation to student resources on campus, such as Financial Aid, Career Services, Tutoring Services, and Center for Disability Studies, followed by a campus tour. A subgroup of mentors served as tour guides during the orientation visit. On the second campus visit, students viewed a video of a large college class to introduce them to what it was like to take a college-level course. Students and mentors then discussed the differences between high school and college classes and strategies for succeeding in college. Following this, the mentors and mentees had lunch together to provide further opportunity for in-person interaction and learning about each other.
Program Theory
The foundation of this program lies in research from both the postschool transition of students with disabilities and mentoring literatures. Research suggests that creating avenues for students with disabilities in which they can practice self-determination skills, including decision-making, self-advocacy, problem-solving, goal-setting, and attainment can enhance their participation in their Individualized Educational Plan (IEP)/transition-planning process (Algozzine, Browder, Karvonen, Test, and Wood 2001). A small number of research studies also support the role of mentoring in helping students with disabilities achieve their transition goals (Moccia, Schumaker, Hazel, Vernon, and Deshler 1989). Lastly, research on youth mentoring supports several practices that are part of the program, including providing orientation and training for mentors and mentees, providing ongoing support to mentors, and monitoring of program implementation (DuBois and Karcher 2005).

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
The findings from the study by Collier (2009) showed that the program group that received the e-mentoring intervention differed significantly from the control group on outcome measures of transition competency, self-determination, and social connectedness. However, there was no significant difference between the groups on measures of ratings of educational/career goals, academic connectedness, and familial connectedness. The preponderance of evidence suggests that the program had some effect on participants’ ability to identify postsecondary career goals and the steps necessary to achieve them.
Transition Competency
The program and control groups differed significantly in transition competency from pre- to post-intervention. The program group’s scores on transition competency improved from pre- to post-intervention, but the control group’s scores declined slightly during the same time period.
A significant difference was observed between the program and control groups in their self-determination scores from pre-to post-intervention. The program group showed a net gain of 7 points (a 12 percent increase) in their self-determination scores from pre- to post-intervention, whereas the control group’s scores remained nearly the same from pre- to post-intervention.  
Special Educator Rating of Educational/Career Goals
There was no significant difference in the proportion of students in the program and the control groups whose career/educational goals were rated as realistic by their special educators.
Academic Connectedness
There was no significant difference between the program and the control groups in self-reported connectedness to the academic aspects of their lives.
Familial Connectedness
There was no significant difference between the program and the control groups in self-reported familial connectedness. 
Social Connectedness
The program and control groups differed significantly in self-reported social connectedness from pre- to post-intervention. Social connectedness scores increased from pre- to post-intervention for the program group, but declined for the control group.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Collier (2009) evaluated the e-mentoring program with high school students with mild learning disabilities (LD). Counselors and special educators at eight urban high schools referred 102 students with mild LD who were in grades 10 to 12, had an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), could read at the 4th-grade level, and had no history of mental illness. The participating students were 54 percent male and 46 percent female. Most were white (71 percent) with the remaining students belonging to another racial or ethnic group (29 percent). These students were then randomly assigned by grade and gender to the program (n=51) or the control group (n=51). The mentors were selected from a pool of college students who showed interest in participation and who were affiliated with the Special Education–Human Exceptionality program, a Service Learning Scholar, or a student with a disability recommended by the Center for Disability Services. Fifty-one college students were finalized as mentors after an FBI background check and an interview with the program coordinator that addressed student attitudes, expectations, and reasons for participation. Mentors were overwhelmingly female (80 percent) and white (84 percent), and some, like the mentees, had a disability (14 percent).
Both the control and the program groups were invited for two college visits–an orientation and a simulated college classroom visit. In addition, the students in the program group were matched on a one-to-one basis with college mentors, received e-mentoring for 12 weeks, and received the opportunity to have lunch and discussion with their mentors after the second college visit.
Outcomes were student self-report measures of postsecondary transition competency; self-determination (which was a composite of three constructs: capacity–opportunity, home and school, and knowledge–ability–perception); and academic, social, and familial connectedness. All 102 participants completed the measures at pre- and post-intervention. Students’ responses to open-ended questions on the transition competency measure regarding their involvement in planning, decision-making, and direction of their postsecondary career interests and goals were scored by the researcher based on a standardized rubric. In addition, special education teachers of the participating students were asked to evaluate the student-developed career/educational interests (part of the transition competency assessment) as realistic or not considering the student’s interests and disability.
Independent sample t-tests were conducted to test for baseline equivalency of the program and the control groups on the outcomes. The program and the control groups did not differ significantly prior to the intervention on the outcomes. Repeated measures of analyses of variance were conducted to determine the overall effect of participation in the e-mentoring program on each outcome.
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Implementation Information

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Collier (2009) evaluated the e-mentoring program for students with learning disabilities (LD) in which several pre-program and program support activities were taken to ensure the smooth implementation of the program. Before the mentoring program started, all mentors were given a 6-hour-long, pre-match orientation and training, which addressed purpose and goals of the program; effective communication strategies; guidelines for mentor role, responsibilities, and conduct; and closure and termination procedures. Each mentor was also given a copy of the “Training Manual for Mentors” (available in Collier 2009). Finally, the mentor training addressed how to use the various functions of WebCT to facilitate the online mentoring. After the initial training, mentors were assessed using the Knowledge of Mentoring Survey. Mentors who scored below 80 percent on this survey were provided with additional training. The student mentees also received an hour of training on using WebCT and on mentoring etiquette. Mentors and mentees were then matched on mutual interests based on their responses to a matching interest questionnaire.
The program developer tracked the electronic communication of each mentor–mentee pair at least 1 week per month to identify and address any problems that occurred. In the event that the student mentee was not communicating with his/her mentor, the program developer contacted the mentee’s special educator to encourage the mentee to respond to his/her mentor. Simultaneously, ongoing training and support was provided to mentors in the form of structured weekly lesson plans that served as guidelines for engaging their mentees (available in Collier 2009). Depending on the individual needs of the mentors, the program developer provided additional one-to-one training and support through e-mails and phone calls.
Additionally, the mentees were required to submit the Mentee Summary Review at the end of each learning module. The review form provided mentees with an opportunity to both summarize their learning and report on their level of satisfaction with their mentor relationships. Mentors completed a Mentor Reflection Form each month. The purpose of this form was to have mentors update the program developer regarding their perceptions of their mentees, degree of satisfaction with their mentee relationships, progress made, and problems encountered.
Finally, the program developer/researcher examined the journaling correspondence taking place between the mentors and the mentees in the virtual classroom to collect fidelity data on a weekly basis. A checklist was used to determine how closely the mentors adhered to the program components.
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Other Information (Including Subgroup Findings)

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Collier (2009) also examined subgroup differences by student race, socioeconomic status (SES), grade point average (GPA), grade level, and degree of realism (teachers’ evaluations of the realism of students’ goals). For white students, there was a greater positive effect on transition competency than among nonwhite students. In addition, benefits of e-mentoring on social connectedness were greater for students with a lower GPA in comparison with students with a higher GPA.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1

Collier, Margaret. 2009. An Investigative Study of the Effects of E-Mentoring on Transition Planning for Secondary Students with Learning Disabilities. PhD diss. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah.

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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Algozzine, Bob, Diane Browder, Meagan Karvonen, David Test, and Wendy Wood. 2001. “Effects of Interventions to Promote Self-Determination for Individuals with Disabilities.” Review of Educational Research 71(2):219–77.

DuBois, David, and Michael Karcher. 2005. “Youth Mentoring: Theory, Research, and Practice.” In David DuBois and Michael Karcher (eds.). Handbook of Youth Mentoring. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 2–11.

Moccia, Ruth, Jean Schumaker, J. Stephen Hazel, D. Sue Vernon, and Donald Deshler. 1989. “A Mentoring Program for Facilitating the Life Transitions of Individuals Who Have Handicapped Conditions.” Reading & Writing Quarterly 5(2):177–95.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

This practice provides at-risk youth with positive and consistent adult or older peer contact to promote healthy development and functioning by reducing risk factors. The practice is rated Effective in reducing delinquency outcomes; and Promising in reducing the use of alcohol and drugs; improving school attendance, grades, academic achievement test scores, social skills and peer relationships.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
Promising - More than one Meta-Analysis Drugs & Substance Abuse - Multiple substances
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Education - Multiple education outcomes
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Mental Health & Behavioral Health - Psychological functioning
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Program Snapshot

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: White, Other

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): School

Program Type: Leadership and Youth Development, Mentoring

Current Program Status: Not Active

Listed by Other Directories: Model Programs Guide