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Program Profile: Brief Instrumental School-Based Mentoring Program–Revised

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on August 08, 2017

Program Summary

This is a school-based, one-on-one mentoring program designed to improve academic performance and life satisfaction, and decrease absences and behavioral infractions among middle school students. The program is rated Promising. The intervention group had significantly fewer unexcused absences, and significantly higher math and English grades and self-reported levels of life satisfaction. However, there were no effects on school-reported behavioral infractions or grades for science or history.

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

Program Description

Program Goals/Target Population
The Brief Instrumental School-Based Mentoring Program–Revised is a one-on-one mentoring program. The goals are to improve academic performance, improve life satisfaction, and decrease absences and behavioral infractions by promoting academic behaviors, enhancing academic motivation, and increasing subjective well-being. The intervention targets middle school students.
Program Components
The program consists of eight, 45-minute mentoring sessions that take place in designated mentoring rooms within the middle school during a student’s nonacademic electives or periods (e.g., homeroom) once per week. The sessions follow a mentoring curriculum that targets four sources of self-efficacy (mastery experience, social persuasion, vicarious experience, and positive affective states) and behavioral change through cognitive dissonance and using motivational interviewing (MI) techniques.

Mentors receive training on how to implement the mentoring curriculum via direct instruction, role playing, and performance feedback, using MI (see Implementation Information for more information). To facilitate behavior change through cognitive dissonance, mentors help mentees sort various values (e.g., “making my parents proud”, “being happy”, “making good decisions”) into very important, important, and not important categories and use those values identified as very important to help mentees set goals. Mentors encourage mentees to explore and resolve any inconsistencies between their values and their behavior in a non-confrontational manner, using MI conversational techniques and affirming mentee actions that are consistent with mentee values.

To facilitate mastery experiences, mentors help their mentees set achievable goals connected to their values and teach them academic skills (e.g., study skills, organization) to maximize their chances of reaching their goals. Mentors provide feedback and guidance as mentees pursue their goals and provide vicarious learning by sharing current and previous personal challenges and successes. Mentors also use free time, affirmations, casual conversations, and play to promote positive affective experiences with their mentees.
Mentors complete a checklist of each session’s procedures that include specific agenda items and tasks pertinent to the activities expected of the mentors during that session. Mentors receive brief, onsite supervision prior to each session to review the curriculum and following each session to check for compliance.
Program Theory
The program is based on a brief mentoring model (Spencer and Rhodes 2005) and grounded in the following theories of behavior change: social–cognitive theory (Bandura 1997), cognitive–dissonance theory (Draycott and Dabbs, 1998), and theory of motivational interviewing (Miller and Ross 2009). Consistent with these theories, the program aims to enhance students’ self-efficacy and outcome expectations by including structural goal-setting and performance feedback, creating opportunities for identifying and resolving inconsistencies between their attitudes and behaviors, and using a client-centered model that encourages a flexible and reciprocal relationship between mentor and mentee while also accommodating goal-focused activities for the mentee such as academic skills training. Further, mentor training and supervision are based on the augmented Kilpatrick model of training, which proposes that successful knowledge and skill transfer is promoted using the following four levels of evaluation: reaction (appraisals of how useful the training is), learning (transfer of knowledge), behavioral performance (transfer of skill), and results (transfer of competency; Alliger et al. 1997).

Key Personnel

Mentors are undergraduate students recruited from classes in departments linked to helping professions such as social work, human development and family studies, and psychology. Site supervisors are doctoral students in school psychology who conduct the matching process and lead all training and supervision sessions using the structured pre- and post-meeting protocol. Supervisors receive training and practice in supervising mentors. Each supervisor also had previously served as a mentor in the program (McQuillin and Lyon 2016)
Additional Information
This program is a revised version of a previously reviewed program ( The revised program, which includes enhancements to mentor training and supervision, as well as to the program curriculum, was significantly different from the previous version to be reviewed as a new program. For example, the revised program expands mentor training to include an initial online training module, two in-person training sessions, and three supplemental online trainings. In the revised program, mentor training is based on the application of social–cognitive theory and cognitive–dissonance theory, in addition to the theory of motivational interviewing, and incorporates a training model proven effective for successful knowledge and skill transfer (the augmented Kirkpatrick model of training).

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
McQuillin and Lyons (2016) found that students in the Brief Instrumental School-Based Mentoring Program–Revised intervention group had significantly fewer unexcused absences, significantly higher math and English grades, and significantly higher self-reported levels of life satisfaction at posttest, compared with students in the control group. However, there were no significant differences between the groups on the number of school-reported behavioral infractions or in grades for science or history.
Number of Unexcused Absences
Students in the intervention group had significantly fewer unexcused absences than students in the control group at posttest. This difference corresponded to an average of 0.82 fewer absences in the intervention group, compared with the control group.
Number of Behavioral Infractions
There was no significant difference in behavioral infractions between students in the intervention and control groups at posttest. 
Math Grades
Students in the intervention group had significantly higher math grades at posttest than students in the control group (the associated effect size indicated an impact of medium magnitude). 
English Grades
Students in the intervention group had significantly higher English grades at posttest than students in the control group (the associated effect size indicated an impact of medium magnitude).
Science Grades
There was no significant difference in science grades between students in the intervention and control groups at posttest.
History Grades
There was no significant difference in history grades between students in the intervention and control groups at posttest.
Life Satisfaction
Students in the intervention group reported significantly higher levels of life satisfaction at posttest than those in the control group (the associated effect size indicated an impact of large magnitude).
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
McQuillin and Lyons (2016) evaluated the Brief Instrumental School-Based Mentoring Program–Revised in a pre- and posttest randomized controlled evaluation. Study participants were 72 seventh- and eighth-grade students at a large urban public charter middle school in Houston, Texas. Thirty-six participants were randomly assigned to the mentoring program, and 36 were assigned to the school-as-usual control group. Most the study participants were female (57 percent), and most were Latin American/Hispanic (89 percent). The average age was 12.54 years, and all students received free lunch. Mentors (n=36) were undergraduate students and on average were 20.34 years old. Most mentors were female (86 percent), 12 were white, 10 were African American/black, 5 were Asian, and 9 were Hispanic/Latin American. Mentors and mentees were matched based on mutual interests. Whereas all female mentees were matched with female mentors, some male mentees were matched with female mentors because of the disproportional numbers of male and female mentors.
Outcome measures were collected from school academic records, school behavioral records, and youth self-reports. Academic records provided data on students’ grades in math, English, science, and history, which were in the form of percentages that could range from 0 to 100. School behavior records provided data on numbers of unexcused absences and officially documented misconduct violations reported by school staff (e.g., disruptions, foul language, and disobeying adult instructions). Baseline academic and behavioral records were obtained prior to randomization and follow-up records were obtained 1 month following study completion, each from separate grading periods. Self-report surveys were administered to students at baseline (prior to randomization) and 2 weeks following their final meeting with their mentors (12 weeks after baseline assessment). The surveys collected data on life satisfaction, using the Student Life Satisfaction Scale. Items assessed student agreement with statements about their life as they experienced it over the several weeks prior to assessment using a 6-point Likert scale (strongly agree to strongly disagree) and included items such as “My life is going well” and “I wish I had a different kind of life”. Responses to the seven items were averaged to yield a score. 
Multiple regression analyses were used to test for the effects of the intervention on outcome measures, controlling for gender, grade level, and pretest scores on the outcome measures. Participating students did not vary significantly on race or free lunch status; therefore, these variables were not included in the analyses. At baseline, there were no observed differences between the treatment and control groups on grade, age, gender, or all pretest covariates. There were also no statistically significant differences in pretest outcomes by mentee demographic characteristics.
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Implementation Information

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Potential mentors complete an electronic application followed by a 30-minute online training module, which provides an overview of the mentoring program and the conversational style of the curriculum. Mentors who pass a quiz on the content of the online training are eligible to complete the in-person training, which consists of two, 1.5-hour training sessions involving direct instruction, role playing, and performance feedback using motivational interviewing (MI). The first training session covers the relational component of the intervention (open-ended questions, affirmations, reflections, summarizations). The second training session covers the MI protocol. Additionally, mentors receive training in academic- enabling activities (e.g., agenda keeping, planning book-bag and locker organization). Mentors who pass knowledge (i.e., paper and pen) and performance (i.e., role-play) tests are matched with mentees based on mutual interests.  

Mentors are provided with a curriculum manual that contains instructions for mentoring sessions, including a description of and checklist for each mentoring session. The checklists, which include specific agenda items and tasks pertinent to the activities expected of the mentors during that session, help mentors monitor their progression through the curriculum. Mentors meet with a supervisor, either one-on-one or in groups of up to three, before and after each weekly mentoring session. Pre-session supervision meetings provide an opportunity for mentors to review the checklist with their supervisors and clarify areas of concern. During post-session meetings, supervisors review mentors’ completed checklists with them to check for fidelity, address any mentor questions, and direct mentors to additional online training modules as needed. Additional training opportunities include 15 to 20 minute modules on setting goals, having healthy conversations, and providing feedback. Mentors are also encouraged to schedule phone supervision if they encounter issues that require more involved supervision (McQuillin and Lyons 2016).
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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
McQuillin, Samuel, and Michael D. Lyons.  2016. “Brief Instrumental School-Based Mentoring for Middle School Students: Theory and Impact.” Advances in School Mental Health Promotion 9(2):73–89.

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Additional References

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

Alliger, George M., Scott I. Tannenbaum, Winston Bennett, Jr., Holly Traver, and Allison Shotland. 1997. “A Meta-Analysis of the Relations Among Training Criteria.” Personnel Psychology 50:341–58.

Bandura, Albert. 1997. Self-efficacy: The Exercise of Control. New York, N.Y.: W.H. Freeman and Company.

Draycott, Scott, and Alan Dabbs. 1998. “Cognitive Dissonance. 2. A Theoretical Grounding of Motivational Interviewing.” British Journal of Clinical Psychology 37:355–64.

Miller, William R., and Gary S. Rose. 2009. “Towards a Theory of Motivational Interviewing.” American Psychologist 64(6):527–37.

Spencer, Renee, and Jean Rhodes. 2005. “A Counseling and Psychotherapy Perspective on Mentoring Relationships.” In D. L. DuBois and M. J. Karcher (eds.). Handbook of Youth Mentoring. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

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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

Age: 11 - 14

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): School

Program Type: Academic Skills Enhancement, Mentoring, Motivational Interviewing

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Model Programs Guide

Program Developer:
Samuel McQuillin
Assistant Professor
University of South Carolina
Department of Psychology Barnwell College 462
Columbia SC 29208
Phone: 803.777.6725