COLLEGE PARK MARYLAND
THE VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY OF A NONCOGNITIVE
MEASURE OF MINORITY STUDENT RETENTION
William E. Sedlacek
Research Report # 3-82
The computer time for this project has been supported through
the facilities of the Computer Science Center of the
University of Maryland
UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND
THE VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY OF A NONCOGNITIVE MEASURE OF MINORITY
William E. Sedlacek
Research Report # 3-8Z
The purpose of this report is to present some evidence for hour the use of noncognitive variables in admissions will increase minority student retention. The report includes the presentation of a brief instrument which has reliability and validity evidence supporting its use in the selection and retention of minority students. The instrument measures eight noncognitive variables: Positive self-concept; Understands and deals with racism; Realistic self-appraisal; Prefers long-range goals to short-term or immediate needs; Availability of a strong support person; Successful leadership experience; Demonstrated community service; and Non-traditional knowledge acquired in a field.
In recent years there has been much concern over student retention in higher education, particularly minority student retention (Lea, Sedlacek & Stewart, 1973). The retention rates for minority students tend to-be lower than for white students (Astin, 1975; Avakian, MacKinney and Allen, 1982; Sedlacek and Pelham, 1376), and are lowest in predominantly white institutions (Goodrich, 1378; Sedlacek and Webster, 1978).
The purpose of this article, will be to present some evidence fox how :the use of noncognitive variables in admissions will increase minority student retention. The article will include the presentation of a brief instrument which has reliability and validity evidence supporting its use in the selection and retention of black students.
One reason why we must consider race or ethnic group in admission is to achieve equality. It is often argued that you don't or can't achieve equality by considering differences. The kind of equality we axe after in admissions is equality of information, not equality of process. We want the best information we can get on every applicant. It can be argued that our current system of gathering applicant data favors white, middle class applicants. How? Let's start with the application form itself. Studies have shown that the typical minority applicant is not as sure just what is being asked, and is less likely to know Just how to "play the game" and supply the information the school really wants (Sedlacek, Merritt and Brooks, 1375). Minority persons are also less likely to have family, friends, or peers who have dealt with the admissions process who can advise them.
Minority students may be reluctant or tentative in completing the application form; and universities that have done the best job of increasing black enrollment over a five-year period have tended to streamline or reduce the number and types of forms required in their admissions procedure (Sedlacek,
Merritt and Brooks, 1975). Thus the application form. is designed to elicit information fairly efficiently on applicants with traditional, white, middle class experiences in the society. It can be documented that the experiences and life styles of typical minority applicants are different (Borgen, 1970; Sedlacek and Brooks, 1976), and that we would gather data differently if we were to design a form specifically to admit minorities. For instance, a minority applicant who has shown leadership in a community project rather than the biology club might not be as likely to write it on the application because of the way the question is worded and his/her lack of information on what is appropriate to include.
Aside from the application form, we must consider that the typical tests employed in education are not as useful in predicting or diagnosing minority student potential performance as they are In predicting middle class, white student performances (Bailey, 1978) .
How did this happen? The best explanation appears to be that the reinforcement system developed in our society for minority people is more capricious than it is on the average for whites. That is, there is not as tight a link between performance and outcome for minorities as there is for whites (Sedlacek and Brooks, 1976). There are studies that show that minorities do not tend to have the same control over their lives as do whites (Epps, 1969: Gurin et al., 1969). More whites realize that if they do X, they will get y, and so forth. For example, whites are more likely to feel "If I study hard, I will get good grades and go on to the next step." This is not nearly as clear for minorities. Several studies indicate that teachers tend to have lower expectations for minority student performance (Rosenthal and Jacobson, 1965; Rubovits and Maehr, 1973). This is more likely to result in higher or lower grades that would be expected, either of which are bad for
minorities trying to develop a link or relationship between what they do and what happens to then. This kind of grade discrepancy has been found in several studies (Cleary, 1968; Pfeifer and Sedlacek, 1971; Thomas and Stanley, 1969), and helps to explain why grades don't predict minority student performance better. It is particularly difficult to diagnose or predict minority male performance. Some sociological literature supports the argument, that the majority culture tends to control minority culture primarily through controlling males (Verma and Bagley, 1975).
Since this link of behavior and reinforcement is better and stronger for white applicants, we don't have to work too hard to obtain additional applicant information on whites. If a white, in a white oriented system using white culturally based predictors, gets high grades, we know something about the motivation of that student. If he/she were president of a fraternity/sorority, we know that shows leadership. But for minority applicants, we are not as sure about their cultures. Astin (1975), in a national study of dropouts, found that blacks who were able to demonstrate knowledge gained in nontraditional ways through credit-by-examination were less likely to drop out than blacks who did not take credit-by-examination. The increase in student retention associated with demonstrating knowledge in this non-traditional way was more than twice as great for blacks as for whites.
Sedlacek and Webster (1978) found that schools that tended to consider race related variables tended to have better retention of minority students. They alto found that private universities tended to have better retention records than public universities.
Studies have shown that background, interest, attitudinal and motivational variables are related to minority student success, but are not necessarily useful-in predicting the academic success of white students (e.g., Bailey, 1978;
DiCesare, Sedlacek and Brooks, 1972; Gurin et al., 1969; Horowitz et al., 1972; Lockett, 1950; Lownan and spuck 1975; Ferry, 1972; Pfeifer and Sedlacek, 1970, 1974; Sedlacek, 1977; Sedlacek and Brooks, 1972; Tracey and. Sedlacek, (in press).
Sedlacek and brooks (1976), in reviewing the noncognitive predictor studies for minorities, concluded that there were seven key noncognitive variables:
1. Positive self-concept. Confidence, strong "self" feeling, strength of character, determination, independence. A strong self-concept seems important for minorities at all, educational levels where it has been investigated. The minority student who feels confident of "making it" through school is more likely to survive and graduate. Although minority students have had, to battle incredible obstacles and setbacks even to reach the point of applying to college or a professional school, they need even greater determination to continue. Determination is needed precisely because they come from a different cultural background than most of the students and faculty members they will encounter in school.
In addition to the usual school pressures, the minority student typically must handle cultural. biases and learn to bridge his or her past culture and the prevailing one. DiCesare, Sedlacek and Brooks (1972) found that blacks who stayed in college and adjusted to these obstacles were usually absolutely certain they would obtain their degree, in contrast to those who left school. Epps (1969) found that a strong self-concept was directly related to black high school students' success. Sedlacek and Brooks (1972) also found this to be true of minority students in special programs at the university level. Astin (1952) also found self-concept important for minority student success.
Pfeifer and Sedlacek (1974) noted that this goad self-concept may take a
form whereby successful minority students appear considerably different
fray their white counterparts. They found that blacks who get high grades
tend to have very atypical personality profiles vis-ŕ-vis whites who get
high grades, according to norms based on white students. Thus on some
measures the opposite use of the same predictor will select the best black
and white students.
The successful minority student, however, is more likely to be inclined toward, and experienced in, "going against the grain," as well as being atypical. Conversely, blacks who look like typically successful white students on these personality measures will not do well academically. Thus there is good evidence that important cultural differences operate between blacks and whites in the manner in which the self-concept is operationalized.
2. Understands and deals with racism. A realist, based on personal experiences of racism. Committed to fighting to improve the existing system. Not submissive to existing wrongs, nor hateful of society, nor a "cop out." Able to handle a racist system. Asserts that the school has a role or duty to fight racism. Racism can take many forms. For example, an admissions committee that has good intentions but uses inappropriate predictors to select minority students is committing an unconscious act of racism. This is racism because it results in negative outcomes for minority students who are incorrectly selected, and it is institutional racism because it is the result of collective action (see Sedlacek and Brooks, 1976).
Research has consistently shown that minority students who understand racism and are prepared to deal with it perform better academically and are more likely to adjust to a predominantly white school (Barbarin, 1981; DiCesare, Sedlacek and Brooks, 1972; Gurin, Gurin, Lao and Beattie, 1969).
3. Realistic self-appraisal. Recognizes and accepts any academic or
background deficiencies and works hard at self-development. Recognizes need to broaden. one's indivi1uality. Realism in self-appraisal by minorities does not connote cultural, or racial deficiency or inferiority. However, institutional racism results in inferior education. and academic background deficiencies among many minorities. The minority applicant who recognizes this and is prepared to act upon. it individually, or with the school's help, will make a better student. Again the studies on internal-external control support this point Gurin et al., 1969; Sedlacek and Brooks, 1976).
Additionally, DiCesare et al (1972) found that blacks who have a mere
realistic view of themselves and society are more likely to remain in school.
4. Prefers 1ong-range goals to short-term or immediate needs. Understands and is willing to accept deferred gratification. Since role models are unavailable and the reinforcement system has been relatively random for them, many minorities have difficulty understanding the relationship between current work and the ultimate practice of their professions. The earlier discussion about the "culture shock" faced by minority students supports the usefulness of this predictor.
In other words, since black students tend to face a greater culture shock than white students in adjusting to a white-oriented campus culture, we are not as sure about how blacks will perform at first as we are about whites. However, by the tine of their sophomore year, blacks are about as predictable as whites.
The minority student who is. not ready to accept delayed reinforcement, when combined with the other adjustments discussed here, will be in a great deal of trouble in college.
Availability of a strong support person. Has a person of strong influence who provides advice. In times of crisis the successful minority
student tends to have a strong individual in his or her background to turn to. This individual may be in the immediate family, but is often a relative or a community worker. Many minority students do not have the "props" or support to fall back upon that whites typically have. For instance, a 'black student who is about to enter college may not have members its his or her immediate family or neighborhood friends who have been to college or understand the "ins and outs" of the system, which most educated whites take for granted. As noted earlier, whites, individually and collectively through institutions, do not usually have high expectations of minorities and therefore are not geared to pushing a. minority student to seek education.
Because of random reinforcement of the relationship between individual effort and positive outcome, it may take relatively little to make a minority student drop out or fail. school. If a white student drops out, there are generally many forces in white society to bring him or her back into the educational system. But the minority student may drop out and never be heard from again.
Tie minority student who has at least one strong support person in his or her background is more likely to get through the many and very difficult adjustments required of most minorities in a predominantly white school.
6. Successful leadership experience. Has shown ability to organize and influence others within his or her cultural-racial context. The key here is non-traditional evidence of leadership among minority students. Application forms and interviews are typically slanted in directions unlikely to yield much about the background of the minority student. They typical white applicant knows how to "plays the game," sad will have "taken up" and then be sure to list, a wide variety of offices held in traditional school organizations. Many minority students will not have had the time or the inclination for such
The coat promising students, however, may have shown their leadership in less typical ways, such as working in their communities, or through their church, or even as a street-gang leader in high school. It is important. to pursue the culturally relevant activities of the applicants rather than to treat them as if they come from a white middle class environment. If the applicant succeeded in his or her culture and is now ready to "take on" college, this is evidence that the student has the potential to succeed.
7. Demonstrated community service. Has shown evidence of contributing to his or her community. This predictor is closely related to the leadership experiences discussed above, since many of the successful leadership activities of minorities may be performed in their own communities. However, community service goes beyond this in providing evidence of interest in and understanding of one's background and willingness to help and serve one's people. If minority students reject their background, it is likely they will have trouble in personal areas, such as self-concept, understanding racism, and realistic self-appraisal.
The standard application blank and admission interview typically do not explore different cultural backgrounds and tend to miss a great deal of data in selecting minority students. A school that is interested in optimizing its minority student selection procedures must have knowledge of the cultural background of a minority student and the implications of urban-rural differences, and must recognize that many minority applicants are cot sure about what information right by of interest to the school.
An eighth variable hypothesized by the writer is labeled Non-traditional Knowledge Acquired in a Field. It is defined as unusual and/or culturally related ways of obtaining information arid demonstrating knowledge. The field
itself may be non-traditional. Astin (1975), as noted earlier, provides evidence for the possible utility of the variable in predicting minority student retention.
Exhibit I shows a short questionnaire designed to measure the eight variables discussed above. Exhibit II provides a system to score the questionnaire. Tracey and Sedlacek (in press) did a reliability and validity study of seven of the eight variables (all but Non-traditional Knowledge) and found test-retest reliability coefficients ranging from .70 to .94, and interjudge agreement correlations ranging from .83 to 1.00 for open-ended items. Lockett (1980) reported coefficient alpha reliabilities ranging from .54 to .73 on a modified version of the questionnaire. Tracey and Sedlacek also showed that the variables tend to be independent of one another, using principal components factor analysis.
The exact relationship of the questionnaire to collegiate success varies between blacks and whites. For whites, the variables significantly add to the prediction of grades, while for blacks, they are related to both grades and enrollment status. Tracey and Sedlacek (in press) further found that the use of the non-cognitive variables alone (without SAT scores) yielded a significant higher correlation with black student retention than did SAT scores alone. They also demonstrated the importance of predicting criteria beyond the freshman year. Studies which predict only freshman grades tend to give different results. and are more likely to be unfair to minorities (Farver, Sedlacek and Brooks, 1975; Kalingall, 1971).
Lockett (1980), using a modification of the noncognitive questionnaire presented here, found that the variables correlated with grades and satisfaction with the college environment for the black students. Given this reliability and validity, the non-cognitive variables appear to be useful in increasing
minority student retention.
Among others, the Association of American Medical Colleges (Prieto et al., 1975; Sedlacek and Prieto, 1952) and the Mexican American Legal. Defense and Educational Fund (Brown and Marenco, 1980) recommend the use of the noncognitive variables discussed here. Additionally, Brown and Marenco offer a system of scoring the noncognitive variables which is particularly applicable to law schools.
The variables also could be of value after admission. Students could be given the questionnaire before matriculation, and those students lacking in the dimensions that are related to collegiate success could be identified. Programs aimed specifically at particular variables for particular students could then be initiated. Thus, efforts could be optimally employed with the best chance of retaining students, given the particular resources of a given institution. The Counseling Center at the University of Maryland, College Park, (UMCP) has planned and is currently implementing an intervention for black students based on these noncognitive variables. The intervention is part of an overall program of small sample research-based attempts to reduce student attrition (Boyd, Magoon & Leonard, 1952). If the small scale intervention works, it will be implemented for all students at UMCP.
Astin, A.W. Preventing students from dropping out. San Francisco:
Astin, A.W. Minorities in American Higher Education. San Francisco:
Avakian, N.A., Mac Kinney, A.C., and Allen, G.R. Race and sex differences in
student retention at an urban university. College and University, 1982, 57, 160-165.
Bailey,R.N. Minority Admissions. Lexington, Mass: Heath, 1978.
Barbarin, Q.A. (Ed.) Institutional racism and community competence.
Bethesda, Maryland: National Institute of Mental Health, 1981.
Borgen, F.H. Able black Americans in college: Entry and freshman
experiences. Merit Scholarship Corporation Research Reports, 1970, 6, #2.
approach to attrition/retention in higher education. Journal of Collie Student Personnel, 1982, 23, 390-394.
Brown, S.E. and Marenco, E., Jr., Law School admissions study San Francisco:
Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, 1980.
Cleary, T. A. Test bias: Predictions of grades of Negro and white students
in integrated colleges. Journal of Educational Measurement, 1968, 5, 115-121
DiCesare, A., Sedlacek, W.E., and Brooks, G.C., Jr. Nonintellectual
correlates of black student. attrition. Journal of College Student Personnel, 1972, 13, 319-324:
Epps, E.G. Correlates of academic achievement among northern and southern
urban Negro students. Journal of Social Issues, 1969, 25, 5-13.
Farver, A. S., Sedlacek, W.E.; and Brooks, G.C., Jr. Longitudinal
predictions of university grades for blacks and whites. Measurement and Evaluation in Guidance, 1975, 7, 243-250.
Goodrich, A. A data-driven minority student retention model for faculty and
administrators in predominantly white institutions. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American College Personnel Association, Detroit, Mi., March, 1978.
Gurin, P., Gurin, G., Lao, R., and Beattie, M. Internal-External control in
the motivational dynamics of Negro youth. Journal of Social Issues, 1969, 3, 29-53.
Horowitz, J.L., Sedlacek, W.E., aid Brooks, G.C., jr. Correlates of black and white university student grades beyond the freshman year. Cultural Study Center Research Report 7-72, College Park, Md.: University of Maryland 1972.
Kallingal, A. The prediction of grades for black and white students at
Michigan State University. Journal of Educational Measurement, 1971, 8, 264-265.
Lea, D.H., Sedlacek, W.E., and Stewart, S.S Problems in retention research
in higher education. NSAPA (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators) Journal, 1979, 17, #12
Lockett, G. C. A study of traditional, measures and nontraditional measures
used to edict the success of black college students. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Missouri-Columbia, :980.
disadvantaged Mexican-American. Journal of College Student Personnel, 1975, 16, 40-43.
Perry, F., Jr. Selected variables related to success of black freshman
students at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Unpublished dissertation, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1972.
Pfeifer, C.M., Jr. and Sedlacek, W.E. Nonintellectual correlates of black
and white students grades at the University of Maryland. Cultural Study Center Research Report # 3-70, College Park, MD: University of Maryland, 1970.
Pfeifer, C.M., Jr. and Sedlacek, W.E. The validity of academic predictors
for black and white students at a predominantly white university. Journal of Educational Measurement, 1971, 8, 253-261.
Pfeifer, C.M., Jr. and Sedlacek, W.E. Predicting black student grades with
nonintellectual measures. Journal of Negro Education, 1974, 43, 67-76.
Prieto, D.O., Bashook, P.G., D'costa, A.G., Elliott, P.R., Jarecky, R.K.,
Kahrabrah, B., Leaven, W.F., and Sedlacek, W.E. Simulated Minority Admission Exercise Workbook. Washington, D.C.; Association of American Medical Colleges, 1978.
Rosenthal, R. anal Jacobson, L. Self-fulfilling prophecies in the classroom:
Teachers' expectations as unintended determinants of pupils' intellectual competence. In Deutsch, M., Katz, 1., and Jensen, A.R. (Eds.) Social class, race and psychological development New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1968.
Rubovitz, P.C. and Maehr, M.L. Pygmalion black and white. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology,1973, 25, 210-218.
Sedlacek, W.E. Should higher education students be admitted differentially
by race and sex? The evidence Journal of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, 1977, 22, # 1, 22-24.
Sedlacek, W.E. and Brooks, G.C., Jr. Predictors of academic success for
university students in special programs. Cultural Study Center Research Report # 4-72, College Park, MD.: University of Maryland, 1972.
Sedlacek, W.E. and Brooks, G.C., Jr. Racism in American education: A model
for change. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1976.
of universities successful and unsuccessful in enrolling blacks over a five year period. Journal of College Student Personnel, 1975, 15, 57-63.
Sedlacek, W.E. and Pelham, J.C. Minority admissions to large universities: A
national survey. Journal of Non-White Concerns in Personnel and Guidance, 1976, 4, 4 2, 53-63.
Admissions Exercise. Journal of Medical Education. 19$2, 57, 119-120.
Sedlacek, W.E. and Webster, D.W. Admission and retention of minority
students in large universities. Journal of College Student Personnel, 1978. 19, 242-248.
Thomas, C.L. and Stanley, J. Effectiveness of high school grades for
predicting college grades of black students: A review and discussion. Journal of Educational Measurement, 1969, 6, 203-215.
Tracey, T.J: and Sedlacek, W.E. Noncognitive variables in predicting
academic success by race. Measurement and Evaluation in Guidance, (in press).
Verma, G.K. and Bagley, C. Race and education across cultures. London,
England Heinemann, 1975.
ADMISSIONS QUESTIONNAIRE ASSESSING EIGHT NONCOGNITIVE VARIABLES
Please circle your responses to the following items:
1. How much education do you expect 3. What do you feel is the MAIN reason to get in your lifetime? there are few blacks at the University of Maryland, College Park?
1. College, but less than a
bachelor’s degree 1. Blacks prefer to go to black
2. B.A. or equivalent colleges
3. 1 or 2 years of graduate 2. The University discourages then
or professional study from coming because of its tout;
4. Doctor of Philosophy or academic reputation
Doctor of Education 3. The University’s racist practice
5. Doctor of Medicine discourage them from coming
6. Doctor of Dental Surgery 4. The University's racist image
7. Bachelor of Law discourages them
8. Bachelor of Divinity 5. Don't know
9. Other 6. Other
2. About 50% of university students 4. Please. list thee goals that typically leave before receiving a you have right now:
degree. If this should happen to
you, which of the following do you 1.
think would be the MOST LIKELY 2.
1. Absolutely certain that I will
obtain a degree
2. To accept a good job
3. To enter military service
4. It would cost more than my
family or I could afford
5. Please list three things that
you are proud of having done
6. Disinterest in study 1.
7. Lack of academic ability 2.
8. Inefficient reading or other 3.
Please indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with each of the following items respond to the statements below with your feelings at present or with your expectations of how things-will be here. Write in your answers on the space to the left of each item.
6. The University should use its influence to improve social conditions in the State.
7. It should not be very hard to get a B (3.0) average at UMCP,
8. I get easily discouraged when I try to do something and it doesn't work.
9. I am sometimes looked up to by others.
10. If I run into problems concerning school, I have someone who would listen to me and help me.
11. There is no use in doing things for people, you only find that you get it in the neck in the long run.
12. In the group where I am comfortable, I am often looked to as leader.
13. I expect to have a harder time than most students at UMCP.
14. Once I start something, I finish it.
15. When I believe strongly in something, I act on it.
16. I am as skilled academically as the average applicant to UMCP.
17. People can pretty easily change me even though I thought my mind was already made up on the subject.
18. My friends and relatives don't feel I should go to college.
19. List offices held and/or groups belonged to in high school or in your community.
SCORING KEY* FOR NONCOGNITIVE ADMISSIONS QUESTIONNAIRE'
William E. Sedlacek
1 Use to score for Self-Concept (Variable I)
Option 1 = 1; 2 - 2; 3 = 3; 4 through 8 = 4; Score 9 as
closest to 1, 2, 3, or 4 (by your judgment).
2 Use to score for Self-Concept (I) and Self-Appraisal (II)
Option. 1 = 2; 2 through 9 = 1.
3 Use to score for Racism (III)
Options 1, 2, 5 or 6 = l; 3 and 4 = 2.
4 Use to score for Long-Range Goals (IV) and Knowledge Acquired
in a Field (VIII)
A. Options for Long-Range Goals:
Scale Values: Options:
3 = Consistent evidence of planning and future
orientation over a long time, e.g., "As a
freshman, I figured I had better study if I
wanted to get into law (or whatever)."
"Realized I had to learn X procedure on the
job before I could get promoted," etc.
2 = Some recognition of long-term goals, but no
long-term evidence, or mixed evidence.
1 = No evidence of long-term planning. Looks at
issues in immediate terms, unprepared for
B. Options for Knowledge Acquired in a Field:
3 = Behavioral evidence of activity and interest
in field of interest for some time. Interest
may be through one's culture, bettering one's
culture through working in the field. Allow
for non-traditional views of field of interest
2 = Some behavioral interests in the field, but
not strong or long-term.
1 = No evidence of interest in the field, or
perhaps avoidance of such issues.
For items 6 through 18, positive (+) items are scored as is. Negative (-) items are reversed, so that 1=5, 2=4, 3=3, 4=2, and: 5=1. A shortcut is to subtract all negative item responses from 6.
6 - (negative)Use to score for Racism (III)
7 - Use to score for Realistic Self-Appraisal (II)
8 + (positive)Use to score for ho-Range Goals (IV)
9 - Use to score for Leadership (VI)
10 - Use to score for Availability of Strong Support (V)
11 + Use to score for Community Service (VII)
12 - Use to score for Leadership (VI)
13 + Use to score for Racism (III)
14 - Use to score for Long Range Goals (IV)
15 - Use to score for Positive Self-Concept (I)
16 - Use to score for Realistic Self-Appraisal (II)
17 + Use to score for Positive Self-Concept (I)
18 + Use to score for Availability of Strong Support (V)
19 Use to score for Leadership (VI), Community Service (VII) and
Knowledge Acquired in a Field (VIII).
To score for Leadership, use options shown in item 5-A.
To score for Community Service, use options shown item 5-B
To score for Knowledge Acquired in a Field, use options shown in item 4-B.
* The higher the score, the more positive on the variable