Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Qualitative vs Quantitative Variables: A Multidimensional Measurement in Predetermination of Success for Retention of Minority Health Students

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Qualitative vs Quantitative Variables: A Multidimensional Measurement in Predetermination of Success for Retention of Minority Health Students

Article excerpt


It sometimes occurs in research on retention and success for minority students in health institutions of higher learning, that considerable evidence accumulates with regard to a particular type of variable believed to exert a causal influence, but that the research findings are inconsistent and contradictory. Numerous explanations may be put forth for the contradictions, while researchers continue to use standard approaches to investigating the topic. In such instances, the research goal needs to shift to clarifying the inconsistencies and contradiction in the evidence. The subject of retention, attrition and graduation for minority students in health institutions of higher education is that type of substantive area. The purpose of this paper is to consider methodological problems that may explain the contradictory evidence surrounding this important subject.

A large number of studies have identified statistical relationships between measures of academic institutional social support services, and minority student success status variables. In spite of much evidence about the value of "academic support services" and "instructional stimulation," the research findings contain fundamental unresolved issues and contradictions.

The serious inconsistencies revolve around questions that are extremely relevant for policy and program development. The confusion of basic issues may be a reason for the tendency to focus away from the social environment, traditionally considered as a "soft" research area, and concentrate on individual behavioral or biological risk factors. A main thesis of this paper is that sound research must uncover the complex forces that shape student minority success and deal with the methodological problems encountered in doing so. Research that elaborates complex casual processes is more scientifically sound than research which predicts statistical effects from a postulated influence.


It has long been recognized that the social environment is important for people's well being. Studies of the influence of the social situation and social relationships have deep roots in research on regular and nontraditional students over the past two decades (Durkheim, 1951; Kaplan, 1983; Pearlin & Lieberman, 1979). Epidemiological research has produced findings which suggest that support from or interaction in social net works also influence physical health and accepted learned behaviors. There is no longer any doubt that university social support programs, and faculty intellectual stimulation variables, predict academic success and outcome for a student. There is, however, disagreement about the meaning of the statistical associations between university social networks, faculty intellectual stimulation variables, and underlying processes shaping the minority students' educational success.

Three basic issues remain unsolved. First, it remains unclear how the components of the student's home social environment provide educational protective or educational damaging effects. Further, the relative importance of the size of the university non-academic social program network, student participation in the program network, and function of the university non-academic programs is unknown. The second issue relates to the nature of the student's home bound protective environment, or educational damaging effects of social support. Numerous studies provide evidence that university non-academic support programs reduce the impact of stress and boredom. In addition, many studies find evidence that university non-academic support programs are educational protective, irrespective of stress, and boredom. Other studies, however, do not find any direct effects of university nonacademic social support variables or faculty intellectual stimulation variables.

The third area of major disagreement centers on the extent to which a student's personal functioning, depression, or psychological distress may account for relationships between measures of non-academic social support, educational success, and chosen career. …

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