Calculated risk, considering response
Bowling, Bradford Gregg
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The purpose of this study was to understand a middle school Men’s Group as a program for low-socioeconomic adolescent African-American and Hispanic males, and to understand the perspectives of those involved in the program. This qualitative case study sought to understand the Men’s Group in light of the program’s influence on its members. A social constructionist approach was used to discover the perspectives of the Men’s Group student members in addition to the adults involved with the program. Data collection methods included individual interviews, participant observation, written artifact analysis, ethnographic journaling, and supplemental quantitative data. Data was organized and interpreted to understand the strongest influences on the choices of the adolescent male participants. Profiles of 10 student members and an in-depth description of the program were provided. Thematic analysis uncovered six themes related to the influence of the Men’s Group as compared to the previously established influences on student choices. Three themes surrounding this case study included: the necessity of building a positive peer community, the appropriate habits and practices of schooling, and the importance of developing a more realistic understanding of the future. Three more themes made up the philosophy of the Men’s Group: The various experiences of the Men’s Group served as the avenue to implicitly communicate messages, or values of the program, to student members, and student members better understood Men’s Group messages when group values mirrored student members’ family values, and through offering opportunities to develop positive relationships with adults. Findings have implications for further research, particularly as a need for a more longitudinal study that follows program members as they enter and complete high school. Implications for practitioners include the necessity for developing and sustaining programs to improve outcomes for low-socioeconomic African-American and Hispanic males. Practitioners are encouraged to prioritize the creation and implementation of programs like the Men’s Group.