How does social justice and race equity training impact volunteer mentors’ cognitive and affective outcomes?

Anderson, A. J. & Sánchez, B. (2021). A Pilot Evaluation of a Social Justice and Race Equity Training for Volunteer Mentors. American Journal of Community Psychology.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: 

  • Although race, ethnicity, and culture are important subjects for mentors to get trained on, the literature on this subject is limited.
  • This pilot study explores how race equity training and social justice affect the cognitive and affective outcomes of volunteer mentors within the context of cultural humility in mentoring.
  • Mentors’ self-efficiency to provide racial and ethnic support increased due to training.
  • This indicates that race equity training can do the following…
    • Help mentees cope with discrimination and develop a positive racial/ethnic identity.
    • Boost mentors’ confidence in supporting their mentees.
  • No evidence proved that training would affect the cognitive outcomes of attendees’ training knowledge.
  • There was also a lack of evidence that showed training would impact affective outcomes regarding ethnocultural perspective-taking, social justice interest, commitment, and awareness of racial privilege.
  • Mentors who are interested in social justice are more likely to attend optional social justice training.
  • Volunteer mentors need to be continuously trained in cultural humility as their mentoring relationships progress.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Mentor training on cultural humility is an area of needed support in formal youth mentoring relationships. This pilot study used an experimental design to examine the role of a social justice and race equity training on volunteer mentors’ cognitive and affective outcomes related to cultural humility in mentoring. The sample included 99 volunteer mentors paired with adolescent mentees in an established formal mentoring program. Mentors predominantly identified as White (89%), and the majority (72%) were paired with youth of color. Participants were randomly assigned to either the training or control condition. Findings from intention-to-treat analyses indicated that training group participants (n = 49) exhibited greater increases in self-efficacy to provide racial/ethnic support over time than participants in the control group (n = 50). As-treated analyses indicated that training attendees (n = 23) exhibited greater increases in self-efficacy to provide racial/ethnic support over time than participants who did not attend the training (n = 76). Results indicated no significant changes over time in participants’ training content knowledge, awareness of racial privilege, ethnocultural empathy, or social justice interest and behavioral intentions. Analyses also indicated an attendance bias within the training condition, such that mentors who attended the training reported significantly more awareness of racial privilege, social justice interest, and social justice behavioral intentions compared to training condition mentors who were invited but did not attend the training. Implications for training volunteer mentors within formal mentoring programs are discussed.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

This pilot study used an experimental design to examine the role of a social justice and race equity training on volunteer mentors’ cognitive and affective outcomes related to cultural humility in mentoring and social justice attitudes. This study makes at least three important contributions to the youth mentoring literature. First, it adds to research on mentor training, which a prior meta-analysis indicated as an important way for mentoring programs to improve programmatic outcomes (DuBois et al., 2002). Second, this investigation addressed recent calls for the application of a social justice lens to youth mentoring and the need for cultural humility and social justice training for mentors (Albright et al., 2017; Liang et al., 2013; Weiston-Serdan, 2017). Third, the experimental design extends prior quasi-experimental research on ongoing support for mentors’ cultural competencies in the mentoring relationship (e.g., Anderson et al., 2018).


Findings revealed the training increased mentors’ self-efficacy to provide racial/ethnic support. This finding adds to prior evidence that mentor training influences mentors’ self-efficacy through programmatic support (Kupersmidt et al., 2017) and complements quasi-experimental research using pre–post data that found social justice training influenced mentor’s self-efficacy to provide racial/ethnic support to their mentees (Anderson et al., 2018). This finding is important because post-training self-efficacy is a key predictor of future use of newly learned skills (Kraiger et al., 1993). Further, mentor efficacy is an important mechanism through which mentoring relationships influence relationship quality and youth developmental outcomes (Parra et al., 2002). Namely, greater mentor efficacy is associated with stronger relationships (e.g., interactions, closeness) which can ultimately lead to better mentee outcomes (Parra et al., 2002). A study illustrated the importance of mentor efficacy, such that relationship quality was higher among mentors with increasing self-efficacy trajectories in the relationship compared to those with decreasing self-efficacy (Boat et al., 2019). In the current study, we found that the training influenced mentor self-efficacy to provide racial/ethnic support, such as coping with discrimination and building a positive racial/ethnic identity—a specific form of mentor confidence. Training may promote mentors’ confidence to support their mentee’s race/ethnicity and to be more comfortable about the role of race/ethnicity in the relationship. Perhaps when mentors feel more confident, they may also be more comfortable in their interactions with their mentee and be more at ease in discussions about race/ethnicity and culture. Alternatively, if a mentor is not confident in this area, it may be perceived by the mentee as avoidance or awkwardness, which could affect the quality of the relationship. Future research should examine how mentor efficacy around racial/ethnic support is related to relationship outcomes.

We did not find evidence that the training influenced attendees’ cognitive outcomes of training knowledge, or the remaining affective outcomes of social justice interest, commitment, awareness of racial privilege, or ethnocultural perspective-taking. There are several possible explanations for these null findings. First, it is possible that the nature of this specific training, such as the three-hour format or selected reflection activities, was not effective in changing mentor outcomes. Prior research suggests that longer training duration and activities with greater social interaction between attendees can have greater effect on outcomes (Kalinoski et al., 2013). Perhaps more collaborative activities with mentoring specific examples would increase mentors’ knowledge on cultural humility in mentoring. Also, there were significant baseline differences between training group mentors who attended versus mentors who were invited but did not attend. It is possible that mentors who ultimately attended a training were more resolved in their awareness of their racial privilege and social justice perceptions and in a larger sample with more variation in participants’ cultural humility there could be changes in mentor outcomes.

In addition to between-group differences among training attendees and non-attendees, the overall sample exhibited a high social justice orientation. For instance, examination of descriptive statistics of baseline measures indicated that study participants were below the midpoint of the scale for unawareness of racial privilege (i.e., reported high awareness of privilege) and above the midpoint of the scale on self-efficacy, ethnocultural empathy, social justice interests, and intentions. Thus, the participants in this study may have been generally interested in the topic and not reflective of the population of volunteer mentors at the organization. This could be attributable to the study recruitment materials, which were explicit about the study’s focus on race/ethnicity and the random chance of being assigned to participate in a social justice training. These strategies were used to enhance likelihood of participation in the training, but ultimately could have biased the sample to recruit mentors who were more interested than the broader population of mentors. Future research is needed to examine how this training influences mentors across the spectrum of awareness and interest in social justice issues.

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