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Approachability of adults in secondary schools as selected by students Harris, Justine

Abstract

Because students may seek discussions most often with approachable adults, and such discussions may be more potentially helpful than discussions initiated otherwise, approachability of adults on school staffs was studied. Some potential correlates of approachability were examined: sex and age of adults, similarity-dissimilarity of students' and adults' value patterns, and adults' knowledge of particular students' value preferences. Five hypotheses based upon the theories of Heider and Newcomb, who postulated that persons are attracted to others perceived as like, were formulated. A sixth hypothesis concerning the relative importance of correlates was to be investigated if the first five were supported. Adults' approachability was studied for three kinds (contexts) of serious discussions: (1) of an impersonal problem, (2) of vocational choice, and (3) of personal problems. Two kinds of value patterns, factual values and normative/instrumental values, suggested by the theoretical categories of Margenau and Rokeach were studied. Grade-XII students and the adults known to at least 30 percent of them in each of five British Columbia secondary schools formed the sample. Approachability results were based on 371 students making choices among 115 adults. An adult's approachability score was formed by dividing the times he was chosen for a context by the number of students who knew him. In all schools, for all contexts, a small number of adult Ss were very often chosen, about a third chosen by a few students, and about 50 percent not chosen. Results pertaining to hypotheses were: 1. Adults were chosen proportionately more often by students of the same sex for vocational-choice and personal problems contexts (p < .001, using chi square). In the impersonal- topic context, male adults were chosen proportionately more often by male and female students (p < .001 by chi square test). 2. Youngest adults were not chosen proportionately more often for any context. Adults in the 31-40 and 51-60 age ranges were those chosen proportionately more often in most schools for all contexts (p < .001 by chi square test). 3. Students did not choose adults with similar factual-value patterns proportionately more often: no relationship was found between similarity of adults with students- in-general who knew them and approachability, or between mean value-pattern correlations of an adult with students who chose and did not choose him. 4. Students did not choose adults with similar normative/instrumental-value patterns proportionately more often. Neither of the possible relationships noted in (3) was found. 5. On the basis of results from a sub-sample of 27 adults, adults' more accurate knowledge of students' value preferences was not related to their approachability. A discussion of results included the following points: 1. Students appeared to have made choices on the basis of the adult's school role: social studies teachers, most of whom were male, were often chosen for impersonal topic discussions, suggesting that role rather than sex-similarity-dissimilarity led to disproportionate choices; counselors were often chosen for the other two contexts, and several of them were in the age ranges proportionately more often chosen, suggesting that role, rather than age, may have contributed to the disproportions. 2. Possible gaps in communication of adults' and students' values to each other and/or weaknesses in instrumentation may have contributed to the lack of clear relationships between approachability and value patterns and knowledge of students' value preferences. Informal observations by the investigator during the course of the study were listed , among them an apparent positive relationship between adult liveliness and approachability. Further research was suggested on the correlates of approachability of adults with similar roles, on adult liveliness and approachability, and on students' perceptions of adults' values and approachability.

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