Exploring the Relationship between Socio-Cultural Issues Discussions and Social Change Behaviors

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The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between student participation socio-cultural issues discussions and student participation in social change behaviors. This study utilized data from the 2009 administration of the Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership (MSL), a national research project designed to explore student experiences and environmental factors that contribute to student leadership development. An internet-based survey was used to collect data from participants at 101 higher education institutions throughout the United States. The usable sample for this study consisted of 94,367 undergraduate students who completed at least 90% of the core survey and scales used for the study.

An adapted version of Astin's college impact model (Astin, 1991; 1993) provided the conceptual framework for the study. In this input-environment-outcome (IEO) model participant demographic characteristics and pre-college experiences represented the inputs. The environment included institutional characteristics, positional leadership experiences, leadership capacity, and socio-cultural issues discussions, which was the main independent variable for the study. Self-reported frequency of participation in social change behaviors was the outcome and dependent variable.

Results indicated that the regression model accounted for 46% of the variance in predicting student participation in social change behaviors. Demographic characteristics were a positive but weak predictor of participation in social change behaviors. Institutional characteristics were found to have little influence in predicting student participation social change behaviors. Pre-college leadership experiences and positional leadership experiences were found to be strong predictors of social change behaviors. After accounting for these variables, socio-cultural issues discussions were found to be a positive weak predictor. When matched with other environmental predictors, socio-cultural issues discussions contribute to student leadership experiences related to participating in social change behaviors. Implications for practice provide practitioners with strategies to increase the likelihood of student participation in social cange behaviors.