School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Kenneth R. Tierce


At-risk, Hierarchy of Needs, Mentorship, Motivation, Self-efficacy


Education | Educational Leadership


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand how at-risk male African American students who attend Title I inner-city high schools in Central Florida, and are at risk for failure, perceive mentorship impacts their motivation to learn. The theories that guided this study were Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, and Bandura’s social cognitive theory of self-efficacy, as each theory describes the basic needs that must be satisfied before an individual can be motivated to learn, and the role of interaction in developing self-efficacy and the motivation to learn. The central research question that guided this study sought to understand how at-risk African Americans high school students perceive mentoring impacts their motivation to learn. Additional subquestions explored the impact of mentoring on the participants’ self-efficacy and behavior, the impact of mentoring on the participants’ intrinsic motivation, and the impact of mentoring on the participants’ college readiness and career selection process. A final subquestion sought to understand how the participants perceive effective mentoring-related educational intervention strategies impact the achievement gap between African American males and Caucasian males. A transcendental phenomenological research design was used to investigate a convenience sample of 10 to 15 at-risk male African American high school students. Data were collected through face-to-face interviews, observations, and focus groups, at one inner-city middle school. The data were analyzed using traditional phenomenological analysis methods of bracketing, horizonalization, clustering the data into themes, textural and structural descriptions, and synthesis (Moustakas, 1994). The final step in data analysis resulted in a composite description, the essence of the experience for the participants (Creswell, 2013).