Three Conceptual Frameworks for Student Success Among African American Men

In this post, three conceptual frameworks* relevant to conceptualizing factors presumed necessary for the retention and persistence of African American College Men will be presented. These frameworks include Tinto's (1975, 1993) Interactionalist Model of Student Departure, Schreiner's (2010) Thriving Quotient, and Harris and Wood's (2013) Five Domain Framework for Student Success Among African American Community College Students.

*Note: Aside from the Harris and Wood (2013) model, these frameworks are applicable to all college students.

Tinto (1975, 1993)

The Interactionalist Model of Student Departure includes the following four components:

  • Precollegiate characteristics

  • Commitment

  • Academic Integration

  • Social Integration

In 1975, Vincent Tinto conducted an analysis of the literature on collegiate attrition, publishing what is arguably the most cited and used retention framework in the higher education literature. Tinto’s (1975, 1993) Interactionalist Model of Student Departure, which depicted the relationship between persistence and retention as largely a function of one’s precollege characteristics and three variables: social integration, academic integration, and commitment.

Precollegiate characteristics include one's cultural identities (e.g., age, race/ethnicity, gender identity, languages spoken, sexual orientation), past academic and social successes (e.g., grade point average), and familial values toward educational attainment. Academic integration underscores students’ perception of their fit within the intellectual climate of their collegiate community. Social integration measures the congruence between student and institutional community including factors such as interactions with faculty, friends, and campus activities and. Commitment refers to varying levels of students’ internal anchoring to an institution and their personal goal of graduating. Persistence denotes one’s graduation from an institution (Tinto, 1975, 1993).

Schreiner (2010)

The Thriving Quotient

Thriving, as proposed by Laurie Schreiner, draws on Martin Seligman's construct, extending and applying it to higher education. Schreiner (2010a) operationally defined thriving as being “fully engaged intellectually, socially, and emotionally in the college experience” (p. 4). Thriving consists of the following five components:

  • Engaged learning

  • Academic determination

  • Positive perspective

  • Social connectedness

  • Diverse citizenship

Schreiner and collaborators identified three areas of thriving in the experience of college students: academic, intrapersonal, and interpersonal. Academic thriving consists of engaged learning and academic determination. Engaged learning, which includes tenets of mindfulness is, “A positive energy invested in one’s own learning, evidenced by meaningful processing, attention to what is happening in the moment, and involvement in learning activities” (Schreiner & Louis, 2011, p. 6). Academic determination includes such themes as accomplishment, goal setting, perception of a variety of pathways to self-expression and academic success, agency, application of one’s strengths to academic tasks, and effort regulation (Wade, Marks, & Hetzel, 2015).

Related, unique pathways to the constructs engaged learning and academic determination vary by students’ ethnicity (Wade, Marks, & Hetzel, 2015). “African American students engage to a greater degree when their interactions with faculty are within the context of ethnic organizations, as advisors, or when they discus career and graduate school plans with faculty” (Wade, Marks, & Hetzel, 2015, p. 10).

Intrapersonal thriving relates to one’s intrinsic experience of optimism (Carver, Scheier, Miller, & Fulford, 2009), subjective well-being (Diener, 2000), and spirituality – specifically in the case of African American college students (McIntosh, 2012; Schreiner, Kammer, Primrose, & Quick, 2011). Interpersonal thriving, then, is grounded in wisdom advanced by Seligman (2011) “very little that is positive is solitary” (p. 20). In order to thrive interpersonally in a collegiate environment, social connectedness and diverse citizenship are necessary.

Social Connectedness is a function of students’ beliefs about the sufficiency of their personal relationships. Ryff and Keyes (1995) and Chickering and Reisser (1993) asserted that the presence of and ability to maintain healthy relationships is necessary for students’ growth. Indications of strong social connectivity include good friends, being in a relationship with others who listen, and feeling connected to others so that one is not lonely.

Diverse Citizenship, the second key element of interpersonal thriving, relates to students’ attitudes and values that drive their interactions with others. In order for such a characteristic to be truly embodied, students must experience openness to and value for differences in others (Miville, Gelso, Pannu, Liu, Tauradji, Holloway, & Fuertes, 1999). Students must also possess a desire to make a contribution to their communities, and experience confidence to approach this task. A common characteristic among students who are thriving is their interest and willingness to assist others and respond to others with a spirit of curiosity and genuineness (Wade, Marks, & Hetzel, 2015).

Harris & Wood (2013)

Five Domain Framework for Student Success Among African American Men (Community College)

  • Academic domain

  • Environmental domain

  • Noncognitive domain

  • Institutional domain

  • Social domain

The academic domain of this framework consists of factors that directly contribute to the academic outcomes of African American College Men such as attending class regularly, choosing a major, using academic services, student-faculty interaction. The environmental domain consists of factors that direct African American College Men’s focus away from collegiate aspirations such as non-academically related employment, family responsibilities, crime, and poverty. The non-cognitive domain is comprised of psychosocial factors, namely sense of belonging, intersectionalities in identity development, and self-efficacy. The institutional domain includes factors such as student services and faculty support. The social domain details the degree to which a student is integrated in the campus culture.


Carver, C.S., Scheier, M.F., Miller, C.J., & Fulford, D. (2009). Optimism. In S.J. Lopez & C.R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology, (2nd ed.; pp. 303-311). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chickering, A. W., & Reisser, L. (1993). Education and Identity (2 ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Diener, E. (2000). Subjective well-being: The science of happiness, and a proposal formational index. American Psychologist, 55, 34-43.

Harris, F., & Wood, J. L. (2013). Student success for men of color in community colleges: A review of published literature and research, 1998–2012. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 6(3), 174-185.

McIntosh, P. (2012). Reflections and future directions for privilege studies. Journal of Social Issues, 68, 194-206.

Miville, M. L., Gelso, C. J., Pannu, R., Liu, W., Tauradji, P., Holloway, P., & Fuertes, J. (1999). Appreciating similarities and valuing differences: The miville-guzman universality-diversity scale. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 46, 291–307.

Ryff, C. D., & Keyes, C. L. M. (1995). The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 719–727.

Schreiner, L. A. (2010a). The “thriving quotient”: A new vision for student success. About Campus, 15(2), 2-10.

Schreiner, L. A. (2012). From surviving to thriving during transitions. In L. A. Schreiner, M. C. Louis, & D. D. Nelson (Eds.), Thriving in transitions: A research-based approach to college student success (pp. 1-18). Columbia, SC: University of South Caroling, National Resource Center for The First Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Schreiner, L., & Louis, M. C. (2011). The engaged learning index: Implications for faculty development. Journal of Excellence in College Teaching, 22, 5-28.

Schreiner, L. A., Kammer, R., Primrose, B., & Quick, D. (2011). Predictors of thriving in students of color: Differential pathways to college success. Paper presented at the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Charlotte, NC.

Seligman, M. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York, NY: Atria Books.

Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 45, 89–125. Doi:10.3102/00346543045001089

Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Wade, J. C., Marks, L. I., & Hetzel, R. D. (2015). Positive psychology on college campuses. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press.

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