African American Adolescents' Daily Engagement at the High School Transition: Contributions of Classroom Experiences and Racial and Gender Identity and Stereotypes

  • Skinner, Olivenne D. (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


This award was provided as part of NSF's Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowships (SPRF) program. The goal of the SPRF program is to prepare promising, early career doctoral-level scientists for scientific careers in academia, industry or private sector, and government. SPRF awards involve two years of training under the sponsorship of established scientists and encourage Postdoctoral Fellows to perform independent research. NSF seeks to promote the participation of scientists from all segments of the scientific community, including those from underrepresented groups, in its research programs and activities; the postdoctoral period is considered to be an important level of professional development in attaining this goal. Each Postdoctoral Fellow must address important scientific questions that advance their respective disciplinary fields. Academic engagement is related to academic achievement and other indicators of success in life, but there are noticeable declines in academic engagement across adolescence. Understanding academic engagement among African American youth is particularly important because, as group, they are at risk for not reaching their full academic potential. The purpose of this project is to contribute to theory and knowledge on academic engagement among African American adolescents. Specifically, this work seeks to illuminate the processes through which and conditions under which youth?s classroom experiences are related to positive academic engagement for two gendered academic domains: math and English. In addition to knowledge contributions, the study also incorporates several methodological innovations and will provide research training opportunities for minority and first generation undergraduates who are interested in psychological research with minority populations. According to self-determination theory (SDT), when youth experience autonomy, competence, and relatedness in school, they also exhibit stronger academic engagement. Thus, understanding African American youth?s classroom experiences is a critical step toward promoting their academic engagement. Most prior research on SDT has operated with the assumption that these processes are universal, and an important step is to identify characteristics of African American youth that may play a role in the links between self-determination processes and academic engagement. Further, academic subjects are gendered, with STEM subjects marked as stereotypically masculine and verbal domains as feminine, a pattern that also highlights the importance of moving beyond an assumption of universality to study self-determination processes in the context of specific subject matter. Finally, this study departs from the focus of prior research on individual differences in self-determination experiences and achievement in its effort to capture the dynamic nature of within-individual processes across time and contexts.

During the training period, the fellow will use a daily diary method to test links between day-to-day variations in African American youth?s classroom experiences of autonomy, competence, and relatedness in math and English classes and corresponding within-person variations in youth?s behavioral, cognitive, and emotional engagement and academic achievement. Moving beyond universalistic approaches and using an ethnic homogeneous design to capture sources of variation among African American youth, results will add to research on academic achievement, an area in which many adolescents are failing to reach their full potential. By focusing on both race and gender, the fellow aims to contribute to understanding of how these social categories may intersect for African American youth in ways that have implications for self-determination processes and academic outcomes. Finally, a daily diary design will provide novel insights into youth's academic engagement by documenting how it varies as a function of daily classroom experiences, youth characteristics, and context (math versus English class) and how it is linked to longer-term academic outcomes like course grades.

Effective start/end date7/1/176/30/19


  • National Science Foundation: $75,500.00


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