Differential Source Of Educational Encouragement On Academic Achievement Gender Perspective

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Academic achievement is of paramount importance, particularly in the present socio-economic and cultural contexts. Obviously, in the school great emphasis is placed on achievement right from the beginning of formal education. The school emphasizes systematic, organization of activities which are largely based on achievement and performance so academic achievement is considered as key criteria to judge one's total potentialities and capabilities. Therefore, it is becoming more and more pressing for the individuals to have good academic achievement. Fueled by concerns of how to improve student achievement, values their effort to get a school degree, supports their effort in completing school education and reduce educational inequities are considered among the most successful educational strategies.

Researchers have explored the links between academic achievement and a variety of factors, such as the adolescents' motivation (Talbot, 1990; Burgum, Martins, & Northey, 1993; McInnis, James, Evans, Peel, & Dobson, 1999), teaching quality (Parkinson, Hayton and Strachan, 1987; Streckfuss & Waters, 1990), social integration (Pascarella & Terenzini, 1980; Martinez & Munday, 1998; Bean & Metzner, 1985), cultural expectations (Ginsburg, 1992), the adolescents' approach to studying (Meyer, 1990), parental involvement (Steinberg, Lamborn, Dornbusch, & Darling, 1992; Stevenson & Baker, 1987), family functioning (Farrell & Barnes, 1993), encouragement (Evans, 1997), educational encouragement (Catsambis, 1998) and numerous other factors (Keef, 1992; Minnaert & Janssen, 1992) are likely to influence adolescents' success.

In the last years the literature in this area has shifted to incorporate family, social and behavioral factors as contributors to academic achievement (Becker & Epstein, 1982; Burns, 1982; Collins, Moles, & Cross, 1982; Henderson, 1981). One of the important factors which influences on academic achievement could be educational encouragement. Because of the perceived importance of the encouragement, considerable research has examined the influence of encouragement on academic achievement.

Encouragement is observed in Third Force Psychology and Adlerian principles that is the process of developing a child's inner resources and providing courage to make positive choices (Evans, 1989; Evans, 1997; Meredith & Evans, 1990; Evans, 2005). Griffith and Powers (1984) delineate encouragement as a key factor in promoting and activating "social interest" and "psychological hardiness" in individuals. Alfred Adler (1931) explained social interest as a tendency for people to unite themselves with others, to accomplish their tasks in cooperation with others. A person with completely developed social interest knows he or she belongs and is a worthwhile member of the group. Such individuals attempt to contribute and cooperate with others (Dreikurs-Ferguson, 1989). Parent and teachers who consider encouragement as a key factor for social interest and academic achievement attempt to increase social interest by enhancing a student's sense of belonging and connection. They learn to focus on attempt and improvement rather than perfect results. Considering on these elements strengthens a child's courage to move forward therefore any movement is recognized as progress toward achieve a goal. The encouraging parent and teacher know how to turn so-called liabilities into assets. An essential encouragement skill is determining and expanding an individual's strengths, and assets towards reaching the goal.

Consideration based on mutual respect and dignity valuable to focus on strengths rather than weaknesses, encouragement are necessary for creating a stimulating learning environment and adolescents' achievement. As more and more educators are founding, academic encouragement is a key element in academic achievement. Parent and teachers who consider encouragement as a key factor for social interest and academic achievement, focus on a student's strengths, on what's "right" with the student, not on weaknesses, or what's "wrong". Adolescents need to know that their efforts are more important than the results and that it is more important to try than to succeed even when they are less than successful; others trust them and have confidence on them.

Dreikurs (1971) posed that the most important skill for raising a child in a democracy is the ability to encourage that child; encouragement is the important quality in getting along with others and the key ingredient in all positive professional and personal relationship (Dinkmeyer & Losoncy, 1996).

Evans (2005) described encouragement as positive feedback that focuses primarily on effort or improvement rather than outcomes which a child feels worthwhile and appreciated regardless of the results he or she achieves.

However most of researches study the effect of parental encouragement and involvement on adolescents academic achievement (Epstein, 1992; Baker & Stevenson, 1986; Becker & Epstein, 1982; Epstein, 1987; Stevenson & Baker, 1987; Seginer, 1983; Sewell & Hauser, 1980; Patterson & Yoerger, 1991; Steinberg, Lamborn, Dornbusch, & Darling, 1992; Kao, 1995; Sui-Chu & Willims, 1996), but adolescents may receive encouragement to pursue higher education from others source such as teachers and friends. Moreover, most existing research investigates parental involvement and encouragement in the elementary grades (Milne, Meyers, Rosenthal, & Ginsburg, 1986), leaving family involvement and encouragement in secondary education relatively unexplored and researches has also mostly focused on test scores, leaving possible effects on student' perception about their academic achievement.

Current knowledge regarding the influence of family involvement and parental encouragement in secondary education is inconsistent and rather limited in scope (Fehrmann, Keith, & Reimers, 1987; Singh, Bickley, et al., 1995; Catsambis & Garland, 1997; Catsambis, 1998; Keith et al., 1993; Lee, 1994; Sui-Chu & Willms, 1996; Muller, 1993).

The secondary school period coincides with adolescence. Adolescent development consists of changes in biological, psychological, and psychosocial aspects of life. These developmental changes provide important challenges for adolescents (Amato & Rivera, 1999). Level of change in adolescents has been associated with adjustment in areas of academic performance and other psychosocial dimensions (Amato & Rivera, 1999). Academic achievement as important concept of adolescence merits attention and have been focus for many studies. The parent-child interaction does not lose its importance after the primary school days. As it evolves, it can meet certain needs of the adolescent in secondary school: needs for attention, assistance, encouragement, activation and confirmation. Therefore, understanding educational encouragement is particularly important among secondary school adolescents.

As children grow older, opportunities for conflicts and for inadequate understanding increase, because parents do not always succeed in adjusting their parenting practices to the development of autonomy in the older child or the adolescent (Marcoen, & Brumagne, 1985).

A number of studies have highlighted the positive effects associated with the parental encouragement and involvement including parent/student discussions regarding school experiences and academic matters (Keith et al., 1993; Lee, 1994; Sui-Chu & Willms, 1996; Muller, 1993), general parental supervision and monitoring of student progress (Astone & McLanahan, 1991; Fehrmann et al., 1987; Sui-Chu & Willms, 1996), and to a lesser extent, parent participation in school-related activities (Epstein, 1992; Sui-Chu & Willms, 1996; Stevenson & Baker, 1987) and participation in parent-teacher conferences (Stevenson & Baker, 1987). Moreover parents influence children's achievement through their direct involvement with school activities, such as helping with homework or course selection or attending parent-teacher conferences, and through the specific encouragement of school success, both explicitly and implicitly, by setting and maintaining high performance standards.

Sociologists have focused extensively on parental encouragement as one avenue of investigation into the status-attainment process (e.g., Seginer, 1983; Sewell & Hauser, 1980). Indeed, considerable research in the tradition of what is known as the Wisconsin Status Attainment Model (e.g., Sewell & Hauser, 1980) suggests that parental encouragement is the mainly mediator of the well-established connection between family social class and student academic performance. In general, studies indicate that adolescents whose parents are more involved in their education earn higher grades in school (e.g., Stevenson & Baker, 1987).

The available longitudinal evidence on parenting practices and school performance is limited to studies of children and young adolescents (e.g., Patterson & Yoerger, 1991; Steinberg et al., 1989). Authoritative parents are more likely to participate in school activities and more likely to encourage academic excellence (Bogenschneider, 1990). Positive effects attributed to the authoritative "style" of parenting may be mediated by a number of more concrete and education- specific behaviors in which authoritative parents are more likely to engage (Patterson & Yoerger, 1991).

Steinberg, Lamborn, Dornbusch, & Darling (1992) examines the impact of authoritative parenting, parental involvement in schooling, and parental encouragement to succeed on adolescent school achievement in an ethnically and socioeconomically heterogeneous sample of approximately 6,400 American 14-18-year-olds. Results showed that Authoritative parenting (high acceptance, supervision, and psychological autonomy granting) leads to better adolescent school performance and stronger school engagement. Parental authoritativeness is associated with higher levels of school involvement and more encouragement of academic success. In contrast parental encouragement of academic success does not appear to play a direct role in facilitating adolescent school performance or engagement once parental involvement is taken into account.

Catsambis (1998) also examined whether parental involvement and encouragement influences the educational achievements of high school seniors. Results showed positive effects of parental involvement on twelfth grade academic achievements. High levels of educational expectations, consistent encouragement, and actions that increase learning opportunities of adolescents were the major ways by which families positively influenced the educational achievements of their teens.

Rollins and Thomas (1979) defined parental support as "behavior manifest by a parent toward a child that makes the child feel comfortable in the presence of the parent and confirms in the child' mind that he is basically accepted and approved as a person by the parent". The support construct typically consists of variables such as acceptance, open communication, expressive and instrumental affection, nurturance, rapport, responsiveness, and companionship (Barber & Thomas, 1986; Rhoner, 1986).

Rollins and Thomas (1979) viewed support as a continuous, quantitative, undimensional variable. Researches also indicates that parental support is an important antecedent in the development of positive attitudes of children towards themselves and their life circumstances (Barber et al. 1994; Barber & Thomas, 1986; Felson & Zielinski, 1989).

In another study Zhou (2004) indicated the effect of parental encouragement on student aspiration across racial group. The result showed that parental involvement and family communications help to motivate children's higher educational aspirations. Moreover, base on the interaction model, the impacts of parental involvement on educational aspirations are less for Asians and Hispanics compared to Whites; while there is no significant difference between Blacks and Whites.

High levels of parental encouragement, mostly referred to parental involvement, measured by knowledge of the child's activities in school and frequent contact with the school, have positive effects on children's academic achievement (Kao, 1995). Furthermore, Sui-Chu & Willims (1996) argue that parental encouragement should also emphasize parents' actions at home, such as the communications with children and supervision at home.

Although most of researches study the positive effects of parental involvement and encouragement on adolescents' achievement, some negative effects are also reported for a number of parental involvement indicators: parents' close supervision of homework and after school activities (Milne et al., 1986; Muller, 1993), frequent contacts with school or parent-teacher conferences (Lee, 1994; Muller, 1993), and frequent talks with children (Astone & McLanahan, 1991).

Thus, both positive and negative effects are reported by different researchers for parent communications with the student or school, and for parental monitoring of adolescents' behavior. However, most existing research investigates educational encouragement from parents, the effect of other source of encouragement is dissemble as adolescents may receive encouragement to pursue higher education from others source such as teachers and friends. Therefore the present research serves as an important step toward gaining better understanding of the impact of different sources of educational encouragement on adolescents' perception of their academic achievement. It distinguishes educational encouragement into four types, including encouragement from mother, encouragement from father, encouragement from friend and encouragement from teacher. In this way, the different effects of each component can be identified and compared. Understanding whether educational encouragement contributes to academic success is important not only to those who study adolescent socialization in general, but to educational practitioners who are interested in developing programs designed to enhance adolescents' school performance.

This study addressed the following research questions:

1) What is the respondent's self reported academic achievement?

2) What are the levels of educational encouragement regarding gender perspective?

3) Is there any relationship between educational encouragement and perceived academic achievement?

Method

This study explores the relationship between differential sources of encouragement on adolescents' perception of their academic achievement. It distinguishes educational encouragement into four sources, including encouragement from mother, mother, friend and teacher. Understanding how differential source of encouragement can shape adolescents' views of their academic achievement may provide insight into ways to reduce disparities in educational attainment.

Participants

The total 442 adolescents were randomly selected from the public secondary schools of Kuala Lumpur, Out of these 442 adolescents, 354 (80.1%) of them were Chinese, 64 (14.5%) were Malay, and a further 17 (3.8%) were Indian. The remaining 7 adolescents were of other races. The range of age for these 442 participants was from 12 years old to 17 years old. In terms of place of residence, 374(84.6%) were urban and 68(15.4%) were rural. There were 197 adolescents were male and rest 245 adolescents were female.

Measures

Academic Achievement: In this study the primary dependent variables are student's self-reported academic achievement. The measure of academic achievement is based on the response to the question entitled "How would you rate your achievement till date" On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 was rated as very poor to 5 was rated as very good.

Educational encouragement scale: The Educational encouragement scale (Gloria & Rodriguez, 2000) consisted of 22 items for measuring four sources of educational encouragement from father, mother, friends and teacher. The scale showed very good internal consistency, with an alpha coefficient .89 in the present study.

Personal Data Sheet: The personal data sheet included the information about the participants' namely gender, age, ethnic background and place of residence.

Procedure

Prior to data collection, investigator has obtained permission from the Principal of the secondary schools. Participants were verbally informed in brief about the purpose of the study and explained how to respond to the questionnaire. In order to minimize any potential perceived bias, participants were requested to complete the questionnaire anonymously and also explained to them that the data would be used solely for the purpose of research. Participants generally took 15 minutes time in completing the questionnaire.

Results

Table 1 shows out of 417 adolescents, about half of the sample (51.6%) perceived their academic achievement as average level. the percentage of adolescents that reported their academic achievement as good level (22.3%) is higher than percentage of adolescents that perceived their academic achievement as poor (13.2%) and very good (8.4%). Just a few percentages of adolescents (4.6%) perceived their academic achievement as very poor.

Results of an independent-samples of t-test revealed significant difference on the scores of educational encouragement from mother for male adolescents (M=14.41, SD=4.12) and female adolescents (M=15.61, SD=4.02); t =4.36, p<.01. Whereas there was significant difference on the scores of educational encouragement from father for male adolescents (M=14.58, SD=5.25) and female adolescents (M=15.33, SD=4.55); t=4.33, p<.01. Also female adolescents (M =13.34, SD= 4.00) expressed significantly higher levels of educational encouragement from friends than did male adolescents (M = 11.72, SD = 4.16), t=4.32, p<.01. Similarly female adolescents had higher educational encouragement from teacher (M = 13.50, SD = 4.31) than did male adolescents (M = 12.81, SD = 4.30), t=4.26, p<.01. These results suggest that female adolescents had higher educational encouragement from mother, father and friends in comparison to male adolescents.

The main aim of this study was to examine the relationship between differential sources of educational encouragement on academic achievement. Table 3 displays the correlations coefficients between educational encouragement and perceived academic achievement in general. There were no significant positive correlation between perceived academic achievement and educational encouragement from mother (r=0.05, p> 0.05); educational encouragement from father (r = 0.09, p> 0.05); and educational encouragement from friend (r = 0.004, p>0.05). Whereas, there was weak negative correlation between perceived academic achievement and educational encouragement from teacher (r = -0.02, p > 0.05).

Spearman correlation coefficients between educational encouragement factors and academic achievement for male and female adolescents separately are shown in Table 4. For male adolescents there were no significant positive correlation between perceived academic achievement and educational encouragement from mother (r=0.05, p> 0.05); educational encouragement from father (r = 0.06, p> 0.05); and educational encouragement from friend (r = 0.02, p>0.05). Perceived academic achievement were found to be negatively related to educational encouragement from teacher (r = -0.04, p > 0.05).

For female adolescents there was significant positive correlation between perceived academic achievement and educational encouragement from father (r=0.13, p< 0.05); whereas there were no significant positive correlation between perceived academic achievement and educational encouragement from mother (r=0.05, p> 0.05); educational encouragement from teacher (r = 0.007, p> 0.05); and there was weak negative correlation between perceived academic achievement and educational encouragement from friend (r = -0.002, p > 0.05).

Discussion

The present study seeks to clarify and expand existing knowledge of educational encouragement, specifically from mother, father, friend and teacher separately on academic achievement in secondary school. This study focused on student's perception of their academic achievement. The results reveal that almost half of adolescents perceived their academic achievement as average and few of them classified themselves as very good.

The results showed that female adolescents had higher educational encouragement from mother, friend and teacher than did male adolescents. There was significant difference existed between scores of male and female adolescents on educational encouragement from mother, father, friends and teachers.

The relationship between educational encouragement and perceived academic achievement in general lead to following conclusion. There were no significant positive correlation between perceived academic achievement and educational encouragement from mother, father and friend, but there was negative correlation between perceived academic achievement and educational encouragement from teacher for male and female in general.

Result of correlation between perceived academic achievement and educational encouragement for male adolescents separately, showed that there were no significant positive correlation between perceived academic achievement and educational encouragement from mother, father and friend. Perceived academic achievement was negatively related to educational encouragement from teacher for male adolescents. These findings indicate that compared with when male adolescents received encouragement from teacher, when they received encouragement from mother, father and friend reported better academic achievement but its correlation are weak and non significant.

The findings of Steinberg, Lamborn, Dornbusch, & Darling'study (1992) do not support the present result that suggest parental encouragement of academic success does not appear to play a direct role in facilitating adolescent school performance or engagement once parental involvement is taken into account. This result is consistent with Catsambis (1998) that parental involvement had positive effects on twelfth grade academic achievements.

For female adolescents there was significant positive correlation between perceived academic achievement and educational encouragement from father; whereas there were no significant positive correlation between perceived academic achievement and educational encouragement from mother and teacher and there was non significant negative correlation between perceived academic achievement and educational encouragement from friend. Fathers who encourage their daughters positively influence (correlated) their daughter' perception of academic achievement. This is consistent with the findings of Yun (2004) and Kao (1995) that parental involvement, encouragement and family communications help to motivate children's higher educational aspirations and academic achievement. On the other hand this finding is in contrast with Astone & McLanahan'study (1991) which indicated negative effects of parental involvement on adolescents' achievement. Also some researchers report no effects of parental involvement on student standardized test scores in high school (Lee, 1994; Keith, 1991, cited in Singh et al., 1995).

Also female adolescents who received encouragement from their mother and teacher reported better academic achievement but its correlation was not significant. Friend' encouragement had negative influence on female adolescents' perception of their academic achievement although the correlation was weak and not significant.

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