Self efficacy and african american male students education essay

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Abstract

This paper includes a literary review relating to African-American male students' academic struggles and deficiencies in the classroom. Research states that African-American males are overrepresented in special education classes, are more likely to be labeled as "at-risk", are underrepresented in gifted programs and more likely to drop out of school at a much higher rate than their Caucasian counterparts (Holzman, 2004; National Center of Education Statistics, 2001; Ladd, 2004 & Whiting, 2006). Educators and school administers have made efforts to discover effective teaching strategies and programs to help this population overcome the challenges and barriers that impede on their academic progression and scholastic endeavors (Whiting, 2006; Lee, 2003). In order to implement action and intervention, a review of self-efficacy and African-American male students is needed to understand themes and factors to explain this phenomenon. Self-efficacy is the measure in which one believes in their ability to accomplish a task or do a behavior (Bandura, 1994). Using self-efficacy as a construct, a synthesis of research will determine key factors that can be used to raise self-efficacy in African-American students. Additional research can be conducted to determine if higher levels of self-efficacy will decrease referrals to special education, increase academic performances on test scores and decrease the dropout rate for African-American male students.

Keywords: (African-American male, students, at-risk, teachers, self-efficacy, academics, education, special-education African-American male teachers, performance, gifted, dropout rate, race, gender,)

The Dilemma: Introduction

It is impossible today to read a newspaper, magazine article, or watch the news and not see any information about the education quandary this nation is facing. Education stakeholders all over the country are brainstorming ideas and programs to shift the paradigm of academic turmoil into a nation of astute and successful students. Through all of the discussions and debates on Capitol Hill and in local government; it is without argument that one particular group is academically declining at a rapid rate and is in desperate need for immediate intervention. African-American male students have undoubtedly been a targeted group in educational research over the past decade (Brown, 2009; Bonner, Jennings, Marbely, & Brown, 2008). Shocking statistics report that African-American male students are more likely to be suspended or expelled from school, referred to special education services and drop out of school than their Caucasian counterparts (Holzman, 2004; National Center of Education Statistics, 2001; Ladd, 2004 & Whiting, 2006). In 2001, African-Americans males represented 8.6 percent of the students in the nation's public school systems; however, in many schools districts African-American males represented 41 percent of the school's special education population (Holzman, 2004; West, Baker & Brooks, 2006). Even more devastating, African-American male children born in this decade were predicted to more than likely go to prison than to college (Hughes, 2010). Other reports show that African-American males score lower on standardized testing, having difficulties managing behaviors in the classroom and often labeled as "at-risk" by the time they reach middle school (Gordon, Iwamoto, Ward, Potts & Boyd, 2009). Subsequently, the question is: Who is failing? Our students? Or our schools?

Ruling out race and socioeconomic status as possible factors to explain this unfortunate crisis since Caucasians and African-American females have generally combated with similar deficits and barriers; we must now shift our focus from external to internal factors. Unfortunately, educators cannot change the racial and economic climate that many of our African-American male students are facing. Racism and classism will be constructs in our nation that students from every generation will have to learn to overcome. Teachers are also unable to change the family structure and bring back absence fathers to African-American households and keep violence and crime from infesting our African-American male student's community. Regrettably, we are limited in our change in external barriers and factors that these students face; however, we can discover how to empower our students so that they are able to rise above their circumstances and become resilient despite the odds that are against them.

My focus in this literary review is to understand the concept of self-efficacy and its significance in African-American male students and conclude if the characteristics of the educator can increase self-efficacy. I want to determine if African-American male educators can increase self-efficacy in African-American male students and if higher levels of self-efficacy can increase academic performance. My premise is that when African-American male students are educated, motivated and mentored by analogous instructors they are able to conceptualize that African-American men are able to achieve their goals and succeed academically. This will then increase self-esteem and self-awareness in African-American male students which will then increase self-efficacy.

Understanding the internal struggle that African-American male students endure could perhaps serve as momentous research in education. This research could serve as a stepping stone in implementing programs and services that will effectively and proficiently meet the needs of this deserving population.

The Definitions: Understanding At-Risk and Self-Efficacy

Albeit the term "at-risk" is widely used and referenced to in many educational arenas; its definition and identification has varied meanings amongst individuals and state school codes. In this literary review "at-risk" referred to those that have a higher potential of dropping out of school and a least amount of chance of succeeding in life (Hughes, 2010; Ladd, 2008). At-risk students were identified as those that scored lower on academic performance tests, had higher behavior incidents in school and those that were referred to special educational services (Holzman, 2004). Empirical data has shown that students that are classified in these areas are least likely to complete high school, secure a job or attend a college or university (Polite & David, 1999; West, Baker & Brooks, 2006; Nichols, Kotchnick, Barry, & Haskins, 2010). African-American male students have a higher referral to all three of these categories compared to their Caucasian counterparts and (Holzman, 2004; West, Baker & Brooks, 2006). This is significant because African Americans represent a minority in public education, but the majority in "at-risk" referrals. Understanding the factors that qualify students to be considered "at-risk" is important to understanding which areas to measure and focus on in research.

Self Efficacy as previously defined is a person's beliefs about their capabilities (Bandura, 1994). But moving further than a definition, one must understand the sources of self-efficacy and how self-efficacy is strengthened in individuals. Bandura, 1994, proposed four sources that influence and strengthened self-efficacy: Personal Experience, Vicarious Experience, Social Persuasion and Somatic and Emotional Responses. The concept of personal experiences suggests that when one successfully masters a concept they develop a stronger confidence in their abilities. The opposite holds true as well, when individuals experience failures their belief in their abilities also diminishes (Bandura, 1994).

Another way of strengthening self-efficacy is through social models and vicarious experiences (Bandura, 1994). When individuals are able to witness other individuals with similar characteristics and capabilities successfully master a concept; then they will believe that they have the capabilities to be successful as well. Likewise holds true too; when one witnesses the failures of someone with similar capabilities; they will lack confidence in their own efforts and abilities. Modeling can serve as a significant influence as to how someone judges their own capabilities (Bandura, 1994).With the use of motivation and positive reinforcement; social persuasion can influence self-efficacy. When individuals are motivated and empowered to rely on their capabilities to overcome a challenge they work harder to achieve it. Lastly, how people distinguish their emotions and somatic responses is an indicator of self-efficacy. Moods can determine how one judges their capabilities and responses to a task (Bandura, 1994).

Understanding the definitions "at-risk" students and self-efficacy is the beginning to understanding the themes and focus of this literary research. Shifting the trend of African-American male students will be closely examined in terms of self-efficacy. Understanding the process in which African-Americans male view their learning environment and how they view themselves is the initial focus in understanding self-efficacy and academic progression.

In a pursuit to understand self-efficacy and African-American male students in education; I discovered four important themes that are instrumental in my research: The Perspective of the African-American male student, the use of mentoring programs, parental involvement and African-American male students in Gifted Programs.

The Discussion: The Perspective of the African-American Male Student

The educational perspective of the African-American male student is the most resourceful information because it provides an in-depth understanding of the internal struggles that these students endure in the classroom (West, Baker & Brooks, 2006). Their identity and understanding of their educational experience provides insight as to whether the educational system is accurately meeting the academic and personal needs of these students. How a student perceives his/hers education is indicative of their motivation and efforts in the classroom and attitude towards furthering their education (Crammer, 2008; Whiting, 2006). After reviewing the statistical data of African-American males in the classroom, it is without question that many researchers are exploring and using the perspective of the African-American male students as a tool in pedagogy and curriculum planning (Polite & David, 1999; Davis, 2007).

The demographics of the population samples in these qualitative studies varied among ages, grade levels and location. Students as young as eight and as old as twenty-one were either subjects in interviews, longitudinal studies or case studies in order for researchers to gain an understanding of their experiences in the classroom and their opinion of their education. Although their answers varied and many voiced different opinions based on their geography and schooling, a consistent theme was presented from all the research: the lack of respect. African-American male students did not sense a feeling of respect from their teachers, administrators or professors. They struggled to believe that the school system in which they were force to attend took an interest in their well-being. They perceived this through the nonchalant attitudes of teachers, the lack of culturally diverse curriculum and the comparison of resources provided to predominately Caucasian schools (Nichols, Kotchnick, Barry, & Haskins, 2010; West, Baker & Brooks, 2006; Usher & Pajares, 2006).

The Discussion: Mentoring for African-American Male Students

Mentoring programs have received a remarkable amount of attention as a remedy to the education crisis of the failing African-American male student (Davis, 2007). Mentoring programs are designed for students to have one- on-one interaction with a positive role model to motivate, encourage and assist the child in social or academic dilemmas. In the school setting, it is very difficult for one teacher to provide individual attention to masses of students in the classroom. Due to a lack of time and physical strength; one teacher cannot fully divert their attention to one child without another children feeling neglected. Therefore, schools have organized mentoring programs to rely on the support and help from volunteers to work with students. These mentoring programs have been explored to determine their effectiveness and if academic test scores have improved with the help of mentoring programs.

Research has demonstrated that when African-American males participate in mentoring programs they tend to show improvement in their G.P.A and standardized achievement test scores (Gordon, Iwamato, Ward, Potts &Boyd, 2009; Crammer, 2008; Davis, 2007). The key to successful mentoring programs is to ensure it emphasizes the cultural strength and it empowers African-American males to have a sense of pride and respect. Same-gender mentoring also proves to be effective with African-American males (Davis, 2007). Mentoring programs are stated to be beneficial for African-American males because it maintains racial identity when partnered with same race mentors; it provides immediate and consistent academic support and it instills confidence and pride in students (Crammer, 2008). Black students are also more likely to complete assignments, study for test and attend classes when they know their actions are being accounted for and help is available when needed (Davis, 2007; Crammer, 2008; Gordon, Iwamato, Ward, Potts &Boyd, 2009 ).

The Discussion: Parental Involvement in African-American Male Students Education

The lack of parental involvement in the school system is not just a dilemma that only African-American male students face; educators all over the country have expressed a decline of involved parents in the school system (Nichols, Kotchnick, Barry, & Haskins, 2010). However, there is a significant lack of parental involvement in urban school districts compared to suburban schools and predominately Caucasian schools (Joe & Davis, 2009). Past studies have determined that the level of involvement a parent has in their child's academia is related to behavior problems and progress (Burley, Marbley & Deason, 2010). Several researchers have set out to explore the relationship between parenting, parental support and academic achievement among African-American children (Joe & Davis, 2009). It was determined that students whose parents were active and supportive of their education had fewer behavior and discipline problems in school and scored higher on academic achievement tests. Students, whose parents were not active, responsive or involved in their action show higher signs of discipline referrals to the office, reported a lackadaisical attitude towards their education and lower grades in their classes (Joe & Davis, 2009).

Understanding the importance of parental involvement; researchers and educators have conducted programs and incentives to solicit the support and participations of parents in their child's education (Oyserman, Harrison & Bybee, 2001). One study examined the results from a parental education program and discovered that African-American males, whose fathers participated in the program, showed remarkable improvement in mathematics and science; subjects in which they were once failing (Polite &David, 1999).

The Discussion: African-American males and Gifted Programs

A consistent theme throughout this literary review is the disproportionality of African-American males in special education and the underrepresentation in gifted education programs (Ford & Whiting, 2010; West, Baker & Brooks, 2006). Schools generally identify and place students in gifted programs based off testing and other assessment instruments (Henfield, Washington, 2010). However, research has stated that African-American male students score lower on standardized testing due to factors of socio-economic status, racial and identity conflicts, lack of feeling respected in schools and lack of parental support (Nichols, Kotchnick, Barry, & Haskins, 2010). Consequently, if tests scores are the only measurement of gifted students, then it is very clear why African-American males are underrepresented. Furthermore if there is a lack of African-American males in gifted programs that can only perpetuate the ideology of African-American male students not being qualified or deserving of gifted program. Research has examined how this detrimental trend has influenced parents, African-American male students and teachers (Lynn, Bacon, Totten, Bridges & Jennings, 2010; Hughes, 2010). It was discovered that there is a lack of parental awareness of gifted programs, a misperception of gifted programs from students and a strong need for training to assist teachers in understanding multicultural gifted students (Lynn, Bacon, Totten, Bridges & Jennings, 2010; Henfield, Washington & Owen, 2010; Bonner, Jennings, Marbely & Brown, 2008).

Examining other factors such as leadership skills and resiliency as oppose to just using test instruments was also proposed as an effective way to incorporate a more inclusive model of recruiting gifted students (Bonner, Jennings, Marbely & Brown, 2008). Leadership was defined as those students who have positive peer relations, communication skills and strong peer influence (Bonner, Jennings, Marbely & Brown, 2008). Resiliency focuses on those students that come from detrimental circumstances and still manage to rise above their situation and work hard in the classroom (Burley, Barnard-Brak, Marbley Deason, 2010). Using these other identifiers includes a variety of students that possess special gifts other than their test scores (Whiting, 2006).

Determination: Implementations and Conclusion

The statistics, research and conclusions of these articles did not fall on death ears. In the past decade, educators and stakeholders have made significant efforts to close gaps and focus on African-American male students. Schools such as Urban Prep Academy, an all-male college preparatory school in Chicago founded in 2002 by Tim King and The SEED school, a co-ed boarding school for minorities in Washington D.C and Maryland have both created programs to target the specific educational needs of African-American students. These schools have made it their mission to focus on retention and increasing the graduation rate for African-American males. These two schools and other charter schools across American are recognizing that it requires work and effort from teachers, administrators, parents and students to bring about change in our education system to reach a population that has been neglected for so many years. When students are in an atmosphere where their needs are priority and educators are trained in multicultural education, they developed a sense of empowerment, pride and tend to make efforts to succeed academically.

Understanding the concept of self-efficacy as it relates to academic performances in African-American male students is a much needed follow up study to determine if the primary focus should be on self-efficacy. My belief is that when we focus on the four sources of self-efficacy proposed by Bandura (1994) and translate that into education with the use of pedagogy, mentoring programs and parental involvement we can raise self-efficacy in African-American male students. A higher level of self-efficacy in African-American male students could shift their academic experience from a dilemma on to a road of determination.

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