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Influences In the field of education there are a myriad of factors that affect students and how they learn. Education is more than just the knowledge presented in the classroom. It is also a product of many environmental and individual factors as well. For each individual student, their gender and ethnicity has a real effect on their ability to understand and learn the material being presented. This is not only for psychological reasons, but for environmental and cultural reasons as well. Statistically, there are many things that are going to change a person's perceptive and understanding, and when it comes to education and knowledge, gender and race have a very significant psychological impact on the student.
One of the most hotly discussed topics in education is the subject of standardized testing. Standardized testing is generally a national test meant to measure something educationally quantifiable in the general population. For example, the IQ - intelligence quotient - test is meant to measure and compare 'natural' intelligence at different levels of development. Other standardized tests, such as the CTBS - California Test of Basic Skills - and the HSCT - High School Competency Test, serve to test how students have progressed at different levels of their education. (Irizzary 2002) Now when saying that these tests are meant for the general student population, this means that they are primarily geared to white, middle class American students. In more recent years, part of the student questionnaire asks the race, ethnicity and gender, and there are results available within those classifications as well.
The fact that a student is in a minority - whether it is due to cultural, racial or gender differences - has some interesting interplay on how that student is guided or understood by others around him or her. "Past minority influence research has found that the number of minority subgroup members and argument quality can affect the likelihood of the minority subgroup being able to influence the majority subgroup. How minority size and argument quality affect minority influence and perceptions of the minority is addressed in this study. Confederates were used to vary argument quality and the size of the minority subgroup while keeping consistency of presenting the minority's side of the issue constant. Groups discussed a topic and measures were used to assess the amount of influence, perceived competence, perceived correctness, and how much the minority was liked. Results indicated that both argument quality and minority size were important when attempting to influence the majority and a large minority can compensate for a minority using weak arguments while a small minority using weak arguments results in strengthening the majority's initial opinion. The perceptions fostered by the minority were a function of an argument quality by group size interaction." (Limon, 2001) In other words, this particular study showed that no matter what sort of minority group is the identity of a particular student, it is up to the group, - and ultimately the student - to show strong arguments that will allow that minority to have its own place for interpretation of the subject matter. That is how those students will absorb and adapt the material being taught in ways that will improve themselves and others in their minority.
Gender also plays a role, both physical and psychological in how students learn. Children that have been in preschool prior to starting a formal elementary education have a very defined sense of their gender roles. The males know that hands-on approach, such as block building and playing with cars is how they learn, while the females tend to learn in a more sociable manner. In the past, especially the sixties and seventies, boys in high school were expected to take classes such as woodworking and machine shop, while girls were guided to home economics and art. While men have a more natural inclination to leadership, women do not stay far behind either. "My dad embedded in me the simple philosophy that no on can ride your back unless you bend over," Holder said. "The marches, the civil rights meetings, the sit-ins, the walk-outs and watching my dad encounter injustice and prejudice firsthand instilled in me the sense of determination to make a difference, the tenacity to stand tall when others choose to sit, and the commitment to be the change I want to see." (Anonymous, 2010) This particular lady was in the sixties a member of the civil rights movement, and though it was not accepted at the time, she played an important role in her city as a voice for the unspoken.
One can argue that there are measurable differences between genders and how they learn. According to the Educational Testing Service, White males score 100 points higher, on average, than minority men and both minority and nonminority women on the Graduate Records Examination. According to Payne, the GRE tests critical thinking skills and reasoning, which "are necessary but not sufficient" to achieving success in graduate school. (Watson 2010) This exam is a measure of how students are prepared to enter graduate school. The results of this exam show that there are variances in the educational patterns among the genders and races, being that white males are the highest scorers and minority females the lowest. This can be due to several factors, especially different opportunities that may not be available to all genders and races throughout their educational career. While the elementary school population of students in America is very culturally diverse, by the time students reach college and beyond, minorities are severely underrepresented and less educated, as evidenced by this exam. Psychologically, two students can be equally able to learn and absorb or interpret the material, but the physical, environmental and socio-economic factors are going to make their impact as demonstrated in various ways.
Ethnicity affects how a student learns in a few ways. A study created a model that presented cultural differences in education. In this model, culture is conceptualized as traditions of practice and as a societal field. The school practice and the role of the family and their differences in value positions about school life are interpreted as a central factor for children's involvement and participation in school and for the type of conflict they may face. The type of conflict and the individual's strategy for dealing with it influence the children's development of motives and identity. Discrepancies and conflicts between students' motives and their parents' value positions about school life are analyzed to see how this influences young persons' feelings of well-being and development of motives and competencies. (Hedegaard, 2005) The study analyzed the parents and the students, concluding that the more parental involvement was present, regardless of the culture, the more invested the student was in their education and in achieving certain goals, regardeless of the outside pressure of friends from other cultures.
There are significant differences when it comes to social and financial and ethnic status. While it may not seem like a huge factor in the education, it does play a large role in shaping the person, especially given the economic climate of the United States at the present time. A report called the American Human Development Index was just released - which measures the estimated American well-being and opportunity, calculated from official government data; it measures the three basic building blocks of a good life--health, education, and income. The report presents strong evidence that the capabilities a person has going into a crisis--ranging from a financial downturn to a man-made or natural disaster--strongly determine how fast he or she can bounce back. (Anonymous 2010) This basically proves how different groups and people react to difficult circumstances. The results showed that women and Asian Americans were the most resilient, while men and Native Americans were the least resilient. By resilient, the study means to show the flexibility to adapt to situations and develop coping and other behavioral mechanisms to deal with ongoing stress or crisis.
This particular study is also evidence that socioeconomic status has much to do with behaviors and cultural adaptations - which in turn affect the person and their perception and priority on education. Culturally, Asian Americans - especially the Chinese and Japanese - place enormous emphasis on education, fully expecting their children to complete college or higher. In the Texas (Houston area), only 54 percent of adults over 25 have completed high school, whereas in Colorado (southern suburbs of Denver), 97 percent of adults hold at least a high school diploma. These area and environmental differences also show in early education as well. In Nevada, fewer than three in ten 3- and 4-year olds are enrolled in preschool, whereas in New Jersey, nearly seven in ten are enrolled in preschool. (Anonymous 2010) This is a very important observation on why the financial and cultural environment of the person plays a role in the education, because these figures reinforce the economic reality that in the Midwest median salaries are lower than those in the East. This is the interconnectedness between race, culture, environment, and economic status that affects student and persons of all ages in the United States today.
There are many other opportunities that as professionals one needs in order to enhance your career. Professional organizations such as the National Association of Hispanic Journalists have sprung up to help a particular group, in this case Hispanics, achieve in a particular career field. "According to literature on social influence, a minority source may indirectly influence group members by fostering ambivalent reactions. Two studies were carried out in order to provide empirical support for this theoretical assumption. In Study 1 participants (n = 133), were exposed to a counter-attitudinal minority message and ambivalence was manipulated by facilitating the accessibility of either ambivalent (positive and negative) or univalent (positive or negative) thoughts toward the source. No effect of ambivalence on direct influence was found. In Study 2 (n = 127), ambivalence was measured and two possible antecedents of ambivalence, consistency of the minority and personal relevance of the topic for participants, were taken into account. Findings suggest that ambivalence mediates the effects of the two factors on indirect influence." (Pagliaro, 2008) This study is basically stating that in order for a minority to suceed, they have to create a position on either an issue or an event they want to accomplish, then push the majority group in order to create some influence. If you were to take the context of this study and apply it to education, it can be used in the following manner. As a minority student, female, there are already two factors blocking the effectiveness of the general education in the school system. So if psychologically a student with these two factors working against them turns around and uses positive thinking and reinforces themselves daily, that will help the daily struggle within the system. The student also has to have the inner desire and motivation, or self-efficacy, to be resourceful and create events and situations where they can better themselves educationally. Being fully aware that the particular student will most likely lack resources such as computers or research facilities or other things based on their environment, they must be mentally prepared to overcome the obstacles created by the socio-economic and cultural conditions in which they find themselves in order to achive their educational goals. Although a majority opinion often prevails, sometimes a minority can influence and even overturn a majority position. Even if the majority does not adopt the minority's views, the minority's speaking up can increase the majority's self-doubts and prompt it to consider other alternatives, often leading to better, more creative decisions. In experiments, a minority is most influential when it is consistent and persistent in it views, when its actions convey self-confidence, and after it begins to elicit some defections from the majority. (Myers 2010).
It is obvious that gender, race, culture and socio-economic status do play a large role in the education of students. The studies discussed show how a tenacious individual can use their psychological strength to overcome the obstacles that begin as negatives and use them to become a positive. Of course the student that grows up in inner-city Detroit is going to have many more challenges than the student growing up in Martha's Vineyard, but if the two individuals are psychologically able to learn, they will both learn, due more to their interior makeup than any other reason.