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This policy brief, developed by Rebecca Covarrubias through the SERN Midcareer Fellows Program, explains how postsecondary institutions can offer research opportunities and mentorship that support more racially and economically minoritized students to enter research careers.
Minority and majority elementary school students from a Native American reservation completed tests of academic self-concepts and self-esteem. School grades, attendance, and classroom behavior were collected. Both minority and majority students exhibited positive self-esteem. Minority students demonstrated lower academic self-concepts and lower achievement than majority students. Two age-related patterns emerged. First, minority students had lower academic achievement than majority students, and this effect was stronger in older (Grades 3–5) than in younger (Grades K–2) students. Second, children's actual achievement was related to their academic self-concepts for older students but more strongly linked to self-esteem in younger students. The authors offer a developmental account connecting students’ developing self-representations to their school achievement.
The research team examined whether culture-relevant affirmations that focus on family (i.e., family affirmation) would enhance performance for Latino students compared to affirmations that focus on the individual (i.e., self-affirmation).
In Study 1, Latino middle school students exposed to a family affirmation outperformed Latino students exposed to a self-affirmation. In Study 2, Latino college students exposed to a family affirmation outperformed Latino students exposed to a self-affirmation and outperformed European American students across conditions. European American students performed equally well across conditions. The findings suggest that culture provides a meaningful framework for developing effective classroom strategies.
Native American students encounter limited exposure to positive representations (i.e., role models) in the academic domain. This underrepresentation threatens students’ identities in the classroom, subsequently decreasing feelings of school belonging and negatively impacting academic performance (Walton & Cohen, 2007). Two studies examined how different methods for providing self-relevant representations affect belonging for underrepresented Native American middle school students. These findings suggest that positive, self-relevant representations can alleviate the effects of underrepresentation for Native American students.
Mass media plays a substantial role in the way social groups understand themselves and are understood by others. Some social groups, like Native Americans, are rarely portrayed in mass media and, in the rare cases they appear, they are typically depicted in a stereotypical and historical fashion. The lack of contemporary representation of Native Americans in the media limits the ways in which Native Americans understand what is possible for themselves and how they see themselves fitting in to contemporary domains (e.g., education and employment) of social life. In this article, we contend that the invisibility of Native Americans in the media undermines self-understanding by homogenizing Native American identity, creating narrow and limiting identity prototypes for Native Americans, and evoking deindividuation and self-stereotyping among contemporary Native Americans.
The authors propose a cultural mismatch theory that identifies one source of the social class achievement gap between first-generation and continuing-generation college students. Four studies test the hypothesis that first-generation students underperform because interdependent norms from their mostly working-class backgrounds constitute a mismatch with middle-class independent norms prevalent in universities. First, surveys of university administrators revealed that American universities focus primarily on norms of independence. Second, a longitudinal survey revealed that universities' focus on independence does not match first-generation students' relatively interdependent motives for attending college and that this cultural mismatch is associated with lower grades. Finally, 2 experiments revealed that representing the university culture in terms of independence (i.e., paving one's own paths) rendered academic tasks difficult and, thereby, undermined first-generation students' performance. Conversely, representing the university culture in terms of interdependence (i.e., being part of a community) reduced this sense of difficulty and eliminated the performance gap without adverse consequences for continuing-generation students.