Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Role of Diversity in Peer Influences on Students' Academic Engagement
by Clark-Shim, Hyuny, M.S., Portland State University, 2014, 145; 1565818
Abstract (Summary)

Children's classroom engagement is important for their learning and academic achievement. Extending Kindermann's (2007) study of peer influence on adolescents' engagement to an ethnically homogeneous sample, the current study examined how different aspects of diversity affect the peer influence process. Three types of diversity were considered: ethnic diversity existing at the school level, relational diversity at the peer network level, and motivational diversity at the group level. Ethnic diversity was observed in the student body as well as among school teachers and staff. Relational diversity was measured by z-scores resulting from binomial tests reflecting how closely two pair of individuals were connected in the peer network. Finally, motivational diversity was measured as the dispersion (SD) around peer group mean engagement levels, thereby reflecting the diversity of engagement within each peer group.

The results indicated that adolescents in this ethnically diverse middle school were overall highly engaged; their engagement patterns were comparable to previous findings from homogeneous samples consisting largely of European American adolescents. Also consistent with prior findings, the mean engagement levels of students' peer group members were a significant predictor of changes in adolescents' own engagement, which suggests peer influence on adolescents' classroom engagement. Although previous literature suggests that individuals in diverse settings tend to be less well connected to one another, the adolescents in this ethnically diverse school were well connected with their peers. Unexpectedly, almost all students' peer groups were ethnically diverse. When the impact of relational diversity was examined to see whether strongly connected individuals exerted more influence on each other than weakly connected individuals (differential influence hypothesis), the results indicated that the strength of connections among peer group members did not appear to play a significant role in the magnitude of their influences on each other's changes in engagement. Nevertheless, the present study suggested new pathways and methods to examine differential peer influences.

Finally, the impact of motivational diversity of peer groups was examined using a moderated model based on an interaction effect between peer group motivational diversity and individuals' initial engagement. The results indicated that the positive impact of peer group motivational diversity was moderated by individuals' initial engagement status, such that initially low engaged adolescents benefited from diversely engaged peer groups, whereas peer group motivational diversity had a comparatively small negative effect on initially highly engaged students.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kindermann, Thomas
Commitee: Skinner, Ellen, Steele, Joel
School: Portland State University
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- Oregon
Source: MAI 53/06M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational evaluation, Multicultural Education, Educational psychology, Developmental psychology
Keywords: Academic development, Academic engagement, Diversity, Motivational diversity, Peer influence, Social network analysis
Publication Number: 1565818
ISBN: 978-1-321-21663-9
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