The academic success rates of minority students in the United States are lower than their White peers from kindergarten through college, with 86% performing below proficiency in English and math. In particular, African American students are not performing as well as their same age White peers or other minority groups. This dissertation looked at the strengths and coping strategies of African American students in third to fifth grade as tools that empower them to achieve and increase the likelihood of traditional academic success. These strengths and coping strategies also allow them to maintain their self-efficacy; a factor that has shown to increase the likelihood of traditional academic success. This study elicited the voices of African American elementary students to identify how their strengths and coping strategies manifested to successfully navigate their school experience and the factors affecting the use of these strategies. For the purpose of this study, successful navigation of elementary school is defined as the ability to end the year of elementary school at any point between third and fifth grade and maintain a high sense of self-efficacy.
The study was conducted using basic qualitative research, in the form of individual interviews, review of an artifact, and a focus group. Individual interviews allowed me to capture first-hand information on the strengths and coping strategies children believe they have as it relates to their ability to successfully navigate school. This information helped me answer my two primary research questions; How do strengths and coping strategies manifest at a predominantly African American elementary school? and What are the factors that affect African American elementary students use of strengths and coping strategies in schools?
The findings suggested five main points in relation to students’ strengths and coping strategies. Students had re-defined success on their own terms to focus more on strengths and positive relational characteristics. The stage of racial identity development was directly linked to the type of coping strategies they utilized; with many students in the internalization stage of their racial identity development. Interpersonal strengths were the most prevalent strategies students used to successfully navigate school. The students engaged engaged their strengths and coping strategies mainly when faced academic task, student distractions, and lack of responsiveness from adults. The students also identified positive verbal encouragement from adults as the most significant promoter of them being able to use their strategies. The recommendations include policy on integrating the study of strengths and coping strategies and racial identity development for minority students into new teacher training programs, incorporating Africentric values, including frequent purposeful collaboration time, into schools and the use of constant verbal acknowledgement of students perceived strengths and coping strategies.
|Advisor:||Huber, Lindsay Pérez|
|Commitee:||Slater, Charles, Davis, Shametrice|
|School:||California State University, Long Beach|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-A 81/2(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||African American, Coping strategies, Elementary, Racial identity, Self-efficacy, Strengths|
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