Adolescents' academic self perceptions in disciplinary alternative education programs: the impact of a self-affirmation intervention program

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A dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of DOCTOR of PHILOSOPHY in COUNSELOR EDUCATION from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Steele and Aronson (1995) described stereotypic threat as the experience of personal distress related to the fear and anxiety that one might confirm a negative stereotype about a meaningful identity group. Adolescents enrolled in Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs (DAEP) face stereotype threat consequences in the form of lowered expectations, increased anxiety, dejection, and frustration which can impact their academic self-concept and self-image (Yeager & Walton, 2011). Exposure to positive and affirming self-affirmation interventions (e.g., SAP; Schmidt & Canela, 2015; Sherman & Cohen, 2006) have been found to be effective for increasing clients’ ability to defend their self-identity and maintain optimism and motivation in the face of stereotype threat (Cohen, & Sherman, 2014; Cook, Purdie-Vaughns, Garcia, & Cohen 2012). There is a dearth of outcome based research with students in DAEP. The purpose of this study was to explore the impact of a self-affirmation program (SAP) in a DAEP setting. Participants in the SAP were students, obtained using non-probabilistic and purposeful sampling methods, aged 11 to 15 years (n = 23) enrolled in a DAEP. A mixed method methodology was utilized wherein quantitative (pre-post) data and qualitative (phenomenological and personal construct) data were collected concurrently, analyzed independently, and compared. Quantitative data were collected to explore changes in student academic engagement, disengagement, behavior, and self-concept change across time. Qualitative data were collected to glean information from participants’ lived experiences of themselves within the academic domain and after exposure to the SAP. Quantitative results indicated statistically significant increases in students’ perceptions of academic self-concept threat over time. Significant results were also found in student behavioral disaffection scores. No significant changes in emotional engagement, disaffection, behavioral engagement, or active disengagement were found. Qualitative findings voiced adolescent characterizations of themselves within the academic domain and reports of attendance in the SAP and the DAEP as helpful. Implications from this study support the self-affirmation as useful for behaviorally disengaged students vulnerable to identity threat. Self-affirmation holds benefits for adolescent students’ academic self-concept and self-identity beliefs. In addition, this research suggests valuable information toward reinforcing positive self-identity and reducing psychological threat of students assigned to alternative education settings.
Counseling & Educational Psychology
College of Education and Human Development