Self-determination in context : an examination of factors that influence school performance among African American males in high school



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The purpose of this study was to examine self-determination and achievement motivation as predictors of successful school performance for high school African American males enrolled in an urban Texas school district. The students (N = 108) were placed into two distinct groups: higher-performing and lower-performing African American males based upon the following: (a) Numerical average in core classes taken, (b) performance on the Texas state achievement test, (c) placement in academic classes and programs, and (d) attendance and discipline records. This study employed both qualitative and quantitative methodologies in which African American males responded to The Needs Satisfaction Scale (Ilardi, Leone, Kasser, & Ryan, 1993; Deci & Ryan, 2000; Gagne, 2003) and The Student Opinion Survey/Education Survey (Murdock, 1993). Tests of multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) were used in this study to measure the mean differences between the two groups in terms of self-determination (autonomy, relatedness, and competence); and achievement motivation (personal motivation, parent encouragement, teacher support, and peer support). The study found statistically significant differences in levels of self-determination and achievement motivation between the two groups. The qualitative segment was used to explore factors that lead to successful school performance for the African American males included in this study. Four themes emerged: (a) parental encouragement and expectations, (b) involvement in extracurricular activities, (c) personal motivation to achieve, and (d) relationships with significant adults. Recommendations are made to replicate this study in school with larger African American student enrollment and in schools with high achievement and high economic levels. Also, the study may be replicated with other ethnic groups who historically have experienced poor school performance.