What are your initial thoughts and perceptions about Jeffrey’s comments of “acting different” in certain situations?

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Mike Montgomery

EDUR 5018: Research Methods

Presentation: December 4, 2012
Article Analysis Presentation

What are your initial thoughts and perceptions about Jeffrey’s comments of “acting different” in certain situations?

  1. Research Background & Purpose

    1. Bases itself in the acceptance of Erik Erickson’s definition of adolescence: “period critical for identity development” and that successful navigation leads to “identity achievement” and failing to develop an identity leads to “role confusion” and can lead to destructive behavior.

      1. Gang membership, teen pregnancy, crime, school dropout

    2. Significance: “identity achievement” is linkage to school attendance graduation, and academic achievement, especially with “members of non – dominant racial groups.”

    3. Role of culture in child development and perception is considered at a secondary level and ignores contextual/ environmental factors.

    4. Purpose: Explore identity development in African American adolescents living and attending school in a predominately poor, urban neighborhood.

  2. Methods

    1. Setting: predominately African American K-8 public school in a high poverty, urban setting.

    2. Year One: Qualitative – Focus Groups

      1. 4 focus groups composed of four separate groups of 6th & 7th grade boys and girls during lunch recess (45 minutes).

        1. Three 6th grade girls, four 6th grade boys, five 7th grade girls, and four 7th grade boys.12- 14 years old, African American and selected by teachers.

      2. Overall goal of focus group: examine and find trends to create code for a quantitative survey.

        1. Examine how inner city minority youth (1) sense of self as an individual (self efficacy, community efficacy, leadership competence, clarity in self concept) and (2) sense of self in relation to the world (sense of community, civic responsibility, ethnic identity, trust).

    3. Year Two: Quantitative - Survey based off of themes identified in focus groups

      1. New cohort of thirty two 6th graders at same school. Aged 11-14. 91% African American and 9% bi-racial.

      2. Measurement Tools & uses (pg 31-32)

  3. Results & Findings

    1. Participants felt they possessed skills and drive to be successful in school and future careers, but identified two major barriers to their own success:

      1. Difficulty remaining focused when surrounded by peers who seem to lack the motivation to achieve

        1. Classmates didn’t consider long term goals or outcomes of their actions.

      2. Need to balance expectations and norms of two cultures “Acting white vs. Acting black.” Need to change behavior across different contexts.

        1. Girl respondent: “with their friends they act all ghetto, but when they get to school they act all proper.” “Don’t want their friends to think they are a goody-goody-two-shoes.”

    2. Survey (quantitative)results

      1. Respondents who reported greater efficacy in community problems also indicated higher trust in others

      2. Respondents who reported high in self leadership competence had lower self concept clarity and less connection to their race/ethnicity.

      3. Respondents felt a sense of connection and bonding with members of their community, but did not feel community members were a good influence or should have a say in what goes on in their community.

      4. “youth who felt they had strong communication, problem solving, decision making skills indicated less stable in their self identity, especially in different contexts. Also reported feelings less connected and involved with their ethnic group or activities related to their ethnicity.”

  4. Discussion

    1. Findings support theory that developing an integrated sense of oneself and one’s place in the world is challenging for African American adolescents because of mixed messages about how they should think and behave to be “successful.”

    2. Shared connection and identity with neighbors and peers, but acute awareness that too much identification with their ethnic community would put them at odds with mainstream achievement.

    3. “true self” (cultural group) vs. “false self” (majority group)

  5. Options for Resolution

    1. “Oppositional culture theory” – marginalized groups respond to a lack of opportunity within the dominant culture by denigrating mainstream ideals and valuing alternative paths to success (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986.)

    2. Complete rejection of attitudes and behaviors that are not held by dominant European American culture

      1. Benefits: mainstream society achievement

      2. Damaging to adolescents who reject essentially a part of themselves

    3. Bicultural way of interacting with the world

      1. Need to act differently depending on where they were or who they were around.

      2. Discomfort associated with this as well

      3. Develops association with negative behaviors (dropping out of school violence) and African American culture

    4. Multicultural Perspective (most difficult to achieve)

      1. Youth balance and integrate their cultural identities into mainstream society so they are not considered dichotomous and don’t require a choice between one culture or another

  6. Strategies for promoting a multicultural perspective of identity

    1. Teach and celebrate positive factors associated with African American culture (community and familial support)

    2. Include African American history into the curriculum

    3. Teach students to replace “either-or” point of view with “both-and” point of view.

  7. Weaknesses

    1. Relatively small sample size

    2. Consent rate for survey data in Year 2 was low

    3. Focus only on African American inner city youth. Should be compared with findings of other populations of poverty (rural poor)


  1. How can teachers help to resolve this discrepancy in identities amongst students who may feel any type of identity issue (sexual, racial, language, cultural, etc)?

  2. In what ways can we begin to stop this thinking that being studious and attaining academic achievement is “acting white”?

  3. How can high schools commit to teaching students through a socio-cultural context? Especially in math and science classes?

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