"You've got to want to do!": an examination of the construction of academic identity among high-achieving African American high school adolescents

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Johnette Atkinson McCain (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Jewell Cooper

Abstract: The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine how eight high-achieving African American high school adolescents who participated in an early college academy program at a historically Black high school constructed their academic identity. Using the interpretive lens of sociocultural theory and racial identity development, the negotiations of these adolescents were explored as they navigated their own identities, which ultimately revealed their beliefs about their academic achievement. Through the use of an instrumental case study, data were collected from individual interviews, focus groups, observations, archival document reviews, and researcher's field notes. A content analysis was conducted. Findings of this study revealed that participants demonstrated strong academic identities. All eight participants enjoyed school and believed that schooling was a nonnegotiable necessary for a successful future in the world. They chose to attend the early college program, in part, because of the historic legacy and traditions of the high school, even though society's views of the school were oftentimes contradictory to what they believed to be true. Though the participants acknowledged the benefits and the drawbacks of being in their high school and particularly the early college program, they described some of their peers who attended the traditional school within the same high school in similar stereotypical ways they sought hard to negate about themselves. Participants' families positively influenced their academic identity development and served as motivation for them to achieve. While the participants recalled experiences where racial discrimination was exposed through the societal curriculum, they "put race aside" when thinking about their own academic achievement, for they considered race having no bearing on their educational successes; however, they used their academic achievement as a form of resistance to how society deemed them to be. Implications for school administrators, educational policy makers, and classroom teachers are provided. Suggestions for future research are also shared.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2012
Academic identity, African American adolescents, High-achieving students, Secondary education
Academic Achievement $x Psychological aspects $v Case studies
African American high school students $x Psychology $v Case studies
African American high school students $x Race identity $z North Carolina $v Case studies

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