Black middle school students' perceptions of success and their influence on academic performance

Patricia Altigracia Rennalls, Florida International University


The purpose of the study was to investigate the perceptions of success held by Black middle school students in a Miami-Dade County (FL) public school and how these perceptions influence academic performance. The study sought to determine if differences exist among African-American, Haitian-American, and Haitian immigrant subgroups of the Black student population. The study combined qualitative and quantitative methodology in data collection and analysis. The qualitative data consisted of three focus group interviews. Using a semi-structured protocol, questions focused on the student's perceptions of the characteristics of successful people, definitions of success, behaviors associated with achieving success, and peer, family and school support. The quantitative data comprised the responses of 352 Black middle school students to the Inventory of Student Motivation (ISM) developed to measure mastery, performance and social goal orientations. Response similarities and differences were examined using a series of two-way ANOVAs on the success scales by gender and culture. A three-way repeated measures ANOVA was conducted on mastery, performance and social general goal scales by culture and gender. The results of the ISM revealed no statistically significant differences among African-American, Haitian-American, and Haitian students in their mastery, performance or social goal orientations. All three cultural groups scored significantly high on the mastery goal scale. There was a significant effect for gender on the mastery general scale with the females being more concerned with mastery than the males. Qualitative focus group interview results included varying definitions of success. African-American and Haitian-American students defined success in materialistic terms. Haitian students defined success in scholastic achievement terms. All students indicated hard work, persistence and goal setting through completion as important to achieving success. Negative influences included peer pressure, teacher and societal expectations, and classroom environment. Parental reaction to low academic performance varied by culture.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Archaeology|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Rennalls, Patricia Altigracia, "Black middle school students' perceptions of success and their influence on academic performance" (2006). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3217577.