Academic journal article School Psychology Review

An Unwelcomed Digital Visitor in the Classroom: The Longitudinal Impact of Online Racial Discrimination on Academic Motivation

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

An Unwelcomed Digital Visitor in the Classroom: The Longitudinal Impact of Online Racial Discrimination on Academic Motivation

Article excerpt

Racism and discrimination are integral aspects of coming of age for adolescents of color, with the majority reporting at least one racial discrimination experience (Fisher, Wallace, & Fenton, 2000; Niwa, Way, & Hughes, 2014). African American and Latino adolescents experience some of the highest rates of racial discrimination among samples of youth of color, depending on the source (Greene, Way, & Pahl, 2006). These experiences are associated with lower levels of self-esteem (Seaton & Yip, 2009), more conduct problems (Brody et al., 2006), and higher levels of depressive symptoms (Cogburn, Chavous, & Griffin, 2011; Gaylord-Harden & Cunningham, 2009; Grossman & Liang 2008; Juang & Alvarez, 2010; Lorenzo-Blanco, Unger, Ritt-Olson, Soto, & Baezconde-Garbanati, 2011; Neblett et al., 2008; Umaha-Taylor & Updegraff, 2007) for African American and Latino youth. Perhaps most notable is a consistent link in the literature between racial discrimination and achievement-related outcomes, including lower academic achievement (Neblett, Chavous, Nguyen, & Sellers, 2009; Wang & Huguley, 2012), less positive perceptions of school climate (Niwa et al., 2014), and lower academic engagement (Chavous, Rivas-Drake, Smalls, Griffin, & Cogburn, 2008).

This article focuses on academic motivation, which is widely recognized as foundational to the academic development and success of students (Rowell & Hong, 2013; Steinmayr & Spinath, 2009). Motivation for achievement in school refers to "motivation relevant to performance on tasks in which standards of excellence are operative" (Wigfield, Eccles, Schiefele, Roeser, & DavisKean, 2006); in academic domains this may include constructs such as competence-related beliefs, control beliefs, task values, and goal orientations (Wentzel & Wigfield, 1998). Given the importance of motivation for a number of academic outcomes (see Wigfield et al., 2006, for a review), it is important to understand what types of experiences affect its development. We know that experiences of discrimination are associated with a reduction of students' ability self-concept and utility values (perceived usefulness) (Benner & Graham, 2011; Chithambo, Huey, & Cespedes-Knadle, 2014; Wong, Eccles, & Sameroff, 2003). Studies also link discriminatory incidents with students being less likely to "try hard in school" (Alfaro, Umana-Taylor, Gonzales-Backen, Bamaca, & Zieders, 2009; Thompson & Gregory, 2011). Although research on the relations between discrimination incidents and motivation in school contexts is well documented, we know very little about adolescents' online race-related experiences and how they might be related to motivation. Following this line of research and the fact that self-efficacy is a consistent predictor of achievement for youth of color across grades (Long, Monoi, Harper, Knoblauch, & Murphy, 2007), we focus specifically on self-efficacy and utility values. Self-efficacy refers to an individual's beliefs in his or her ability to learn or perform (Bandura, 1986). Those who are more efficacious are found to persist at a given task longer in the face of difficulty, work harder, and have higher levels of achievement (Bandura, 1997; Klassen & Usher, 2010; Schunk & Pajares, 2002). Utility values refer to whether individuals find activities useful (Wentzel & Wigfield, 1998). Students may be efficacious with respect to a task or subject area but not follow through because of perceived unimportance. Both constructs may be inextricably linked in offline climates where racial discrimination sends a message that a person cannot do a given task or succeed in a domain and, moreover, if he or she does have the ability, the deck is stacked against him or her, so why try?

The Internet may be a particularly relevant context to examine relations between discrimination and academic motivation, given that developmental tasks such as identity exploration are now being accomplished through the use of Internet search engines, academic tools, and even social media platforms (Subrahmanyam & Smahel, 2012; Tynes, Garcia, Giang, & Coleman, 2011). …

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