Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

After-School Interests, Achievement Goal Orientation, and Peers in a Predominantly African American School

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

After-School Interests, Achievement Goal Orientation, and Peers in a Predominantly African American School

Article excerpt

The federally mandated educational climate created by programs such as No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, 2002) continues to motivate educational researchers and practitioners to discover, develop, and implement ways to increase student performance and decrease the African American-White achievement gap. This is especially important given previous research showing the achievement gap manifests into differing rates of high school graduation and college attendance (Lee, 2004; Slavin & Madden, 2006). There are many ways of helping close the achievement gap between African American and White students (Biddle & Berliner, 2003; Fram, Miller-Cribbs, & Van Horn, 2007; Lee, 2004). To this end, there is a growing body of research on non-cognitive factors that affect academic performance (e.g., Burchinal et al., 2011), with a particular emphasis on ethnically diverse educational settings (Kaplan & Maehr, 1999a, 1999b; Shim, Ryan, & Anderson, 2008; Wilson, Karimpour, & Rodkin, 2011; Wilson & Rodkin, 2011). Non-cognitive factors can include after-school interests, the influence of peer groups, and students' academic motivation (Eccles & Templeton, 2002; Huang, 2012; Ryan, 2001).

As independent factors, prior work suggests that peer groups, out-of-school interests, and academic motivation can alter students' academic achievement (Eccles & Templeton, 2002; Huang, 2012; Ryan, 2001). According to social-cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986), environmental factors, such as peer groups, transmit beliefs and behaviors to the individual student (Ellis et al., 2012). For example, peer groups usually adopt members' personal interests and academic motivation (Jones & Ford, 2014; Kindermann, 1993, 2007; McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Cook, 2001; Schaefer et al., 2011). Although many factors affect African Americans' academic performance (e.g. classroom emotional climate (Reyes, Brackett, Rivers, White, & Salovey 2012), parental education (Fan & Chen, 2001), and socioeconomic status (Bamgarner & Brooks-Gunn, 2013), these constructs are of personal interest to the authors given a growing body of work on non-cognitive factors affecting students' academic performance (Johnson et al., 2004; Jones, Alexander, & Estell, 2010; Jones & Ford, 2014; Neitzel, Alexander, & Johnson, 2008). Peer effects on after-school activities, academic motivation, and academic achievement may be particularly important among African American high school students as friends become more influential during adolescence (Brown, 2004; Hughes & Kwok, 2007; Wiggan, 2007).

The current research aims to better understand how students' after-school interests, achievement goal orientations, and peer groups might relate with academic achievement. Moreover, to the authors' knowledge this is the first study of its kind to synergistically test for the influence of these factors on students' academic outcomes. In addition, given the recent calls for diverse motivational and education research and the need to mitigate the African American-White achievement gap (e.g., Zusho & Clayton, 2011), the current study examines these factors in a predominantly African American school.

After-School Interests

The skills and knowledge acquired pursuing after-school interests can transfer to students' in-class experiences (Barber, Stone, & Eccles, 2005; Bartko & Eccles, 2003; Eccles & Barber, 1999; Eccles & Gootman, 2002; Lerner, 2004; Lerner et al., 2010; McNeal, 1995; Zarrett et al., 2009). After-school interests can be conceptualized as structured or unstructured interests (Bartko & Eccles, 2003). Structured interest activities, as defined by Eccles and Templeton (2002), are organized, constructive leisure practices such as academic or community based clubs and organized sports. Programs like these provide multiple opportunities for students to gain social, physical, and intellectual skills (Eccles & Templeton, 2002). …

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