Survival Conflict, Coping Style and Perception of the College Classroom: Factors in the Academic Success of African-American and African-Caribbean American Freshmen at Three Colleges in the New York/New Jersey Metropolitan Area

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Survival Conflict, Coping Style and Perception of the College Classroom: Factors in the Academic Success of African-American and African-Caribbean American Freshmen at Three Colleges in the New York/New Jersey Metropolitan Area

ABSTRACT

The relationship between perception of the college classroom, academic performance as measured by first or second semester Grade Point Average (GPA), survival conflict, students' expectation of his/her academic performance and coping style were investigated in African-American college students. Subjects were 99 African-American and African-Caribbean American freshmen at three four year colleges in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. Questionnaires related to perception of the classroom, survival conflict and coping style, and a data sheet were administered. Gender comparisons were made. The hypothesis that African-American men and women would report different coping styles was supported. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that African-American men are more subject to survival conflict than African-American women. The hypothesis that African-American men would perceive the classroom more negatively than women was not supported. Students generally expressed positive attitudes about their high school and college classroom experiences. The results suggest that African-American men and women could benefit from the development of additional coping skills. Women could broaden their repertoire to include independent strategies, and men could develop more comfort in seeking external assistance.

INTRODUCTION

The crisis in higher education with regard to African-American students has been the cause of great concern to educators and researchers. Although more high school students are graduating, the numbers of African-Americans entering college have declined (Carter and Wilson, 1989). These changes have broad implications for the participation of African-Americans in the all areas of the American work force, particularly in high status, high income positions. Furthermore, the low retention and graduation rates have implications for family development and stability (with regard to the pool of employable African-American men), community stability, and role modeling for future African-American students. African-Americans who do not complete college have limited career options. Failure in college also has profound implications for students' self-esteem, which could influence their future educational and career aspirations.

It is also evident that the outcome of the college experience is very different for African-American men and women. The statistics reveal that fewer African American men enter and finish college than African-American women (Carter and Wilson, 1989). It is important to attempt to determine which factors contribute to this outcome in order to intervene effectively. The purpose of this study is to investigate the impact of several non-cognitive variables on the academic performance of African-American men and women. These variables are perception of the high school and college classrooms, survival conflict, coping style and variables such as whether the student is a first generation college student, and the student's expectations of him/herself with regard to academic performance.

REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

There are a number of issues that deserve attention with regard to the academic success of African-American college students. Several researchers have found that non-cognitive variables are important. Nettles, Thoeney and Gosman (1986) suggest that college admissions offices should consider attitudinal measures since SAT scores do not predict college success for African-Americans as well as they do for Whites. Sedlacek (1987) found that variables such as positive self-concept, realistic self-appraisal, successful leadership experience and demonstrated community service are significantly related to the success of African-American students. …