African American Culture and Heritage in Higher Education Research and Practice

By Kassie Freeman | Go to book overview

3
African American Students and Self-Concept Development: Integrating Cultural Influences into Research and Practice

Tamela M. Heath

Ways of being, feeling, and knowing are shaped by many things, not the least of which is one's social and cultural experiences. For African American youth, the educational setting, be it the classroom, the college campus, or the schooling structure as a whole, is often incongruent with the culture in which their styles of being and knowing are embedded. This mismatch has proven to be detrimental to the development of both cognitive and affective outcomes for African American students. Probably one of the most talked-about outcomes that Black students are known to suffer is that of their self-concept. Self-concept development is a central part of psychosocial development in college students. A positive self-concept has been linked to being one of the most important college outcomes.

Self-concept is a reflection of students' feelings about their group and the importance of that group in the environment where they happen to be learning. Simply stated, if students do not feel loved and supported as a group, they will not display a positive self-concept or feelings of self-worth. Since self-concept is found in the research literature to be an important factor in academic and social success in college, it is important for researchers and practitioners to be aware of how to promote a positive self-concept in students. For African American students, promoting a positive self-concept may be very closely linked to promoting and empowering African American students as a whole in the college community.

This chapter outlines the nature of self-concept development for African Americans. It also describes some of the barriers to the growth of African American students' academic and social self-concept and the college environmental influences that have been found to stimulate their self-concept development. The chapter concludes with recommendations for both scholars and practitioners concerned with enhancing psychosocial development in Black students.

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