Examining adolescents' pathways to success: Understanding the academic aspirations and expectations of middle school youth
Educational aspirations and expectations have grown throughout the years, yet discrepancies between the two concepts still exist, especially between Black and White youth. Using Self-Efficacy Theory, the purpose of this qualitative study was to understand what factors influence youth to want to go to college, strategies youth use to overcome barriers, and steps youth indicate are important to helping them get to their goal of getting to college. Thirteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with middle school youth in their school. Based on their responses, a total of twenty-one themes emerged. Motivators included: verbal encouragement, extracurricular activities, social comparison, idol, being supportive, breaking barriers, financial assistance, and being a positive role model. Strategies for overcoming blocks included: having no plan, studying, choosing friends wisely, self-efficacy, and applying for scholarships. Steps needed to fulfill their goals included: taking credits, studying, applying for scholarships, being prepared, saving money, getting good grades, extracurricular activities, and taking upper-level classes. These findings suggest specific behaviors are needed in students' lives in order for them to have high aspirations and high expectations. Parents, teachers, and friends and peers all play a vital role in influencing students' academic success. Further, these individuals increase students' level of self-efficacy. Students who have higher levels of self-efficacy tend to do better academically and reach their goals. Interventions aimed at increasing academic aspirations and expectations in youth should focus on altering specific behaviors in parents and teachers, so as to increase the level of efficacy in youth.
Thesis (Ph.D.)-- Wichita State University, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Psychology