Date of Award

Summer 8-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education & Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Kathryn J. Campbell, PhD

Second Advisor

Marcia A. B. Delcourt, PhD

Third Advisor

Katren Burke, EdD


This study was conducted to examine African American adolescents’ perceptions of their learning, instructional, and relational experiences to provide additional insight into how to eliminate the achievement gap. Research investigating the pedagogical experiences of African American adolescents’ is limited. A review of the literature suggested that the theories of pedagogy, culture, and motivation might inform our understanding of their achievement. A multiple-case design and methodological triangulation procedures were used to collect data from a stratified purposive sample of 12 African American eighth-grade students from an urban school district. The sample consisted of four high, four average, and four low achievers. Students’ perceptions were assessed using (a) the Patterns of Adaptive Learning Scales; (b) semi-structured interview questions; and (c) questions related to focus group scenarios. Interpretational analysis was used to identify categories to describe students’ perceptions. Within-case analyses were used to document the students’ voices, and cross-case analyses were used to generate findings for high, average, and low achievement subgroups. The following major categories emerged: achievement goals, instructional preferences, academic press, affect-care and humor, and collaboration. The results of this study related to learning suggested that African American adolescents’ achievement goals (e.g., mastery or performance) are related to their achievement levels. High achievers had mastery goals; average achievers had mastery and performance goals; and low achievers were characterized by performance goals. All African American adolescents preferred communalism (group work) to promote understanding. The results of the study related to instruction suggested that high and average achievers perceived that their teachers communicated mastery goals in the classroom (e.g., goals focused on effort and understanding), and preferred instructional methods that promoted understanding. All high, average, and low- achieving students preferred diverse instructional methods. The results of the study suggested that high and average achievers perceived that their teachers pressed them to understand. The students also perceived that their teachers cared. High, average, and low achievers responded that humor, and collaboration were important. Additional research is needed with the low achievement subgroup to understand the attitude-achievement paradox they exhibited, and their preferred instructional and relational experiences. To capture the African American adolescents’ school experiences more effectively, the use of observations and student voice as methodologies is recommended.