The African American youth throughout the United States face unique challenges that extend to the education setting. The standard education frameworks, practices, and procedures may, therefore, not prove as effective when applied to this population. Several studies provide evidence of the challenges faced by American minorities in education and other contexts. Scholars such as Williams and Bryan (2013) believe that such challenges and risk factors often require the black youth to be resilient in the face of adversities as that is the only way of achieving academic success. With such information, this research intends to highlight the need for the education system to adapt the teaching frameworks and practices to address the challenges faced by black youths. In essence, the current research is based on the notion that the challenges are cultural and that adapting teaching practices include cultural training for the teachers handling the African American youth.
Statement of the Problem
Instructional frameworks and materials are only meaningful if they meet the expected outcomes. Each learner has different needs that should be addressed otherwise the learning process would be a letdown. From a broader perspective, the cultural challenges faced by the African American youths present then with unique education needs that could be handled using different teaching styles. The fact that the education system has thus far failed to implement culturally adaptive teaching strategies means that the educational inequalities will persist. The teachers handling African American students may have no idea how their cultures affect their learning. Therefore, cultural education for the teachers of black minorities appears to be among the critical solutions to the challenge. Understanding the students could help the tutors develop instruction frameworks that suit the learning styles. However, the policymakers will need more convincing empirical evidence on the need to develop cultural training programs for those teaching African American youth.
The purpose of this research is to present a strategy to be used in the fight against inequitable education in the United States. It raises several concerns relating to how African American culture can be a hindrance to education outcomes. Additionally, the research explains why the lack of cultural training among educators is a significant problem. A background to education challenges and adversities faced by the African American students is presented. Interventions, including cultural training and partnering with location communities, are also suggested.
- What are the cultural challenges and adversities facing African American learners?
- What are the deficiencies in the current pedagogical programs in addressing the needs of the African American youth?
- How does cultural training help adapt to the learning styles and to overcome the learning difficulties among African American students?
Definition of Terms
Culturally adapting programs
Culturally adaptive programs are those educational programs tuned to address the learning needs and meet the learning styles of the African American students.
Cultural training means equipping educators with cultural knowledge of the African American youth to better understand how to handle the learners.
Limitations and Assumptions
The primary assumption made in this research is that African American youth faces cultural-related challenges that are the primary cause of educational inequality. These challenges are deemed to be unique to the black minorities. Issues such as poor academic performance, exposure to violence, poor or challenging parenting, and greater levels of poverty are assumed to be the result of their culture. The study is limited by the availability of secondary data to back the assumption and to form the foundation of the current inquiry. In an attempt to narrow the scope, the researcher upholds the assumption which in effect dictates what data needs to be collected and analyzed. The study, therefore, does not seek to prove the relationship between cultural elements and poor academic outcomes. Rather, the research simply focuses on developing educational programs that mitigate the cultural risks and addresses the learning styles of the African American youth.
Review of the Literature
There is a consensus among researchers on the subject of African American youth and education that the challenges they face growing up are the reason their academic outcomes are relatively poor. Empirical evidence relates several cultural variables the academic outcomes, including the socioeconomic status (or poverty), domestic violence, and presence of parents among others. With this evidence, some scholars have tried to suggest potential solutions such as cultural training to equip educators with the necessary skills to handle the African American youth. The literature review presented here, therefore, examines these two themes; that is, the adversities and challenges faced by African American youth and cultural training for educators.
Adversities and Challenges Facing African American Students
The African American millennials have been shown to have a promise of a bright future but only because of their resilience in the face of past or present diversity. In a study by Burley et al. (2010), three components of the resilience theory have been applied to the experiences of the African American youth in education. These elements are risk factors, protective factors, and developmental assets. Examples of risk factors include dropping out of school, low socioeconomic status, recent divorce, violence, and teenage pregnancy and parenthood. The protective are those that aim to even out the impacts of the risk factors, for example, family, teachers, friends, and the community. Lastly, the developmental assets entail the behaviors and opportunities in the lives of the learners that help them in adapting to a new context. These researchers note that while there have been efforts to study the challenges facing the African American youth in education, the cultural and ethnic factors have been left out and hence the need to examine resilience within different cultures.
Other scholars addressing the subject of resilience in the face of adversity express that the cultural aspects of the African American youth present them with a hurdle in education that can be overcome through resilience. Such research includes Williams and Bryan (2013) who explain that despite the obstacles some high-achieving students go on to achieve academic success. In their study, the challenges mentioned include low incomes, food insecurity, financial instability, inadequate housing, and poverty among others. According to these researchers, the profile for promise concept described by Burley et al. (2010) is under considerable threat because the high-achieving low-income learners are increasingly less likely to attend college and graduate with a degree. Additionally, there are also fears that graduating from high school is becoming less likely. While addressing the issue of resilience, Williams and Bryan (2013) argue from the standpoint that the existence of high-achieving African American students is evidence of the need to build an enabling environment.
Besides education, the whole process of development among African American children is marred by challenges specific to the population in question. According to Norton and Watt (2014), the challenges are even worse for those children growing up in the urban environment. Examples of the problems include poverty, drugs, gangs, and family and community environment. However, it is important to clarify that these factors are environmental factors and the cultural context is used because the challenges are specific to one culture. Therefore, the term cultural challenge is used in this research paper to mean those problems faced by the youth from the African American culture. The contributions of the culture, including drugs, gangs, and violence are deemed herein to be both environmental and cultural. With this clarification, the study by Norton and Watt (2014) hope to explain the need for programs such as positive youth development (PYD) to improve the developmental needs of the African American youth by mitigating the environmental risks. In the context of this research, culturally adaptive teaching frameworks can be as the PYDs applied to the specific field of education.
Other studies have focused on a specific element of the environmental and cultural risks facing the African American youth. For example, a study by Washington et al. (2015) examines family-level risk factors affecting the behavioral health outcomes among the African American youth. Their research confirms the argument that even though the challenges are environmental risks, they arise because of the cultural and societal background of the population. Such an argument supports the hypothesis that understanding the cultural background of the African American youth would help adapt practices to suit their unique needs. Another key point to notice is that just like the study by Norton and Watt (2014), Washington et al. (2015) focus on the general context of youth development and pays little attention to the education context.
Another example of specific environmental factors associated with the African American youth is parental relationships. In a study by Voisin et al. (2017), the parental influences on the wellbeing among the low-income black adolescents are examined. The focus on the wellbeing by these researchers goes on to further explain how the educational context has received less attention from researchers. However, as a major environmental risk factor affecting the African American youth, it is worthy to consider the inferences that can be made to the educational context. In essence, the researchers found that higher parental monitoring leads to a greater sense of parental warmth and hence reduced delinquent behaviors. The same principles apply to education considering that the delinquent behaviors are among the factors that keep the African American youth from continuing with education or from performing optimally. As such, any study relating parental influences to reduced delinquency can be applied to the academic outcomes.
It is important to acknowledge, however, the efforts to study the obstacles faced by African American youth in pursuing education. According to Busby et al. (2013), exposure to community violence detrimentally affects academic functioning among the African American youth. These researchers also focus on those living in urban environments, especially those with low incomes. The cases of crime, poverty, and violence among this population are disproportionate meaning there is greater exposure to violence as compared to the Caucasian counterparts living within a similar environment. Urban neighborhoods are, therefore, considered to be obstacles to academic performance among black minorities. In all these studies, it is apparent that the African American culture is disproportionately affected by the environmental risk factors that detrimentally affect their academic outcomes.
Cultural Training for Educators
Cultural training for educators is perceived here to be a solution intended to equip the teachers with the right skills to handle the vulnerable African American culture in the school settings. The current literature reveals that developing programs better suited for black minorities would go a long way in improving their academic outcomes. For example, the idea of culturally responsive teaching was put forward by Krasnoff (2016) who explains that effective teaching should be culturally responsive. The authors also recommend that teachers should be prepared to be culturally responsive, a concept referred to as cultural training in this research. Such an approach requires that the educators recognize the dimensions of cultural learning diversity and adapt the teaching methods appropriately.
The need for cultural training for educators can also be informed by studies explaining that indeed the African American students have different learning styles that should be taken into account. According to Hale (2016), there is enough empirical evidence supporting the hypothesis that teachers should use culturally appropriate pedagogy in the classroom because cultural themes tend to enhance learning. Examples of culturally responsive teaching favoring the African American students include the use of explicit language as opposed to indirect, inductive, and questioning voice. Additionally, African American students are known to perform better in a stable daily routine with minimal interruptions. Lastly, cooperation and sharing also boost academic outcomes among African American students. With these examples, therefore, culturally responsive teaching adapts to these basic requirements.
Developing the right educational materials may also be considered to be part of culturally responsive teaching. However, researchers have established that the understanding of the African American culture is flawed due to misrepresentations in the media and a historical background that has led to stereotypes and bias. The social media, according to King (2017), has become a key venue for correcting the biases and stereotypes and educators have been known to use the internet and social media sites to develop educational materials. In essence, therefore, formal cultural training is deemed herein to be a necessity where various cultural myths and stereotypes regarding African Americans can be debunked to help develop appropriate pedagogic practices. Such programs would guide teachers on what course materials and what approaches that can get the most out of the high-achieving African American students. Their vulnerabilities are understood and the teachers can be trained on how to build an enabling learning environment.
Lastly, there are calls by scholars to the policymakers to build more equitable schools and to close the opportunity gap. According to Pitre (2014), understanding the racial disparities in education is the route to follow. The researcher addresses the environmental factors explaining the education achieving gap and dismisses the cultural theory that is deemed to blame the victim without acknowledging the role of the educational and social structure. The lack of an understanding in used in this research to propose that cultural training should be used to address such issues. While it can be accepted that the cultural factors play a role as examined in the previous theme, efforts should be made to understand them and find ways of working around them.
Type of Study
The current research will be a quantitative study aimed at collecting and analyzing numeral data to show the relationship between cultural-based challenges and the academic outcomes among the African American youth. By definition, quantitative research is a type of study that entails the collection of data which is subjected to statistical treatment to support or reject alternative knowledge claims (Apuke, 2017). An underlying tenet of quantitative research is the philosophical belief that the world is relatively uniform and stable such that it can be measured, understood and allow broad generalizations about to be made (Mertler, 2015). From a quantitative perspective, therefore, the conclusions drawn about the study subject cannot be regarded as meaningful unless they can be verified through observation and measurement. The application of the quantitative approach in the current study is founded on the idea that the current problem does not catch the attention of the policy-makers in education leading to the lack of proper interventions.
The research philosophy deployed alongside quantitative research is the pragmatist research philosophy. According to Žukauskas et al. (2018), the pragmatic research approach deals with facts and the selection of the research methods is left to the discretion of the researcher. Such a characteristic allows the research to select the methods that best fit the study problem as opposed to being restricted to certain methods befitting a philosophy. As a social problem, the issue of educational inequality along the racial lines can be complex and restricting the research methods could mean the difference between a proper and a blurred understanding of the subject.
A correlational research design is selected for this research as the researcher hopes to explain the relationships between cultural aspects and academic outcomes. Correlational research is defined as a methodology used to determine the presence and the degree of relationship between two or more variables in a population or its sample (Apuke, 2017). Mertler (2015) argues that understanding the strength and nature of a relationship between variables help to describe and comprehend related events, conditions, and behaviors achieved through explanatory correlational studies. Secondly, correlational studies (in this case, predictive correlational studies) help to predict future conditions in a variable based on what is already known about another variable. Both of these types of correlational approaches are used in the current research to address the research questions. In other words, an explanatory correlational study explains the relationship between cultural challenges and education outcomes. The predictive correlational study helps to predict the efficacy of cultural training and other interventions in addressing the cultural issues in education among the African American youth.
The approach selected to solve the problem is feasible because it is founded on proven theories of learning. Learning takes place in a social setting where culture and other social variables are known to influence the earning outcomes. Bandura’s social cognitive theory, when applied to learning, explains individual development, learning, acquisition of knowledge within a social context (Bembenutty et al., 2016). As such, environmental factors such as peers, teachers, parents, and policy-makers all have a role to play in the learning outcomes of a student. Understanding the cultural barriers to higher academic performance is indeed a matter of understanding the social environment within which the African American student learn. Proposing solutions such as cultural training, therefore, is an attempt to modify the social environment to suit the needs of the studying population. Creating an enabling environment is the responsibility of both the educators and policy-makers. This is why the ultimate purpose of the study, as mentioned earlier on, is to educate the teachers and policymakers on the need cultural interventions to unequal education in the United States.
Sources of Data
The data needed for this study can be obtained from school records. The researcher needs to collect data regarding the educational performance of African American students between grades 6 to 8. A sample of 1000 students is deemed to be large enough to allow generalizations to be made. This sample will be distributed across 100 schools in at least 20 states. The specific data needed is that of students considered to be performing below average. Important to note here is that the school dropouts in these grades are also considered the result of cultural challenges and will be included in the sample population. Socio-economic profiles of the students in question will also be obtained from the school records or other government institutions regarding various cultural aspects. In this case, the neighborhoods, parents’ income levels, exposure to violence, housing challenges, and substance abuse are considered to be among the greatest cultural issues affecting the educational outcomes of the African American youths. This date will help draw the links between culture and academic performance.
Data Analysis Procedures
The current research is a correlational study and the data will be subjected to a correlational analysis in addition to descriptive statistics. The frequency distributions of the cultural variables will be determined to highlight those variables contributing most towards the academic outcomes. Additionally, a correlational analysis will be consulted using the Pearson Product Moment Formula whose application has been described in a similar study by Nurdianingsih (2018). A significance level of α = 0.05 will be used in the correlational analysis to obtain a correlation coefficient between the students’ cultural elements and the academic outcomes.
Validity and Reliability
The validity and reliability in quantitative research entail the accuracy and consistency of measurements. The correlation analysis is the main tool applied in this research. In terms of validity, the correlation analysis displays both content validity and construct validity. In other words, the tool can cover all the content relating to the variables and can draw inferences between the test scores and the concepts being studied. In terms of reliability, the correlational analysis uses the same scale to measure all aspects of the construct (internal consistency). Additionally, the results of the testing would be replicated using the same tools (stability.
Researcher’s Role and Potential Ethical Issues
The researcher collects and analyzes data regarding cultural aspects and academic outcomes. Acquiring the data may be challenging considering the sample size, geographical distribution of the sample, and the number of institutions involved. Collaboration and partnership with the relevant institutions may help simplify the research process and save on time and resources. The data collected involved one of the most vulnerable populations in the United States. The researcher and all persons whose support is sought have an ethical responsibility to protect the privacy of the research subjects. Anonymity and privacy are among the major ethical issues to be observed in the research process. As such, the names and other personal details of the respondents will not be revealed. The data collected only pertains to the research purpose and no personal data such as address and full names will be asked.
The research findings will be reported using the relevant statistical representations and tabulations. The descriptive statistics will be tabulated showing the frequency with which a variable occurs within the sample and a percentage of that frequency. With the sample size being 1000, the frequency is the number of time a variable is mentioned as a reason for the academic outcomes. The percentage of each frequency will be shown are the number of mentions divided by 1000 multiplied by a hundred. The tabulation of frequencies for all the variables will be as shown in the table below:
|Cultural Variable||Frequency (f)||Percentage (f/100)%|
|Low income of parents|
The descriptive statistics above will be used to show the existence of a relationship between the cultural variables and academic outcomes. The academic outcome has already been predetermined; that is poor academic performance and school dropout. Numbers above zero in the frequency column indicates that a variable causes the predetermined academic outcomes. The percentage column in the table highlights the extent each variable contributes to the poor academic outcomes. Higher percentages mean that the relationship between the cultural factor and academic outcomes is strong.
The findings from the correlational analysis will be reported in the same way. In other words, the outcomes of the analysis will be tabulated showing the correlation between each variable and the academic outcomes. The correlation coefficients for each case will be determined and a description offering an interpretation of the outcomes presented. The basic tenet in the interpretation is that a positive coefficient shows a positive relationship between the variables while a negative coefficient shows no relationship. Additionally, the strength of the correlation is shown by how high or low the coefficient is. In other words, figures closer to 1 indicate a strong correlation than those closer to zero.
Importance of Study
The current research is important because it contributes to the current literature regarding the research topic. In other words, the study adds to the body of literature examining education inequalities among African Americans. The study also supports those studies explaining the link between cultural factors and poor academic outcomes among the black minorities in the United States. The persistence of the problem being investigated is evidence that more empirical studies would be needed to offer a better understanding of the situation and to help the policy-makers formulate and implement the right strategies.
Secondly, the current research attempts to validate a solution that has not been given the attention it deserves. The proposed intervention and how well it should work towards building an enabling learning environment is the main focus. The predictive correlational study is intended to show that if the cultural variables negatively affect learning then their elimination and/or improvement should have the opposite effect. Lastly, the study paves way for further studies on the subject. If the hypothesis that elimination and/or improvement of the cultural variables supports learning can be accepted, then future studies could focus on experimental designs and other approaches to measure the actual outcomes of the solution.
The study involves a complex procedure of collecting data from several schools and states across the United States. The timeline, therefore, will be extended across several months. The timelines for main activities in the research process can be mapped using a Gantt chart as shown below. It is important to highlight that the main processes or activities include research preparation where all activities involving planning the study are conducted. The second activity will be reviewing the available literature regarding the subject to lay a foundation for the study and develop a problem statement. After the formulation of the problem, the following activities will be the collection of data, analysis of data, and presentation of the report. The timeframes for each of these activities is as shown in the Gantt chart below:
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