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The Influence of Cultural Identity and Number of Years Lived in the United States on Motivation for Academic Success Among West Indian College Students

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Sasha Soon
Abstract:
The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of cultural identity and number of years lived in the United States on motivation toward academic success of West Indian college students. Maslow's motivational theory served as the theoretical foundation for this study. Past research has shown that West Indians believe that social mobility comes from achieving academic success. Little attention has been given to how the independent variables of cultural identity and the length of time lived in the United States may affect the dependent variable of the West Indian college student's motivation toward academic success. Seventy-six West Indian college students at a community college were participants in this quantitative study. Each participant was given a demographic questionnaire, the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM), which measures cultural identity, and the Academic Motivation Scale (AMS), which measures motivation towards academic success. Cultural identity was categorized as high or low based on participants' scores on the MEIM and number of years lived in the United States were transposed into four bracketed groupings of 1-6, 7-12, 13-18, and 19-24. The data were analyzed using a factorial analysis of variance. There were no statistically significant effects for cultural identity and number of years lived in the United States on motivation for academic success. Implications for positive social change are identifying academic interventions and strategies and including motivational factors specific to this population that may contribute to their overall academic success.

i i Table of Contents List of Tables .......................................................................................................................v List of Figures .................................................................................................................... vi Chapter 1: Introduction to the Study ....................................................................................1 Introduction ......................................................................................................................1 Background of the Study .................................................................................................3 Statement of the Problem .................................................................................................4 Purpose of the Study ........................................................................................................5 Research Questions and Hypotheses ...............................................................................6 Theoretical Construct .......................................................................................................7 Definition of Terms .........................................................................................................9 Assumptions ...................................................................................................................10 Limitations .....................................................................................................................11 Significance of the Study ...............................................................................................11 Summary ........................................................................................................................13 Chapter 2: Literature Review .............................................................................................15 Introduction ....................................................................................................................15 Maslow’s Motivational Theory .....................................................................................17 An Overview of the West Indies ....................................................................................22 Characteristics of West Indian Individuals ....................................................................24 Immigration to the United States ...................................................................................26 Education .......................................................................................................................29

ii ii Retrospective Studies on West Indians ......................................................................31 Implications of Past Research on the Present Research .............................................32 Cultural Identity .............................................................................................................34 Number of Years Lived in the United States .................................................................35 Differing Methodologies ................................................................................................36 Summary ........................................................................................................................38 Chapter 3: Research Method ..............................................................................................40 Introduction ....................................................................................................................40 Research Design ............................................................................................................40 Research Questions ........................................................................................................41 Setting and Sample ........................................................................................................42 Population ..................................................................................................................42 Sampling Method and Eligibility Criteria ..................................................................43 Sample Size ................................................................................................................43 Procedures ..................................................................................................................44 Instrumentation ..............................................................................................................46 Demographic Questionnaire ......................................................................................46 The Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM) ....................................................46 Academic Motivation Scale (AMS) ...........................................................................48 Analysis .........................................................................................................................50 Ethical Considerations ...................................................................................................51 Chapter 4: Results ..............................................................................................................52

iii iii Introduction ....................................................................................................................52 Data Management and Scoring ......................................................................................52 Data Screening ...............................................................................................................53 Data Analysis .................................................................................................................53 Sample Demographics ...............................................................................................53 Preliminary Analysis ..................................................................................................57 Results that Bear on the Hypotheses ..........................................................................58 Summary ........................................................................................................................61 Chapter 5: Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations ..............................................63 Introduction ....................................................................................................................63 Interpretation of the Findings ........................................................................................64 Limitations .....................................................................................................................65 Social Change Implications ...........................................................................................68 Recommendations for Action ........................................................................................70 Recommendations for Future Study ..............................................................................70 Conclusion .....................................................................................................................71 References ..........................................................................................................................73 Appendix A: Email Correspondence between Sasha Soon and Dr. Jean Phinney Regarding the use of the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure..........................................81 Appendix B: Original Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (Phinney, 1992) ...................85 Appendix C: Email Correspondence between Sasha Soon and Dr. Robert Vallerand Regarding the use of the Academic Motivation Scale .......................................................87

iv iv Appendix D: Academic Motivation Scale (Vallerand, et al., 1992) ..................................89 Appendix E: Demographic Questionnaire .........................................................................91 Appendix F: Consent Form ................................................................................................92 Appendix G: Letter to Faculty Advisor and President of the Trinbago Club ....................95 Appendix H: Flyer Distributed/ Mailed to Prospective Participants of the Study .............96 Curriculum Vitae ...............................................................................................................97

v v List of Tables Table 1. Demographic Characteristics of the Sample N = 76 ............................................55

Table 2. Means and Standard Deviations on Motivation towards Academic Success among Cultural Identity and Number of Years Lived in the United States .......................56

Table 3. Two-way ANOVA on Motivation towards Academic Success among Cultural

Identity and Number of Years Lived in the United States ................................................ 58

vi vi

List of Figures

Figure 1. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs ..............................................................................18

Figure 2. Power as a function of sample size.....................................................................43

Figure 3. Bar graph of mean scores for motivation towards academic success by cultural identity ...............................................................................................................................59

Figure 4. Bar graph of mean scores for motivation towards academic success by number of years lived in the United States .....................................................................................60

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Chapter 1: Introduction to the Study Introduction

Education is considered to be important to many individuals. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2008), in the third quarter of 2008, it was estimated that 18.6 million students were enrolled in colleges and universities around the United States. O ut of these 18.6 million students, it was estimated that 4.5 million were freshmen. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2004), this number is a dramatic increase of students compared to the 670,000 freshmen entering college in 1955. This increase suggests that the value of education is increasing across the c ountry. The reported number of students who entered college in 2008 says nothing about the specific individuals who make up this statistic. Students who attend college in t he United States come from various countries and cultures around the world. One region of

the world that has been providing the United States with a large number of college students is the West Indies. The West Indian population is likely to grow give n that the United States offers more educational and employment opportunities to West India ns than their countries of origin (Deaux et al., 2007).. Much of the research that will be discussed in the literature review states t hat West Indian college students have high motivation for academic success. In addition to

this finding, however, research by Deaux et al. (2007) has shown that first-generat ion West Indian college students are more motivated toward academic success than s econd- generation West Indian college students. It has been suggested that the way i n which a West Indian college student identified him or herself culturally was relate d to stereotype

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threat that affected the student’s level of motivation (Waters, 1994, 1999a, 1999b). Stereotype threat refers to the increased likelihood that a particular group m ay experience a stereotype that exists about another group (Waters, 1994, 1999a, 1999b). In this study, stereotype threat may be experienced by West Indians because of the alrea dy known stereotypes that exist among groups such as African Americans (Thomas, 2003; Waters, 1999b). It was also speculated that as the number of years that a West Indian l ives in the United States increases his or her level of academic motivation might decre ase (Waters, 1999b). Some research found that West Indians in general had low rates of academic

achievement (Mitchell, 2005); however, little differentiation was made betwee n first and second generation individuals in his study. Given that academic motivation appears to be high for some members of this group but not others, it is important to understand what could be affecting a West Indian college student’s level of academic motivation. Low motivation for academ ic success for the West Indian college student has implications for low achievement scores , high dropout rates, and future negative employment and lifelong satisfaction (Mitche ll, 2005), and therefore is a problem worthy of study. This research examined two of the factors that might have an effect on West Indian college students’ motivation toward academic success. Although there m ay be numerous variables that affect an individual’s motivation toward academic succ ess, cultural identity and number of years lived in the United States were the varia bles examined in this dissertation. As will be discussed in the literature review, c ultural identity was a variable of interest because West Indians have been shown to have hig h

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levels of cultural identity (Guy, 2002). The number of years lived in the United Stat es was a variable of interest based on Waters’s (1994, 1999a, & 1999b) research that found the way West Indians classify themselves culturally is influenced by the number of years that they live in the United States. This research investigated the rela tionship and interaction between a West Indian college student’s cultural identity, number of years lived in the United States, and his or her motivation toward academic success. The motivation for exploring this relationship was to learn whether West Indians’ se nse of nationality and culture has an effect on their motivation to do well in academics in t he United States. If the results of this study show that there is a significant relationship between these variables, perhaps educators in the college setting could reinf orce cultural identity among West Indian students. In chapter 2 of this dissertation, I will discuss some of the reasons that West Indians choose to immigrate to the United States, but it is reported that what mainly fuels emigration is the search for a better l ife for oneself and one’s family (Daniel, 2004), which may initially come from achieving academi c success. Background of the Study

For West Indians, a better life can be achieved primarily through academi c achievement (Daniel, 2004). As I will discuss in detail in the following chapter, e ducation is valued in the West Indian culture (Bashi Bobb & Clarke, 2001). With an education, one can achieve upward mobility that will not only benefit oneself but also the peopl e in one’s family (Forsythe-Brown, 2005). The West Indian culture has also come to real ize that in the present day, attainment of at least a college education is important i n order to further one’s personal and professional aspirations (Daniel, 2004). For this reas on, a

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number of West Indian young adults leave their country of origin and seek out educational opportunities in the United States with the hopes of achieving success that

can change their lives (Bashi Bobb & Clarke, 2001). West Indian immigrants in the United States have a strong sense of cultural identity. One of the reported coping mechanisms West Indian immigrants us e to help combat the stressors of the immigrant experience is holding on to the culture of the ir country of origin (Guy, 2002). For the West Indian immigrant, a strong sense of cul tural identity is a way to differentiate themselves from ethnic groups such as Africa n Americans who might have similar physical characteristics (Waters, 2001) . The number of years that a West Indian immigrant lives in the United States might ha ve an effect on his or her level of cultural identity and may also influence the cultural and ethnic labels that they use for self endorsement (Waters, 1990, 1994, 1999a). Statement of the Problem Moving to the United States in pursuit of a better way of life has been a trend for West Indians since the late 1800s (Kasinitz, 1999). Many West Indian immigrants seek success in academics upon arriving in the United States and research in this are a has supported the fact that this group is motivated for achieving academic success (Bashi Bobb & Clarke, 2001; Coates, 2004; Daniel, 2004; Model, 1991; Rogers, 2001). Waters (1994, 1999a, 1999b) and Deaux et al. (2007), however, suspected that as a West Indian student’s generational status (first generation to a later generation) inc reases, his or her motivation toward academic success might decrease. Waters purported that thi s relationship could be because generational status affects a West Indian stud ent’s cultural

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identity in the larger American society. Cultural identity has been shown to be of

importance to West Indians (Guy, 2002), and Waters (1994, 1999a, 1999b) has shown that this variable is affected by the number of years that a West Indian imm igrant lives in the United States. As the amount of time that a West Indian immigrant lives in the United States increases, it has also been purported that motivation toward academic suc cess decreases due to a decrease in the level of cultural identity. To date, however, there have been no studies found that directly address the issue of cultural identity and how it relates to West Indian students’ academic motivation. Mitchell (2005) reported that som e West Indians have low motivation toward academic success. Mitchell did not, however, explore the differences between those West Indians who had low motivation and those who had high motivation. This decrease in academic motivation has academic implications such as low achievement scores and high dropout rates (Mitchell, 2005) tha t create barriers between the individual’s main reasons for immigrating to t he United States, which include a better quality of life and upward mobility (Daniel, 2004).

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to quantitatively examine the influence of cultural

identity and number of years lived in the United States on the motivation toward academic success among the West Indian immigrant college population. The study w as designed to examine the impact of the variables of cultural identity and number of y ears lived in the United States on motivation toward academic success among West I ndian immigrant college students, in an effort to inform educators as well as ment al health professionals about how they can continue to encourage this population to succeed in the

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area of education. It was also hoped that the results of this study could benefi t other immigrant groups who enter American colleges. Research Questions and Hypotheses The following research questions were designed from a review of the lite rature regarding West Indians and the value that they place in education: Research Question #1: What is the main effect of cultural identity, measured by the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure on the motivation towards academic suc cess, measured by the Academic Motivation Scale, for West Indian college students ? H o 1: There is no main effect of cultural identity, measured by the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure, on the motivation towards academic success, measur ed by the Academic Motivation Scale, for West Indian college students. H a 1: There is a main effect of cultural identity, measured by the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure, on the motivation towards academic success, measur ed by the Academic Motivation Scale, for West Indian college students. Research Question #2: What is the main effect of number of years lived in the United States on the motivation towards academic success, measured by the Aca demic Motivation Scale, for West Indian college students? H o 2: There is no main effect of number of years lived in the United States on the motivation towards academic success, measured by the Academic Motivation S cale, for West Indian college students.

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H a 2: There is a main effect of number of years lived in the United States on the motivation towards academic success, measured by the Academic Motivation S cale, for West Indian college students. Research Question #3: What is the interaction effect between cultural identity, measured by the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure, and number of years live d in the United States on the motivation towards academic success, measured by the Ac ademic Motivation Scale, for West Indian college students. H o 3: There is no interaction effect between cultural identity, measured by the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure, and number of years lived in the United State s on the motivation towards academic success, measured by the Academic Motivati on Scale, for West Indian college students. H a 3: There is an interaction effect between cultural identity, measured by t he Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure, and number of years lived in the United State s on the motivation towards academic success, measured by the Academic Motivati on Scale, for West Indian college students. In chapter 3 of this dissertation, there will be a more detailed description of the nature of this study, including the research design, instrumentation, and method of analysis. Theoretical Construct The definition of the term motivation needs to be clarified in an effort to make sense of this dissertation. According to Halepota (2005), motivation is talked about extensively but not very clearly understood. Conroy (1994) defined motivation as an

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individual’s participation in and commitment to achieving results and Buhler (2003) stated that “motivation is reflected in the amount of effort that one invests i n a given task” (p. 20). These two definitions of the term motivation were used in this resea rch. The construct of motivation was used throughout this dissertation to guide an understanding of what contributes to West Indian college students’ desire to achieve academ ic success and understand why some West Indian college students are motivated toward acade mic success while others are not. The theory that was used in this study is Maslow’s theory of motivation (Maslow, 1954) and it purports that each individual has five needs—physiological needs, safety needs, social needs, esteem needs, and self actualization needs—that a re hierarchal in nature and motivate individuals to achieve certain goals that can help to satisfy each need. The hierarchal nature of each need means that lower needs must be satisfied i n order to achieve higher ones. The foundation of this motivational theory is that individuals are motivated to behave by their unsatisfied needs and once a particular ne ed is satisfied the individual is motivated to the next higher need (Maslow, 1971). For the West Indian college student, achieving academic success improves one’s quality of life and also increases the likelihood for a better life for the indiv idual as well as his or her family (Daniel, 2004). It was suspected that cultural identity will be correlated with motivation to achieve academic success given that resea rch has purported that the values that West Indians have about their culture act as motivators in t he areas where other similar groups have shown underperformance (Bashi Bobb & Clarke, 2001). It was also suspected that the number of years that a student lives in the United St ates

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will have an effect on his or her level of cultural identity (Waters, 1994, 1999a, 1999b). This research was designed to understand what motivates West Indian students to achieve academic success. Definition of Terms

College Student: For the purpose of this study, a college student is an individual who is enrolled in a degree program at an institution of higher learning. A disti nction is made between an individual who is enrolled in a degree program as opposed to a non- degree student because degree seeking students are typically on the path to comple tion of their education by obtaining a degree. Non-degree students may or may not be seeki ng a degree and thus may not possess the same motivational level as degree students do to complete their education. Culture: According to O’Hagan (1999), the word culture is derived from the French word “culture” and the Latin word “cultura” which mean “successfu l tilling of the land; the improvement of crop and crop production by labor and care” (p. 270). The word has developed to include humans and the advancement of education and training (O’Hagan, 1999). O’Hagan defined culture as “the distinctive way of life of the grou p, race, class, community, or nation to which the individual belongs. It (culture) is the “product of the values, ideas, perceptions, and meanings which have evolved over time” (p. 273). Cultural Identity: This term is defined by O’Hagan (1999) as “the sense of sameness and belonging which the individual experiences in living, sharing, and expressing a particular culture” (p. 273).

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Education: In this dissertation, education will refer to knowledge that is acquired through formal teaching. Formal teaching in this research refers to educat ion that is acquired in an academic environment such as an institution of higher learning. West Indian: This

is a term that refers to individuals who are born in the geographic region of the Caribbean that is bordered by the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean (Brent & Callwood, 1993). The countries that make up the West Indie s include Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana , Jamaica, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Trinidad and Tobago. According to Freeman (2002), individuals who characterize themselves as being West Indian t end to hold their cultural identification highly even after immigrating to another c ountry.

Assumptions In this study, it was assumed that the relationship between a West Indian coll ege student’s cultural identity, number of years lived in the United States, and his or her

motivation toward academic success was an important area worth investigati ng. It was assumed that all participants would complete the questionnaires truthfully and t o the best of their ability. Although the number of participants in this study is not enough to generalize the results to the entire West Indian college student population in the U nited States, it was assumed that these results could be generalized to a simila r college setting in a suburban area. The final assumption was that the construct of motivation and cultural identity were operationally defined and measured accurately.

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Limitations Limitations of this study include generalizability. This study took place at a community college in a suburban community in New York City; therefore, the results of this study may not be able to be generalized to other cities in the United State s. In addition, similar results may not be produced in different college settings s uch as private or four year colleges. Another limitation of the study was that participants w ho were willing to take part in this research might have been a self-selected g roup that was more motivated toward academic success and had a higher level of cultural identity. I n addition, participants were chosen in a nonrandom fashion through their membership in West Indian cultural groups on campus as well as through word of mouth from students who participated in the study. This sampling strategy could have had an effe ct on the results of the study. In this study I used a factorial design and explored the main effects of cul tural identity and number of years lived in the United States on motivation toward acade mic success among West Indian college students and the interaction between cultura l identity and the number of years lived in the United State of the same group. Due to the factori al design of the study, causation cannot be assumed with any of the variables. Significance of the Study

This dissertation is presented in an effort to identify two of the variables tha t might contribute to a West Indian college student’s motivation toward academic success. It was believed that recognizing these variables may have implications for the attainment of education among West Indian college students in the United States. In this s tudy I

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examined the variables of cultural identity and number of years lived in the Unit ed States and their influence on motivation for academic success among a specific gr oup; however, it is possible that these variables may have the same affect for other im migrant groups. Determining whether or not variables such as these play a part in motivation for academic success can push educators as well as mental health professionals working in the

academic world to embrace students’ culture and help students embrace their own culture. Being culturally competent is considered vital to institutions today (Sue & Sue, 2008). Specifically in the college setting, cultural competence is important for educators, administration, and counselors who work with students from various countries (Cross, Bazron, Dennis, & Isaacs). Systems and organizations that exemplify cultur al competence demonstrate an acceptance and respect for cultural differenc es, and they develop policies and practices to ensure that staff integrate cultural compete nce into various aspects of the organization (Cross, Bazron, Dennis, & Isaacs, 1989). This study has implications for social change in that by integrating cult ure into one’s understanding of the West Indian client or student, educators may be able t o better assist them (Brent & Callwood, 1993). Understanding the relationship that exists be tween a West Indian college student’s cultural identity and motivation toward acade mic success also allows professionals to understand the role that culture plays in the attainme nt of education while assisting them in a culturally sensitive manner. It was hoped tha t the results of this study would reinforce the importance for those who are involved with institutions of higher education to understand the needs of students on their campuses and the variables that could affect motivation toward academic success. Gaini ng this

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understanding has the power to facilitate learning and ultimately promote a cademic success among various immigrant groups in the college setting. As will be addressed in this study, West Indians place emphasis on achieving academic success ( Daniel, 2004); however, for some subgroups of this population, the motivation toward attaining this goal is lower than others. The implications for social change are that (a) educat ors may be better able to identify academic interventions and strategies for this subg roup which may contribute to their overall academic success and (b) West Indian college s tudents may become more aware of how their culture, generational status, and number of years in the United States impacts their motivation for academic success. Summary This research sought to determine the interaction between West Indian c ollege students’ cultural identity and number of years lived in the United States, and the i mpact on motivation toward academic success. Daniel (2004) found that West Indians migra te to the United States in search of a better life for themselves and their fam ilies. For West Indians, one of the ways that life success can be accomplished is through educat ional attainment. People from the West Indies consider education to be a privilege a nd education enables one to achieve upward mobility through better employment opportunities (Bashi Bobb & Clarke, 2001). Upon entering the United States, West Indians are not immune to the racism and discrimination that is experienced by minor ity groups, especially African Americans (Thomas, 2003). Due to similar physica l characteristics of West Indians and African Americans, in many instance s, West Indians are subjected to similar discrimination that African Americans face (Thom as, 2003). Guy

Full document contains 113 pages
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of cultural identity and number of years lived in the United States on motivation toward academic success of West Indian college students. Maslow's motivational theory served as the theoretical foundation for this study. Past research has shown that West Indians believe that social mobility comes from achieving academic success. Little attention has been given to how the independent variables of cultural identity and the length of time lived in the United States may affect the dependent variable of the West Indian college student's motivation toward academic success. Seventy-six West Indian college students at a community college were participants in this quantitative study. Each participant was given a demographic questionnaire, the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM), which measures cultural identity, and the Academic Motivation Scale (AMS), which measures motivation towards academic success. Cultural identity was categorized as high or low based on participants' scores on the MEIM and number of years lived in the United States were transposed into four bracketed groupings of 1-6, 7-12, 13-18, and 19-24. The data were analyzed using a factorial analysis of variance. There were no statistically significant effects for cultural identity and number of years lived in the United States on motivation for academic success. Implications for positive social change are identifying academic interventions and strategies and including motivational factors specific to this population that may contribute to their overall academic success.