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Racial Differences in the Formation of Postsecondary Educational Expectations: A Structural Model

by Samuel D. Museus, Shaun R. Harper & Andrew H. Nichols - 2010

Background: Educational attainment is associated with a plethora of positive economic and social implications for individuals, institutions, and the broader society. One factor that has been identified as an important predictor of students’ educational attainment is their educational expectations. Thus, understanding how educational expectations are shaped is important to comprehending how success can be fostered among students from diverse racial backgrounds.

Purpose of the Study: This quantitative study is aimed at understanding the process by which students from various racial backgrounds cultivate and reformulate their educational expectations during the high school years. Three research questions were explored in this study: (1) How do various academic and interpersonal factors directly affect students’ educational expectations? (2) How do academic and interpersonal factors indirectly affect students’ educational expectations via their self-perceptions? and (3) How do those effects vary across different racial groups?

Populations and Participants: The National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS) survey was first administered to students in the spring of eighth grade, and the first two follow-up surveys were administered in the spring of those students’ 10th- and 12th-grade years. Students who participated in the NELS surveys from the base year to the second follow-up (88:92) were included in the omnibus analysis, resulting in an overall sample size of 12,144. That sample was divided into Asian (n = 764), Black (n =1,041), Latina/o (n =1,444), Native American (n= 399), and White (n = 7,626) subsamples, and a parallel analysis was conducted to allow for the comparison of effects across various racial subpopulations.

Research Design: Using a pretest-posttest design and structural equation modeling techniques, we created a structural model and examined how academic and interpersonal factors directly and indirectly, via self-efficacy and locus of control, influence students’ educational expectations. Particular attention is given to how those effects vary across racial subpopulations.

Conclusions and Recommendations: Relationships between the results of this inquiry and earlier studies are complex, with some of our findings confirming and some contradicting those of other researchers. The results of this analysis indicate that the process by which students formulate and reformulate their educational expectations during the high school years varies across racial groups. Recommendations for future research involve considering racial, gender, socioeconomic, and other differences in examining students’ educational expectations and outcomes. We also recommend that future research focus on understanding the reasons why such racial differences exist.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 112 Number 3, 2010, p. 811-842
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15890, Date Accessed: 5/13/2021 1:47:29 PM

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About the Author
  • Samuel D. Museus
    University of Massachusetts Boston
    SAMUEL D. MUSEUS is an assistant professor of higher education at the University of Massachusetts Boston. His research focuses on the impact of higher education policy and institutional environments on college access and success among low-income and racial minority students. He is coeditor (with Shaun R. Harper) of Using Qualitative Methods in Institutional Assessment (Jossey-Bass, 2007).
  • Shaun Harper
    University of Pennsylvania
    E-mail Author
    SHAUN R. HARPER is an assistant professor of higher education management at the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education. His research interests are racism and gender disparities in higher education, Black male college achievement, and the effects of college environments on student outcomes. He is coeditor (with Stephen John Quaye) of Student Engagement in Higher Education: Theoretical Perspectives and Practical Approaches for Diverse Populations (Routledge, 2008).
  • Andrew Nichols
    The Pennsylvania State University
    ANDREW H. NICHOLS is a doctoral candidate and research assistant in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at The Pennsylvania State University. His research examines the impact of race and ethnicity on the postsecondary educational experiences of students of color at predominantly White institutions and the current state of interrace relations and cross-cultural engagement among student populations. He is coauthor (with Samuel D. Museus and Amber D. Lambert) of “Racial Differences in the Effects of Campus Racial Climate on Persistence: A Structural Equation Model,” published in the Review of Higher Education.
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