Date of Award

Spring 2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership

Committee Director

John Nunnery

Committee Member

Karen Crum

Committee Member

William Owings


Using the cultural-ecological and the personal perspective theory, this study examined the relationship of sociological and psychological factors on academic effort. This research used multiple linear regression analyses and data from the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 to examine the extent to which personal, cultural, and school structural variables predict academic effort among a sample of 10th grade African American students.

African American students' personal perceptions characterizing their belief in the importance of education, their value of schooling, and their desire for higher learning were strongly correlated with academic effort. The results also indicated parental involvement and parental aspirations played a substantial role in predicting student levels of academic effort. After controlling for personal and cultural factors, school factors were found to have no significant relationship with academic effort. For both groups, gender comparisons revealed that personal factors and parental involvement and aspirations were related to levels academic effort, while school factors such as course enrollment, personnel aspirations, and school climate showed no significant relationship with academic effort among African American male and female students. The findings showed personnel aspirations were positive and significant predictors of academic effort among African American males whereas for females, personnel aspirations were positively associated with academic effort but not significantly influential. Furthermore, course enrollment and school climate were found to have no significant relationship with academic effort among females; however, both measures have a relatively small effect on academic effort among male. In total, the non-significant effect of family SES and family educational resources on academic effort was a surprising finding from this study. Overall, personal and cultural factors were found to be the most important predictors of academic effort among African American students.

Given these results, the study reinforced the need for researchers to take a cultural-ecological approach and the personal perspective when examining academic engagement of African American students. Also, the study implicated that educational policy, programs, and reform efforts aimed at increasing academic success among African American students should consider the effects of personal and cultural factors that influence the students' developing epistemological beliefs, which define academic effort.