How to Educate Successful Latino Students
The Latino population is the largest and fastest growing ethnic minority group in the United States (Bernstein, 2008) and, in 2006 over 9.98 million Latino youth were enrolled in schools throughout the U.S. (Pew Hispanic Center, 2008). Unfortunately, compared to all other ethnic groups, Latinos are less likely to finish high school (U.S. Census Bureau, 2008). One important factor that researchers have found to be related to success in school is academic motivation. The more academic motivation students have, the more likely they are to succeed in school (Anderson & Keith, 1997; Wentzel, 1998).
What Is Academic Motivation?
Academic motivation has been defined in many ways (Anderson & Keith, 1997; Goodenow & Grady, 1993; Gottfried, Fleming, & Gottfried, 2001; Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002; Wentzel, 1997):
- Academic effort
- Educational aspirations
- Enjoyment of learning
- Importance placed on school
- School conduct
Academic motivation is influenced by the relationships adolescents have with others (Goodenow & Grady; Linnenbrink & Pintrich). Specifically, parents and teachers have been found to have strong influences on students’ academic motivation (Harter, 1996; Matute-Bianchi, 1991; Newman, Lohman, Newman, Myers, & Smith, 2000; Wentzel).
The Importance of Parents and Teachers On Latino Academic Motivation
Parents and teachers may be especially important to consider among Latino students because the Latino culture is family oriented (Garcia-Preto, 1996; Sabogal, Marin, Otero-Sabogal, Marin, & Perez-Stable, 1987) and emphasizes the importance of extended family and relationships outside of the family (Cooper, 1999; Shweder et al., 1998).
In a recent study, my colleagues and I looked at how academic support from parents and teachers influenced Latino adolescents’ academic motivation (Alfaro, Umaña-Taylor, & Bámaca, 2006). We collected data from 324 9th and 10th grade Latino students in the Midwest. To measure academic support, we had students tell us if their mothers, fathers, teachers, and friends helped them with school and helped them make decisions about continuing their education. They also told us how motivated they were in school.
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