Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Joshua M. Gold


For years educators have made attempts to explain the effects of poverty on student achievement. Many have set out to explore methods for better helping students with limited resources succeed academically, thus bridging the achievement gap between these students and their financially stable counterparts. The ultimate combination of poverty and race/ethnicity define major sources of disadvantage in educational outcomes (Maruyama, 2003). Viewing this from a racial standpoint places African American students at the receiving end of low achievement as a result of low socioeconomic status.

The missing thread that could potentially pull this together exists among the population of impoverished African American students who overcome the odds and succeed academically. Wiggan (2007) emphasized the importance of the perceptions of motivational factors among high achieving African American students regarding their learning environment, both home and school in attempts to offer insight for those that struggle. The focus of this comparative case study was to identify motivational factors in achievement among high and low achieving African American female high school students within a South Carolina public school setting.

This qualitative study consisted of interviews of both high and low achieving African American tenth grade females on their perceptions of the various factors that motivate them. The data gathered from the interviews was transcribed and analyzed in order to discern various themes, patterns and trends surrounding the context of motivation. The information gained from the life experiences of the participants was used to provide educators with an awareness and helpful insight into what factors contribute to motivating this population of students, thus giving them access to the tools necessary for the development of productive approaches in moving low SES students that struggle towards success. Study limitations and implications for further research and study expansion were also addressed.


© 2016, Ashanti C. Friels

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