School of Education Distinguished Professor Jacquelynne Eccles was an invited plenary speaker at the recent Cognitive Development Society (CDS) international meeting. The CDS, which was incorporated in September 1999 in order to provide a unified voice for the wide range of scholars, practitioners, and others who are interested in change and continuity in the intellectual processes that support mental life, met in Portland, Oregon, October 12-14.
Professor Eccles, recognized internationally for her research on academic motivation and achievement, school and family influences on adolescent development, and gender and ethnicity in STEM fields, spoke about the role of personal and social identities in academic achievement and shared findings from a large scale longitudinal study of African American youth.
Title of Address: The Role of Personal and Social Identities in Academic Achievement: The Case of African American Adolescents
In this talk, Dr. Eccles presented the argument that both individual and group differences in something like academic achievement are influenced by both expectations for success and the subjective task value attached to success in challenging task. Furthermore, both individual and group differences in expectations for one’s own likely success and the subjective task value are influenced by the specific contents of one’s personal and social identities. Eccles defined personal identities as those identities that make one unique and social identities as those identities that serve one’s belongingness needs. To the extent that excelling in academics is part of either one’s personal or social identities, then the probability of engaging the behaviors necessary to excel in academics will be increased.
Eccles summarized the results of a large scale longitudinal study that has followed a population of African American youth from age 12 to age 27. She identified processes related to African American identities, experiences of racial discrimination in school, and developmental changes in academic achievement.