Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Zewelanji Serpell


As the student body in the United States continues to become more diverse, it is critically important to understand the factors that influence African American and Latinx students’ engagement, including what they bring to the classroom, and their perceptions of what is occurring in the classroom. During early adolescence, youth are making meaning and internalizing the proximal influences their classrooms have on their sense of self and subsequent academic outcomes. Among school variables, teaching quality accounts for some amount of variation in student achievement.

This dissertation project explored whether there were gender differences among 205 middle school students’ perceptions of classroom practices. The study also assessed whether differences in boys’ and girls’ perceptions of classroom practices had different influences on their self-systems (e.g., components of ethnic-racial identity and social efficacy with teacher), and classroom engagement.

Study results suggest that boys and girls rate similar exposure to social-emotional classroom practices from their teachers, however invariance tests demonstrate these practices have different meanings for boys and girls. In addition, results indicate that exposure to social-emotional classroom practices is affirming for components of boys’ ethnic-racial identity, such as their racial centrality, public regard, and private regard, which in turn predicted higher classroom engagement. Whereas for girls, classroom practices only affirmed their private regard which in turn predicted higher classroom engagement. Social efficacy with one’s teacher did not mediate the association between classroom practices and classroom engagement as previously hypothesized for neither girls nor boys. This study also found that girls’ grade level was an important covariate in the model, which implies there are important developmental considerations in the dynamic relationship between the classroom context and students’ self-systems.

Findings from this study suggest some important implications for policy and curricula development around teacher training and teaching practices that enhance academic and social outcomes for students of color. In particular, practices that encourage collaboration and sharing of ideas and knowledge among African and Latinx students are both developmentally, and culturally responsive for students’ sense of self and engagement in class.


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