Investigating Identity and Resilience in Mathematically High-Achieving African American Youth
Ebony Omotola McGee

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Illinois at Chicago

Primary Discipline

Mathematics Education
My study will investigate identity formation among high-achieving African American middle and high school students to determine those factors that lead to their resilience, or success in the field. The goal this research is to confound the conceptual model of resilience I first articulated in my dissertation, Race, Identity, and Resilience: Black College Students Negotiating Success in Mathematics and Engineering. In my dissertation, I analyzed the experiences of 23 high-achieving African American mathematics and engineering college students and discovered that students succeeded because they wanted to prove racial stereotypes about their lack of ability were wrong; and because they wanted to serve as role models for other African Americans. Resilience in my work is the ability to persevere in the face of obstacles and adversity. I discovered that middle school mathematics students were most driven by a desire to prove deficiency stereotypes wrong, whereas in high school students succeeded for more purposeful and self-defined reasons. My study will test the validity of both my findings and model for the study of resilience with a larger, younger, and more diverse sample of high-achieving African American middle and high school students in honors mathematics classes. I also plan to study their beliefs about college-level math classes and their perspectives on succeeding in contexts where there are few African Americans. My previous and proposed research attempts to move the field beyond explanations that normalize African American student failure and instead highlights those factors that account for student success, even in the face of significant life and school obstacles.
About Ebony Omotola McGee

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