Date of Award

Summer 8-25-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Salvatore Terrasi

Second Advisor

Brian Becker

Third Advisor

Ying-yi Hong


The rationale for this study is that the achievement gap between Whites and Hispanics can be influenced by reconceptualizing the learner process as one that integrates culture, motivation, and psychosocial variables, with academic performance. The study investigated the role of three psychosocial variables in achievement: familism, academic self concept, and ethnocentrism. It also reconceptualized one’s culture as a toolkit for instrumental use on tasks in another culture, adopted the dynamic constructivist approach to culture’s influence, and applied the original definition of acculturation, of mutual influence of groups in contact, to achievement. A pretest/posttest comparison group design was used. White and Hispanic 8th grade students (N=72) met for two sessions. Students took pretests of the psychosocial variables, background variables related to ethnicity, and math. One month later, students were randomly assigned to the Hispanic, American, or Neutral priming conditions, given the priming task, an indirect test on psychosocial variables, the posttests of the psychosocial variables, and math. Results supported hypotheses that psychosocial variables moderate the impact of culture on achievement. Cultural priming significantly influenced psychosocial variables (effect sizes from 9-22%). Psychosocial variables significantly influenced math achievement (effect sizes from 8-17%; they significantly predicted math achievement (adjusted R square 13-22%); and they moderated culture’s impact on achievement (adjusted R square 17.8%). Findings support a two-step learner process of culture affecting psychosocial variables, which, in turn, affect academic achievement. Academic self-concept had a positive effect, ethnocentrism, a negative one, but its interaction effects with priming were positive. Familism was not a significant factor. Results did not support hypotheses based on group differences in, or correlations between, psychosocial variables based on group stereotypes, suggesting culture’s impact on achievement is more related to learner processes. Combinations of levels of academic self-concept and ethnocentrism were associated with group differences in achievement. Hispanic primes affected Whites, and American primes, Hispanics, providing support for the interdependence of achievement. The study is significant in showing culture’s influence on achievement comes through affect and motivation. Implications include a new understanding of culture’s impact on achievement, the relevance of minority culture to learning, and potential individualization of instruction within ethnic groups.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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