African American male students and achievement in school mathematics
Stinson, David Wayne
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The purpose of this study was to shed light on the schooling experiences of African American male students who embraced school, academics, and mathematics. In particular, the study examined the influence of sociocultural discourses on the agency of 4 African American men in their early 20s who demonstrated achievement and persistence in school mathematics. Agency in this context was defined as the participants’ ability to accommodate, resist, or reconfigure the available sociocultural discourses that surround African American males in order for them to effectively negotiate these discourses in their pursuit of success. The study used qualitative action research methodology (Kemmis & Wilkinson, 1998) located within a critical postmodern theoretical frame (Kincheloe & McLaren, 1994). More specifically, the participants of the study were asked to read, reflect on, and respond to current research literature regarding the schooling experiences of African American male students. Their responses were analyzed using an eclectic theoretical framework that included poststructural theory, critical race theory, and critical (postmodern) theory. Poststructural theory provided a frame for rethinking and redefining key concepts such as person, agency, and power, among others. Critical race theory provided a frame for understanding how the discourse of race and racism operates within U.S. social structures. And critical (postmodern) theory provided a frame for discussing the purposes of education research. The reporting and analysis of the data revealed that the participants had acquired robust mathematics identities (Martin, 2000), identities that positively impacted their sense of agency. How the participants acquired such uncharacteristic mathematics identities for African American male students was to be found, in part, in how they understood the sociocultural structures and discourses of U.S. society and how they accommodated, resisted, or reconfigured the specific discourses that surround African American males. Although at times the responses from the participants were similar, their responses were never monolithic—not across participants, and not even within participants. Present throughout the responses from each participant, however, was recognition of himself as a discursive formation (Foucault, 1969/1972) who could actively accommodate, resist, or reconfigure sociocultural discourses as a means to subversively repeat (Butler, 1990) his constituted “raced” self.