In Their Own Voices: The Influence of Grade Retention on the Self-Efficacy and Aspirations of Adolescents




Montgomery, Veronica D.

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This multiple case study explores the self-constructed meaning derived from retention experiences through the perspective of adolescents 15 years of age and older. Using symbolic interactionism theory and self-efficacy as theoretical frameworks, it focuses on their attitudes, beliefs, goals, and aspirations. Six high school students and at least one teacher, associated with each student, participated in this qualitative study. Each participant experienced retention at least once in his or her formal school years. Retrospective educational life stories, elicited by in-depth interviews, describe the students’ perspective concerning their experience(s) with retention. The dominant themes identified from students’ interviews suggest that students perceive retention as a life changing event that none wanted to repeat. Most students used the experience as a catalyst to improve their academic progress. Students cited family issues among the most prevalent reasons for their retention, followed by a lack of preventative academic measures for avoiding retention and failure to understand presented material. The findings from this study concur with (Grant; 1997 and Smink, 2001) who state, as educators, we need better support systems for students at risk of failure. This support system is in need of updating, rethinking, and strengthening. This study suggests that existing efforts to prevent and remediate retained students are not reaching every student. Most students in this study suggested more one-on-one time with caring adults within the school to interrupt grade failure cycles and reduce the number of students who give up on education.



Adolescents, Aspirations, Case study, Influence of retention, Perspectives of students, Retention