Research Projects: Robert Morris University Research Projects | Robert Morris University

Uzuri Think Tank

African American Male STEM Workers:  A Critical Approach to Understanding Academic Experiences/Success in Degree Progression and Advancement

The most current available national data for African American degree attainment by gender for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) at the Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral levels were analyzed to determine specific deficits in degree attainment within majors.  Results indicate African Americans are acutely underrepresented in some majors (Astronomy, Atmospheric Sciences) but are gaining ground in others (Biological Sciences).  Specific graduation numbers are explored along with knowledge gaps in higher education and future implications. 

This investigation focuses on scrutinizing the most current figures behind the headlines of African Americans graduating (or not) with STEM degrees.  This initiative speaks to the necessity for continued efforts of critical thinking, research, and applications to correct the divergent numbers aligned with African American degree attainment in core STEM fields.  What are the most recent numbers saying about the graduates of core STEM fields?  Preliminary findings are used to generate hypotheses.


Perspectives:  A Study of Black Male Educational Success

This research initiative endeavors to identify and examine key factors that facilitate academic success among Black males.  In conjunction with a developed interview protocol, this study’s research question elucidated the pertinent factors that contribute to studying success factors.  The qualitative inquiry fostered a deeper understanding of African American men’s experiences, as opposed to quantitative methods that would fail to uncover the heart of the phenomena under study.  Sample size is estimated to be 30 participants.  Face-to-face interviews were conducted.  Participants were asked to share their story of educational success (e.g., “Tell us your story.  What determined your current success?”).


Enhancing Black Male Academic Achievement:  Study Skill Proficiency

Studying is intentional.  Effective studying requires not only the knowledge and application of skills, but volition as well.  It differs from incidental learning in that it is purposeful and requires a deliberate and conscious effort on the part of the student.  It is highly personal and individualized.  Whereas classroom learning occurs within a social context through interaction and guidance from others (e.g., peers, teachers), studying is often an individual activity.  Even when learning is fostered through a process of social communication, individual study behaviors still play a critical role in academic competence. 

A random sample of 40 Robert Morris University African American male students ages 20 to 22 years old, representing 8 major courses of study, were given a survey to assess awareness of study skills needs over several domains (e.g., reading textbooks, taking notes, studying, memorizing, preparing for tests, managing time, motivation/attitude, and writing).  The survey was a scale  (Skills) taken from the Academic Success Inventory for College Students (ASICS). Cronbach’s alpha and the 95% confidence interval for the instrument were .93 (.92-94), lending support for the internal consistency of the questionnaire. Participants were asked to rate skills that resonated as most important, somewhat important, not important or underdeveloped.  A subsample of 8 men representing the 8 major represented in the larger sample participated in a focus group.  The goal of the group was to have participants share their best study skill practices sharing when they employed them, under what conditions, and why.    This is an ongoing initiative.


Cultural Tailored Study Skills Strategies

This study examines test taking and study skills strategies employed by African American male students.  Are there benefits that accrue from study skills trainings that are designed to meet the culturally specific needs of African American men?  Underdeveloped strategies were identified and evaluated to determine if cultural tailored study skill training increased understanding and academic effectiveness. 

Thirty RMU African American male students engaged in a structured discussion on test taking strategies. A list of 10 test taking strategies that were compiled by African American male faculty and administrators were presented as discussion topics. The 10 test taking strategies were relatively standard tips but the subsequent questions and discussion were designed to ensure that they were presented and discussed using language (verbal and non-verbal) consistent with the cultural communication shared throughout the semester.  Simply put, the facilitators were advised to “keep it real” and incorporate their experiences with academic success, failure and particularly test taking antidotes. Facilitators were Black male faculty/administrators that had served as advisors for the students over the course of one academic year. After the presentation, the facilitators engaged discussion with the men about their understanding and use of the strategies. Participants were encouraged to share personal stories about their test taking experiences including successes and failures.