The relationship between cognitive style and academic achievement in African American high-school students

Sandra Ida Ross, Fordham University


This study investigated dimensions of cognitive style in ninth-, tenth-, and eleventh-grade African-American high-school students. Although research indicates that an analytic, rather than a relational, style is a predictor of academic success, research also indicates that African-American students tend to be significantly more relational than analytic. This study investigated cognitive-style predictors of academic success for African-American students. The four conceptual hypotheses were (1) Achievement would be correlated with analytical perceptual style (2) Achievement would be correlated with analytical conceptual style (3) Achievement would be correlated with the introverted and intuitive personality characteristics and (4) Cognitive style would predict achievement better than gender or social class. Subjects were 96 African-American students, 49 males and 47 females. A Euro-American sample (59 volunteers) was included to separate school from ethnic factors. The study used the following instruments: the Group Embedded Figures Test, the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Clayton-Jackson Object Sorting Test, and the Mainstream Participation Questionnaire. Correlational coefficients, stepwise multiple regressions, and Fisher's Z transformations were computed to assess the relationship between the cognitive measures (GEFT, CJOST, MBTI), and gender, social class, and achievement. Findings of the study indicated that, although as a group this African-American sample appeared to be relational in perception, variation in analytical-perceptual style predicted achievement better than any other cognitive-style variable and was correlated with achievement in general, and all academic subjects. No associations were found, however, between analytical conceptual style and achievement. In the realm of personality, extraversion predicted achievement. Some gender differences were found; achievement and classification as more thinking were associated with female gender. Higher social class was related to a more analytical perceptual style. An examination of a small subgroup of high-achieving African-American students was undertaken in order to better understand the processes used by successful students. The small sample size prohibited a full statistical analysis and interpretation. Findings from this sample were inconsistent with the literature. Variation in conceptual style was correlated with general academic achievement and academic subjects. No significant social class or gender differences were found. The Euro-American comparison group results were generally consistent with empirical findings and theoretical assumptions.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Ross, Sandra Ida, "The relationship between cognitive style and academic achievement in African American high-school students" (1994). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9425205.