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An Exploration of Students’ Experiences with Resilience in Chess Programs

in Two Inner-City Middle Schools

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IEby

Salome Thomas-EL
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A dissertation submitted to the faculty of


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Wilmington University in partial fulfillment

of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Education

Wilmington University

April 2019

Copyright 2019 by Salome Thomas-EL






ProQuest Number: 13862898




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An Exploration of Students’ Experiences with Resilience in Chess Programs

in Two Inner-City Middle Schools

by

Salome Thomas-EL

I certify that I have read this dissertation and that in my opinion it meets the academic and

professional standards required by Wilmington University as a dissertation for the degree of

Doctor of Education.

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Thomas J. Vari, Ed.D., Chairperson of Dissertation Committee
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Joseph A. Massare, Ed.D., Member of the Dissertation Committee
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John C. Gray, Ed.D., Professor and Dean, College of Education


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Acknowledgements

Simply put, this dissertation has been a journey! For years, I was ABD, but I never lost

my desire to finish this very important research. This dissertation and the work that I have been

able to accomplish would not have been possible without the support of Wilmington University

and its wonderful staff. I would like to especially thank the President, Dr. Harmon, and the Dean

of the College of Education, Dr. Gray, who gave me the opportunity to complete my research

and make an impact on my community and the world.

My dissertation committee was the best team ever and the most supportive mentors. I am

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grateful for the leadership, patience, diligence, and commitment of my chair, Dr. Thomas Vari

and my second reader, Dr. Joseph Massare. They taught me how to become a good researcher
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and writer. If not for them, I would not be finished this dissertation.
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My team at Thomas Edison Charter School has been my rock. The teachers, staff,

students, and parents have been very supportive over the past decade. My administrative team

deserves so much credit for all I have done as they keep my school running smoothly, not me.
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They are a true blessing! A special thanks is needed for all my colleagues I have worked with

over the past 30 years, and the students who have allowed me to influence their lives. My chess

students will always have a special place in my heart and I appreciate those who played a role in

making this research project a success. A special thanks goes out to my dissertation coach.

I know my mom is in heaven watching over this process and finding a way to edit my

paper. I want to thank her for always supporting my educational pursuits and encouraging me to

become a teacher and leader. To all of my family members and friends who are no longer with

us, Rest in Peace. I would like to thank my wife and daughters for their support. I want my girls

to become learners, researchers and social activists and to continue to inspire the world, and me.

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Abstract

This research study investigated students’ perceptions as they remembered them from

their time as participants in an after-school chess program when they were in middle school. The

purpose of this study was to uncover any themes that may emerge as results of the program such

as, but not limited to, resilience, self-efficacy, self-esteem, cognitive ability, and confidence.

Students in inner city schools and communities lack the resilience, self-efficacy, critical thinking,

and problem-solving skills necessary to thrive in their schools, homes, and communities.

African American males have the lowest standardized test scores and highest high school drop-

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out rates (Dixson, Royal, & Henry, 2014). They are disproportionally placed in special

education programs and suspended twice as often as white males (Lewin, 2012). Improving the
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education of African American males requires changing the current culture of our schools and

communities (Noguera, 2008). Schools in inner cities also have additional demands and
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struggles and require a fourth level of support: after-school programs (Shabazian, 2015). After-

school programs have become a major part of the extended school day for children and activities
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like chess, promote critical thinking, problem-solving, resilience, and make learning fun for

students (Young, 2014). Through the use of semi-structured interviews, this ethnographic case

study investigated students’ perceptions during their time as participants in an after-school chess

program. Two groups were studied with three participants in each group. In the findings, every

participant noted the chess program kept them from involvement in crime, helped to develop

life-long positive relationships and confidence, and spoke about the positive benefits of traveling

together as a team. The findings suggest a need for high-quality after school programs that

develop resilience, confidence, critical thinking skills, provide a safe haven for students, and

exposes them to travel.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements……………………………………………………………………………....iii

Abstract………………………………………………………………………………………......iv

List of Figures……………………………………………………………………………….…viii

Chapter

I Introduction………………………………………………………………………………..1

Statement of the Problem………………………………………………………...……3

Qualitative Research Approach ………………………………………………….........6

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Relevance to the Discipline ……………………………………………………….......6

Definition of Terms…..……………………………………………………………......8
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Purpose of the Study..…………………………………………………………….........9

II Literature Review
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Resilience………………………………………………………………………..…...13

Student Self-efficacy and Self-esteem……………………………………………..…22


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Quality Schools………………………………………………………………………30

Environmental Influences……………………………………………………………35

Microsystems and the Importance of Adult Mentoring………………………………38

Chronosystem and Impacting Children Over Time, into Adulthood…………………40

Extra-Curricular Activities……………………………………………………...……42

Chess…………………………………………………………………………………49

Conclusion……………………………………………………………...……………53

III Methodology

Introduction…………………………………………………………………………57

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Research Questions ………………………………………………………………….58

Research Design……………………………………………………………………..58

Participants…………………………………………………………………………...59

Instruments…………………………………………………………………………...60

Data Collection Procedures…………………………………………………………..61

Data Analysis………………………………………………………………………...62

Limitations………………………….………………………………………………..63

Ethical Considerations………………………….……………………………….…...63

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Summary……………………………………………………………………………..64

IV Results
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Introduction…………………………………………………………………………..66

Research Question Number One………………………………………………..…....68


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Research Question Number Two………………………………………………..…...73

Summary……………………………………………………………………………..77
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V Discussion

Introduction…………………………………………………………………………..79

Finding Number One…………………………………………………………………80

Finding Number Two ………………………………………………………………..81

Finding Number Three………………………………………………………………82

Finding Number Four………………………………………………………………..84

Implications for Future Research………………………………………………..…...87

Conclusion……………………………………………………………………….......87

References………………………………………………………………………….…………….91

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Appendices

A. Interview Questions…………………………………………………...…………110

B. Voluntary Consent to Participate …………………………………………….…112

C. Human Subject Review Committee (HSRC) Forms….…………………………115

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List of Figures

Figure Page

1 Brofenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory……………………………………38

2 Universal Influence of Chess…………………………………………………….88

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Chapter 1

Introduction

The daily challenges of teachers and principals who work in our nation’s largest urban

areas center around supporting and educating high poverty, minority students. Children in high

poverty schools and communities often suffer through low expectations, poor economic

conditions, emotional, and social distress (Peske & Haycock, 2006).

Many educators will argue that poverty prevents students from succeeding in school and

life, but there are clear examples, supported by research, of students overcoming the odds to live

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productive and successful lives. Poor and minority students who have access to good schools

that offer a rigorous curriculum with a safe and nurturing environment, high quality teachers
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with strong student and parental engagement, and after school programs, rise above their

conditions.
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Often students in the poorest school districts across the country are forgotten by state

lawmakers and the media unless they are seen on the news as criminals or crime victims. The
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subjects of these news stories are primarily young men, and many times, young men of color.

Black males have faced a tumultuous journey through the nation’s educational system over the

past 20 years. Although there has been some progress, the country continues to face a significant

challenge in successfully educating, young black men. Achievement is often lower for poor or

minority students in most, if not all urban school districts, and for many, the immediate response

is to blame educators. There are a multitude of factors affecting student achievement, many of

which impact students before they ever attend school. However, if students are going to be

successful, they need teachers who are caring and dedicated to improving their resilience, grit,

and self-efficacy. Also, students need teachers who are experienced in their discipline and who

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can relate to them. Understanding the culture of their students is paramount for teachers who

wish to inspire and motivate the most struggling children. Caring educators are influential to the

success of their students (Schoon, 2012).

Children also need to learn to make critical decisions early in life and to be confident in

all they do. Students who think positive have better coping skills. They must realize that

succeeding in school and graduating are mandatory if they are going to lead productive lives.

President Obama stressed the importance of graduating from high school by calling it “an

economic imperative” (Stanton, 2012). Students who graduate from high school reduce their

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chances of facing incarceration or depending on welfare to survive. Yet, as one recent study by

the EPE (Editorial Projects in Education) Research Center shows, only half the high school
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students in America’s 50 largest cities graduate in four years (Garner, 2012). Black male

graduation rates are even lower in inner city schools. The federal No Child Left Behind Act
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(2001) brought this issue to the forefront for all educators by mandating all disaggregated data on

student progress by subgroups be submitted to the federal government.


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Teachers responsible for the education of poor urban students have become very familiar

with the mandates for reporting data for underperforming students. For many educators, like the

researcher, closing the achievement gap is paramount to the success of all students.

The research in this study was guided by some of the most well-known experts in the

field of self-efficacy and resilience, including Dr. Frank Pajares and Dr. Albert Bandura. Both

professors have made major contributions in the past to the concept and study of resilience of

children. The function of self-efficacy principles in schools and in family functioning, and how

it influences the resilience of children, will be discussed in this study. It is the hope and

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expectation this research will inspire teachers, students, scholars, and all those who are involved

in the education of children in our schools.

As a fairly new teacher in 1995, the researcher began a chess program in the inner city

and met hundreds of young African American students, mostly boys, who were all fifth through

eigth grade students in a middle school in an east coast city. As an experienced teacher and

principal in 2010, the researcher implemented an additional chess program in a K-8 school in a

similar, east coast city community in a different state. Single moms were raising most of the

young students in both programs. They were students who were achieving excellent grades, but

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living in communities laden with drugs and other criminal activity near the schools. At the time

the researcher first encountered the young students in both chess programs, they were beginning
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to show signs of losing focus in their academics and hope for a positive future. These students

appeared to be missing the critical ingredients needed to beat the odds and become successful in
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troubled, high-risk communities. Students who find success, rely on several protective factors,

such as developing relationships with compassionate adults, who may work in school or in the
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community, a structured home life, and supportive schools (Theron & Engelbrecht, 2012).

Through providing students experiences and access to other forms of sustenance, caring teachers,

supportive caregivers, and adults who do not shield them from failure, they are able to overcome

barriers presented by poverty (Masten, 2013). Although each protective factor is vital, this study

explored how children react when all of the elements of resilience and self-efficacy interact

collectively in their lives.

Statement of the Problem

This study addressed the problem of students in inner city schools and communities who

lack the critical thinking and problem-solving skills necessary to make good choices and life-

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changing decisions. The students who fall victim to this problem do not develop the self-

efficacy and resilience skills necessary to thrive in their schools, homes, and communities. The

collective efficacy beliefs of the educators who typically serve poor and minority students are

often not present (Pajares & Urdan, 2006). School administrators should make an effort to

implement professional development programs in their schools to assist students and staff with

developing problem solving and critical thinking skills (Wang & Eccles, 2013).

The young children in this study were raised in struggling communities, many by single

parents, along with grandmothers and other relatives. It was clear these were intelligent young

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students who were living in challenging environments. They lived in and attended school in

communities where a large percentage of families were living below the poverty level. The
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researcher clearly saw these young students were very intelligent. The researcher decided to

introduce them to chess because of the values of chess and what it could do to improve their
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critical thinking skills, self-efficacy, resilience, responsibility, and outlook on life. The

researcher also wanted to find a way to inspire these young adolescents to believe that they could
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overcome the obstacles in their neighborhood and that they could improve their self-efficacy.

Chess has been acknowledged for quite some time as a builder of strong intelligence, and

improves the cognitive abilities and rational thinking of young people (Hong & Bart, 2007).

Participating in chess programs can influence logical thinking, self-confidence, and self-worth,

and encourages students to appreciate the significance of perseverance, attentiveness, and

commitment (Barrett & Fish, 2011).

Phenomenon of interest. The phenomenon of interest of the study are the stories of

young students who participated in afterschool chess programs designed to develop student self-

efficacy and resilience in two different inner-city middle schools on the east coast. The

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researcher attempted to develop a relationship with the many students involved in the chess

programs, on a consistent basis and in a significant way. The hope was that they would become

involved in extra-curricular activities, set long-term objectives, and develop positive

relationships with their peers and teachers. The expectations of the researcher as their teacher,

mentor, and coach went beyond the chessboard and their academic achievement. Collaboration,

self-discipline, positive self-image, critical thinking and problem solving are all learned on the

chessboard, and protect students against negative behaviors and promote resilience (Barrett &

Fish, 2011). These internal abilities alone do not ensure that students will be successful.

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Overcoming obstacles and achieving success will require students to gain several key strengths

(Pajares & Urdan, 2006). The phenomenon of interest that was researched in this study are the
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stories and experiences of young students who participated in inner city middle school chess

programs designed to develop cognitive functioning, student self-efficacy, and resilience.


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Background and justification. A critical phase in the lives of African American

students is adolescence and puberty. Many African American students, face a multitude of
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issues that impact their ability to become successful in life (Noguera, 2008). For years, schools

have had the tremendous ability to support students in finding success in school and in the

community. Reinforcing connections with educators, coaches, and caregivers can influence

students to stay in school and pursue college (Ungar, 2012).

Students drop out of school for many reasons. Poverty and community challenges have

been the focus of several studies on students who do not finish high school. Hammond, Liton,

Smink, and Drew (2007) suggest that risk factors linked to student demographics (i.e., poverty;

exposure to high rates of crime, violence, and drug abuse; limited English proficiency; and

unstable family conditions) contribute to student drop-out rates across the U.S. Plank, DeLuca

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and Estacion (2008) similarly assert that drop-out rates are influenced by school, family, and

environmental factors in combination with individual student characteristics. Much of the work

done has addressed barriers to success for students, but few studies have involved the voices of

those students who overcome obstacles to find success in school and life.

Qualitative Research Approach

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that it is impossible to utter even two or three sentences

without letting others know where you stand in life, what you believe, and which people are

important to you (Nash, 2004). The foundation of this dissertation is grounded in the field of

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qualitative research. Qualitative research is described as a methodological approach that

involves multiple research methods (Creswell & Creswell, 2017). It contains a set of in-depth
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studies and material applications that lead to descriptive results instead of predictive results.

Qualitative research methods include in-depth interviews, field notes, recordings, and
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conversations.

The researcher has chosen to use the ethnographic case study approach for this research
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because it allowed the narratives of former students to be told, the researcher’s story, and will

permit the reader to read the stories through the perspective of the students. The goal of this

research study is to share the experiences of inner-city students who participated in after-school

chess programs. The researcher intends for this research study to not only be acceptable, but

desirable.

Relevance to the Discipline

It is important for adolescents to believe in their ability to succeed. The successes and

failures that they will encounter are the foundation for a positive belief system (Masten, 2013).

Developing self-efficacy beliefs enables students to strengthen their ability to overcome

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obstacles (Masten, 2013). Adolescents who believe that their behaviors can result in desired

outcomes are more likely to persevere through difficult times (Williams & Bryan, 2013). In this

paper, the researcher identified key data points from research on self-efficacy and resilience.

Everyone is affected by self-efficacy as it impacts the choices made in life, and the ability to

critically think and problem solve. Children who think optimistically or pessimistically, are both

affected by self-efficacy. In schools, educators can make efforts to improve the academic

achievement and confidence of students by improving their emotional resilience and positive

thinking (Marshall, Parker, Ciarrochi, & Heaven, 2014). Failure and adversity do not affect the

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self-efficacy beliefs of successful students (Pajares, 2002). Students who are exposed to

challenges and opportunities to fail, develop the perseverance and self-efficacy to succeed. The
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skills required to succeed do not necessarily come from self-efficacy, but can supply the effort

needed to acquire the skills to become successful. When failure is used as a tool to motivate
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students to overcome obstacles, resilience usually becomes the norm (Pajares & Urdan, 2006).

When adults make attempts to prevent children from failing, they do not allow the students to
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learn the keys to success. Teachers in schools and parents at home should make efforts to teach

adolescents how to learn from failure and help students to understand failing is a necessary step

to becoming successful. Philosopher Nel Noddings (1992) noted the crucial objective should be

“to produce competent, caring, loving, and lovable people” (p. 8).

Deficiencies in the evidence. Urban schools have a high need for teachers who have

strong content knowledge and can develop meaningful relationships with students, colleagues,

and parents. An improved public-school system and maximum community and parental support

are important to fostering a culture of success for young people (Williams & Bryan, 2013).

Much of the research has supported self-efficacy as a personal belief (Forrest-Bank, Nicotera,

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Anthony, & Jenson, 2015). Collective efficacy is developed by the community and schools that

support students when they believe they are able to responsibly educate and develop student self-

efficacy. Collectively, teachers and administrators in schools share a vision for their own

success and the success of their students when they possess the efficacy necessary to support

struggling students. Schools rely on stakeholders and policy-makers to communicate the needs

of the schools to the community and to create positive learning environments. Often in the

research, the voices of students are not heard (Barone, 2007). Parents and educators can assist

students in the pursuit of success by allowing them to have a voice and develop the habit of

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excellence. In this research paper, the voices of students were heard in their stories and the

collective efforts of educators were highlighted. It would be wise for adults to collectively begin
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nurturing in young people the positive habits necessary to become successful in school and life.

Developing the positive self-beliefs of young people is important when the goal is improved self-
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efficacy and resilience.

Audience. The audience is teachers, administrators, parents, students, policy-makers, and


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community members. When self-efficacy is developed, parents, teachers, and the community

benefit because they are able to produce competent, caring, and loving children who grow up to

become loveable adults who make tremendous contributions to our world.

Definition of Terms

Self-efficacy. This term refers to the principle that individuals are capable of attaining

specific goals based on their performance and belief in their own competence. Further, Bandura

(1997) states that self-efficacy influences one’s ability to succeed in life.

Collective-efficacy. This term denotes the shared belief that people can work together.

School administrators and teachers achieve a high level of collective-efficacy when they believe

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their colleagues are knowledgeable and competent. Bandura (1997) notes that with a collective

effort, teachers, principals, and parents can have an impact in their schools.

Resilience. This term refers to the ability of people to cope with adversity. Resilience is

usually described as a process, and not an individual’s characteristic (Bogar & Hulse-Killacky,

2006).

Academic achievement. This term refers to achieving academic excellence in school

and extracurricular activities.

Academic motivation. The term refers to the level of a student’s desire to succeed

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academically and perform at a high level.

Persistence. This term refers to the act of perseverance, enduring, or showing tenacity.
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Confidence. This term refers to the feeling or belief that you can do something well or

succeed.
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Optimism. This term refers to the ability to approach challenges and adversities in life

with a positive outlook and expecting an advantageous outcome whenever possible


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Adolescence. This term refers to the period of life when a child develops into an adult,

going from puberty to maturity.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this ethnographic case study research was to describe the stories of a

small group of students in after school chess programs in two different inner-city middle schools

in two large east coast cities, and their perceptions of the specific skills, such as self-efficacy,

resilience, academic achievement, persistence, confidence, and optimism, they learned in the

program and their experiences in their schools and communities during and after the program.

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The social and emotional changes of adolescence tend to add to the stressful lives of

families who struggle. Students in struggling families and communities find it difficult to

navigate through the daily stresses of life. Eventually, adolescents begin to foster a sense of self-

discipline and self-efficacy (Bandura, 2006). Students who can overcome obstacles during

adolescence are likely to become resilient adults.

The contribution made by self-efficacy and the influence of resilience on six specific

adolescents will be explored. Self-efficacy played a part in the researcher’s life as a young man

who was raised by a single mom in a family with seven other siblings. The researcher’s mother,

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with no involvement from his father, raised him to grow up to believe in himself, become

resilient, and have a strong self-image and self-concept.


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The researcher became a teacher, but did not truly understand his purpose for teaching

the first few years of his career. His teaching career began in 1987, but in 1995 when first
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meeting those young students and discovering their dedication to becoming successful, yet

lacking a father figure, the researcher realized that his purpose was to help those young students
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to advance beyond their community. Also, the researcher needed to motivate his colleagues to

understand they could influence more students to become resilient. In order for the students to

develop their self-efficacy skills, the educators would have to develop their own collective

efficacy. They had to believe they could achieve this milestone as a school, community and

society.

The researcher and his colleagues had to collaborate to encourage the children in the

chess program to believe they could become successful, self-reliant, and resilient. Children in

schools can overcome the negative influences in the community like drugs and crime, if the

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adults can help the children to change their self-image and belief-system. They would persevere

and overcome obstacles to become resilient (Pajares & Urdan, 2006).

The world can be a frightening place. Educators are consistently concerned about how

they can remain calm in the face of fear and disaster. Terrorism around the world, along with

school shootings and crime, make life very stressful for teachers and students. Teachers are not

able to protect their students from the trials and tribulations of life but they can give them the

tools to develop the ability to cope with problems. Resilient students are able to utilize their

strengths to cope with problems and setbacks (Masten, 2011).

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This research paper may illuminate the skills students need to survive the ups and downs

of adolescence, and to matriculate successfully through struggling schools and communities.


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The goal of this study was to explore the implementation of a middle school chess program in

two different schools and the experiences of the students who participated in the chess programs.
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Chapter 2

Literature Review

Introduction

Socially disadvantaged youth often lack the self-efficacy and resilience required to be

successful in school and life, and as a result, make poor, yet life-changing decisions (Pajares &

Urdan, 2006). These children do not gain enough self-esteem from their families, schools, or

communities, and often, the educators who traditionally work with these students, struggle with

their own sense of self- and collective-efficacy (Bandura, 1997). Teachers share a sense of

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collective efficacy when they support the belief they can impact student achievement as a team.

Collective efficacy refers to the perceptions of teachers in a school that the faculty as a whole
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can organize and execute the course of action required to have a positive effect on students.

Teachers show greater persistence and believe in themselves that they can positively support
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student outcomes when efficacy is high. They are also more likely to try new teaching

approaches (Ross & Bruce, 2007). To develop the problem-solving ability and critical thinking
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skills of students, school administrators must see it as an imperative that they work to increase

the collective efficacy attitudes of their school staff (Donohoo, 2016).

The extant research indicates educators are working to uncover the origins of student

resilience because of its demonstrated influence in the classroom (Cicchetti, 2010). The problem

is that resilience is mitigated to some degree by factors outside of teachers’ purview. While

some studies dispute the fact that risk factors (poverty, low expectations, and neglect) basically

sentence people to adverse outcomes (Schoon, 2012), others show these adversities might have

the opposite reaction. A review of the literature on resilience in schools and communities

provides strong evidence for the role that four related factors play in the promotion of student

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resilience: (a) self-efficacy, (b) quality schooling, (c) effective teachers, and (d) access to

programs outside of the school day. The literature indicates that students need support in these

four areas to demonstrate resilience in the face of adverse life experiences. In other words, when

students demonstrate resilience in the face of tough times, it is typically because someone, or a

group of people, has supported them in one or more of these areas. This is of the utmost

importance for at-risk youth because the development of resilience is likely the only way they

will build a life beyond the poverty-stricken one from which they come (Seery, 2011).

Resilience

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The scientific study of resilience—the capacity of children to recover from difficult and

serious challenges to succeed in school and life—developed when a number of researchers found
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examples of students overcoming risks to find success (Shiner & Masten, 2012). These

researchers concluded that improving the probability of success for adolescents would require
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educators and other researchers to expand their understanding of the risk and protective factors

that impact how good outcomes are achieved (Dubowitz et al., 2016).
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Since the first generation of research on resilience, it has been studied in a variety of

situations throughout the world (Ungar, 2012). For a time, researchers explored single risk

factors, such as premature birth, divorce, or abuse, but it soon became evident risks like these

rarely come in single packages (Cicchetti, 2010). Researchers defined resilience early on as a

combination of external assets and internal personality traits that lead to positive adaptation and a

buffering from developmental disruption. Resilience has also been defined as the ability to

“bounce back” after instability and trauma to lead a successful and productive life (Bogar &

Hulse-Killacky, 2006).

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External protective factors and internal adaptive resources assist children with

overcoming stressful circumstances (Brooks, Jones, & Latten, 2014). Resilient students have

distinct advantages when it comes to recovering from risks in life such as abuse, poverty, and

lack of a supportive caregiver (Bowes & Jaffee, 2013). The fostering of resilience in adolescents

can provide the skills needed to become successful in school and lead to a positive life. If the

proper home, school, and community support systems are provided for children at an early age,

they are more likely to learn to cope with adverse situations and develop the resilience necessary

to achieve better outcomes (Bonanno & Diminich, 2013).

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Resilience is considered to be both an asset (resistance to adversity) and a life-long

process (adapting to challenges and obstacles). Reducing the effects of adversity on children in
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high risk communities is essential to their success and ability to be productive members of

society (Bowes & Jaffee, 2013). Resilience is associated with better outcomes, so it is vital for
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children whose lives have been disrupted by significant challenges. In fact, researchers have

uncovered the need for children to experience love, care, and support outside of the home as
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some of the ways in which they can become resilient over time (Ungar, 2012). Because of this,

the concept of resilience has gained momentum as a foundation for practice with young children

and adolescents in schools. This requires a new framework for practice that can help educators

assess a child’s potential to become resilient and strong (Bonanno & Diminich, 2013).

Resilient adolescents are likely to have an “internal locus of control,” a sense of self-

confidence and belief in their abilities, and an “inner-directedness,” trusting their own actions

(autonomy) and decisions (Schoon, 2012). Autonomy is defined by having some control over

one’s environment, including self-control and self-efficacy (Masten, 2013). The development of

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autonomy creates resistance to negative beliefs about oneself and embracing optimism as a

powerful protector from within (Bandura, 1976).

Developing resilient youth and reducing the effects of adversity and trauma on children is

essential to the progress of any community. Resilient children are able to sustain their self-worth

and emotional well-being even in the face of adversity (Williams & Bryan, 2013). Lastly,

resilience is believed to be influenced by healthy relationships with family members and

teachers, decreasing adverse community events, and involvement in extracurricular activities.

Resilience helps to develop persistence in problem solving, which is precipitated by self-

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efficacy, optimism, hope, and self-discipline (Rutter, 2012). Resilience is also believed to be one

aspect of the development of cognitive functioning in children (Pajares, 2002), which increases
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the importance of schools creating cultures that foster resilience, especially those schools that

serve large populations of at-risk students.


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Family factors. Several studies have documented a large number of children who grow

up in families with mental health, alcohol, and abuse issues, or in high-poverty communities,
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become resilient after overcoming the odds in a life of risk (Masten, 2013). Many of the issues

they face have the potential to mitigate their ability to be productive and enjoy happy lives, but

with supportive parents and teachers, students can be successful (Brooks et al., 2014). The link

between the family and school is essential, but even without supportive parents, research has

indicated that schools can mitigate risk for youth. Catalano, Haggerty, Oesterle, Fleming, and

Hawkins (2004) found that supportive teachers impact student resilience against negative

behavior and drug abuse. Students in negative home environments with very little parent support

are more likely to have higher grades in school if they have supportive teachers (Allen et al.,

2013). A sense of school belonging is important for poor and minority students, who are more

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