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Mind the gap: academically successful African Caribbean heritage students, learning identities and the cultural assets mediating learning

Henry, Veronica (2015) Mind the gap: academically successful African Caribbean heritage students, learning identities and the cultural assets mediating learning. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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This study identified the factors that support African Caribbean heritage children in achieving academically. Additionally, it explored and developed an understanding of the interaction between identity and learning and it is hoped contributed to a deeper understanding of the concept of ‘blackness’ through the narrative accounts of African Caribbean heritage individuals’ interactions between their learning careers, identities and wider lives, including the cultural assets mediating learning. Studies of the school experiences and educational performances of African Caribbean heritage children, (boys in particular) have on the whole tended to attribute the rationales for underachievement to cultural factors such as Black masculinity and peer group pressure (Sewell 1997); Black families’ home environment (Driver 1982; Green 1985); structural constraints of school organisation; teacher racism and government policies (Gillborn 1997; Gillborn and Youdell 2000). This study points to the ways in which structural issues in the form of macro and micro-aggression impact African Caribbean heritage children’s academic attainment. A specific contribution of the study has been to address the gap in literature surrounding the academic achievement/underachievement of African Caribbean heritage individuals. The participants’ stories revealed that African Caribbean lives in Britain are not necessarily dysfunctional but are complex, challenging and rich, and should not be viewed simply as deficient but as having rich and useful cultural capital. This study recognises the intersectionality of Black people’s experiences as not only raced but also classed and gendered, both in oppressive structures and in their personification and enactment through the agency of personalities and actions. This complex interweaving of organisation and agency required a theoretical framework that was equally capable of examining the subtleties of these dynamics. As such, this study was enabled through an original hybridity of intersectionality, CRT and narrative analysis.

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