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Overcoming Barriers to Advanced Placement: Bolstering the Self-Efficacy of Underserved Students


The College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) courses are among the most academically demanding classes available to secondary school students. There exists a strong correlation between AP access and success in high school and college completion. However, predominately first generation, minority, and/or low-income students (underserved students) remain largely absent or grossly underrepresented in AP courses when compared with their more affluent, non-minority peers. This study presents a theoretical framework for self-efficacy, the aspects that contribute to the development of self-efficacy, and demonstrates the positive relationship between academic achievement and self-efficacy in a variety of academic domains. Finally, this proposed mixed-methods case study seeks to explore and understand the role a socially supportive co-curricular school club designed to invite underserved students into AP has on those same students’ sense of self-efficacy toward AP coursework. By investigating the specific words and actions that teachers, school staff, and peers use to help underserved students persevere through the challenges of AP, the study will contribute to a stronger understanding of how AP self-efficacy can be purposefully developed for underserved students, develop research-based interventions and supports designed to help underserved students access and ultimately succeed in rigorous AP coursework.

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