Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Tonks, Stephen M.

Second Advisor

Johnson, Laura R.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF)


The COVID-19 pandemic and the changing demographics of the American identity have drawn attention to the necessity of reforming the Ethno-European education system to meet the needs of a diverse student population. If the educational landscape is to be transformed to meet the needs of a growing non-Ethno-European student population, more research is needed to explore factors that increase non-Ethno-European students’ academic engagement. This research attempted to identify individual and systemic factors contributing to non-Ethno-European students’ academic engagement during secondary education. This exploration began by outlining the role a cohesive identity continuum has on education engagement for non-Ethno-European students. Antecedent moderators of academic engagement for non-Ethno-European students were explored utilizing the seminal work of attachment theory by John Bowlby (1969) and Mary Ainsworth (1991), the Psychosocial Development of Identity Formation theory by Erik Erikson (1950), and Social Identity theory by Tajfel (1972). This exploratory research used a Convergent-Parallel Mixed Method design to evaluate potential antecedent moderators during the 2020-2021 academic year. The Convergent-Parallel Mixed Method used three research instruments to explore whether Ethnic Identity, Grit, and other school engagement factors (SEI) contribute to student attendance. The research also used a semi-structured interview to explore teacher and student perceptions and expectations about factors influencing student engagement. For this research, student engagement is defined as the number of days students attend school. As such, the terms student engagement and the number of days students attended school is used synonymously throughout the dissertation. The QUAN portion of the research utilized varies from three research instruments: Ethnic Identity Scale, Grit Scale, and Student Engagement Scale (SEI), as well as the number of days students attended school during the 2020-2021 school year. The QUAN portion of the research revealed statistically significant differences between grade-level groups, 10th graders and 12th graders, as well as among Gender, males, and females, for the Grit scale, though the variables were not statistically significant predictors of student attendance. In the QUAL portion of the research, a semi-structured interview was conducted to explore student and teacher perceptions of factors that increase or decrease school engagement. This research portion points to students' psychosocial moratorium as an antecedent factor influencing student and teacher classroom interactions. Lastly, a teacher’s Psychological Grind appears to be an essential phenomenon with theoretical implications among teachers of non-Ethno-European students. A teacher’s Psychological Grind may facilitate the intersectionality between a student’s psychosocial moratorium and academic engagement. A teacher’s Psychological Grind is defined as the ability of an educator to remain emotionally and psychologically engaged and consistent, despite a student’s emotional and cognitive instability. The finding points to the need for further research on how students’ attachment patterns contribute to their psychosocial moratorium influencing biases and perceptions about the education system and its teachers well before entering the classroom. Teachers have a brief window of opportunity to contribute to a healthy attachment with students. Teachers must attune, grasp, interpret, and respond to the student’s internal and external needs to create a healthy attachment to students. Focusing on a teacher’s and student’s attachment patterns, the student’s psychosocial moratorium, and a teacher’s Psychological Grind has the potential to guide future research in exploring attachment patterns as antecedent moderating factors of school engagement among non-Ethno-European students.


184 pages




Northern Illinois University

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