Expectancy Theory and Success in Majority Culture
Successfully navigating majority culture is not one of the “abilities” referred to in the expectancy theory research that I was able to find. I believe, however, for minority students, that their perceived ability to be successful in a majority dominated environment, is a significant factor in their confidence in successfully completing pilot training. I believe that the ability to successfully navigate majority culture is a skill that directly impacts the confidence of minority students in pilot training. For some students, it may be as critical a skill as being able to learn the flight controls and instrumentation. It is an additional skill that students from the majority white culture do not have to contend with.
In my Air Force career and in my research for this book, I found a consistent theme: those minorities who had gained experience operating in majority culture whether in their neighborhood, elementary or high school or college, expressed greater confidence in dealing with the majority white culture that is prevalent in Air Force pilot training. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I observed that those who grew up in a predominantly minority neighborhood, went to predominantly minority schools and perhaps even a Historically Black College/University (HBCU), struggled with operating in the majority culture.
As previously mentioned “controllable attributions increase self-efficacy… People with a strong sense of self-efficacy for a given task (“I’m good at math”) tend to attribute their failures to lack of effort (“I should have double-checked my work”).” (Woolfolk, 10th Edition) As I reviewed the interviews I found that generally, students who had greater experience operating in majority culture expressed that dealing with the negative aspects of being a minority in a majority environment was something that was in their control. Specifically, these students expressed that they could overcome negative effects such as stereotypes, bias, and even outright discrimination by simply working harder than everyone else.
Students who did not have the same degree of experience in operating in majority culture saw dealing with these same negative effects as something that impacted their ability to succeed but to some degree was outside their control.
To be clear, we are not talking about the ability to learn principles of flight or how to maneuver and fly an airplane. We are talking about how the skill of operating in majority culture affects the minority student’s self-efficacy, his or her belief that they can succeed at the task of becoming a pilot in the United States Air Force.
It was fascinating to me to look at survey responses of pilot training students who clearly had the aptitude to fly based on prior flight time, etc. but struggled with the notion of becoming a pilot simply because the negative effects of majority culture were deemed as being mostly outside their control.
It was equally fascinating to see students who believed that they could successfully overcome instructor stereotypes, bias, and even racism simply by increasing their own efforts. Again, I believe these students confidence was based on their previous experience in operating in the majority culture. Previous experience is a key component to motivation and expectations for success. (ASU Sanford Inspire Program, 2015)
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