The impact of self-relevant representations on school belonging for native American students

Rebecca Covarrubias*, Stephanie A. Fryberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Native American students encounter limited exposure to positive representations (i.e., role models) in the academic domain. This underrepresentation threatens students' identities in the classroom, subsequently decreasing feelings of school belonging and negatively impacting academic performance (Walton & Cohen, 2007). Two studies examined how different methods for providing self-relevant representations affect belonging for underrepresented Native American middle school students. Study 1 (N = 90) revealed that exposure to self-relevant role models increased belonging compared to self-irrelevant, ethnically ambiguous, or no role models for Native American students. Study 2 (N = 117) revealed that Native American students who listed many (8) role models reported higher belonging than Native American students who listed a few (2) or no role models and reported similar belonging as European American students who listed a few or many role models. As predicted, European American students showed no differences in belonging across conditions (i.e., listing many, a few, or no role models). These findings suggest that positive, self-relevant representations can alleviate the effects of underrepresentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-18
Number of pages9
JournalCultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • Native American
  • Role models
  • School belonging
  • Self-relevance
  • Underrepresentation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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