A comparison of goal setting and reputational orientations of African adolescents from refugee backgrounds in intensive english centres and mainstream secondary school classrooms

Sashya Gunasekera, Stephen Houghton, Ken Glasgow, Annemaree Carroll, Simon C. Hunter

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We compared the goals, reputations and behaviours of three groups: African adolescents from refugee backgrounds in Australian Intensive English Centres (IEC), African adolescents who have transitioned from an IEC into mainstream schooling, and Australian mainstream adolescents. We posit that the need for African adolescents from refugee backgrounds to identify with the dominant social group within the IEC and mainstream settings is an important factor in the goals they set, the reputations they choose, and the manner in which they pursue them. To this end, we conducted a cross sectional comparison through Reputation Enhancing Goals Theory, an approach congruent with sociocultural adaptation.
Using multivariate techniques we found African adolescents in the IEC context set academic goals associated with a conforming reputation, whereas African adolescents in mainstream schooling set social goals associated with a non-conforming reputation. Australian mainstream students had an equal split between academic and social goals and conforming/non-conforming reputations. Each of the three groups indulged in behaviours congruent with the goals they set and reputation sought. A series of separate multiple-mediation models revealed significant indirect effects on a number of variables via School Connectedness, Control over most important goal, and to a lesser extent Goals.
It appears African adolescents in mainstream schooling are attempting to adapt to another dominant culture (i.e., mainstream peers) on transitioning from the IEC, but they face confusion about who they are and who they wish to be. The implications for adolescents from African refuge backgrounds is, that while placing them in IECs for up to two years to help them settle into the education system is laudable, further support is needed when they transition to mainstream schooling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-375
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date3 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016


  • African adolescents from refugee backgrounds
  • sociocultural adaptation
  • Australian High schools
  • reputations
  • academic goals

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