Working as an intern at the U.S. Department of Education (Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs) is not something that everyone gets to do. In fact, it’s not even something that many Wolverines get to do. Victor Jones, however, did during the winter of 2012 while participating in the Michigan in Washington program. “I still can’t believe I received the chance to work at such an amazing place,” he said. “It was definitely a life-changing experience!”
A double major in English and Political Science, Jones grew up on the East side of Detroit and has always been interested in why some students succeed, while others from the same background do not. His family supported his academic goals from the start and continually encouraged him to challenge himself and leave the world a better place. Jones’ time in Washington gave him the opportunity to fully explore his interests, particularly the question of why academics come “easily” for some students and not for others.
His internship with the Department of Education dovetailed nicely with the design of his research project. Jones describes academic self-efficacy as “a student’s ability to achieve a desired academic outcome, or a student’s confidence in his or her ability." To be more specific, it is how a student feels about performing certain academic tasks such as writing papers, studying, or participating in class. Measuring academic self-efficacy would prove frustrating, but Jones did so by collecting data from 79 Michigan students and sorting these students into either the “privileged” or “underprivileged” category based on their high school GPA, ACT or SAT scores and their final Advanced Placement course grades.
Although Jones’ research could not exactly pinpoint what creates strong academic self-efficacy, his research provided insight into the socioeconomic factors that influence academic self-efficacy.
“If you are a student that went to a top high school (privileged student), then you are perhaps less likely to doubt your abilities, and so you may rank particular academic tasks highly on an efficacy scale. If you come from a school that isn’t rigorous (i.e., underprivileged), you will perceive this and as a result may not feel efficacious when it comes to these academic tasks.”
His research was intended to provoke a discussion about how to empower underprivileged students and close the achievement gap.
This fall Jones will become part of the Teach for America (TFA) team in Detroit. He says his main reason for joining TFA is because he understands the importance of education in a child’s life.
“I believe that a great teacher can completely change someone's life. I really want my students to receive everything that education has to offer them. I want them to not just be able to go to top colleges, but to actually change their perspective on what at times seems to them to be a bleak world.”
Photo below courtesy of University Record.
Taken at the Congressional Breakfast in DC