Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Voices of at-risk youth: Perceptions of continuation high school students regarding factors affecting their engagement in high school
by Lock, Stephanie J., Ed.D., University of Redlands, 2010, 167; 3422229
Abstract (Summary)

Using a theoretical framework of critical pedagogy and the lens of social justice to focus on engagement and student voice, this research includes both quantitative and qualitative methodologies, in respect to the perceptions of continuation high school students regarding factors affecting their engagement in high school. The purpose of this study was to determine if differences exist in engagement practices within comprehensive and continuation high school settings.

The quantitative portion of the study incorporates Goodenhow's (1993) Psychological Sense of School Membership scale (PSSM) and Flanagan's (1954) Critical Incident Technique (CIT) into the Student Engagement Survey, which was administered to 202 students at a continuation high school in Southern California to determine the students' perceptions regarding engagement practices. The quantitative dimensions show a macro picture of engagement practices with results suggesting a difference in those practices at continuation and comprehensive high schools.

The qualitative portion of the study includes narrative elements, phenomenological elements, and varying case study data, related to students' views on their engagement. The study utilizes open-ended response questions as part of the Student Engagement Survey, journaling and discussion topics within a 20-member student narrative inquiry group, and three focus group interviews. All qualitative components involve continuation high school students and rely on the students' perceptions regarding their own engagement within both comprehensive and continuation high school settings.

The qualitative dimensions reveal significance related to students' stories, shared experiences, and some evidence of their shared cultural elements. The qualitative findings suggest three major themes as related to student engagement practices and factors which influence students' success in high school: (1) teacher characteristics and instruction; (2) school and classroom structure; and, (3) personal motivation and influences.

This study determined that, as perceived by students, there are differences in engagement practices between comprehensive and continuation high schools. This study resulted in three major conclusions: comprehensive high school policies, as related to programs and structure, must be revisited and redesigned in order address the needs of all students; the current structure of continuation high schools is working to engage students; and, teacher education programs must be redesigned to incorporate elements of developing interpersonal skills and building meaningful student relationships within the classroom setting. Further research is recommended to utilize the PSSM in conjunction with the dynamics of teacher-student relationships to determine ways to maintain school engagement for at-risk students.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Denham, Robert
Commitee: Goodyear, Rod, Sullivan, Alayne
School: University of Redlands
Department: School of Education
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 71/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: School administration, Teacher education, Secondary education
Keywords: At-risk students, Continuation high school, Engagement, Instructional strategies, Social justice, Student voice
Publication Number: 3422229
ISBN: 978-1-124-20933-3
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