Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Sheryl Gowen

Second Advisor

Dr. Bob Michael

Third Advisor

Dr. Heather Marshall

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Hayward Richardson

Abstract

ABSTRACT

STUDENT PERCEPTIONS OF ENGAGEMENT IN SCHOOLS:

A DEWEYAN ANALYSIS OF AUTHENTICITY

IN HIGH SCHOOL CLASSROOMS

by

Gloria D. Richards Perry

This qualitative study of the nature of engagement in schools explored how students viewed the work assigned to them by their teachers. Using normative and theoretical frameworks, research was conducted to determine whether students found work to be authentic and engaging in the manner that Dewey proposes school work should be.

Phenomenological interviews were used with individual participants as well as in a focus group session. Interviews and further questioning probed for information in order to gain a greater understanding of engagement from the student perspective. Furthermore, these methods afforded depth and richness that could further saturate the data.

The research questions were:

  1. What do students identify as important factors that influence the degree to which they can be engaged in their learning experiences?
  2. As described by students, do the values, norms, and requirements that constitute school mirror similar elements of a student’s life outside of school?

The analysis of participant responses supported the notion that these learners want their learning experiences to be personal, relevant, meaningful, and active. If they felt they were not getting these experiences, they shut down and/or turned the teacher off in their own head. These particular participants reported numerous examples of data that supported their need to be heard as students in the learning environment. They know what they want as learners and expect their teachers to provide the learning experiences they desire for their improvement. Participants in this study of engagement placed a high degree of emphasis on authentic learning. The data supported the notion that these participants want to have fun as they are learning but of far more importance, the data have shown they want their learning to be meaningful beyond the classroom setting.

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