An analysis of alternative education programs designed to engage the anti-school subculture

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Dubois-Vandale, Kristine
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The purpose of this study was to gather and analyze qualitative data regarding alternative education programs which engage members of the anti-school subculture in learning. The researcher focused on a specific identifiable group of marginalized youth who have not been successful in regular high schools termed the Anti-School Kids. The researcher interviewed six adults who run a variety of alternative education programs in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The research instrument was a series of 15 questions designed to help identify strategies in school division affiliated alternative and non-school division affiliated alternative programs which would help marginalized youth learn, some of which may be transferable to mainstream institutions. The researcher conducted six personal interviews over a six-month period. The questions were grouped into four categories, which were also used to sort and code the data. They are as follows: Contextual dimension, interpersonal dimension, structural dimension and professional dimension. As a result of the perspectives shared by the study’s participants, a fifth category was identified during the process. This category of data reveals possible strategies of engagement used by these programs and supported by the literature review. The transcribed interviews resulted in a total of 100 pages of data. All of the data were then analyzed using a phenomenological research approach. Some of the major concepts which are covered in this thesis include the theory of the social bond (to school); the formation of youth’s social identity, formed through their associations. Wyn & White supply specific characteristics of the Anti-School Kid: “urban-living, high residential mobility, minority group status, weak attachment to school or poor school performance...” (1997, p.35). The sociological concept of grouping plays a critical role in both the problem and the proposed solutions, to be reported in Chapter 4 & 5. The researcher also relies on the theory of social capital to help explain the distribution of power within the high school groups. What has come through loud and clear from Davies & Guppy (2006) is the role that a youth's identity has in forming behaviours that facilitate school success and failure. The main questions of this thesis is how can educators work with the identity of Anti-School Kids to help them graduate high school, despite anti-school behaviours which are part of these youths’ life circumstances and group membership? Varied points of view were explored in the literature review as to what works for students who demonstrate anti-school behaviour. Also, how both students and teachers operate on a daily basis is definitely affected by institutional factors such as the structure of the timetable, the building itself, and other factors reported in the data. The researcher used the research instrument and the literature review to examine what role schools play in creating groups in the margins and maintaining them. The researcher argues the position that due to institutional factors, family situation, socioeconomic status and other environmental factors, Anti-School Kids do not freely nor consciously choose their negative paths. Their behaviours are inextricably rooted in their social identity, rendering them incapable of demonstrating pro-school behaviours. This position has only been strengthened with the data results. The conclusions in Chapter 5 highlight best practices brought to our attention by the experience of the study participants which successfully engage Anti-School Kids. First, to demonstrate caring to the students, showing an interest in their learning by dealing with them one-on-one as much as possible. Second, to be consistent, something that is crucial to Anti-School Kids’ who have little of this in their lives outside of school. Third, to recognize the importance of timeliness in terms of what that student needs at any given time and to handle their learning with flexibility. Last, to be able to organize the priorities within the education system in order to reach the overall goals for each student; in other words, do not let the timetable dictate what students need. Once the reader reviews the results of this study, he/she can decide what will help to successfully engage the anti-school subculture in learning.
Sociology, Marginalization