The research team of James Lewis, Kurt Hanley, and myself dove into the story of the at-risk students who attend alternative education schools.
Our preliminary findings are encapsulated in this presentation, but we’d like to provide a brief summary here as well.
We started with absolutely no idea of what to research and over the course of two weeks a lot of work has been completed.
Our first order of business was simply to find a focus. After much deliberation we settled on at-risk youth. While exploring this concept at the beginning, we role-played as administrators, teachers, parents, and most importantly students who were part of the alternative education process. We challenged ourselves to get into the minds of students who by definition break the mold and require a different type of educational model.
We then created a list of potential interviewees drawing from friends and family then expanding to classmates, coworkers, and the existing educational institutions. Many thanks to Scott Gerlach for helping us to find some outstanding candidates!
The most difficult part came next as we visited schools, cold-called administrators, and rearranged schedules like madmen to capitalize on every possible interview. We found out quickly that there was no way that we were going to be able to talk to currently enrolled students in a timely fashion.
The interviews were an incredible mix of awkwardness, stress, then ultimately great enlightenment as we came to know our interviewees and little by little gain a frame of reference for this particular field of research.
We learned a lot of incredible things, most of which are explained as our ‘Big Ideas’ in the presentation. I’ll reiterate a few here:
- Students are not being engaged.
- There are many factors to being at-risk.
- There is a communication gap between parents and teachers.
- A lack of resources is causing adverse effects.
- A focus on short term gains (like standardized test results and quick-fix behavior modifications) are to the detriment of long term gains (like engagement and real reform)
As we conclude our initial research phase, I think the main thing everyone would wish for more of was time. All told, we did quite well given the constraints.
The real fun comes next as we refine these big ideas into insights and combine them during synthesis to create new knowledge.
No Comments »