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Photographic interconnections : how students view their school environment Jansen, Stephanie Alaire 1999

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PHOTOGRAPHIC INTERCONNECTIONS: HOW STUDENTS VIEW THEIR SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT by STEPHANIE ALAIRE JANSEN B.Sc, Lakehead University, 1987 B.Ed., Queen's University, 1988 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTERS OF ARTS in EDUCATION (Department of Curriculum Studies) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA February 1999 © Stephanie Alaire Jansen, 1999 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Da«e A(n 9^  DE-6 (2/88) II Abstract This research aimed to understand the relationships seven secondary students perceived themselves to have with the physical and social features of their school environment. An ecological approach was used to study the reciprocal relationships between students and their school. Cameras were put in the hands of seven secondary students enrolled in a photography course at their school. They were given a roll of 24-exposure black and white film and asked to photograph the physical and social features that represented their interconnections with their school environment. To record their perspectives, each student selected their two best pictures and wrote a descriptive narrative for each. Interviews focused around their photographs to further enhance their meanings for the researcher. The majority of the students photographed physical features that they used as metaphors to represent their interconnections with their school environment. Their narratives either supported or rejected the way specific physical features looked and communicated social or political statements about the benefits or limitations of the school environment. The results clearly indicate that, from the students' perspectives, the physical environment of their school shapes the social and political aspects of their educational experience. Each student's photo-story about their relationship with their school environment is valuable information for educators to consider. Listening to what the students deem to be important and taking their ideas into consideration could promote constructive changes needed within so many school environments. Table of Contents Abstract ii Table of Contents iii Acknowledgements v CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION 1 Living Places 1 Relationships within living places, an ecological perspective 3 CHAPTER TWO LITERATURE REVIEW 7 The School as a System 7 The School as an Institution 10 The School as a Physical Environment 14 Physical features 17 Social features 21 CHAPTER THREE METHODOLOGY 25 Photoethnography 26 The Case Study 29 The Participants 32 Data Collection Procedures 33 Representation of the Interviews 36 Multimedia Data Presentations 37 Calendar of Events 38 Data Analysis 39 CHAPTER FOUR RESULTS 42 The School Environment 42 Week 1 - Introduction to the research project 43 Weeks 2 to 12 - Photographs, Videotapes and Stories 47 Kris's Photo-Story 50 Kris's Institution 52 Soleil's Photo-Story 54 Soleil's Lack of Freedom 56 Duncan's Photo-Story 58 Duncan's Encounters with Bathrooms 60 Raven's Photo-Story 61 Raven's Journey 64 Beth's Photo-Story 65 Beth's Focal Points 67 Lok Yun's Photo-Story 70 Lok Yun's Learning Environments 72 Damian's Photo-Story 75 Damian's Time 77 Week 13 - Final Group discussion 79 iv CHAPTER FIVE DISCUSSION 82 Physical Features 85 Social Features 91 Implications 95 Conclusion 97 BIBLIOGRAPHY 100 APPENDIX A CONSENT FORMS 104 Permission Letter 104 Parent Consent Form 106 Student Contract and Consent 107 Subject Consent Form 108 APPENDIX B INTERVIEW QUESTIONS 109 V Acknowledgements This research project was made possible with the support, help and co-operation of a great many people. First and foremost, I would like to thank my advisor, Karen Meyer, who inspired me to capitalize on my interest in photography, which helped create this research project. I felt fortunate to have worked with Karen who continually understood and supported me, my Master's and my role as mother. Karen's way of connecting with people in both a professional and compassionate manner was admirable. I am grateful to Linda Stanley who initially found me the most ideal graduate job to keep me financially afloat and as well, agreed to be on my thesis committee. Her expertise in the area of multimedia, ethnographic research and her sharp attention to detail was really appreciated. I feel fortunate that (after a few chocolate bribes) I was able to convince Walt Werner to be a member of my thesis committee. His vast experiences, great questions, and ability to see the big picture was a real asset to this study. All of the photographs, narratives and interviews were created within the school environment. The research focused to understand how students perceive their school environment and the seven students who agreed to participate were assured that their voices would not identify them personally. However, to these students I owe thanks for their invaluable contribution to this project. Agreeing to support this project was the students' photography teacher who gave his time, energy and expertise to work with the students ensuring all the tasks got completed before the end of the school year. I am so thankful for the hours of technical help I received from Bob Hapke who patiently guided me in scanning the students' photographs to disk as well as taught vi me many photo-editing techniques that were required to produce this piece. A huge thanks to my favourite librarian, Richard Moore, who so warmly and willingly found many of the resources that support this thesis. I would like to commend Joel, my husband, for being so supportive, tolerant and understanding to my needs as a graduate student. His patience was instrumental in the set up and maintenance of this document on our computer. Joel continues to attempt to make me more computer literate On their own accord, during the final, crucial months of completing this thesis, my parents willingly drove across the country to provide extra help and support. They sacrificed the warm, sunny, dry climate they have become accustomed to in the south to help me out here on "The We(s)t Coast." Their superb grandparenting and culinary skills were invaluable. Lastly, I would like to acknowledge my son, Leland, who was born in the middle of my studies and turned two years old just before my defence date. He would occasionally be upset on the days I left for school, saying "no, no school today." Now I can finally say, "you're right, no more school" (for a while, anyway). CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION 1 Living Places "Ifplace were the entire focus of education, it certainly could be. " (Orr, 1992, p. 131) Places arouse particular perceptions and create memories. We develop a sense of place by how it makes us feel and by the meaning we draw from it. The school environment, the focus of this study, is a place where students live for most of the day, five days a week, for most of their years between early childhood and early adulthood. It is a place where students build relationships with its physical, social and political features; and, where the combination of these features shapes behaviour and attitudes of students. These relationships are connections or feelings that prevail between persons or things. Interested in the ecology of child development, Garbarino (1985) explains that "the child and the environment negotiate their relationship over time. Neither is constant; each depends on the other in this reciprocal process" (p. 127). Thus, with time, students develop interactive relationships with the physical and social environment affecting how students relate to their school environment. One problem existing in secondary schools is the nature of the relationship between students and their school environment. The interactions that occur between students and their school environment do not always connect the two together in a constructive manner. As such, when secondary students perceive a lack of connection with their school, they do not invest interest in its well being. For example, a student throws an empty chocolate bar wrapper on the floor when there is a garbage can within arms reach. Is it because the student does not care about littering the hallway, or does the student honestly believe that it will be swept away by the 2 custodians because that is their job? In fact, the design and management of a school affect students' perspectives of their school environment. It is the physical features within the school environment that can set up implications for certain social and political activities to occur between the administration, staff and students. The purpose of this study is to understand the relationships a group of secondary students form with their school environment. As a teacher, I began to question secondary students' perceptions of their school environment. If their interactions are able to communicate a language that can express their feelings to others, how can we interpret what students are saying from the vandalism and littering demonstrated within school property? Can it explain why students litter the floors in school hallways and on school grounds, exit from the cafeteria before cleaning up the area where they were just eating, light lockers on fire, spray paint profanities on the walls and carve words into desks and chairs? Orr (1994) believes that "our preferences, phobias and behaviours begin in the experience of a place. If those places are ugly and violent, the behaviour of many raised in them will also be ugly and violent" (p. 161). Students gain knowledge about their school environment through their experiences in it and use this knowledge to guide their behaviours and attitudes. Therefore, the physical environment of a place is an important feature, shaping the social and political features of the school system. The overall research questions I asked were: What are the physical and social features that interconnect students with their school environment? What connections do students perceive having with their school environment? How are these relationships represented? My inquiry about interconnections was to bring forth an 3 understanding of students' perspectives about the physical and social features in their school environment. What I found most disappointing about the literature I reviewed was that while it concerned students, relatively few research projects actually involved student voices or suggestions. Therefore, my study was designed to provide educators and school architects with an awareness of the school's physical features that shape students' educational experience, enabling both administrators and teachers to take students' perspectives into consideration when physical, social and policy changes are required. Such interest on the part of educators to show they care about students' perspectives has the chance of allowing students to make positive connections with their school environment, thereby, altering some of the behaviours (i.e., vandalism) that (some) students exhibit while at school. Schools can benefit the ideas that students believe nourish positive interactions between themselves and their school environment. Listening to what the students deem to be important and taking their ideas into consideration could promote constructive changes needed within so many school environments. Relationships within living places, an ecological perspective " There is a lot that can be done to equip people to find their place and dig in. " (Orr, 1992, p. 170) As educators, we are constantly looking for new ways in which to give our students positive educational experiences. Ecology professor and cofounder of the Meadowcreek environmental education centre, David Orr, (1990) believes "it begins with ecology as the basis for the redesign of . . . educational institutions, and for a change in metaphors from mechanical to organic, industrial to biological" (p. 52). 4 Orr's (1992) book. Ecological Literacy, gives us an awareness of the earth's limits and how they may affect human evolution. He outlines the changes that must occur in our educational system if we are to avoid ecological disasters. Ecology studies the complex relationship of organisms to their environment, exploring interactions between the living and non-living components of ecosystems. Similarly, Doll (1993) encourages us to "look at ourselves, our community and our ecology . . . to develop a sense of power and ability" (p. 156). In this respect, Orr (1990) and Doll (1993) support ecology as the guide to provide strong, meaningful relationships. Numerous principles in ecology (the primary basis for life on Earth) can be applied to human society, often focusing on systems. Ecology is the study of the relationship between an organism and its changing environment. An understanding that ongoing changes and interactions are vital to any system's existence has led to an increasing concern to maintain these relationships for the well being of our planet. Likewise, this study focuses on the relationship or connection a small group of secondary students perceived to have with their school environment. One of the goals of this study was to alert educators that students are a connected part of their school and that their relationships have an impact on the well being of their school environment. Metaphorically, Goodlad (1987) suggests that "if we are going to have a healthy ecosystem of schooling, those who work in schools must do more to cut bait. And everyone else must keep the waters flowing smoothly and swiftly, free of pollutants upstream" (p. 221). That is, educators must do more to keep the students attracted to school and the administration should channel much of their energy to focus on what is best for the students. Therefore, it is important that the relationship between 5 students and their school environment be an interconnected part of a student's educational experience. In this study, an ecological perspective informed the fundamental relationship that interconnects a group of seven students with their school environment. The features of the school system I specifically studied include how students depict the physical and social features within the school environment, and how these shape students' perspectives of their school. Although the physical and social features are discussed separately, the two are interdependent (i.e., physical spaces such as hallways with lockers create social spaces for students). Furthermore, I initially limited my inquiry to these two features and later I included political features upon analysing the data. Similarly, in Habitats for Children. Garbarino (1985) used an ecological perspective "to study the ecology of child development [which is] to undertake the scientific study of how the child develops interactively with the immediate social and physical environment" (p. 127). In his study, Garbarino establishes a framework for the child as a developing person who actively shapes their world. Discussing the importance of connected habitats, Orr (1990) defines ecology as "the form and structure of any conversation with the natural world" (p. 50) recognizing that conversations are a way of interconnected living, not just a matter of speech. He suggests not preparing students to reside in a place but instead to inhabit in a place. A resident is a temporary occupant, putting down few roots and investing little, knowing little, and perhaps caring little for the immediate locale beyond its ability to gratify. The inhabitant, in contrast, dwells in an intimate, organic, mutually nurturing relationship with a place . . . [with] a sense of care and rootedness. (Orr, 1992, p. 130) To reside in one's place indicates a transient occupant whereas an inhabitant and a place reciprocally shape each other, developing a symbiotic relationship. In this 6 respect, living systems are composed of interconnecting relationships. Thinking about a school from an ecological perspective requires us at least to rethink how a school's spaces connect to the students who inhabit them. An ecological perspective is a valuable frame to focus on the interactive relationships between organisms and their environment. This study uses an ecological perspective as a lens to investigate the relationships students perceive between themselves and the school environment. The camera was the tool each student used to capture images that represent their understanding about their school; their photographs are, therefore, the medium by which they represented their interpretations. For each of the two photographs the students selected from their roll of film, they wrote an interpretative narrative that described the meaning of their photograph. I conducted individual interviews with each of the students that focused on understanding what the students wished their photographs to communicate. In addition, the students' photographs were displayed at the school's annual art exhibition to communicate to other students, staff and community members their reflections of their school environment. CHAPTER TWO LITERATURE REVIEW 7 The School as a System "In school I learned about lots of other places, but I did not learn much about my own. " (On, 1994, p. 157) In many ways, a school is like an ecosystem. It consists of a community of students, an environment and numerous interactions that occur between students and the school environment. It is a complex mosaic of phenomena and patterns. What happens to one part can affect what happens to another, therefore, making it a system of mutual dependence. The environment is a term commonly used to describe a surrounding "a landscape with its own particular flora and fauna" (Orr, 1992, p. 129). In this study, the environment included the physical and social features that exist within one school setting, including the building and its encompassing property. Within the school environment this study aimed to examine the interconnections students form with the physical and social features within this system. There are two ways to study schools as a system. Traditionally, the assumption is that schools have functioned in a linear, input-output fashion where the teacher puts knowledge into students and they process it out on tests. Conversely, Goodlad (1987) suggests schools can function like ecosystems, consisting of complex interacting and interdependent elements. He suggests that a difference between the two types of schooling is in the use of goals. In linear schools, he indicates that goals are only something to be achieved, justifying all meaning on the final outcome. He believes a school with an ecological perspective raises moral questions about the goals themselves, justifying the "functions it performs and the activities it promotes 8 according to their inherent merit—their qualities of goodness" (p. 212). The opportunity and responsibility involved with promoting ecology requires that the school be "sensitively attuned" (Goodlad, 1987, p. 216) to the social links beyond the school system, and that society as a whole needs to be connected to the relevant sources of knowledge related to teaching and learning. In his report, The Ecology of School Renewal. Goodlad (1987) states that in isolation, each feature of an ecosystem can be the source of educational problems; however, if all the parts of the system are interacting as a unit, they can become the features for school improvement. He presents schools as ecological communities that function as one unit, extending the interacting of the ecosystem to include the "political, social, and economic realities of the contexts within which public schools operate" (Goodlad, 1987, p. 43). Therefore, it is important that schools be places where students, teachers and administrators work together to develop a sense of connectedness in an environment that embodies autonomy. Similarly, Eisner's (1988) study focused on ecological components for school improvement, suggesting five interactive features of importance; 1) intentions, 2) structure, 3) curriculum, 4) pedagogy and 5) evaluation. By intentions he suggests making what is taught personally relevant to students, allowing them to have a stake in what they learn. Secondly, he believes that teaching is divided into parts (subjects, classrooms and time blocks) which isolate people. Eisner would like to structure schools so that they provide care and a sense of community by bridging together students' learning with community involvement. Thirdly, he feels that the present school curriculum is fragmented, making it difficult for students to understand the relationship between subjects. He suggests bridging subjects together "to help them 9 use what they learn to meet the demands of life" (Eisner, 1988, p. 29). His fourth interactive feature for school improvement is practising pedagogy that "de-isolates teachers and administration . . . [to] become reflective practitioners" (p. 29). Ultimately, he suggests designing more valuable means of evaluation that reveal to others what students know and learn. Eisner (1988) avows that these five ecological features need to interact together as a whole if they are to give shape and direction for school improvement. Although his ecological perspective does touch on one physical structure (classrooms) as being an important component for improving a school environment, he does not mention the physical structure of the building and surrounding property as being interactive features of importance. Different from both Eisner's (1988) and Goodlad's (1987) comprehensive approach to an ecological perspective, the scope of this study limited its focus to two components, the physical and social features of a school environment. In a fascinating exploration of the role of ecological psychology in studying children's behaviour, Gump (1987) suggests that settings, by design, provide a context that determines behaviour. He discovered that various aspects of a child's behaviour frequently changed as that child moved from one setting to another. Gump (1987) used his findings to support his theory that settings are ecological rather than psychological, meaning that each setting has its own way of providing a context for learning. His research suggests a strong link between the design of an environment and the behaviour of children inhabiting them. 10 The School as an Institution "Nowhere else are large groups of individuals packed so closely together for so many years, yet expected to perform at peak efficiency on different learning tasks and to interact harmoniously." (Weinstein, 1979, p. 585) Historically, education has moved from the natural environment (fields, gardens and homes) to a built environment (schools) whose design function is "to provide a climate . . . conducive to both teaching and learning" (Conners, 1983, p. 15). Carlo de Carlo's (1974) research focused on the construction of school buildings noting that "when education began to become an institution, buildings were immediately made for the purpose of containing it and, at the same time, isolating it from contacts with the surrounding environment" (p. 98). He parallels the segregation aspect of school buildings to that of prisons: "physical structures designed exclusively to house a specific activity, but also to isolate it from other activities" (Carlo de Carlo, 1974, p. 99). From an ecological perspective, Miller and Seller (1990) believe "schools should be places where students and teachers can collaborate in an environment that promotes autonomy . . . instead of enforcing conformity" (p.158). As educators, we consider growth to be a healthy progression for all living organisms and understand that it is best accomplished in a nurturing environment. If schools are institutions that facilitate a climate of growth, what are the physical and social features that represent nurturing environments? Does the design and milieu of school environments portray these institutions to be welcoming, friendly places or, for example, do long, pale-painted corridors leading to compartmentalized classrooms convey a sense of detainment? Almost half of the existing schools in North America were built in the 1950s and 1960s primarily to meet the increasing demand for the baby-boom children. They are 11 stereotypically recognized as institutional facilities in need of major repair and renovation (Walker, 1993). Moore and Lackney (1994) describe the design of schools built during this period to be "very institutionalized in character, some even being industrialized construction boxes with no exterior windows, looking more like warehouses than interactive learning environments for our next generation" (p. 55). These researchers recommend that designing schools for the next generation requires that "buildings look friendly and non-institutional . . . with sloped roofs, open and operable windows and intimate spaces inside" (Moore & Lackney, 1994, p. 36). Thus, the literature is communicating that the original spaces of the school environment are not meeting the needs of the students who presently inhabit them. School environments were originally designed and managed to consider only the formal educational requirements of the students. Zeisel's (1974) research identified that much of the damage found in school environments was caused by a lack of recognition to plan and design for the informal, social needs of the students. The goal of his research was to inform architects in designing and educators in evaluating existing facilities and plans for new schools. To understand and evaluate teenagers (and other school users) Zeisel (1974) stated that "vandalism is more than just the actions of malicious person . . . [and] causes under fifty percent of school property damage" (p. 173-175). He classified property damage into four categories, according to "the motive of the person being destructive and the indirect effect of the damage" (p. 173), each with a different implication for school design. Zeisel defined malicious vandalism as not primarily being a design problem. For example, in an attempt to strike back, a student consciously breaks a window in the principal's office after that student had been given a stern lecture. On the other hand, misnamed vandalism is 12 defined as accidental damage that could have been avoided with better design planning. That is, if a basketball court is planned next to a series of windows and during play, the ball breaks a window, the act was not intentional although the window will still require repair. Non-malicious property damage includes situations where the school design has neglected the needs of the students. In Zeisel's example, a group of students use a school wall to play hockey and spray paint the outline of a net onto the wall. He believes that although the players are conscious that their actions may be viewed as graffiti, their reasons for painting the lines on the wall are to fulfil their immediate need and not to be malicious. His fourth type of property damage is termed hidden maintenance damage. This would include, the extra work a custodian might have to keep garbage and debris from the vegetation that was planted to improve the aesthetics of the school. Zeisel also suggests that if areas such as these are not properly maintained it can more often invite vandalism than if those areas appear to be cared for. His research team directed their attention towards designs that reduce the problem of non-malicious vandalism to the school environment. The most interesting part of this research recognized that the design of the school environment (building and grounds) actually contributes to and causes damage and vandalism by the messages and meanings which design conveys to the students. "We feel that designers who want to limit property damage must take at least some responsibility for design decisions which challenge young people to damage schools and which make schools easy and inviting targets" (Zeisel, 1974, p. 174). His team of researchers studied schools across the United States analysing the damage and causes of vandalism to school environments. They concentrated their efforts to find 13 solutions to meet the needs of the students and identify those that act as challenges that frustrate students and result in destruction. Zeisel's analogy to distinguish between solutions that challenge versus those that connect student to their school environment is brilliant: If a child needs to cross a river but does not know how to swim, there are several ways to deal with the problem. The first is to build a high fence on the river's edge to keep the child away. Depending on the child's need to cross the river, and depending on how much he is challenged by the fence itself, he may climb it, break it down or cut through it, and eventually drown away. On the other hand, if a bridge is built to the other side, the child can achieve his own goal safely and without doing harm to any property. (Zeisel, 1974, p. 175). Thus design and management are important parts to consider when finding solutions that bridge together students with their school environment while avoiding temptations to harm it. In addition, the school environment can be a focal point for the maturing students' personal growth and social development. However, the relationships students make within their environment has changed since most of the schools were built. Family, social structure and economic changes have occurred since schools were first built. In order for schools to support these changes, Fiske (1991) suggests "redefining the relationships between students, teachers, administrators, parents and school . . . [which] requires a whole new value system, one that promotes freedom, diversity and professionalism" (p. 252). For example, Fiske (1991) pointed out that traditionally, the delivery of information, provided by the teacher, was the work that occurred in the "factory-model classroom" (p.66). He recommends that "in smart schools the teacher . . . creates the proper learning context and helps the student take responsibility for his own learning" (Fiske, 1991, p. 66). As another example, he depicts the traditional row 14 seating of students at desks in a classroom to promote a sense of competition and isolation of students from one another. Instead, he supports that students be grouped around tables to learn from each other and "prepare students for the teamwork that is such an important part of the emerging workplace" (Fiske, 1991, p. 81). In this respect, considering the social relationships in the school environment is essential for meeting the educational needs of the students it serves. The School as a Physical Environment "We shape our surroundings and then our surroundings shape us" (Sir Winston Churchill in Garbarino, 1980, p. 25) The role of the physical environment as part of an interrelated feature of the students' educational experience needs further attention in the research literature. Educators and architects have seldom addressed the impact of the physical features on the student's relationship with their school environment. It is what is done with the physical features that form the relationship. For example, the arrangement of student's desks and chairs in a classroom can express different meanings. If they are positioned in rows, messages of independence and isolation are given. Where as, if desks and chairs are arranged in one large circle or in small-groups, invitations of inclusiveness and socialization predominate. Most studies isolate the impact of specific variables (i.e. windows, class size, noise, etc.) on student behaviour, attitudes, and achievement; however, a section of Weinstein's (1979) research considered the school environment from an ecological perspective. Rather than isolating specific independent variables, she considered the "educational habitat of school children" describing student behaviour as it naturally 15 occurs (Weinstein, 1979, p. 578). She reviewed research that avoided experimental manipulation of specific variables, taking a more ecological perspective to observe behaviour patterns in pre-schools during free play periods. Her findings indicate that the type of insights available to an ecological approach can describe "a number of behavioural dimensions, such as complexity of social interaction, duration of involvement, and appropriateness of activity" (Weinstein, 1979, p. 594). In this respect, Weinstein's review suggests that by ecologically observing the inhabitants of a place, without isolating specific physical variables, valuable information for the researcher can be obtained. In a similar respect, Conners' (1983) study provides evidence that the overall physical environment affects people's behaviours and attitudes. He links the design of a school environment with stress resulting from the interactions of those persons in that environment. Conners (1983) strongly believes that the school "environment can affect the individual's perception of personal control" (p. 17) possibly resulting in undesirable behaviours, but certainly resulting in stress if control of the interactions are made difficult. Therefore, he suggests the key design features of a school environment should provide a setting for social interaction, the opportunity for control of spaces, and allow choice over different spaces. His study suggests that stress can be reduced if school environments promote the desired interactions that suit the needs of the inhabitants. Thus, the implications from this study support the need for the design of the school environment to provide spaces that enhance interaction and allow inhabitants to feel empowered to select the spaces for social interactions. Some research recognizes the school's physical environment as a variable influencing learning outcomes, but it is rare to locate literature that views school 16 environments "as part of an interrelated component of a larger learning environment system" (Walker, 1993, p. 13). Research compiled by Moore and Lackney (1994) suggest that the physical environment of a school directly impacted student achievement as well as student behaviour and attitudes such as social interaction. They complain that "the physical environment has been unappreciated for its potentially supportive role in the learning environment" (Moore & Lackney, 1994, p. 17). The purpose of their research was to highlight the relationship between the physical environment, pedagogical, psychological and social factors that they believe are much more influential than recognized. Moore and Lackney (1994) recommend that "educators take a more holistic, ecological look at the whole range of factors and their interrelationships upon which the child's learning depends" (p. 17). From an ecological perspective, the interdependent relationship among the physical, social, and political features of a school environment, is a valuable means of study. The physical, social and political elements are all interdependent parts of the school environment and difficult to separate. For example, steel grills on windows are a physical feature but may be portrayed as a political statement about the school environment. However, for ease of discussion, the physical, social and political elements have been separated into specific environmental variables (i.e. class size, windows, hallways etc.) recognizing that an overlap can occur amongst them. Although political features were not directly sought after in this research they are imposed on the students in this environment and, therefore, the mention of their relationship to the system is unavoidable. 17 Physical features Class size. Studies on class size (Bourke, 1986; Finn & Achilles, 1990; Pate-Vain et al., 1992) agree that smaller classes (13-17 students per teacher) are beneficial both for the students and the teacher. Students in smaller classes scored higher on tests, such as the Stanford Achievement Test, had more opportunities to engaged in learning activities using materials, and showed an increase in attendance and involvement in learning activities (Finn & Achilles, 1990; Pate-Vain et al., 1992). Similarly, Moore and Lackney (1994) conclude "reductions in class size begin to make substantial differences in academic achievement around 15 students to a class" (p. 9). These same researchers also found that teachers of smaller classes were able to identify student needs. This meant that they could provide individual instruction, give more individual attention, increase their interactions with each student, and cover more material effectively, making enrichment and in-depth teaching possible (Bourke, 1986; Finn & Achilles, 1990; Pate-Vain etal., 1992). The teachers involved in the Pate-Vain et al. (1992) study "consistently displayed similar affective behaviours and characteristics" (p. 255) such as an increase in their enthusiasm and praise towards their students and presented positive attitudes and humour more frequently. The problem with implementing the results of class-size research is that it is too expensive for most schools to decrease the number of students per teacher. However, these three studies make a solid case to eliminate the school environment as a "factory . . . a mass production effort. . . an industrial-age enterprise" (Pate-Vain et al., 1992, p. 256) and provide evidence that the academic and social benefits of smaller classes far outweigh the costs involved. 18 Tables and benches. Research has documented social, personal and academic gains for students seated at tables as opposed to individual chairs at desk (Moore & Lackney, 1994). The evidence suggests that "students working at tables in small groups can master material better than working on their own" (Slavin, as cited in Fiske, 1991, p. 59). Similarly, studies that emphasized co-operative learning indicate that table groupings of students boosts their self-esteem, and that students become more accepting of others when compared to students working on their own. Sommer and Olsen (1980) remodelled a traditional college classroom, containing rows of chairs-desks with three-tiered cushioned benches, adjustable lighting, carpeting and other aesthetic items to create a "soft" classroom. Their study indicated that student participation in classroom and group discussions was higher (79%) than was observed earlier in the study (51%) of the traditional classrooms. It appears that students seated in rows of chairs and desks promote a sense of competition amongst individuals. Students seated in small groups at tables or along benches seem to encourage a sense of community. Windows. The idea of classrooms without windows is both applauded and opposed. Supporters of windowless classrooms cite the "freedom from heat, glare and distraction, the increased space for bulletin boards and storage, the decrease in vandalism, and the opportunity for more flexible room arrangements" (Weinstein, 1979, p. 593). On the other side, opponents emphasize the need for visual access to the outside world and caution claustrophobic conditions. While the evidence remains mixed with respect to the positive and negative attitudes towards windowless classrooms, Moore and Lackney (1994) conclude that for students, "negative attitudes increase over time, whereas teachers, for the most part, have positive attitudes 19 believing that windowless schools cut down on distractions" (p. 66). Considering then what the students say, windows are welcome features in classrooms. Secluded spaces. Students desirous of an independent learning space frequently seek private areas, void of noise and visual interruptions. Moore and Lackney's (1994) research review suggested that secluded study spaces within classrooms minimized disruptions for students, therefore increasing their attention span that ultimately may "lead to higher academic achievement" (p. 11). School libraries usually design independent carousels to accommodate individual study; however they lack the physical closeness proximity that teachers deem advantageous from a management perspective. For the student, secluded spaces inside classrooms allow for individual thought and creativity but keep students close to the action for social re-entry with the rest of the class. Aesthetics. For most students, being at school involved spending time outside as well as inside the school. The aesthetic appearance of a school environment, the way it looks, can affect students' perception of the place. Titman's (1994) three-year research project aimed to "assist those involved in the management of school and their grounds for the benefit of children" (p. iii). Her study acknowledged that the aesthetic quality of a place had an impact on children's perception of place. Titman's (1994) described various features of school grounds (fixed-play structures, vegetation, ponds, etc.) and concluded that, "any element was valued if it introduced some stimulus or diversity in an otherwise barren environment" (p. 82). Therefore, students perceived landscaped school grounds as a positive attempt to meet their needs, and the students in return, place a higher aesthetic value on the area. 20 Her research question is closely connected to my study, "Does the physical environment of school grounds and the way these are managed affect children's attitude/behaviour and if so how/why?" (p. 15). Supporting the notion of landscaping school grounds, Titman (1994) discovered that vegetation (trees, flowers, bushes, etc.) added aesthetic value and was symbolic of the degree to which the grounds and the school were cared for. More importantly, when students were involved in the landscaping of their school, "their sense of pride and ownership became symbolic of their relationship with the school as a whole" (Titman, 1994, p. 39). Her study also found that student participation in landscaping decreased vandalism to the school grounds. Perhaps this is because when students feel they are a part of their school environment they are more willing to care for its well being. Putting theory into practice, St. Matthew's school in Regina transformed its barren landscape in an attempt to reduce schoolyard violence and vandalism. Prior to this project, this school "resembled that of a penitentiary . . . lined with asphalt and crusher dust, surrounded by chain-link fences, with metal play structures as entertainment" (Gooliaff, 1998, p. 9). Teachers and parents became concerned at the disturbing behaviours exhibited by the children and believed the schoolyard was not encouraging the children to use any imagination or creativity—basically, they were bored. Despite the challenges to raise $70,000 and find those willing to volunteer their time to reconstruct the site, the project was successfully completed in two years. To encourage imaginative and creative play, the school constructed "a huge sand play area surrounded by rocks and trees, pathways, small hills to roll down, a gazebo, picnic tables, planted perennials, a shallow pond and a sports field" (Gooliaff, 1998, p. 9). The adults were not responsible for building all the features; some of the 21 building materials were left for the children to create their own structures. These modifications changed the way the children used their schoolyard, reducing violence and vandalism, making St. Matthew's a more creative, co-operative learning place. Similarly, Titman (1994) found that "school grounds, by their design and the way they are managed, convey messages and meanings to children which influence their attitude and behaviour in a variety of ways" (p. 63). If the school grounds met the children's needs they believed this to communicate that the school valued and understood their needs. However, if the school grounds were "an uncomfortable and unpleasant experience," they believed the school was communicating a lack of care for them and the school environment (p. 57). Moore and Lackney (1994) gathered evidence suggesting that the outdoor school environment is not simply a place for recess but can also be "a laboratory for learning . . . [where] elements of the building can reach out into the outdoors spaces and create an additional space for class activities" (p. 62). Outdoor spaces can be landscaped into structured learning environments (e.g. extensions of classrooms or fixed play structures) or as social spaces to gather with friends. Regardless of their function, landscaping demonstrates that care of school environment is being considered as well as an attempt to provide an aesthetic place for student interaction. Social features "Schools have been expected to shape a social landscape " (Clarke, 1998, p. 6) Social areas. Research has identified that designing social spaces within educational facilities "recognized the need for community identity within a school [and] 22 offer opportunities for larger groups within the school to gather, so important among middle school and especially high school students" (Moore & Lackney, 1994, p. 48). Schools can be re-designed to provide areas for students to socialize. For example, an outdoor courtyard of a school, originally built in the 1950s, was roofed and renovated into a student commons area. As well, a cafeteria was remodelled resembling "a fast food restaurant, with booths for eating, rather than long impersonal, dining-hall tables" (Moore & Lackney, 1994, p. 49). The theory behind designing social spaces is that students (and teachers) develop a sense of community within their school environment. Hallways. Designed as transitional areas between classrooms and offices, hallways have an important social dimension for students. As a secondary school teacher, I discovered that hallways serve as neutral areas where students can socialize in small groups, usually centred in front of each other's lockers. As well, some students find that eating their lunch with friends in the halls is a much more enjoyable experience than dining in the cafeteria. Moore and Lackney (1994) are in support of what they term "great spaces [such as] lobbies and corridors which are designed to be wide enough to accommodate and encourage a variety of student social interactions . . . and spaces for informal social gatherings" (p. 48). Their work supports the notion for hallways to become "indoor streets" for meeting, socializing and informal instruction. School organization. What is the ideal school size? A great number of studies have been conducted on the optimal size of a school with consistent findings. In comparison to large high schools (over 1000 students) small and medium-sized high schools (less than 1000 students) "lead to a more humane educational system" 23 (Moore & Lackney, 1994, p. 38). Garbarino's (1980) research indicated that the size of a school makes a difference to students, especially to "academically and socially marginal students" (p. 20). He argues that students "need small schools to produce the kind of school environment in which personalization, participation, responsibility and competence are encouraged by the structural properties of the situation" (Gararino, 1980, p. 20). Likewise, in small schools, Wohlwill and van Vliet (1985) discovered that the participation of academically marginal students was more strongly encouraged than in large schools "where only the involvement of more qualified students was sought and accepted" (p. 219). These findings suggest that smaller schools are more supportive of enhancing all student development, regardless of academic ability. This quality is certain to help more students connect with their school environment than just a selected few. Similarly, in a study on school and classroom environments, Gump (1987) discovered that "students attending small high schools were much more likely to report satisfaction in their setting" (p. 710). Moore and Lackney (1994) compiled results of many studies together concluding that smaller schools have more students involved in governing decisions, greater opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities and to exercise leadership roles, less crime, less misconduct and students have more sense of responsibility in their school environment. Numbers aside, Gump and Barker (1982) believe that a school should be small enough so that "all of its students are needed for its enterprises" (p. 412). They suggest that as a school gets larger and more densely populated, less students are needed and they "become superfluous [and] redundant" (p. 411). Imagine the negative impact that this would have on students' perspectives of their school. Commonly, these studies agree that 24 students are best served in school environments that engage them in a meaningful way with other students and their teachers. The issue of school size provides a good example of the complex interaction of the physical and social features shaping the students experience in their school environment. School-within-a-school. The idea behind the school-within-a-school organization is to offer some "small school" benefits within a large school organization. "The essence is the idea of separate yet related schools-within-a-school, separate yet related administratively and architecturally" (Moore & Lackney, 1994, p. 43). Gump's (1987) study on school and classroom environments detailed one of those benefits to be "that students interact with many of the same teachers and peers throughout their school experience" (p. 711). As well as building close peer and teacher relationships, the school-within-a-school concept also gives students opportunities to exhibit more leadership behaviour, take on more responsibility, work harder and foster a sense of community amongst other program participants (Gump, 1987). Adult education programs seem to employ this concept with success by housing their programs within existing elementary or secondary schools. The evidence presented suggests that the physical and social features of the school environment have been unappreciated for its nurturing role in student learning and are much more powerful than realized. It is, therefore, incumbent that educators model an ecological approach for schools and consider the interrelationships that define students' educational experience. CHAPTER THREE METHODOLOGY 25 "They [photographs] mediate the visual features of the world through the consciousness of the artist who constructs them " (Ball and Smith, 1992, p. 16) When I was a student teacher, I focused on experiential education as a creative, self-learning process, enabling the learners to reconstruct knowledge for their own interests and needs. In this sense, our stories and experiences could then become a living, personal text for learning. As a teacher, I frequently shared stories and photographs with students extending my interests and values outside the classroom. Grumet (1992) supports this idea by suggesting that we "build our pedagogies around our knowledge of why and how we have come to feel the way we do about what we teach" (p. 128). In this respect, my photo-stories have helped me shape my connection with a variety of environments and have inspired the way in which data were collected for this study. Through my own personal interests, I have discovered photographs to be a rich source of memories around which stories can be constructed. For that reason, I elected to use photography as a means to study students' interconnections with their school environment. The camera was the tool each student used to capture images, to portray their interconnections with their school; and their photographs, accompanied by a one-page narrative, were the medium by which they communicated their interpretations. The photographs provided visual data "unobtainable through observation or conventional interviews" (Schwartz, 1989, p. 143) of their relation within their school. Their photographic data, pooled together with their narratives and interview data, facilitated an in-depth understanding of how a group of students 26 interact with the physical and social features of their school environment and how the school environment shapes the students' interactions. Photoethnography Using a camera to take pictures is a method that allows me to capture images of my relationship with a particular environment. Observation, judgement and evaluation form the basis for taking a picture, which acts as a record to indicate one's outlook towards the environment (Pratt et al., 1979). I have discovered that photography has sharpened my observational skills. When a particular object or image captures my interest, I take a second look through the lens of a camera. My challenge as a photographer has been to perceive an image in my own way and technically execute this interpretation as a photograph. These images are my best souvenirs, expressing my personal view of a particular place. My photographs and slides, some of which hang on a wall in my apartment, or have flashed on a screen in front of an audience, constantly remind me of the aesthetic beauty a certain place offered. Photography allows me to be creative and develop my own style of presenting images to others. Being able to discuss one's own photographs can allow one to see more in a picture than was originally perceived at the time it was taken (Pratt, 1979). My most valued pictures are those of wilderness landscapes I once travelled which later elicit a comment or question for someone else. They allow me to reflect back to being in a particular place and recall the reactions or feelings I developed while being there. Although a camera is unable to record elements such as sound and smell, the feelings of those senses can sometimes permeate through as I review the visual image along with reading the text of my journal entries. 27 There has been significant ethnographic research conducted demonstrating the benefits of using photography in qualitative studies. Most studies use photographs as part of ethnographic reports or as a resource for the examination of visual phenomena (Ball & Smith, 1992, p. 7). In my study, photography was the medium for students to visually communicate their interconnections of the physical and social components of their school environment. Using photographs provided the students and me with an image to repeatedly examine. Preskill (1995) described how photography was used as a research technique to enhance the written text of an evaluation report of a school's culture. Although not initially planned, Preskill (1995) used photography to stimulate reflection and discussion throughout a three-year study in a school. By photographing school events and interactions among staff and students, the researcher learned the value of photography as a "method of communication that enhances understanding" (p. 185) allowing educators a context to address and interpret issues among staff and students. Schwartz's (1989) research used photoethnography as a means to meet and communicate with a rural farming community. She described her photographs as being "data generators" (p. 119) that prompted personal narratives when they were presented to individuals from this community. Her study emphasized how photographs "elicit" (p. 122) reaction and information (without hesitation) about the viewers' lives and experiences more easily than through observation or interviews. Walker (1993) emphasized that photographs are best used as the "mainstream" (p. 85) rather than as an addition in qualitative research and evaluation. His paper presented examples of his own, and other researchers, who have used photography 28 as the primary method for providing complex information, stimulating discussion, sustaining engagement and encouraging participation or self-refection. Walker (1993) promoted educational settings as appropriate sites for photographic research because of our own memories of school experiences. His paper provided both theoretical and practical ideas for those interested in using photographs to "voice" (p. 89) their research in a school environment. While most of the data in photoethnography are performed by the researcher, who decides upon the photographs for study, few have explored placing cameras in the hands of the study participants, "who are able, and perhaps most qualified, to conduct their own versions of reality" (Huesca, 1993, p. 4). In an ethnographic study in Bolivia, Huesca (1993) taught employees of a local radio station to use a video camera to gather the data for his study. The participants filmed their daily radio program, shot footage in local places and documented a funeral of two miners, which he believed significantly contributed to his research of the local culture and history. "Tapping the expertise of research subjects, by putting cameras in their hands, not only established good-will and rapport, it captured important images and speeches that would have been inaccessible otherwise" (p. 4). In his post-field analysis, Huesca (1993) conducted his interviews using the videotapes, documented by the radio station employees. He believed the quality of his research was increased because the employees were directly involved in the data collection, as reflected by the culturally rich information he received from the participants. In this study, the camera was the tool each student used to capture images that portray their interconnection with their school environment. Their photographs are visual records of the physical and social features representing the students' view of a 29 living place. The photographs served as "data generators" (Schwartz, 1989, p. 119) and provided an interactive context for the students to communicate their personal meanings. In other words, the students exhibited the reality that exists and interpreted the images in their own voice. In this respect, "the photograph becomes a receptacle from which individual viewers withdraw meaning" (Schwartz, 1989, p. 120). For the researcher, their photographs of the school's physical and social environment provided me with a medium for studying the meaning students attribute to aspects of their school life and its surroundings. As well, the photographs served as prompts to communicate information concerning students which might otherwise never been voiced. For this study, secondary students who were engaged in a photography course at their school were selected to participate. These conditions allowed me to work with those students who already knew how to use a camera and who also had an interest in photography. This common thread of taking pictures established a relationship between the students and myself that assisted me to engage them in this task-oriented activity with enthusiasm. During the field of inquiry, the students became photojournalists, taking photographs and writing an accompanying narrative, allowing them to creatively express their perspectives. The C a s e S tudy "Case studies should provide new insight in order to be of any interest. " (Stake, 1994, p. 239) I selected a qualitative case study as the research method to investigate students' interconnections with their school environment. Merriam (1988) suggests that "most 30 case studies in education approach a problem from a holistic perspective . . . to gain an in-depth understanding of the situation and its meaning for those involved" (p. xii). Similarly, I have chosen the case study design to achieve a greater understanding of how students form interconnections with their school. The following key question emerged during the research and helped draw meaning from students' photographs: What do you identify as the important physical and social features in your school environment? (Recognizing that political relationships may enter into discussion). Yin (1994) states the purpose of selecting the case study as the research method is to "establish a framework for discussion and debate among students" (p. 2). This case consisted of a small group of secondary students who, bounded within the perimeters of the school property, used their photography to provide a more in-depth analysis of their interconnection with their school environment. Yin (1994) identifies two variations: single- and multiple-case studies as a research strategy (p. 15). This study was singular, selecting one secondary school, but has seven subsections, involving seven students. As the case-study researcher, I looked for common themes, but also acknowledge that unique views exist amongst the seven students. Although this case included only a small group of students from one school, it is understood that it is impossible to focus on just students' interconnections while avoiding the many other factors that surround this case. For example, the physical location of the school selected might have had socio-economic factors associated with it that may have influenced students' views. In this respect, I recognized that interconnections from students who attend a school in a wealthy neighbourhood might differ from students who attend a school in a lower income area. Merriam (1988) believes that case study research that focuses on "discovery, insight and 31 perspectives of those being studied offers the greatest promise of making significant contributions to the knowledge base and practice of education" (p. 3). That is, while there are other factors involved that may affect one's view it can still be worthwhile to study an isolated case (one school) as a start to building knowledge. Her viewpoint inspired me to engage in a single-case study of one school as being a small contribution to the field of education. Merriam (1988) outlines four fundamental characteristics of a qualitative case study (p. 11-12). Case studies need to be particularistic, meaning that they centre on a particular situation, event, program, or phenomenon. In this research, the case study focused on the students' interconnections of their school environment. A second characteristic of the case study is that it be a rich description of the phenomenon. Through multimedia data presentations (students' photographs, video, narratives and interview proses) it was possible to provide a descriptive analysis of their interconnections. A third characteristic is that the case study be heuristic, enhancing the reader's understanding of the phenomenon studied. Again, a multimedia presentation style can enlighten a variety of viewers such as other students, educators and the community. The fourth characteristic Merriam (1988) believes to be essential to case studies is that they rely on inductive reasoning. This means that a "discovery of new relationships, concepts and understanding" (p. 13) emerge from the data as opposed to simply a verification of a pre-established hypothesis. As mentioned later in this chapter, one of the purposes of this study is for the students to discover their interconnection with the school environment by visually and verbally showing this relationship to others. For me as the researcher, it provides new insight as well as confirms my previously established beliefs that 32 explain why students behave and develop certain attitudes towards their school environment. These characteristics of case study design strengthen the research to promote a rethinking of the phenomenon being studied. Stake (1994) identifies three different reasons for choosing a case study. Intrinsic case studies result from an interest in the subject itself, while instrumental case studies are used to assist other research. Collective case studies rely on studying several different interrelated cases. This research can be classified as an intrinsic case study because it stems from my personal interest to better understand how students interconnect with their school environment. Stake (1994) believes that the intrinsic case study design "draws the researcher toward an understanding of what is important about that case within its own world . . . developing its own issues, context and interpretations" (p. 242). By having the student take, develop and select their own photographs in this case, they have guided this researcher to an understanding of what the important features are that exist in their school. The Participants Together with the art teacher, the photography teacher selected seven students that they felt would be interested in participating in this project. Their criteria for selection was to choose students, who could successfully take photographs, write narratives, and who would be reliable and dedicated to this study. Fortunately, I believe they chose seven students from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and academic abilities that represents the diversity of the school population. Originally, I had planned for six students from one class to voluntarily participate in this study. However, to ensure student diversity and the completion of this study, the teachers 33 decided to choose seven students from three different photography classes. Four females (Beth, Lok Yun, Raven and Soleil) and three males (Damian, Duncan and Kris) in grade 11 agreed to participate. In this study, these pseudonyms were chosen by each student to conceal their identity. As well, the name of the school has been omitted. Three of the students, Beth, Lok Yun and Kris, were members of the "Mini School" which attracts students who have above average academic abilities along with the motivation and talent to seek a challenging and enriching program. The Mini School encourages organizational skills, leadership, co-operative learning, problem solving, mentorship, and social responsibility. Students have full access to facilities, elective courses, clubs and teams in the secondary school and are encouraged to be actively involved in the school and community. However, this program is limited to 28 grade 8 students each year. The other four students, Damian, Duncan, Raven and Soleil were students in the regular school program. All the students chose to take photography as an elective course that introduced them to the use of cameras and lenses, lighting and electronic flash, processing and printing, and to various film types. The students gained experience in portrait, fashion and landscape photography as well as in the medium of video. This course is portrayed as an art and a science as well as a career and a hobby. Data Collection Procedures The following procedures were followed in this study: 1. As much as possible, the research was conducted during class time in order to accommodate both the students and the teacher. 34 2. Each student signed a contract that included permission from their parent/guardian and required them to complete the following: a) take photographs of their school environment (the building and encompassing property) b) select two photographs for enlargement c) participate in an interview session d) write a one-page narrative for each of the two photographs e) record photographs and narratives on a videotape. 3. Each student was asked to shoot and develop at least one roll of film (24 exposures) using the equipment provided by the school's photography course. The students selected and enlarged two, 8x10-inch photographs that best represented their interconnections with their school environment. The students also understood that if they chose pictures of people to represent their interconnection then any identifiable subjects would have to give written consent to be a part of this research. I believe that this may have deterred students from taking specific photographs of other students. 4. Individual interviews were tape-recorded and later transcribed. The following questions guided discussions of the students' photographs: a) What does this photograph depict? Describe the subject(s) of your photograph. 35 b) Is there any connection between you and what is being shown in this photograph? c) Briefly describe what the school environment is like for you. d) How does this photograph represent your relationship with the school environment? Providing the students with the questions (see Appendix II) before the interview served two purposes: it allowed the students time to reflect upon their responses as opposed to one, on-the-spot session, and it may have provided the researcher with a more in-depth response from the students. 5. A one-page narrative accompanied each of their two photographs describing their interpretation, shaped and reflected from their experiences in the school. Each photograph and narrative (recorded in their own voice) were simultaneous recorded onto a videotape. The design of the interview questions served to "translate the research objectives into specific and perhaps even measurable language; and to motivate students to share their knowledge of the phenomenon under study" (Merriam, 1988, p. 78). Data collected through interviews allow the researcher to obtain information such as feelings, thoughts and intentions that cannot be directly observed (Merriam, 1988, p. 72). The purpose of conducting interviews in this study was to access the meaning of how seven students interconnect with their school environment, directing my attention to what the students deemed to be the important social and physical features. Conversations centred on their photographs and provided an opportunity for the 36 students to express their opinion, clarify their thoughts, and share their experiences. Huesca (1993) suggests that "by asking respondents to discuss what is important, unimportant, and missing from pictures, researchers are pointed to areas of meaning that should be attended to, while mitigating the biases and presuppositions that a researcher might bring to a situation" (p. 7). As the researcher, I needed to be conscious as to how I delivered the interview questions to the students. Merriam (1988) suggests that in order for interviews to be successful, "the researcher must remain non-judgemental, sensitive, and respectful of the respondent" (p. 76). She also believes the interviewer posit that "the respondent has something to contribute, has had an experience worth talking about, and has an opinion of interest to the researcher" (p. 79). That is, respect and sensitivity on my part only improved the quality of the data collected during the interview. The narratives the students wrote for each of their two photographs enhanced both the photographic data, the video, and transcriptions from taped interviews. Horwood (1992) promotes narrative inquiry, suggesting it is the "middle ground between the formal interview and leaving the photographs to speak for themselves" (p. 2). Their stories helped me to determine what was felt to be of importance to the student while allowing the student to creatively express and construct meaning from their photographs. Representation of the Interviews In an attempt to creatively expand the boundaries of research beyond traditional conventions, each student's interview was transcribed into a poetic representation. 37 Khamasi's (1997) Ph.D. dissertation used poetry to represent her interview data and was the example I referenced. In the Handbook of Qualitative Research. Richardson (1994) regards writing as a method of inquiry or a means of discovery and analysis that helps us explore our research topic in a variety of ways. She suggests a number of evocative forms for experimenting with writing. Poetic representation is one that she believes best "represents the speaker . . . and therefore, poetry helps problematize reliability, validity, and truth" (p. 522). In this study, only the students' words, phrases, and pauses were used to create their poems, allowing each piece to be a powerful method for representing their responses to the interview questions. Multimedia Data Presentations Beyond the writing of the thesis, the data were presented in two other ways to encourage a wider audience to view the results of this study. The students' photographs were exhibited in their school for other students, educators and community members to observe the students' interconnections with their school environment. It provided others with an understanding of how the students interconnect with this environment and conveyed the idea that students are an excellent source of information about what is happening in educational settings. With the help of their photography teacher, the students produced the videotape highlighting their photographs and recorded the accompanying narratives in their own voice. In this respect, the photographs come alive with meaning as their voices describe their school environment. This videotape will be used in the presentation of my thesis and at future educational conferences where I may wish to present my study. As a gift of appreciation, a copy of the videotape was made for the school. 38 Calendar o f Events Once a week for two to three hours, I went to the school to visit the research participants connected with this study. Highlighted below is an outline of the events that occurred during those meetings. Week 1 • met the seven participants selected for the study • introduction of the research project • handed out permission forms and contracts Week 2 • collected signed permission forms and contracts • answered questions • encouraged them to start taking pictures Week 3 - 5 • participants began and continued taking photographs • participants individually discussed their ideas for this project Week 6 • looked at participants' negatives on the video viewer • established individual due dates for each participant Week 7 • informal discussions with participants about their images and ideas Week 8 • reviewed, with participants, their narratives • made any necessary revisions for grammar and clarity of sentence structure Week 9-11 • interviewed participants 39 Week 12 • participant verification of my transcription of their interview • recorded participants' photographs and narratives (in their own voice) onto a videotape • participants' photographs exhibited at the school's art show Week 13 • final meeting established with all participants • group discussion on common themes Data Analysis "What makes. .. case studies is the narrative structure used to present the data. " (Merriam, 1988, p. 127) Data collected for this case study included the students' photographs and written narratives, interview transcripts and my journal writing. Both field notes and participant observation influenced my journal writing. Each week I visited the school, I took brief notes in a journal that served as a means to record my thoughts and ideas. What I found most interesting about making journal entries was that it allowed me to further connect with my research and with the students by reflecting upon feelings and events that occurred each week. It was a place to reflect upon what I learned in this environment. I have woven these journal notes (written in italics) mainly into Chapter Four, although the first entry is written below. The students are all (except Damian) insisting that I discuss their photographs with them before they start writing their narratives. They want to talk about the reasons why they decided to choose the two pictures they will be using for this project. The discussions are focusing on what each of their photographs depicts. As a researcher, I could only provide encouragement or ask them questions to support their own ideas which, I believe is all they were really looking for. I had not anticipated this interaction to occur but enjoyed the process. They needed to gain confidence about their ideas before writing them down. 40 Bogdan and Biklen (1992) encourage the researcher to record their own thoughts and feelings "to stimulate critical thinking about what you see" (p. 158). Journal writing was an on-going process of collecting data that supported my understanding and interpretation of this case study. The following diagram illustrates the interconnected relationship that occurred between the students and the researcher during this study. Photographs and Narratives (student) Interviews Journal Writing (student — researcher) (researcher) Triangulation of data was important for analysis in this case. The students' photographs were compared to their narratives to verify that their description of their photograph was similar to their interpretation in their narratives. Both the photograph and narrative were compared with the interview data to again look for similar themes each student was attempting to portray. Cases of discord were checked to ensure that the three sources of data for each student suggested a similar theme about their perspectives toward their school environment. Systematically arranging the accumulated data helped to increase my understanding of the various sources (i.e., interviews transcripts, student photographs and narratives) as well as enabled me to present what I have discovered to others (Bogdan and Biklen, 1992, p. 153). From the many pages of raw data collected, analysis involved organizing it into smaller units, looking for patterns, 41 learning what is important and to be learned, and deciding what to present. Interviews and written narratives were coded to look for meaningful categories. J CHAPTER FOUR RESULTS 42 The School Environment " . . . a bridge to the real world. " ( R a v e n ) " . . . is not geared towards the individual. " ( K r i s ) " . . . has helped me discover what kind of person I want to be . . . " ( B e t h ) . . . a bunch of hoops you have to jump through to get someplace. " ( D u n c a n ) " . . . windows are very important to me . . . windows give a sense of freedom. " ( L o k Y u n ) " . . . overwhelmed with positive memories ofpeople . . . the most important feature. " ( D a r n i a n ) "It's like a lock blocking me, restricting me from doing [what] I would really like to do. " ( S o l e i l ) After outlining my plans for my research project in a photo-video ethnography graduate class, a woman in the course suggested that the photography teacher at her school would be interested in participating in my study. The idea that my study could provide insightful educational information and be an interesting educational experience for a few students confirmed by his willingness to participate. Located in the East End of Vancouver, British Columbia, the school accepted my request as the site for research. The school was originally built in 1927 as a Junior High School, accommodating grades 7, 8 and 9 students. By 1965, it had grown to become a secondary school, graduating its first class of grade 12 students in June of that year. Today, the school is inhabited by more than 1200 students who represent the mosaic of cultures that live in the surrounding community. A third of its inhabitants are fluently bilingual with forty different languages and dialects spoken throughout the school. Each week, I parked my car on a side street parallel to the school's playing field where girls were practising soccer skills. I sauntered past a row of weathered portables that separated this fieldfrom the main building. Once inside, its architectural features - high ceilings, wooden 43 banisters and window frames, revealed the old age of the school. A neon-bright pop machine overpowered and clashed with the old radiator that sat adjacent to it, indicating this was the 90s. I walked down a dimly lit, desolate hallway along the red-tiled flooring until the teacher, who agreed to sponsor my study, greeted me. The photography teacher welcomed me into the long, neatly arranged, spacious place where he taught photography and graphic arts. The walls of this classroom are covered with posters, photographs, tools, and awards his students had achieved. Equipment and computers are methodically organized into various areas of the room. With music playing in the background, the students work independently or with another in this relaxed, friendly environment. Class had already commenced when I entered the room and although I was an unknown figure in their classroom, I was made to feel like a guest. The students were quick to clear a table that I required and politely responded to my questions. However, my presence did not seem to disrupt their interest in carrying on with their projects, conversing with their companions and maintaining interactive movements within the classroom. By the numerous constructive interactions occurring with both the social and physical features of this classroom, it was evident that positive working relationships had been established and were being sustained. With my workplace established, I anxiously awaited the arrival of the students who participated in this study. Week 1 - Introduction to the research project The following pages detail how this study was introduced to the students. My journal entries continue to be woven (in italics), describing my thoughts and impressions. / am nervous - excited about doing the research but unsure if the students will find this to be a project worthy of their interest and energy. The photography teacher introduced me to each of the participants as they entered the classroom. We all sat around a large rectangular table and I introduced myself using three photographs. The first picture was of myself as a UBC graduate student, the second was of my son Leland and the third of my spouse Joel. Once again it was an opportunity to use personal photographs to highlight my interests and experiences 44 with others, as well as an avenue to promote discussion between myself and the students. To illustrate the power of pictures, I read excerpts from Kim's Gift of Forgiveness (Kiener, 1997). The main reason I chose this story was to show the students Nick Ut's famous black and white photograph of a nine-year-old Vietnamese girl that haunted many that saw it. In 1972, during the Vietnam War, Phan Thi, Kim Phuc's village was bombed with canisters filled with napalm. This gasoline splashed onto Kim's back instantly igniting her on fire, incinerating her clothes. The photograph highlights Kim screaming as she ran naked down the road that led out of her village. Alongside the story, the powerful image that this real-life photograph portrayed made you wish you could reach out to help this young girl. A second resource that illustrated photographs as topics of investigation was entitled Kid's Pictures to God: What Children Want God to See (Adato. 1998). This photojournalism project put cameras in the hands of 56 children ages 8 -13 years and asked them the following questions: 1. Who is God? 2. What would you ask God if you could? 3. How would you show that in a photograph? Although the theme and questions were different, the task required of the children was similar to my study. I used these resources to show that "the precise record of material reality that photography provides is a powerful appeal" (Ball & Smith, 1992, p. 6). As well, I hoped these two resources would inspire them to take pictures for this study. 45 They sat bug-eyed... no questions asked, no comments given . . . do they really want to do this? I read the participants the title of my study: Photographic interconnections: How students view their school environment. I defined and discussed three terms that we would be frequently using during the study. I began by describing the school environment to mean the building itself including the surrounding property, promoting both interior and exterior photographs specific to this location. This definition was supported by Orr (1992, p. 129) who termed an environment as "a landscape with its own particular flora and fauna." Secondly I discussed ecology to mean the relationship that exists between the students and their school environment. Ecology is the study of the relationship of organisms to their environment, exploring the many changes and interactions between the living and non-living components. I explained that the students' interactions with the social (living) components and physical (non-living) components of their school environment were the focus of this study, recognizing that political components were also a part of the whole place. More specifically, I explained the term interconnection to describe the interactions the students have with certain social and physical features within their school environment. They identified these through photographs and described how these features have shaped them or how they have shaped these features through their narratives and in interviews. As Conners' (1983) study demonstrated, the physical environment does affect the behaviours and attitudes of the inhabitants. He suggested designing features that provide spaces for social interactions as well as choice and control over different spaces. The interconnections described in this study only enhance Conner's (1983) previous findings. 46 The reasons for inquiry and the purpose of this study were outlined for the students. I desired the students to discover the interconnections between them and their school environment. I believed students need to recognize that they are an interconnected part of their school, directly impacting the school's ecosystem. Secondly, this study provided the opportunity for students to express exactly how they are interconnected through photographs, narratives and interviews. Lastly, exhibiting their photographs in the schools' art show intertwined the work the students did for this study together with other work done in the photography classes. As well, it had the potential to be a source of discussion and information about what is happening in the school environment. Finally, the ethics of this study were discussed with the students. A letter of permission, a parent consent form, as well as a student contract and consent form (see Appendix I) were distributed to each of the participating students to be signed and returned. I explained the ethics behind the "subject consent form" (see Appendix 1) required if the students chose to identify people in their photographs. Questions finally arose from the students with respect to defining cases in which a subject consent form would be required. I anticipated that this paperwork might discourage the students taking photographs of people. Previous to the study's final design, I considered excluding people from any photograph to eliminate using a subject consent form. However, I believed that the social aspect is such an important feature of the school environment that I promoted the paperwork required to make photographs of people possible. 4 7 Weeks 2 to 12 - Photographs, Videotapes and Stories Week 2 - 1 entered the school with uncertainty of what the consent forms will say. Luckily they had returned them with their consent and that of their parents/guardians - a sigh of relief. By the end of this session Ifelt confident that this study would work and the students were keen to help. We had begun to interact in their school environment and I was learning my part in it. By the third week of this project the students had begun to work at various rates. Soleil, Raven and Duncan had already finished their roll of film, while Beth, Kris and Lok Yun had not yet started. I had not been able to get in touch with Damian for a couple of weeks and was unsure where he was in terms of his progression on this project. Regardless of which stage they were at, they all insisted that at some point, I discuss their photographs with them before they began writing their narratives. They wanted to talk with me about the reasons why they took the pictures and what exactly each photograph is showing. I believe they needed to gain confidence about their ideas before finalizing it on paper. As a researcher, I had to be conscious of the help I gave each of them to insure that their narratives were their thoughts and not mine. Therefore, I chose to reconstruct what they had already spoken or asked them questions to assist them to come up with their own ideas about their photographs. After their photographs had been chosen and their narratives were written, again the students felt the need to discuss their pieces before they were finalized. I believe this indirectly told me that they were conscious about doing their best for this project and required a bit of help to formulate their words and ideas. I appreciated their dedication and was more than willing to edit their narratives with the meaning they were trying to deliver. 48 Week twelve proved to be action-packed! I gave each student my transcription of their interview to verify that my interpretation was exactly what they wanted to deliver. The photography teacher connected the negative viewer to the video recorder and directly behind this equipment, a recording studio was set up in his office. Each student set their negative in place and then took the microphone into his office to record their narratives onto videotape. Within the walls of the classroom, the photography teacher's office was enclosed with large panels of glass that allowed us to cue the students to begin speaking while eliminating much of the noise from the rest of the classroom. The school's art show was also this week and the students dry-mounted their photographs onto black, matt board for this exhibition. It is unusual that students are asked directly what they think but I believe it is important to listen mindfully to the voices of students. The remainder of this chapter presents the data collected from each of the seven students. Each student begins with their reason for choosing to take photography (written in italics) to give the reader a brief impression of each student's thinking about photography and why each decided to select to take this course. The students' photo-stories are their interpretative narratives that they wrote that give meaning(s) to the photographs for the viewer. The interviews were transcribed from an audiocassette tape. These transcriptions have been crafted into poetic representations using the students' words, phrases, and pauses, as previously discussed in Chapter Three. Thus, the results of each interview are not ordered in the traditional chronological sense, but rather have been sorted and grouped into themes that became apparent to me after reviewing each transcription. The interpretation of each interview is presented in prose; each stanza 49 begins with a bold faced line representing the theme of the following verse. I believe this method best voiced the student's individual perspectives of what the school environment is like for them. In addition to the interview questions (Appendix II) additional questions were asked of the students in order to probe for further ideas that would help answer the original research question. 1. Why did you select these two photographs from the roll of 24? (I was looking for non-technical reasons in the selection process). 2. What is important to you in this environment? 3. What type of relationship do you have with your school? 50 Kris's Photo-Story "I took photography because I am interested in pursuing an art career and wanted to diversify my portfolio. " I n t i m i d a t i o n by I n s t i t u t i o n I c h o s e this image because I feel that the soft, organic lines of the figure are dwar fed and contrasted by the hard, inflexible lines of the school . This contrast reflects my attitude t o w a r d s the schoo l . W e are continually forced to conform to a regimented power structure within w h i c h w e have little control. A n individual is reduced to little more than a set of numbers; ID, percentages , and locker designation. Bewi ldered and quantified, our high schoo l ex is tence is defined by obedience to 'higher' powers and rules, marching to their schedules . 51 Hallway Blurred forms and dark f igures are the focus for this piece. This reports on my notion that one is essential ly alone in a school environment. With Pavlovian response to a buzzer, we file raggedly out of our c lassrooms and into the hallways. There, w e encounter thousands of faces. Forms wi thout recognizable souls. I cannot discern anything other that the corporate labels emblazoned on their clothing. Constantly bombarded with so much humanity, only to have it lost in a sea of anonymity. Large social groupings breed superficiality. A s I continue my stroll d o w n the w indow less corridor, my attention shifts f rom the meaningless people to the background buzzing of cheap artificial f luorescent lighting. This superficial, over-st ructured, mundane place gives me migraines. Kris's Institution Blurred hallway fluorescence lights, dark figures I feel no real connection to the people I pass on a regular basis walking down the hall on the average day you see hundreds of people I have no connection with them other than the brands plastered on their shirts I don't pay attention too exactly who these people are I didn't intend on choosing this picture but I was playing with it on the negative viewer playing with having long exposures down the hall to get this effect I like this one the best because by accident I caught these figures and made them more predominant for this final piece. The manipulation of this photograph was an accident that looked cool when it was redone on computer. I do learn obedience and timeliness in an overly structured, over-populated school but I think there is a better environment that could be created. An ideal learning environment would be less structured, less of the 'herd' mentality less people in a social grouping, smaller school population there will be less anonymity you would not have to be so superficial. I am more connected with certain elements of the school to the art program and the Mini School where I am under my own motivation freedom to do pursue my own projects more challenging and interesting work where the social groups are smaller Tall, large ridged lines of the school below is a dwarf figure looking up bewildered the intimidation that the institution bears not flexible to the individual the difficulty of conforming to the rigidity of it. the institution is not geared towards the individual Power structure a system set-up teachers and principals addressed as "Mr." follow curriculum guidelines being reduced to a series of numbers pumping "X" number of graduates out feeling forced to conform or rebel It's difficult to wake up five days a week and face it. 54 Soleil's Photo-Story "I started taking photo classes at Arts Umbrella on Granville Island. I then found out there was a photo class at my school. This is my second year in photography. I love being in the darkroom and taking photos. " Bolted Windows I made this photograph to show an obvious lack of freedom that exists in my school. All the windows on the first floor are equipped with solid steel grills bolted down, taking away our clear view of the outside world. The bolts and grills make the building look like a prison, or an institution, which aids in me feeling, disconnected from the school environment. The bumpy, uneven part in the centre of this photograph represents me. I am trapped between two grills, two fences that restrict me from doing things I really want to do. I loved elementary school and when I hit high school, my motivation went way down. Now I have my ups and downs and my opinion about school is very bumpy and uneven. Some aspects I really like and some completely disconnect me from my school. 55 Locked Garbage Can This photograph also explores the lack of freedom in my school. The chain around the garbage symbolizes the students and the big lock represents the teachers and the administration. Teachers used to be called Masters by their students and I found it particularly effective that the word "Master" was found on the lock. Many students need the authority and discipline but it just disconnects me, as a student, from the school environment. As soon as a student is not present in class, the system calls home to inform their parents of their absence. Personally, I think this is technological invasion. Another aspect of the school that disconnects me is the issue of respect. Not only do some teachers not respect their students but also that students do not respect their environment. Graffiti, garbage and damage is easy to locate around the school. Soleil's Lack of Freedom It looks like a jail . . . a penitentiary all the windows on the first floor are bolted down with solid steel grills it disconnects me from my school I find it hard to get motivated when you can't see outside. The bumpy and uneven part between the windows represents my ups and downs about school mood swings . . . I don't like it. trapped between these two, big-bolted grills I feel that I can't do this, I can't do that because I have to be in school It's like a giant speed bump you're trying to get somewhere slowing me down to get where I want to go I've known what I've wanted to do for the past few years I want to go cooking for sure I still want to do it . . . I'm really motivated to do that and I haven't learned anything else on how to go about doing it feeling of being trapped between all these things that surround me here It's like a lock blocking me, restricting me from doing things that I would really like to do A chain wrapped around a garbage can automatically I thought to take this picture the lock is really symbolic it puts you down and you can't do much because I have school The school environment is very monotonous . . . boring everyday it's the same thing for ten months . . . there's a big routine the teachers, at the end of the year, they're all the same the students all end up looking the same it's like it becomes one big bunch of clones I try hard to avoid it. Monotonous background of this picture bland with some darker spots the students become like that after a while . . . boring and teachers become the same with the way they are towards students everyone starts fitting into a mold thinking the same . . . knowing all the same stuff The background has some darker spots which represent some students like me who try to be different . . . to stick out I dye my hair, I pierce because I don't want to be like everyone else I'm trying not to become one of the clones with Adidas pants, Nike shoes, the same shirts, the same clothes, the same hair. I like to stand out . . . to be different for myself. The word Master is pretty effective because teachers used to be called "Masters" and that's what they are they basically control your day they decide what you do . . . when you eat your lunch they have locks on the students Some teachers don't like their jobs you can tell they don't respect you which leads you not to respect them it's just a big mess The teachers and administrators put locks on the students I feel restricted and restrained from a definite lack of freedom that exists here you can't do anything without being supervised I don't need that I have motivation to do it on my own without being watched they teach you all this stuff it's fun to know but some of the things seem pointless to me because I don't know when I can use how to dissect a frog! The colours of the walls don't make you want to be there the paint just brings you down Garbage everywhere around the school cockroaches in the bathrooms it would be nicer if there was more respect for the building itself. 58 Duncan's Photo-Story "Photography is a creative outlet for me, I really enjoy creating neat images. " Where are the plugs? If the quality and respectabil i ty of a public place is judged by the degree of cleanl iness and maintenance, what conclusions can be drawn from the bathrooms at my school? When there is soap, it is brown. Of the six, only one cold faucet works. 5 9 Bathrooms By thinking about bathrooms in a different light, many indicators of strained relations becomes obvious. The pipes are bolted to the wal ls (students wou ld otherwise break them), the toilet paper is locked d o w n and hung outside of stalls (correct estimation of consumption becomes critical), and an inexplicable odour permeates our lavatories. These measures have not been implemented in one fell s w o o p as part of some draconian c rackdown, but in a measured and thoughtful manner. Have the students proven themselves to be undeserving of the basic commodit ies available to all members of society, or has the administration already writ ten us off? The commentary put forth in this project is not intended to lay blame or seek scapegoats , but to highlight a situation in my school environment. I will leave you wi th one final question, w h y does our staff use private, locked bathrooms, segregated f rom the student population? Duncan's Encounters with Bathrooms Realities in my school a row of sinks six taps...only one, cold faucet works pipes are bolted to the walls toilet paper is locked down, hung outside of the stalls an inexplicable odour permeates some of the things in the bathrooms a small part of the reality I see each day. My everyday interactions into the bathrooms I tried to highlight in this project things that are in there that remind me of relationships in the school relationships between the administration and the students things that have come about because of certain actions on the part of a few students. The administration has enacted to deal with student behaviour. I see highschool as a bunch of hoops you have to jump through to get someplace . . . to do something with your life The hoops are a process of positive and negative moments taking classes I don't enjoy but if I do well I can go on to do something that I do enjoy. I feel apathetic my school environment is O.K. I don't have a lot of school spirit I don't go to the dances my friends are not from this school I spent my extracurricular time with people from other schools no social conditions here connect me 61 Raven's Photo-Story "I took photography because my friend took it. I like what I can do with a camera; the images and messages that developed from my photos. " Passage o f T ime The series of photographs1 displayed on the next three pages are my interpretations of the five, sometimes long years spent in a high school environment. I see high school as a journey, a passage of time, and a bridge to a new life. Phase 1 The first photograph shows the beginning of the trek in grade 8, when I walked slowly down a very narrow path that lead into [the school]. This path that every student must cross leaves little room for courage and confidence, and most walk blindly into their future. It is a path that I am travelling with extreme care and caution, realizing that it will lead me to the rest of my life. 1 Raven requested that she be allowed to select a series of three photographs to represent her connection with her school environment that depict the three stages of high school that exist for her. 62 Phase 2 The second photograph depicts the most important years in the school environment for me; grades 9 through 11. During these years, no options become available but no options disappear. This is the t ime when exploring is done, w h e n I d iscover my likes and dislikes, my interests and possible career paths. These three years convincingly show the proverbial bridge being crossed during this passage of time. To me, the middle years of high school are nothing more that explorat ion years, and with every new step taken, the end of the bridge draws closer. 63 Phase 3 The third and final photograph represents the graduating year. Grade 12 is when all the option explored become real possibilities. A million and one paths will meet my eye when I step out of the sheltered building that has been a second home for a large part of my life. Every path is a unique as the student who will follow it, and it is completely in the hands of the student to decide which road to tread. Nobody but me can choose my future, and eventually I like others before me, will choose a path that best suits my interests, which were learned while crossing the bridge that is commonly called high school. Raven's Journey A passage of time . . . a journey we come in and we don't know what we want to do or how we want to do it and we leave knowing exactly what we want to do, and how we are going to do it, when it's going to happen... . . . you find out what you like. The three pictures are connected it's a universal interpretation a bridge to the real world describes each stage in high school that I have found so far learning what I want to do, how long it is going to take, and helped me discover who I really am. everyone starts at the same place and eventually crosses the bridge and goes a different way. A society within a society with its own government, its own politics all the stuff that goes on in the real world happens in high school student council runs the school just on a smaller scale. My relationship . . . an aid . . . a big help these photos really show that without school I wouldn't know what I want to do . . . what I want to be [it is] showing me the path I want to take school has really made me discover exactly who I am and what my talents are the life I would like to live. 65 Beth's Photo-Story "I discovered my dad's camera and starting taking photos with it. I realized that I really loved it and wanted to take advantage of the facilities at school. I have really learned a lot. " The Radiator This photograph is a metaphor representing my relationship wi th my school. It is a radiator that's main purpose is to emit energy in the form of heat. This energy can be either positive or negative. In my school, the people are the source of all energy, al lowing the school to funct ion. The social aspect of school is the most important and influential part to me, because it has helped me become my own person. As this photo is showing, at the beginning school often appears blurry. It is gradually coming into focus as I enter my fifth year. Hopefully it will concentrate into one focal point. This focus is the point in my life in which I will have d iscovered my true potential and organized my life beyond schooling. Like the pattern of the radiator, I think that school is often repetit ive, but it does give us a chance to grow and reflect on our place in society. The beginning of our school ing is unclear and conforming, but each person is given time to become their o w n character . 66 The Hallway The first thing I notice about this photo is the high contrast of tones. It has a cold and empty feel ing. I took it f rom a wing of the school where I feel very comfortable. As I look down the hall, I look into a barren, uninviting, and unfamiliar area, outside of my 'comfort zone' . Without the light f rom the w indow, the photo wou ld be entirely black. The w i n d o w al lows wh i tes and grays to exist, and is a point where all the shades come together. This is the diversity and contrast that makes my school interesting. The light then shines on the endless rows of lockers that cover our wal ls. The repetit ion, or cycle, represents the routine of our lives that has only just begun. Beth's Focal Points Looking down a hallway it is looking to this one window which is the focal point . . . giving off lots of light reflecting off the lockers, on either side of the walls and off the floor. there is a lot of reflection and a lot of contrast to the blacks and whites looking through the window to the rest of the world. Looking down this hallway the opposite to where I spend most of my time this part . . . where I never go I don't have any classes I get a negative feeling from it it is cold and empty . . . and barren this is representing a part of the school that I don't feel familiar with Repetition of the lockers on the sides which represents the every day routine for the whole five years that you are here. I took this picture from the Mini School wing my comfort zone in the school I have a positive relationship with the school because I feel so comfortable in the Mini school we do a lot of presentations and speaking skills and that is not a big deal at all because you are so comfortable with your class and you never feel nervous doing that type of thing I have gained a lot from it in my four years there. The Mini School is . . . a program where in theory, it is more enriched and advanced and we have adventure trips it's where you are with the same core group of people through all of high school and you have that one wing of the school you are there most of the time you get to know people really well and I guess be very comfortable I don't feel as comfortable outside of my Mini school there is 25 per class, one class per grade so about 125 people total, it's really neat because usually you just stay with your grade in the main school but in Mini school I know all the grades really well so you get to know people that aren't your age it increases my social activities The school environment . . . it's a social thing for me I had four pictures that I was deciding between the other two where of people I chose to represent the social aspect these two . . . had a greater impact because I could say more than just the social aspect I could expand on that. I have a lot of good friends in the Mini school you get to know people really well I know my teachers really well and all the grades really well The radiator in the girl's washroom there is a part of a window behind it which is giving light that is reflecting off the radiator it's representing the purpose of school at the beginning it's all blurry and it comes into focus by the end going into my fifth year, I have changed a lot it has helped me discover what kind of person I want to be not so much my career which is what they try to make you decide but just more of the personal aspect The purpose of the radiator is to give off heat and it uses energy to give off this heat and I took that of mean the people of the school they run the school and can decide whether the energy is going to be positive or negative The school is represented in this picture the repetition of the radiator the parts . . . in rows and the reflection the knobby thing sticking up at the end is the focal point the point where you should know or do know who you are at the end of your schooling that is the purpose of school to try to get people there My connection with this picture is, at first, it is really blurry and then gradually it gets into focus I took that to mean the purpose of school to me it isn't really all the learning it is more to figure out who you want to be what kind of person you are, discover yourself because at the beginning . . . in grade 8 you come in and you are unsure everyone is conforming to be the same person . . . one big everyone followed the same style and acted the same way and had a group of friends that you may not necessarily liked but you were just suppose to be with them but then as you travel through your schooling you decide who you want to be, what you want to be and discover yourself. The journey I have taken . . . how I have changed I have changed a lot . . . there is more choice I have my own sense of style, my choice of friends the type of person I am has changed in the four years I have been here the people the teachers the elective courses I have chosen have helped me decide my interests. 70 Lok Yun's Photo-Story "I took photography because I was interested in working with another medium. I liked the idea of making art outside the usual paints, pencils, charcoal, etc. I always wanted to know how to work with cameras and create my own photos and express my own ideas through them. " The Science Classroom The first photo is a c lassroom that I formerly had classes in over the last three years. Several o f my fr iends are in this photo. What compelled me to use this c lassroom as a connect ion to the school was the fact that I had always enjoyed having class in it, even though sc ience wasn ' t a strong subject for me. I realized that the physical aspects of the room made it appealing to me; the panel of w indows running along the length of the wal l , that a lways had full advantage of the sun, and the long benches that divided the room, wh ich al lowed more f reedom than desks. I a lways felt that this room w a s more spacious than other c lassrooms, though it didn't seem any bigger in size. As well , people I knew surrounded me and my fr iends, who made the room, seem comfort ing and welcoming. Because it w a s a science lab, there were glass beakers, test plants, and other odds and ends littering the side tables and front desk. It made the room more interesting than others. There w a s a very upbeat and fr iendly atmosphere to this particular c lassroom that I w ished would be present in the other c lassrooms I had. 71 The Multipurpose Room I have d iscovered that, though I am in the constant company of others in a c lassroom, I like to learn on my own, as an individual. This calls for a quiet and leisurely atmosphere. The second photograph is a contrast to the first photograph: instead of a c rowded, bright, c lassroom, there is a lone f igure sitting in an empty room by some w indows . Instead of rows of f ixed benches and chairs, the room is completely void of all furniture, save for a few tables and chairs pushed along the sides of the wal ls, ready for anyone's convenience. There is even an old, tattered sofa sitting abandoned on the far side of the room. All four walls are covered in murals. A n ugly and violently coloured carpet that desperately needs cleaning lines the floor. Despite the dreadful murals and carpet, the room has a comfortable, homey atmosphere to it. This room is conveniently called the mult ipurpose room, and its purpose is exactly as its name suggests. A t luncht ime it is a social hangout. During school hours, students with spare blocks spend their time here, f inishing homework, reading, or doing artwork. It has a very open, leisurely atmosphere to it, wh ich is perfect for someone w h o wants to study alone in peace and quiet wi thout the noise of others. In this room I can hear myself think; I can escape the pressures of a regular c lassroom because I can work at my own pace at whatever I am doing. I am not conf ined to a desk that bears my name for the rest of the school year: here, I can read by the w indow, on the sofa, at a table, or on the floor. The darkness of the photo, and the lone f igure sitting by the w indow, emphasize this solitude, wh ich is oftentimes the best w a y to study. There are no conf inements, no boundaries: here, I have complete f reedom of learning. 72 Lok Yun's Learning Environments As everyone knows, learning-and teaching-can often at times be a very tedious matter, especially if one must sit through classes one hour and twenty minutes long. The classroom therefore affects how we learn. The atmosphere of a classroom certainly influences our study habits and the way we perform in class. I feel it is very important to have a positive environment in which to learn, just as it is important to have a positive home environment to grow up in. A positive or negative environment is an important connection or disconnection for anyone who attends school. The two photographs represent my connection to the school, as they illustrate two different learning environments that I work well in. A science classroom filled with students with benches going across . . . side tables and lab equipment a back cupboard with some more lab equipment beakers and Bunsen burners posters on the walls and the kids are doing their homework. I picked this classroom because I liked coming here the physical environment one of the brightest classrooms in the school it is very crowded but you still have a very open atmosphere very airy and kind of upbeat all the time it's a cheerful classroom so I didn't mind coming to this class because of the way it looked. The teacher in this classroom didn't mind if I came in he welcomed me in it was a comfortable environment nobody minded that I took a picture of them I could just come in and do whatever. I had good memories of this classroom it was not a room that I would never come back to again because I enjoyed coming here. I am kind of segregated from the school environment 'cause I am upstairs in another part of the school most of the time when I come to school, I don't take time to . . . go to the office or talk to teachers or go to the library to pick up books I walk right through the school upstairs to my locker and hang around my friends there so I'm not exposed to the school a lot, I guess. 73 I am mainly in the west wing, which is the Mini School upstairs it is our own little place it segregates the Mini school from the rest of the main school we usually hang there together in the hall or in the multipurpose room which is where we eat lunch together, or just talk, we're in this kind of small community up there we're all good friends my class is really tight and so we don't spend much time outside of our little circle 'cause we are with each other all the time we are not really exposed to other parts of the school so we don't really see other people a lot in our own little section we don't really come out from there I feel comfortable upstairs everyone is laid back we eat lunches in the halls sometimes . . . we're not suppose to . . . but we do. we have our own little 'nook and cranny' in the school. I feel welcome there Friends who have their lockers together hang out there and eat their lunch there there is nowhere else to go. This classroom shows a positive connection this is a place I like to go to in the school it is place where I get something out of it is a science classroom and I don't particularly like science but it is a room that I enjoyed learning in it makes science fun even though I don't do too well in it. It is an interesting classroom different from the math classroom or the socials classroom because it has all these weird signs, equipment and odds and ends really bizarre things The main feature that makes it really upbeat is the windows there is a panel of windows . . . always sunlight coming through it makes the classroom feel very bright and upbeat all the time and it keeps everyone awake. A person sitting by the windows it is completely dark except for the light coming through the windows the figure is looking off into space the lone figure represents me I like being alone when I am studying or . . . doing extra work It is a classroom called the Multipurpose room but there aren't any desks in the middle of the room an empty room with a panel of windows along the wall The elements are again the windows a positive connection with this room windows are really important to me especially in a place like a school where you are there 7 hours a day cramped in an hour and twenty minute classes . . . stuck there windows give a sense of freedom you can look outside and see what is happening . . daydream the sun shines through it adds a whole lot more depth to the class This is a place that I also enjoy coming to like the science classroom because of its atmosphere cozy, comfortable, homey I feel comfortable in it it's not crowded, I can sit where ever I want I can be free and do what ever I want a very comfortable room I can just hang out without being bothered I can hear myself think I can learn at my own pace I'm not forced to have to think at the same level with everybody I can relax These are two rooms that I felt I had a connection to two rooms that I enjoyed coming to and I knew I'd be welcome in. Damian's Photo-Story "I took photography to fill a block with an easy class, for an A. " 7 5 Time A s a student at [the school] , I have collected a collage of good memories. A s time goes on, those memories are going to fade and meld into a single memory, my high school life. These memories will cease to be a collage of exper iences and instead become a memory in time in my adolescent life. Even though as t ime goes on, the school will change, I will a lways remember it as it w a s w h e n I was there. The fun, social p layground that taught me much valuable life lessons. My memories have captured a single point in time, just like this photo did. 76 Space During my f ive-year stay, I have been given a space to hold my belongings. This year my locker is special; it symbol izes the relationship between my fr iends and myself. It is also responsible for protecting the books and papers that will determine what grades I will receive. In turn, these grades will effect the outcome of my career. As I travel between my locker and my classes, I have time to see and get to know the people at the lockers around me. However , the far ther away the lockers are, the less I know about them and their belongings. Damian's Time A point in time is caught on this pocket watch symbolizing the five year period at high school an experience molded into one memory a single point in time An important time in my life effecting my future time to let me develop and change my perspectives to learn to manage time which has had a positive effect to allow me time to complete projects Running out of time in my fifth year to be with my friends share stories enjoyable times overwhelmed with positive memories of people the social aspect of school is the most important feature of this environment Personal space my locker holds my belongings that connect me to my school environment a place to hold my marks that will determine my future My locker is in focus in this photograph it represents me and my relationship to others symbolizes how well I know them the rest [lockers] in the row gradually fade into the distant I know those who have lockers close to me I chose my locker it's close to my friends I know less and less about the others in the lockers that are out of focus Social space lockers are a social area to have conversations they bring students together who get along well friendships form lockers definitely divides students cliques form it's like an interesting 'sit com' different shows, continually running school is enjoyable because of the people 79 Week 13 - Final Group discussion By the thirteenth week of this project, the school year had ended and the students had begun their summer holiday. A final meeting date was co-ordinated with the day the students were going to be in the school to pick up and sign each other's yearbooks. This date was strategically planned in hopes of having all seven students attend and participate together in the final meeting. When they asked me to sign their Annuals (yearbooks) I realized that they were interconnecting me as a memorable part of their school environment. As I began to put in the videotape that had recorded their photographs and narratives, I got the distinct impression that they were not as excited as I was to watch it as a group. Many of the students were embarrassed to have their peers listen to them speak. While they were proud of their work, they felt uncomfortable sharing their thoughts about their photographs with the entire group. Their narratives were truths that they were not convinced they wanted to broadcast in their voice to the group. We compromised by keeping the volume low while the videotape played. Secondly, the students' photographs (without the narratives) were laid out, covering a large table in the photography classroom. They were asked to look at all the photographs and discuss common themes that they felt existed. A dynamic, unprompted conversation unfolded about the interconnections the participants believed to exist amongst the photographs. As a group, the students categorized (in bold) their photographs into the following four themes. Comfort zones. Lok Yun indicated that windows seemed to be a common theme in several students' photographs. She suggested that the light emitted through the 80 windows gave a sense of "openness, freedom, brightness and positive energy" to several places in the photographs. Both Beth and Anita pointed to the photographs showing classrooms and specific sections of hallways as "comfort zones" that are consoling places for them to "hang out" and socialize. These comfort zones have allowed, the students to inhabit this particular place of their school. Entrapment. Soleil grouped many of the physical features highlighted in the photographs together that gave an overall sense of feeling trapped inside a jail. Walls, grills on windows, locks, bolts, large buildings etc. were some of the comments that gave her a sense of feeling alone in an uninviting place. Institutional. Most students agreed with Duncan that their photographs were of "physical features that represent social and political situations at our school." Kris detailed the features of the school building as being "severe and set back" that made it look like an uninviting place. Soleil added her feelings of being "jailed . . . those yellow walls suck the energy out of you." Photographic techniques. Duncan seemed to notice that common techniques had been applied to the students' photographs. This perception prompted the others to accord with that way of thinking by commenting on the relationship that seemed to connect the photographs together. From Kris' perspective, regular photographic patterns included "geometric and converging lines [that afforded] abstract views." Damian added, "a lot of us made blurry images come into focus or vice versa." Soleil saw the symbolism in using "black and white film [which] could be representing the 81 good and evil of our school." Negative features. As the discussion was coming to a close, Duncan suggested that "it's easier to talk about the things you don't like . . . it's human nature" as a means to justify why the majority of his peers had selected to photograph the negative features of their school environment. CHAPTER FIVE DISCUSSION 82 "Our lives are lived amidst the architectural expressions of displacement... none of which encourage much sense of rootedness, responsibility, and belonging. " (Orr, 1992, p. 127) In this study, I specifically limited my inquiry to students' perspectives and representations of physical and social features within their school. If students shape their school environment and their school environment shapes them, then what are the physical and social features that interconnect students with their school environment? This research has shown that the appearance of the school physical environment, the way it looks, affects students' perspectives in a variety of ways. The students' photographs revealed what was significant to them in their school environment. The meanings of these visual representations discussed in their narratives and interviews are the "keys to a fuller understanding of the culture in which they are embedded" (Ball & Smith, 1992, p. 31). Students are very aware of the messages they perceive the school environment is giving and believe that these are reflected upon them. All the students in this study selected photographs of physical features to represent their interconnections with their school environment. Physical elements were predominant as a "metaphor representing my relationship with my school" (Beth). For example, Beth told me that she took several pictures of people on her roll of film because for her, the social aspects of school are the most important features of her school environment. However, Beth selected the photograph of the radiator and a hallway because for her, "these two . . . had a greater impact." She felt these photographs best portrayed her connection with the school environment and knew she could easily incorporate the important social aspects into her narrative and 83 interview. Beth paralleled the heat energy given off by the radiator to "the people of the school. . . they run the school. . . and can decide whether the energy is going to be positive or negative." It is the physical features, selected by the students that explain their social and political interconnections with their school environment. Many of the photographs depicting physical elements are speaking metaphorically to the social and political issues of the school environment. The students' photographs either supported or rejected the way specific physical features look, communicating a social or political statement about the benefits or limitations the school environment imposed upon them. For example, Soleil's photograph of the lock around a garbage can is a physical element that portrays a strong political statement about the restrictions she perceives to exist in her school environment. "The teachers and administrators put locks on the students . . . I feel restricted and restrained from a definite lack of freedom that exists here." In this respect, these images captured experiences that encompass more than the objects they show. I believe one of the best examples of an interconnected relationship is Duncan's encounters with bathrooms because I had such a difficult time deciding whether it should be discussed as a physical, social or political feature. It really belongs in all three. A bathroom can be a secluded space where we expect to find privacy. Also, in a school environment, a bathroom can be a social space for a few students to discuss private matters or to hide certain activities from the majority of the school population (i.e. smoking). Yet in his narrative, Duncan emphasizes that the poor physical conditions of the bathrooms at his school are sending a strong political statement to the students. If the quality and respectability of a public place is judged by the degree of cleanliness and maintenance, what conclusions can be drawn from 84 the bathrooms at my school? When there is soap, it is brown. Of the six, only one cold faucet works. By thinking about bathrooms in a different light, many indicators of strained relations become obvious . . . Have the students proven themselves to be undeserving of the basic commodities available to all members of society, or has the administration already written us off? (Duncan) Duncan declares that the bathrooms "remind [him] of relationships in the school between the administration and the students." He acknowledges that the bathrooms are poorly maintained and repairs have been altered in a certain way as a result of "things that have come about because of certain actions on the part of a few students," making reference to previous acts of vandalism that had occurred. Duncan assumes that lack of cleanliness and specific renovations in the bathrooms is how "the administration has enacted to deal with student behaviour." The concluding question of his narrative does leave us thinking about how students must perceive the connection they have with the educators with whom they work so closely; "I will leave you with one final question, why does our staff use private, locked bathrooms, segregated from the student population?" Thus, Duncan's photographs of the physical features of bathrooms at his school is actually communicating a strong political message. However, Duncan is unwilling to take these concerns, that surfaced during our discussion, any further than this thesis. Why does he, and other students with legitimate concerns, resist voicing these matters to the school's administration? This question only emphasizes the gap that exists in the political relationship between the students and the administration. This system relies on the individual to function successfully in the school environment instead of taking an ecological perspective that considers multi-layered "group" relationships that interdependently rely on each 85 other for success. It was this study, therefore, that uncovered some of the issues that students deem important yet are unwilling to assert within the political structures of their school. The literature did not involve students' suggestions in the design and planning of physical, social and political changes, but this study does just that. During the final discussion (week 13), the students were asked as a group to suggest realistic ideas that would make them feel more interconnected to their school environment. The students were keen to offer their ideas for improving and maintaining their school environment. In this chapter a collection of their thoughts and recommendations are supported by previous research. Recognizing that the physical, social and political features of the school environment are interrelated, they have been separated into three sections to parallel and relate back to the literature review in Chapter Two. Once again, the opportunity to interconnect the interview statements given by the seven students is woven into this discussion. Physical Features Class Size. The students believe that their classes have too many people "jammed inside" (Kris) and that smaller classes (15 students was their ideal number) would promote interactions and communication amongst students so that "everyone could have a chance to say something" (Kris). While most of the literature focused on an increase in academic achievement shown by smaller classes, the students in this study suggested that there are physical and social benefits smaller classes can offer them. For example, the Mini School program houses a maximum of 25 students per class and Kris, Lok Yun and Beth commented on how this smaller social grouping 86 was to their benefit. Kris suggests that he is "more connected . . . to the art program and the Mini School . . . where the social groupings are smaller. . . where I am under my own motivation." Lok Yun's relationship with the Mini School is like that of a "small community . . . we're all good friends . . . my class is really t ight . . . I feel comfortable . . . I feel welcome there." Beth believes that the Mini School program has enriched both her academic and social educational experience. She emphasizes that when "you are with the same group of people, throughout all of high school, and you have that one wing of the school [where] you are there most of the time, you get to know people really well and be very comfortable." The research conducted by Pate-Vain et al. (1992) showed that teachers of smaller classes presented a positive attitude, humour, increased enthusiasm and praise towards their students. Perhaps this would make a difference for Soleil who believes that "some teachers don't like their jobs . . . you can tell they don't respect you which leads you not to respect them." Both the students and the research agree that smaller classes would increase the interactions and improve the relationship between students and teachers. Tables and benches. The students suggested that sitting at tables rather than being "sandwiched between chairs attached to tiny desks" (Duncan) would be "friendlier and more comfortable" (Lok Yun). The literature documented social, personal and academic gains for students seated at tables as opposed to individual desks (Fiske, 1991; Moore & Lackney, 1994; Sommer & Olsen, 1980). Lok Yun believes one of the benefits in her science classroom were the long benches "which allowed more freedom than desks." Again, the physical and social gains from some alternate seating arrangements were of value to the students. 87 Windows. Windows and the natural light shining through them was a common feature photographed by four of the students (Soleil, Raven, Lok Yun and Beth). One of Soleil's photographs depicted how "all the windows on the first floor are bolted down with solid steel grills . . . [making] it look like a j a i l . . . a penitentiary . . . it disconnects me from my school . . . I find it hard to get motivated when you can't see outside." The literature supported the necessity for students to have visual access to the outside world and cautioned that windowless rooms could promote claustrophobic, negative conditions for students. Although Soleil's photograph of the steel grills on the windows is a physical feature of the school it is also making a political statement indicating how she perceives the building to look and feel. The other three students used natural light coming through the windows to highlight various physical features within the school environment. Raven's "Phase Two" photograph uses light coming through a series of windows to brighten a hallway representing the important "exploration years" of the school environment allowing her to reveal and investigate her interests. "This is a time when exploring is done, when I discover my likes and dislikes, my interests and possible career paths" (Raven). Her photograph of a lit hallway is a physical feature that connects an important social feature of her school environment for her. Both of Lok Yun's photographs emphasized a large panel of windows as the key physical feature connecting her with her school environment. She believes they should be present in all classrooms because they "give feeling of openness . . . let natural light in . . . allow us to see outside." Particularly, she suggests the windows make this "a bright, upbeat classroom that keep [her] alive in the science classroom." 88 The focal point of one of Beth's photographs centred on the natural light coming through a window casting various shades of black and white onto an existing hallway. Beth uses the window's light to allow reflection onto a "cold and empty . . . barren [hallway] . . . a part of the school that [she doesn't] feel familiar with." It is apparent, in this study as well as previous research that windows are important physical features interconnecting students to their school environment. Secluded spaces. In addition to the need for the design of environments to provide specific functions and purposes, unstructured environments, not set for any particular purpose can fulfil other requirements. Lok Yun's photograph of the lone figure inside the multipurpose room, emphasized the need for some students to have solitary spaces for studying or gathering with a friend in a "cozy, homey atmosphere [where] nothing is fixed . . . I have complete freedom of learning." By this Lok Yun means that she is free to move herself and the furniture wherever she wishes and is welcome to visit anytime she desires. This private space allows for individual thought and creativity, which the research suggests, leads to higher academic achievement (Moore & Lackney, 1994). Duncan's photographs that focused on the state of the bathrooms at his school highlighted another private space. "The pipes are bolted to the walls (students would otherwise break them), the toilet paper is locked down and hung outside of stalls (correct estimation of consumption becomes critical), and an inexplicable odour permeates our lavatories." From his perspective, the bathrooms were in need of repair and renovation and, "the way they looked," represented the poor relationship he believed to exist between the students and the administration. Here again, we have an example of a physical feature making a political statement. Duncan wonders: 89 "Have the students proven themselves to be undeserving of the basic commodities available to all members of society, or has the administration already written us off?" He suggests the present state of the bathrooms is a political statement from the administration in response to student vandalism. Echoing his point was Titman's (1994) discovery that "because school grounds were viewed by the children as places especially for them, the negative elements of litter, graffiti, vandalism, smelly drains, broken fences etc., were read by children as signifiers that the school didn't care about the environment or about them" (p. 61). Therefore, how the bathrooms are cared for and repaired (or not repaired) has influenced Duncan's attitude and behaviour toward his school environment. It is also possible that the uncaring attitude demonstrated toward bathrooms will represent an opportunity to make an ugly environment worse, inviting further vandalism to occur. In Titman's (1994) report, schools that demonstrated a lack of care for their grounds led to children "colluding with the uncaring attitude, for others it represented an opportunity to make a 'bad situation worse' . . . [or] it was read as a clear signal, an invitation to vandalism" (p. 62). Conversely, if bathroom conditions at Duncan's school were improved and maintained by the students, perhaps this process might significantly change the relationship, attitudes and behaviours that presently exist. Aesthetics. The "overall look" of the school environment was perceived to be aesthetically important to the students. The students valued the school environment as a place to interact and socialize. They recommended landscaping inside and outside the school to make it "less institutional-like . . . more aesthetically inviting" (Kris), allowing the students to "feel more relaxed" (Lok Yun) in this environment. Orr (1994) agrees that "there is . . . an inescapable correspondence between landscape 90 and mindscape and between the quality of our lives lived in them . . . we need stable, safe, interesting settings . . . in which to flourish as fully human creatures" (p. 161). Soleil commented that "the colour of the walls don't make you want to be there . . . those yellow walls suck the energy right out of you," indicating that colour played an important part for her in determining how she felt about a place. Correspondingly, the children in Titman's (1994) research talked about colour as being an important factor in deciding whether a place was "cheerful and interesting or dull and drab" (p. 105). The present condition this physical feature is sending a political statement to the students about the lack of respect, which they have indicated, disconnects them from their school environment. Recently (March, 1997) the school's staff and students were presented with the idea to design a project that would interconnect their school with the rest of Canada. The school has begun to landscape "a 100-metre strip of brown grass and pavement between the freshly painted school and a row of weather beaten portables" (Spence, 1998, p. 5). The school has agreed to be part of the Trans Canada Trail that will, in June 2000, be "the worlds longest—15,000 kilometres of paths, bikeways and waterways from Victoria to St. John's to Tuktoyaktuk" (Spence, 1998, p. 1). The school's Trail Committee, composed mainly of students, plans to landscape their section with a garden sculptured by local artists, transplant 10-metre trees and plant 2,000 crocus bulbs around the entire school. The students speak with enthusiasm about their connection with the project; "It's being part of the something big. It's Canada and it's right here in our school yard" (Szady, in Spence, 1998, p. 5). The trail has linked a group of staff and students as part of the whole project. This type of project supports Titman's (1994) research that demonstrated when children 91 participated in planned school improvement projects "the design of the grounds [were] more appropriate and this, in itself, means that children are likely to develop a different attitude to the place" (p. 88). In a relationship where the students are responsible for designing and caring for their school environment, their attitude towards the school and their perspective of the school's attitude towards them will be more positive. In addition, this project is an example of a part of the school environment that serves not only the students but includes the wider community. Social Features Social Areas. The need to establish areas for students "to hang out and eat their lunch" (Lok Yun) was strongly supported as a means to interconnect the students. They suggested that their lockers were a preferred place to eat lunch over the cafeteria. Their lockers supported small gatherings situated in a place that they felt comfortable, void of noise and impersonal dining benches. They recommended that a student lounge be conceived as an area to socialize. As previously discussed in the literature, schools can be remodelled to improve or establish social areas for students that develop a sense of community within the school environment (Moore & Lackney, 1994). As controversial as it may be, the students agreed that designating "a smoking area that is sheltered and equipped with ashtrays" would house both the "smokers and their butts." The provision of a smoking shelter on school property would signify to the students that the school environment was meeting their needs. Hallways. Soleil strongly suggested to "give the walls a new coat of paint. . . beige," remembering that she had previously claimed that "those yellow walls suck 92 the energy out of you." Another direction Soleil gave was to "hang student artwork on the barren walls" to make the hallways more inviting to travel. For Beth and Raven, certain sections of hallways seem to represent an important social space for them, while for Kris and Soleil, the halls symbolized the over-population of students they viewed as "clones" (Soleil) in a crowded, narrow space. Supporting the students' suggestion, Moore and Lackney's (1994) review suggested that hallways be designed to be wide enough to encourage social interactions and informal instruction amongst students and teachers. Lockers. Where the student's locker is situated within the school environment seems to be an important social space for Damian, Beth and Lok Yun. "Lockers are a social area" (Damian) and Anita agrees that her "friends who have their lockers together hang out there and eat their lunch." The students felt that their school cafeteria was not suitable for everyone with respect to size and atmosphere and suggested allowing them to eat their lunches at their lockers where they would feel "more comfortable" (Lok Yun). Damian's locker was an important "personal space" connecting him to his school environment. His photograph of his locker and others in the row represents his relationship to others, symbolizing how well he knows them. Damian interprets this metaphor to mean that: I know those who have lockers close to me . . . I chose my locker it's close to my friends . . . I know less and less about the others in the lockers that are out of focus . . . Lockers are a social area, to have conversations . . . they bring students together who get along well, friendships form . . . lockers definitely divides students, cliques form . . . it's like an interesting 'sit com,' different shows, continually running. For Damian, and for the other students in this study, "school is enjoyable because of the people." 93 Self-discoverv. What I didn't find in the literature was the relationship between place-identity and self-identity which was significant for Beth, Damian and Raven in terms of their educational experience. Damian's photograph of a row of lockers represents his "personal space," providing a sense of ownership and belonging to his school environment. Beth and Raven associate their school environment with being a place to "discover what kind of person [she] wants to be" (Beth). They both agree that their school environment provides a "journey" to help them decide their career interests as well as personal aspects about themselves. These important perspectives give the students a sense of knowing that their school environment is a place where they belong. School Organization. The students believe that size makes a difference and recommend that the overall school population be less than 1000 people. Moore and Lackney's (1994) findings supports the students concluding that a population of less than 1000 secondary students "lead(s) to a more humane educational system" (p. 38). Kris makes no connection with the hundreds of students he sees at his school "other than the brands plastered on their shirts . . . [and he doesn't] pay attention to exactly who these people are." He suggests that an ideal environment would afford a "smaller school population . . . less of the 'herd' mentality . . . there will be less anonymity . . . you would not have to be so superficial." As Barker (1982) warned, when schools get larger, students "become superfluous [and] redundant" (p. 411) and this may be what Kris is feeling. Soleil's perception of the population of teachers and students in her school environment is similar. To her everyone ends up looking like "clones with Adidas pants, Nike shoes, the same shirts, the same clothes, the same hair. I'm trying to be different... I like to stand out. . . to be different for myself." 94 To achieve her own sense of identity, Soleil tries to stand out by piercing her body and dying her hair. Students need to feel they are a part of the school environment with each individual being able to make their own contribution. The smaller the school, the greater the opportunity students will have to contribute in their own way. School-within-a-school. Within the school exists a school-within-a-school concept. The Mini School involves approximately 125 students from grades 8 to 12. Beth, Lok Yun and Kris are students in the Mini School program who agree that having the same teachers and peers throughout secondary school is a desirable part of the program. Beth's photograph of the hallway represents a "cold, empty and barren" part of the school. However, Beth took this photograph from her "comfort zone," the area where the Mini School functions in the school. As previously described in Chapter Three, this is an enriched-level learning program for a selected group of students who require a more challenging curriculum. For Beth, the best feature of being in this program is the small class of 25 people with whom she is "strongly connected." As well, she believes this program has increased her social activities as a result of getting to know the students in the grade above or below her within this program. She suggests that social interaction amongst grade levels does not tend to occur in the rest of the school and students are inclined to socialize only within their own grade level. Beth attributes the Mini School program to her developing a positive relationship with a part of her school environment. For example, this program has honed her speaking and presentation skills to a sound level of confidence. However, outside her "comfort zone," Beth feels unfamiliar with the rest of the school environment. 95 Because the majority of her school day is spent in the Mini School wing, she views the rest of the school differently. In this photograph, Beth gives this unfamiliar area a cold and empty feeling representing her discomfort (or lack of connection) with the other areas in the school environment. Lok Yun is a member of the Mini School and she describes it as "its own little community," although it is very much a part of the whole school environment. It is here, in the west wing of the school that Lok Yun feels most connected to her school environment. She refers to this as a welcoming, comfortable place where she has the majority of her classes, hangs out at her locker with her friends, and eats her lunch. Lok Yun admits that she "does not come out from there" (meaning the Mini School area) and, therefore, "does not interact much" with the other parts of the school or its people. She connects with her "tight" class of 25 students in their own little "nook and cranny." Most importantly, Beth, Lok Yun and Kris perceive the Mini School to be a place where they belong, feel that they are a part of this place, and that this place is part of them. Imp l i ca t ions "The outer world with all its phenomena is fdled with divine splendor, but we must have experienced the divine within ourselves before we can hope to discover it in our environment. " (Steiner, 1975, p. 7) As a researcher, I have learned that there are a variety of ways in which the physical and social environment interconnect students with their school environment. While the effect of the physical design on students has been emphasized, rules and regulations that restrict the way spaces can be used by students can dampen even 96 the best environment. Students highlighted many different parts of the school environment that provided either comfort or conflict. By socializing, students learn meaningful skills that they are not formally taught. Socialization is a large part of the school environment and opportunities to socialize are important to a student's physical, social and personal development throughout their life. Therefore, it should be considered an important part of the school environment to design places for students to socially interact. From this research it is evident that students would like educators to take into account students' opinions and ideas when they are communicated. This research provided a group of student with a channel to offer their perspectives about their interconnections with their school environment and other aspects of school life that they deem to be important. An understanding of what they are voicing should bring new insight for educators willing to improve their school environment. Implementing their ideas should demonstrate to the students that their interconnection with the school environment is valued and important to those who manage their school environment. This recognizes the mutual influence of students and educators in the control for shaping their school environment. When students express interest in wanting to discuss problems and ideas for change, educators should consider this to be a fitting method for conflict resolution. Students must be actively involved in ideas and decisions relating to their school environment because, after all, they are quite qualified to make the assessments and are the most directly affected. This research showed the students to be very conscious of the condition of their school because they spend a great deal of time immersed in it. They are greatly familiar with the place and notice even the smallest 97 details. The overall physical design and quality of the school environment is important. If students are involved in implementing and caring for their school environment, acts of vandalism should decrease. Therefore, to fully interconnect students, a reciprocal relationship must occur; the school environment should welcome student participation and the students should welcome involvement in the well being of their school. As Titman's (1994) study successfully revealed, "research conducted throughout the world consistently finds that the involvement of children and young people in projects leads to a sense of responsibility for the maintenance, care and protection of that which has been created" (p. 88). If students are provided with an environment in which they feel cared for, they will be more apt to care for and maintain their school environment to a healthy standard. This may even extend to caring for other environments beyond the school ground. Conclusion "For a world growing short of many things, the next sensible frontiers to explore are those places where we live and work. " (Orr, 1992, p. 131) Anthropologists and sociologists have regarded photoethnography as an important way of representing a culture. In this study, the students' photographs and narratives were a rich resource that recorded the realities they perceived to exist in their school environment. Their visual images authenticated this research in a way that words alone could not. Accompanied with narratives and interview prose the data were created to encourage us as viewers to better understand what the school environment is like for students, enabling us to empathize with their situation. 98 Supporting the idea that the school environment shapes students' perspectives, the physical features constituting social and political implications are highlighted in the research data and summarized below. Negative Connections. The school building was viewed as an institution, a place of intimidation (Kris). The bathrooms smelled and were in need of repair (Duncan). The toilet paper hung on the outside of the stalls and the bolted down pipes sent a strong political message as a result of previous acts of student vandalism (Duncan). Steel grills on windows and locked features gave the perspective of being imprisoned in the school environment (Soleil). Hallways were crowded with too many students who all looked like "clones" (Kris and Soleil). Traffic signs represented a narrow path giving only a single direction or option to follow in the school environment (Raven). Positive Connections. Windows were the most common features photographed by the students in this study. Windows gave feelings of bright, airy, openness (Lok Yun) and their light reflected certain areas of the school (Beth and Raven). Hallways were also represented more than once, as a foreign area, away from a "comfort zone" (Beth) as well as a place of exploration (Raven). A radiator provided a reflection of self-identity (Beth) while a tree trunk represented paths for self-discovery (Raven). Lockers were places to socialize with friends (Lok Yun and Damian). A pocket watch represented a memory of time in the school environment (Damian). The school environment is a place where students become part of the interacting physical and social features. Ecology is the study of living organisms and the web of relationships that interconnects all of us together. By developing an interconnected relationship with places, we can contribute significantly to the well being of those people who inhabit it. When students feel that they have a connected relationship with 99 their school environment, they will become responsible, caring inhabitants of this place. Education can play a significant role in the development of an ecological perspective by encouraging caring, interconnected relationships that consider all of the organisms in the ecosystem. We can bestow respect to our students by developing an understanding of the social and physical contexts they inhabit. In doing so, we provide roots for our students to secure themselves as unique individuals, and wings for life beyond the classroom. We are slowly realizing that we must learn to see school environments as a whole system, with cycles and interdependent relationships. Fortunately, it is natural for most of us to care for and desire a healthy relationship with people and places. Our students can enhance their educational experience and achievement if we allow them to develop interconnected relationships with their school by encouraging their ideas and participation in the design of physical and social features within the school system. This is the vital link for maintaining the health and well being of any school environment and its inhabitants. 100 BIBLIOGRAPHY Adato, A. (1998, March). Kid's pictures to God: What children want God to see. LIFE Magazine, pp.68-80. Ball, M.S., & Smith, G.W. (1992). Analyzing visual data. London: Sage Publications, Inc. Bogdan, R.C., & Biklen, S.K. (1992). Qualitative research for education: An introduction to theory and methods. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Bourke, S. (1986). How smaller is better: Some relationships between class size, teaching practices, and student achievement. American Educational Research Journal. 23. 558-571. Capra, F. (1996). The web of life. NY: Anchor Books. Carlo de Carlo, G. (1974). Why/how to build school buildings. In G. Coates (Ed.), Alternative learning environments (pp. 96-108). Stroudsburg, PA: Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross, Inc. Clarke, P. (1998, October). Did someone say social revolution? Teacher. 11. (2). 6. Conners, D. (1983). The school environment: A link to understanding stress. Theory Into Practice. 22. (1). 15-20. Doll, W. Jr. (1993). A post-modern perspective on curriculum. New York: Teachers College Press. Eisner, E. (1988). The ecology of school improvement. Educational Leadership. 45. 24-29. Finn, J.D., & Achilles, CM. (1990). Answers and questions about class size: A statewide experiment. American Educational Research Journal. 27. 557-577. Fiske, E.B. (1991). Smart schools, smart kids: Why do some schools work? NY: Simon & Schuster. Garbarino, J. (1980). Some thoughts on school size and its effects on adolescent development. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 9. 19-31. Garbarino, J. (1985). Habitats for children: An ecological perspective. In J. Wohlwill and W. van Vliet (Eds.). Habitats for children: The impact of density (pp. 125 - 143). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Goodlad, J. I. (1987). The ecology of school renewal. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. 101 Gooliaff, V. (1998). Greening playgrounds could reduce school violence. Regina Free Press. (April 5) 9-10. Grumet, M. (1992). Existential and phenomenological foundations of autobiographical method. In W. Pinar and W. Reynolds (Eds.). Understanding curriculum as phenomenological and deconstructed text (pp. 28-43). NY: Teachers College Press. Gump P.V., & Barker R.G. (1982). Big school, small school: Overview and prospects. In S. Kaplan and R. Kaplan (Eds.) Humanscape: Environments for people. Ann Arbor, Ml: Ulrich's Books, Inc. Gump, P.V. (1987). School and classroom environments. In D. Stokols & I. Altman (Eds.), Handbook of environmental psychology (pp. 691-732). NY: Wiley. Huesca, R. (1993, August). Methodological issues in documentary ethnography: A renewed call for putting cameras in the hands of the people. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the association for education in journalism and mass communication. Kansas City, MO. Horwood, B. (1992). The goat portage: Students' stories and learning from canoe trips. CAHPER Journal. 58. (4). 18-22. Khamasi, J. (1997). Exploring school advisors' practices: Dwelling in/between the tectonic spaces. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of British Columbia. Kiener, R. (1997). Kim's gift of forgiveness. Reader's Digest. 151. (907), 84-90. Lloyd, R. (1974). Architecture: A course of study for high school students. In G. Coates (Ed.), Alternative learning environments (pp. 59-74). Stroudsburg, PA: Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross, Inc. Merriam, S. (1988). Case study research in education: A qualitative approach. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers. Miller, J., & Seller, W. (1990). Curriculum: Perspectives and practice. Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman Ltd. Moore, G., & Lackney, J. (1994). Educational facilities for the twenty first century: Research analysis and design patterns. Department of Architecture and Centre for Architecture and Urban Planning Research. Milwaukee, Wl: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Orr, D.W. (1990). Environmental education and ecological literacy. The Education Digest. (9), 49-53. 102 Orr, D.W. (1992). Ecological literacy: Education and the transition to a postmodern world. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Orr, D.W. (1994). Earth in mind: On education, environment, and the human prospect. Washington DC: Island Press. Pate-Vain, H., Achilles, CM., Boyd-Zaharias, J., & McKenna, B. (1992). Class size does make a difference. Phi Delta Kappan. 74. (3), 253-256. Pratt, J., Pratt, J., Moore, S., & Moore, W., (1979). Environmental encounter. Dallas, TX: Reverchon Press. Preskill, H. (1995). The use of photography in evaluating school culture. Qualitative Studies in Education. 8. (2). 183-193. Richardson, L. (1994). Writing. In N. K. Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.). Handbook of Qualitative Research (pp. 516-529). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Spence, C. (1998). The people's path. The Vancouver Courier. 89. (81), 1,4-5. Sommer, R., & Olsen, H. (1980). The soft classroom. Environment and Behaviour, 12,(1), 3-16. Stake, R. (1994). Case studies. In N. K. Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.). Handbook of Qualitative Research (pp. 236-247). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Schwartz (1989, Summer). Visual ethnography: Using photography in qualitative research. Qualitative sociology, 12. (2), 119-152. Titman, W. (1994). Special places: Special people. The hidden currriculum of school grounds. UK: World Wide Fund For Nature/Learning through Landscapes. Varela, F., Thompson, E., & Rosch, E. (1993). The embodied mind. London, England: The MIT Press. Walker, L. (1993). School design in the 1990s: Outlook and prospects. In E. Herbert and A. Meek (Eds.) Children, learning, and school design: A first national invitational conference for architects and educators, (pp. 85-92). Winnetka, IL: Winnetka Public Schools. Walker, R. (1993). Finding a silent voice for the researcher: Using photographs in evaluation and research. In M. Schratz (Ed.). Qualitative voices in educational research (pp. 72-92). London: The Falmer Press. Weinstein, C. (1979). The physical environment of the school: A review of the research. Review of Educational Research, 49, (4). 577-610. 103 Wohlwill J., & van Vliet, W. (1985). Habitats for children: The state of the evidence. In J Wohlwill and W. van Vliet (Eds.). Habitats for children: The impact of density (pp. 201-225). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Yin, R. (1994). Case study research: Design & methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Zeisel, J. (1974). Designing out unintentional school property damage: A checklist. In D. Carson (Ed.). Man-environment interactions: Evaluations and application (pp. 173-186). Stroudsburg, PA: Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross, Inc. APPENDIX A CONSENT FORMS 104 Permission Letter March 1998 Dear Parents/Guardians: Your son/daughter has expressed interest in participating in a study entitled Photographic Interconnections: How students view their school environment. I am currently enrolled in an M.A. in Education and am writing to seek your consent for him/her to participate in this research project which will be conducted over approximately ten class periods, mainly during the month of April. The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship that exists between high school students and their schools' physical and social environment. Photography will be the method used to capture images that portray their perspectives of their school. Their photographs accompanied by one-page narratives that they compose, will be the medium by which they communicate their interpretations. The study will also involve interviewing students about their photographs and reading their narratives. This session will take about one hour and will take place during the regular photography class time. To provide an accurate record, the interview and narrative reading session will be audio-tape recorded. Within my thesis, the identities of all students will remain anonymous and pseudonyms (false names) will be used for those students participating. The school may decide to exhibit their photographs and narratives to other students, staff and community members. Otherwise, these data will only be used in the writing of my thesis and at future educational conferences where I am asked to make a presentation. There is no risk of any kind to students who participate in this study, and it will not, in any way, jeopardize their standing in school. Students have the option to withdraw at any point during this study without prejudice. Your son/daughter's photography teacher has agreed that students participating in this study can complete all the requirements during regular class time. Therefore, this study should not require extra work or additional time outside class and the students will receive credit towards the completion of their photography course. Parent Consent Form 106 Please read this form and check one of the statements below. Sign and return this form to your son/daughter's photography teacher. I have received and read a copy of the consent letter for the study entitled, Photographic Interconnections: How students view their school environment . Name of Student Please check the box indicating your decision: I CONSENT to my son/daughter's participation in the study as described in the letter. I DO NOT CONSENT to my son/daughter's participation in the study as described in the letter. Name of Parent Signature of Parent Date Student Contract and Consent 107 I have chosen to be a participant in a study called, Photograpgic Interconnections: How students view their school environment. I understand that I am expected to complete the following tasks to the best of my ability; a) take photographs of the school environment, b) select two photographs for 8 X 10-inch enlargement, c) participate in an audio-tape recorded interview session, d) write a one-page narrative for each of the two photographs, e) read my narratives at the recorded interview session, and f) agree to have my work exhibited in my school as well as recorded on videotape for presentation purposes. Your Name (please print) Your Signature Date Subject Consent Form 108 Please read this form and check one of the statements below. Sign and return this form to the photography teacher. Your parent/guardian must also read and sign this form in the space provided. I am aware that I am a subject in a photograph for a study entitled, Photographic Interconnections: How students view their school environment. I understand that this photograph will be exhibited in the school and will be used by the researcher in the presentation of their thesis and at future conferences. Please check the box indicating your decision: I CONSENT to being a subject in this study. I DO NOT CONSENT to being a subject in this study. Name of Student (please print) Signature of Student Please check the box indicating your decision: I CONSENT to my son/daughter being a subject in a photograph. I DO NOT CONSENT to my son/daughter being a subject in a photograph. Name of Parent/Guardian (please print) Signature of Parent/Guardian APPENDIX B INTERVIEW QUESTIONS 109 Interview data: Name: Pseudonym: P r e p a r e for your interview by answering the following questions prior to your interview date. Remember that we will be tape-recording the interview. 1. What does this photograph depict (describe the subject(s) of the photograph)? 2. Is there any connection between you and what is being shown in this photograph? 3. Briefly describe what the school environment is like for you. 4. How does this photograph represent your relationship with the school environment? 


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