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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Creating a new vision for an imagined school : young people from alternative programs explore their experiences with schooling Panina-Beard, Natalia

Abstract

Based on Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, which states that learning and development takes place in the relation between an individual and his or her sociocultural environment, this research focused on the schooling experiences of students attending alternative programs (APs) in British Columbia. Two research questions were addressed: 1) What do the students attending APs say they need to graduate from high school? 2) What would a school look like that provides opportunities for meeting the students’ educational needs and integrating their strengths? Through qualitative methods, eleven students were engaged in a three-phase research process. First, they were interviewed individually. Second, they worked in groups and sharing circles with the support of a researcher, a community Elder and two architects. Third, they created a model for an imagined school that would meet their educational needs and integrate their needs for high school completion. Using thematic analysis, the students reported that mainstream schools did not provide the support and care they needed, did not recognize their teaching and learning needs in a timely manner and did not include their strengths to facilitate school engagement. Conversely, they described the APs as having limited learning opportunities, but providing support and care. Therefore, in their imagined school, they created spaces for: positive relationships with their teachers, rich learning experiences leading to a career, hands-on learning spaces, a garden and a farm. Further, their imagined school was an open and spacious facility connected to the outdoors. The current study contributes to the literature by building from interviews with young people to create with them an imagined school that provides opportunities for both addressing educational needs and building from strengths. Unique to Vygotsky’s theory is a recognition that, along with an experience itself, what matters is the meaning that is made from experience; individuals create meaning in the moment, as well as reinterpret the meaning of experience over time. Through reflection and reinterpretation of experience, the young people in this study were enabled to imagine a school that they had never experienced and, thus, create a school for education.

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