Creating a Collective Consciousness of Public Schooling Inequities: Participatory Action Research with Community College Students Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Nichols, Kathleen
    • Affiliation: School of Education
  • Public schools across the US are perceived to be broken, in particular schools where higher dropout rates, violence, abuse, and lower literacy rates plague urban and suburban districts. However, there is limited information about the student's perceptions as to why public schools are failing across the nation. The purpose of this dissertation was to invite students to participate in the investigation of these public schooling problems as co-researchers of a critical participatory action research study. The 25 community college students/co-researchers lived in a polarized New Jersey county that included some of the most affluent and some of the poorest school districts in the state. I used critical participatory action research methods and critical pedagogy to conduct a qualitative study examining the themes of public school problems from a student perspective. The students/co-researchers who participated in the study were asked to write a personal narrative of perceived problems, code their narratives, share their stories and thematic discoveries with the class, organize into groups based on shared themes, and construct questions for community members around the identified themes. Students/co-researchers were trained to conduct and analyze their own interviews with community members, and they wrote reflective writings throughout the CPAR process. In groups that met weekly, students/co-researchers discussed themes that emerged in their writings and interviews, and they developed actionable solutions to address the problems identified. Major themes identified that have contributed to failing urban schools included: increasing cruelty, distractive blaming, and severely unjust disparities between the quality of educational experience provided to suburban students and urban students. Solutions identified were multi-pronged and primarily included eliminating disparities between suburban and urban school districts, forming a collective effort in solving schooling problems, inviting and respecting student voice in decisions that shape school experience, implementing effective methods for increasing compassion for and acceptance of diverse people in schools, and supporting students' academic and social needs congruently. Students identified themes in public schooling problems that other researchers have previously identified, reinforcing that rather than focusing on accountability measures such as standardized testing, states and districts should work to improve students' public schooling experiences.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Glazier, Jocelyn
  • Noblit, George W.
  • Trier, James
  • Justice, Julie
  • Davis, Cassandra
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2015
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
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