Abstract A founding assumption of the formal school system is that success in the classroom correlates with success later in life, both in terms of career and participation in society. Indeed, one of the core objectives of the formal school system is to equip students with the ability to contribute meaningfully to society economically, socially, and civically. A current trend in education has been the use of academic mindsets to predict success in the formal school system. Students who apply positive academic mindsets are deemed likely to succeed and capable of long-term success. The opposite is presumed of students who fail to apply positive academic mindsets. Despite disengaging from the formal school system and failing to apply positive academic mindsets, some students do achieve long-term success. This study sought to understand what caused students capable of long-term success to disengage from the formal school system and the personal characteristics that contributed to their success. Using a qualitative, phenomenological approach, seven participants who achieved long-term success as adults but who did not graduate from high school, earned a GED, or graduated from high school but experienced significant difficulty in doing so were interviewed. Analysis resulted in identifying five specific negative school experiences which contributed to disengagement: (a) college not expected by family or educators; (b) feelings of personal isolation; (c) bureaucratic environment; (d) easy; (e) boring subject matter. Factors outside of the formal school system that contributed to long-term success included: (a) a difficult home-life resulting in a strong sense of personal responsibility and self-advocacy; (b) outgoing personality; (c) belief in ability to succeed with or without formal education; (d) high level of grit; (e) growth mindset. Ultimately, the skills that made the participants successful as adults are the same skills that could have made them successful in the formal school system. This suggests that failure in the formal school system is not due to lacking the necessary skills to succeed, but to perceiving the objective of academic success as not personally relevant. The use of academic mindsets to predict long-term success is not a panacea for all students. Harm exists is underestimating the true ability of students who do not fit the norm by assessing their potential against an irrelevant goal.
University of Minnesota D.Ed. dissertation. June 2015. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Frank Guldbrandsen. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 127 pages.
A Phenomenological Study of Long-Term Success in Spite of Formal Education: What Can Be Learned From Those Who Do Not Fit the Norm.
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.