In this study I argue that an important narrative is all but missing from the discourses around school-community relationships; that is, children’s perspectives are rarely considered. This project—a grounded theory case study—seeks (at least in part) to fill this gap by exploring what can be learned as students assume the agency for teaching practitioners about their out-of-school learning experiences via a photovoice project, referred to in the study as the Community Exploration Project (CEP). I used theories of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 1995) and Authentic Pedagogy (Newmann, Marks, & Gamoran, 1996) along with research on the Funds of Knowledge (Moll, Amanti, Neff, & Gonzalez, 1992), developmental assets (Scales, Benson, Leffert, & Blyth, 2000) and social capital (Coleman, 1988) as conceptual tools. In addition, I applied Weick’s (e.g., Weick & Sutcliffe, 2005) notion of sensemaking in analyzing how teachers and students interpreted new learning from the CEP. For the CEP fifth grade students collected photographs of their communities around a series of prompts (e.g., Where do you learn in your community? What do you learn?). They then had opportunities to share their work (to varying degrees) with their teachers and peers. Data collection primarily included student and teacher interviews before and after the CEP, classroom and school observations, and student photographs and captions. Data analysis led to an emerging theory of school-community relationships (as mediated by children). All participants to varying degrees valued the CEP experience; many described new learning from the project. What emerged, however, is that at least in this case new information was filtered through existing mental models, stereotypes, and personal experiences, which in some cases prompted additional reflection, but in others seemed to constrain the sensemaking process.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2015. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: Karen Seashore. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 212 pages.
Out-of-School Learning: An Exploration of Children’s and Teachers’ Perspectives.
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