Engaging Alternatives To A Traditional High School Experience: A Case Study Of How Graduates Of An Alternative (Project-Based Learning) High School Setting Describe Their Experiences, Insights, And Suggestions For Engaging All Learners


Fall 12-15-2015



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Walter Enloe

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Ronald Newell

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Celia Smith


This study sought to listen deeply to the voices of recent graduates from a teacherpowered, project-based learning charter high school in a metropolitan Midwestern city. These recent graduates shared their experiences, insights, and suggestions for engaging all students in deeper learning. After several days of site visits a survey was designed and administered to all 300 graduates of the school since its first graduating class in 2004. The survey response data was used to develop in-depth interview questions. Interviews were administered to two teacher-advisors and three recent graduates. This study’s primary question is: How do graduates of an alternative high school setting describe their experiences, insights, and suggestions for engaging all learners? The results suggest that graduates believe three conditions present during their schooling experience fostered strong student engagement leading to deeper student learning. The first of these conditions is the intentional development of a strong and supportive community of learners within the school. The second condition that emerged from this study is the presence of teachers as advisors who model taking responsibility for their own learning. The third major theme is the authentic empowerment of all learners to take ownership over, and design, their own learning pathway. Implications for further research include an in-depth examination of the role of teacher-advisors and their impact on student learning as well as teacher-powered schools (teacher cooperatives) and how this structure impacts student learning.

Research Methodology

Case Study, Interview, Survey


Charter Schools, Community Building, Motivation, teacher cooperatives








School of Education Student Capstone Theses and Dissertations

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