Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


Teacher Education


chools across the country struggle to engage students in learning, particularly in the final semester of their senior year. At a small private school administrators supported two teachers and five senior students in working collaboratively toward new solutions. Using methods of participant-observation, this thesis examines the experiences of all five students who participated. Driving this research was an interest in similarity and variation in participant shifts in their sense of themselves as learners. Differences observed between students are best explained by variation in learned responses to previous learning environments. Levels of participation and identity shifts were influenced significantly by the extent to which students had developed strategies for approaching more traditional academic environments, regardless of whether these strategies resulted in academic success. As an action thesis, this work hopes both to influence theoretical discussions, and to aid further development of the school in which the study was conducted. In relation to the former, I argue that learned responses to traditional schooling environments can impede student engagement in more collaborative settings, though not irreparably. Regarding the latter, I offer programmatic suggestions for increasing student engagement within this and other school communities.


Thesis (M.A.) School of Education