LSU College of Education Hosts Lecture on Understanding Motivations of High-School Drop-outs
BATON ROUGE – The LSU College of Education’s Curriculum Theory Project, or CTP, recently hosted University of Alberta Professor Jean Clandinin for a lecture, titled “Composing Lives as Early School Leavers,” designed to give LSU students and faculty a sense of the lives of youth who dropped out of school and their life circumstances both in and out of school which led to their departures.
Clandinin shared the story of Skye, a pseudonym for a teenage girl of Aboriginal descent who participated in one of Clandinin and her colleagues’ narrative research studies in Canada.
Skye’s transition to high school led her from her Aboriginal reserve to a big school in a big city. An avid golfer, she was excited that golf was included in her physical education class, but Skye didn’t understand the transportation system and missed her bus. Skye walked to the golf course, arriving very late and was greeted by mocking and racist remarks from her teacher and peers. As Skye related to Clandinin, she thought about leaving right then and there, but knew it would have only confirmed the teacher’s prejudice.
A good student, excellent golfer, and beautiful dancer, Skye eventually dropped out of her new high school, where she was often perceived just as “an Indian.” Clandinin explained that the participants resisted the label of the term “dropout,” preferring to “compose their lives in plotlines of ‘not in school … for now.’”
The lecture was arranged by CTP’s annual CTP Speaker Series. Immediately following the talk, Clandinin met with the College of Education narrative inquiry seminar class. She talked with these graduate students about the research she is currently conducting with Janice Huber and Shaun Murphy about the relationship and tensions between familial curriculum-making and school curriculum-making. Clandinin said the youth live in and between these two curriculum-making places or “worlds.”
“Children seem to feel that when they are at school, they need to keep quiet about the stories of their familial curriculum-making world,” said Clandinin. “There is no space. Where is the space a student can say, ‘my mom is suffering from depression and I have to stay home with her today’?”
Narrative inquiry, used in educational and social science research, is a research methodology based on a view of experience as lived and told stories. Narrative inquiry involves conducting fieldwork using a variety of methods such as field notes and conversations, as well as conveying research results in narrative representations, thereby capturing and analyzing stories that cannot be quantified into numerical data.
Clandinin is a professor and the director of the Centre for Research for Teacher Education and Development, or CRTED, in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. Her fieldwork in narrative inquiry over the past 20 years has been instrumental in the popularity this method has gained in the area of qualitative research. Her works are often used as university texts in the U.S. and Canada, and elsewhere in the world, including courses at LSU. A former teacher, counselor and psychologist, Clandinin has authored or co-authored 14 books, including books translated into Korean, Chinese, Italian, Portuguese and Japanese. Her work is cited in countless journals, presentations, theses and dissertations.
A graduate student asked Clandinin if she considered herself a pioneer in the field of narrative inquiry.
“I think I was just trying to figure out how to do research that mattered to me and the kids,” Clandinin explained. “I wanted to change things. I certainly never set out to be a methodologist or thought of myself as doing this.”
CRTED was established in 1991 as a faculty-wide Centre for Research for Teacher Education. The Centre draws together people from diverse backgrounds, including graduate students, faculty, research assistants, principals, social workers, medical personnel and teachers. For more information about CRTED, visit http://www.elementaryed.ualberta.ca/Centres/CRTED.aspx.
CTP represents the efforts of LSU faculty to participate in the future of curriculum theory nationally and internationally, to enhance the doctoral program of curriculum and instruction, and to carry forward the college and university mission to be a leader in educational thought.