Date of Award

12-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Jeannine Dingus-Eason

Second Supervisor

Chinwe Ikpeze

Abstract

The transition from elementary to middle school presents adolescents with challenges that deter them from becoming learning-focused students. In urban settings, transitioning students are often confronted with issues as they enter middle school and attempt to acclimatize to the new environment. This study explored first-hand experiences of transitioning urban middle school seventh graders at the completion of their first year in a middle school setting. The purpose of the study was to describe students' perceptions of the issues negatively impacting their ability to focus on learning. This phenomenological research study was conducted primarily using pre-existing data from seventh grade test responses; a card pile sort task activity; focus group interviews; and field notes to gain insights into the issues that urban adolescents confront as learners in middle school settings. Purposeful sampling was used to identify three groups of pa1iicipants from three middle school sites across a large urban district. Findings from the interviews suggest that there are common issues negatively impacting urban students ability to focus on learning. Participants characterized the early transition period into middle school as a time in which specific issues create discomforts distracting them from their primary responsibilities as learners. Students also identified elements of classroom dynamics and teacher pedagogical practice that disenfranchise them from learning as experienced during an adjustment phase. Findings further indicated that students" middle school counselors are not reaching out to them to address issues, to counsel them through difficulties, or to circumvent the impact of negative learning influences before failure is experienced. This support was found to be needed during the crisis phase when students encounter issues that place them at risk for failure.

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