A case study of a public applied learning school
Moore, Marsha Ann
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The purpose of this study was to explore the success of a public applied learning school by examining the conception, development and continuation of the school's alternative structure and practices. Two research questions guided the focus of this qualitative study: (1) How did this applied learning school begin? (2) How has this applied learning school continued and grown over time? The study was conducted using three forms of data collection including individual interviews, documentation review, and participant observation. Several themes emerged from the data analysis process. Participants discussed their personal experiences related to the conception and continuation of the school and from these discussions, reinforced through the documentation review and participant observation, five themes emerged. The rigor of the teacher selection process included the application process and interview as well as faculty beliefs and backgrounds. All components of the teacher selection process have been an integral part of the school from the beginning until present day. Participants' discussions focused on the physical environment, the student focused atmosphere, and the role of parental involvement as critical attributes of the learning environment. In regards to the teaching environment, participants identified collaboration, respect and a professionally challenging work environment as important aspects of teaching at the school. Participants also discussed the academic environment. They noted the varied curriculum, assessment systems and teacher training as components of the success of the school. The personal growth of the participants and the connections that they have formed with each other and students consistently surfaced as a vital piece of the school environment. Several recommendations and implications resulted from the study: (a) select specifically qualified teachers whose background knowledge and experience align with school philosophy, (b) create open and engaging learning environments, (c) encourage and cultivate parent involvement, (d) address the physical environment where children learn, (e) foster a respectful collaborative teaching environment, (f) use varied curriculum and assessment models based on careful evaluations of student needs and progress, (g) provide high quality teacher trainings from experts in their respective fields, and (h) encourage interpersonal connections to build a trusting community of learners.