Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Sorensen, Christine Knupp

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Teaching and Learning


Social sciences--Study and teaching (Secondary)--Illinois--Cook County; Underachievers--Illinois--Cook County; Teenagers with social disabilities--Illinois--Cook County


This dissertation investigates those instructional practices in the social studies that contribute to at-risk high-school students' engagement or disengagement in learning. This study looked at methods of instruction and habits of interaction that students who are at risk of failure recognize as “engaging” within the context of classroom instruction. The basis for this study was the model of student engagement posited by Newmann, Wehlage, and Lamborn. This study is a qualitative study using a phenomenological framework. The methods used in the course of the study were interviews with open-ended questions and probes, which were taped and transcribed. The transcribed responses to the questions and probes were then coded and grouped independently and then compared to the model of engagement suggested by Newmann et al. Commonalities and differences were looked for, based upon Newmann et al.'s model. There were 12 participants in the study, of whom nine were males and three were females. All of the subjects were enrolled in an alternative high-school program for Proviso Township High Schools, District #209, Cook County, Illinois. The 12 participants in this study were judged to be at-risk by the school district because they were 16 years of age or older, had average to above average academic potential, but were unsuccessful in school due to truancy. Of the 12, the racial and ethnic groups represented include African-American, Hispanic, and Caucasian and the group selected to participate was representative in proportion to the actual numbers of the various racial and ethnic groups in the school district. Newmann et al.'s model of student engagement posits that engagement occurs in classrooms and schools that address student needs of competence, school membership, and authentic work. Within these factors are additional factors that impact upon student engagement. The data that emerged from the interviews with study participants suggest that Newmann et al.'s model of engagement was accurate; additionally, other factors emerged from the interview context, which were added to the model.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [338]-346).


359 pages




Northern Illinois University

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