Theories of failure and the failure of theories: A cognitive/sociocultural/macrostructural study of eight struggling students

Mark Dressman, Phillip Wilder, Julia Johnson Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In this study we investigated the lives and academic histories of eight students enrolled in an alternative-school program in a mid-sized Midwestern city. Through the triangulation of interviews, fieldnotes, local newspaper articles, artifacts such as student work and information provided in cumulative folders, and a battery of measures of cognitive performance in reading, we constructed a case history of each student and an ethnographic portrait of the middle-school program in which they were enrolled. We then compared and contrasted these case histories and the program portrait to cognitivist, socioculturalist, and macrostructuralist explanations of school failure. Our findings suggest that no single explanation comprehensively accounts for the range or complexity of each or of all eight students' life histories or current patterns of school behavior. Our observation of instances of engaging and disengaging instruction for the students in the alternative program also provided some insight into how to approach the development of curriculum and instruction for students who struggle in school for a wide variety of reasons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-61
Number of pages54
JournalResearch in the Teaching of English
Volume40
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language

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