A collective case study exploring high school senior perspectives of post-graduation motivations and preparation in five different educational settings.
Education improvement has become a national imperative. Low graduation rates, standardized test failures, and overall success rates falling significantly behind in global competition have forced the dialogue towards alternatives to public education (Stewart, 2012). As the United States continues to trail other countries in educational success, it raises concerns about what environment is the most effective for student success in today’s economic and cultural states. In a response to this educational concern, today’s students have seen the emergence of campus alternatives, and with these differing environments, research needs to provide clarity to the results produced from each environment, and if these results prepare all students for what comes after graduation. Equally important is the exploration of how each of these environments may help or hinder motivation for students and hear this information from the students directly. This collective case study gives high school students that voice. This study begins with a criterion-based sample of one to three students attending each of five specific categories of learning institutions—a public school setting, a private school setting, a home-school setting, a charter school setting, and a final group from an innovative or alternative education setting. Through a series of interviews and observations of the various learning environments, the student stories compared common experiences, differences, and learning paths. This anthology of research information presented an understanding of each of their learning environments, motivational influences, and how these students believe their experiences prepared them for what comes next. The power of the responses evidenced commanding themes throughout each distinct case and revealed compelling patterns common among all five cases. The result was a better explanation of experiences from the student's point of view, a clearer picture of motivations—both extrinsic and intrinsic—and strong patterns of concepts that can create influential change in any educational setting. The implications show the power of student's voices in the education process, setting the foundation for future studies that will incorporate the significant contribution made by the ones affected the most by current practices—the voice of the student.