Exploring the world of a challenging student


Case Study Question

What does the world look like through the eyes of one of your most difficult students?

The Study

This study endeavors to investigate and understand the influences that shape the lives of a “difficult” student.  The teacher will endeavor to gain an “inter-view” of the world through the eyes of one of his/her most annoying, least understood, distant, failing, or one of their students they truly do not understand.  The teacher will attempt to develop a “trust” as a way to open dialogue with their student.


The Rational     

Conflicts often follow when teachers and students do not trust or know each other.  In such an environment, both teachers and students become frustrated and angry at their inability to control or change the others attitude.  Teachers often react out of frustration to inappropriate student behavior without understanding why a student acts the way he/she does.  This disconnection between students, teachers, and learning is closely linked to conventional educational policies and practices of teaching to the test.  As a result there is seen in a growing number of children an apprehension of being lost or forgotten, and a spreading numbness that comes from being disconnected from knowledge, reality, teachers, family, cohorts, and from themselves.


Interviewing is a way to get past a students strange or bad behaviors in an attempt to learn about their past and present significant relationships, or lack there of.  A critical element for teachers to be successful in conducting their interview is to develop a climate of “caring.”  This critical element is often ignored for stricter rules and firmer management techniques.  A “caring” climate is necessary to develop trust, which is critical in seeing a truer picture of what the world looks like from a student’s perspective.


The Purpose       


The purpose of the study is to better understand the influence of culture as it relates to the issues students face and how they respond to these issues.  We want to see how educational policies, practices and assumptions are lived out in the lives of students.  The study will also provide students with an opportunity to share their experiences with a caring listener.  Part of our assignment for Culture and Society in Education (EDFD7303) at the University of West Georgia, Carrollton, Georgia is to interview a student.  The kinds of questions that will be asked relate to the students past and present experiences and future dreams.  Here are some samples of the kind of question that could be asked: Describe some of your accomplishments/successes/interesting experiences. What is the most favorite thing you like to do? Describe your dreams/hopes/concerns and how do you see yourself in five or ten years? Describe some of the obstacles/difficulties to your success that you face. When are you most happy/fulfilled? How do you see school helping you succeed in your dreams of being a successful person? What do you like/dislike most about school? Describe a moment or event in your life that stands out as being very important.


1.            Understand what the world looks like through the lives of a “problem” student.


            2.       Establish a “caring” approach towards this student.


3.       Understand the disconnection that often exists between students & teachers.


4.       Offer a student the opportunity to connect to a teacher.


5.              Discover the importance of developing a “caring” environment in all

educational settings.


The Method

Each graduate student will choose a student from his/her school to interview a student for one quarter.  Permission will be obtained before writing begins.  A written journal will be kept describing each session with the student as part of the study. The journal will be written in an organized manner that describes the essence of each session.  Important stories which describe what they value, enjoy, hope, and fear add a rich texture to the study, should also be noted.


The following questions relating to your analysis of this experience should also be addressed: What have I learned through this experience that has helped me to be a better teacher? How has the student benefited/not benefited from this experience?  How would you characterize the relationship?  How would you characterize their relationship with school, i.e., in context with the domain of math, science, English, etc.?

Other comments: ________________________________________________________.


Contemplation Focus

What does the world look like through the eyes of one of your students?

Imagine yourself as an explorer/anthropologist.  What is it like to be a 10 or 16 year old?  Do you know what goes through their mind as they come into your classroom?  

What are some of the more important relationships in their lives, i.e. school, friends, family, etc?  What do they really think of learning, of teachers, and administrators?

Journal your interviews. 

How would you describe your past and present encounters with this student?

Categories of analysis – PAST/PRESENT relationships, fears, joys, and future dreams.


What would/could you do if you knew_________ about your student?

What is the relevance of _______ to their being successful/unsuccessful in school/life?



Who do you choose?  Why are you drawn to interview to this student?  Why are you repulsed by the other?

What does choosing this student tell you about yourself?  What was your experience at this age?



How do your projections affect your choice?


CASE STUDY/ETHNOGRAPHY – Questions to guide this study


First, describe the purpose and nature of this study to the student and how their responses may be used.



Describe important relationships growing up.  

Describe the nature of these relationships (I & it or I & Thou)

Describe important/significant event/events growing up.



Describe their environment (home, after school activities, weekends)

Describe important relationships ie., person? thing? activity? 

Describe successes/difficulties/failures

What do you like to do?

What would you change if you could have one free choice?




Dreams/hopes - How do they see themselves in 5 years?  10 years?

Describe their obstacles

What would make you happy/fulfilled?

Will they reach their goal?

This is a pilot study and you may wish/need to modify the form to allow you more freedom to get the information.


FOR THOUGHT: Your struggle to form connections between anecdotes and educational policies, practices, and assumptions must be filtered through your own history.  Your history will help to hear their voices clearly and at the same time your history will keep you from hearing them.  So write down what you think they are saying along with your analysis.


Consider the following questions as guide when you are forming your questions:            


What would you know if you had all the information?

What would you do with it?

What is your leading question?  What question(s) is/are driving this research?


Critical Issues in Education

Case Study Template


Introduction:  Explain the circumstances in writing this paper including that it is for your Critical Issues class. 


Purpose of the study: Describe the need for doing this or similar kinds of studies that examine the lives of children.


Research question:  “What does the world look like through the life of my student?”


Biographical sketch of my student:  In your narrative, describe your student’s biographical background both past and present, i.e., age, grade, gender, where he/she lives, family members, and any other pertinent information that will help the reader understand some of the physical circumstances that surround your student. 


Data collection—Interviews: Using narrative as your form, describe the dialogues that ensued.  It might be more meaningful if you focused more on the connection/ relationship formed than specific, non-relevant biographical facts about the student (i.e. favorite foods, etc.).  You should also include some of your student’s significant life events and relationships, i.e., their relationships with family members, friends, teachers and schooling.  Student illustrations are also a great tool to help you understand the important relationships in their lives.


Analysis and interpretation:

“To the best of my ability, here is what I think the world is like for my student.”

Reflection: What have you learned from this assignment about students/your student, forming relationships e.g., “I” and “Thou”, and your self-hood from this assignment.  Have you seen any changes in your or your student’s attitude to the other, learning, growth, or school-life?


Final thoughts: