I'm still learning: the lived experience of disengagement from school of five young aboriginal women
Runnels, Susan Amelia
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This study sought to understand the lived experience of disengagement from formal schooling of five young Aboriginal women in a mid-Northern community. Using the qualitative methodology of narrative inquiry, and through a series of guided open-ended interviews, this research explored each participant’s experiences as a learner; informally and in school. Analysis of the personal histories of learning shared by the participants enabled the identification of attributes of best-remembered learning experiences and also elements that contributed to marginalization and dis-continuing of school. Key elements for each learner clustered around relationship and connectedness. Contexts of optimal learning as revealed in the narratives can be characterized as authentic, situated, experiential, guided, and often culturally-relevant. Marginalization and dis-continuing of school were related to: a sense of emotional insecurity in the school, the need for community and a sense of belonging, disrespectful treatment and relational bullying by teachers and/or peers, administrative policy related to placement and psycho-social needs, and restrictive curricular decisions. The participants’ desire to learn and continuing pursuit of learning goals, although out of school, is expressed in the title of this thesis by Participant A as she speaks for all in saying, “I’m still learning” (PA#1, p. 3). Recommendations for formal schooling are made based on the needs and preferences expressed by the participants and by the institutional circumstances revealed in the narratives that affected engagement and dis-engagement.