Investigating "the coolest school in America": A study of a learner-centered school and educational technology in the information age
Sinem Aslan, Indiana University, United States
Indiana University . Awarded
The primary purpose of this study was to improve existing design theories for characteristics of an information-age school and roles that educational technology should serve for key stakeholders in such schools. In addition to this primary purpose, this study explored how learner-centered instruction and assessment were implemented in an information-age school. The formative research method (Reigeluth & Frick, 1999; Reigeluth & An, 2009) was used in a holistic single case study.
The case selected was the Minnesota New Country School (MNCS), which was identified as incorporating the information-age paradigm most completely among other schools investigated (Richter & Reigeluth, 2010). All 10 advisors (a role similar to teachers) and 24 of the 36 junior and senior students participated in the study. Additionally, Doug Thomas (co-founder of MNCS and executive director of EdVisions Schools), Ronald Newell (a founding member of MNCS, Learning Program Director, and Director of Evaluation for EdVisions Schools), and Dee Grover-Thomas, (school principal and an advisor at MNCS), were involved in this study for an administrator's perspective. Multiple mixed methods for data collection were used, including a focus group interview with the advisors, two individual interviews with the advisors and administrators, observations of the advisors and students, and online surveys taken by the students. Augmentative data were also gathered from the educational technology systems used at the school and school documents emerged during data collection. Descriptive statistics, thematic analysis, and content analysis were used to analyze the data.
The findings revealed the key characteristics of the MNCS as well as student learning and indicators of student success along with critical success factors. They also showed the roles of the advisors, parents, and students in the learning process. In addition, the findings identified school activities, planning for student learning, and the implementation of learner-centered instruction and assessment. Finally, the findings outlined the functions of the major educational technology system (Project Foundry) used in the school and showed how the key stakeholders used it and what suggestions they had for improvement. Discussion of these findings outlined tentative revisions to the design theories investigated in this study using the formative research method.
Aslan, S. Investigating "the coolest school in America": A study of a learner-centered school and educational technology in the information age. Ph.D. thesis, Indiana University.
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