An ethnographic study of selected at-risk students in the freshman class at Ocean City High School

Edwin L. Woolley, University of Pennsylvania


This was a study of the problems that confronted the ninth grade students as they moved from elementary school to Ocean City High School. It was an attempt to better understand and appreciate their experiences so that some type of intervention could be developed to address the issues and concerns that may be negatively affecting their chances for success. The research methodology included classroom observations, conversations with teachers and students, and observations of and participation by the researcher in a teacher-mentor support group. The study found that the majority of classes were teacher controlled and dominated, with teachers making various classroom accommodations which resulted in a trade-off of less demanding academic pressures for more positive student behavior. The support group that was created to help with a newly formed teacher-mentor program became a forum for the staff to reflectively discuss and debate the issues that confronted the typical ninth grade students. As a result of these dialogues, the staff began to view the ninth grade students and their problems in a much different manner. As the teachers re-defined and re-structured their role, there was a change in their perceptions of the ninth grade at-risk students, and a change in their fundamental approaches with the students in regard to issues such as success and responsibility. This research supports the concept that, when teachers are intimately involved in the discussion, debate, and decision-making process concerning solutions to the problems they are confronted with, they can effect meaningful change.

Subject Area

School administration|Secondary education|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Woolley, Edwin L., "An ethnographic study of selected at-risk students in the freshman class at Ocean City High School" (1994). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9427637.