Voices from middle school: students' perceptions of their educational experiences

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Gainer, Jesse Straus

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This qualitative research study asked two questions pertaining to students’ voices: (a) What do middle school students have to say about their experiences at school, and (b) what are the methodological challenges faced by a researcher when attempting to solicit and represent students’ voices? This research attempted to answer these questions by investigating the perceptions of 12 middle school students who were my former elementary students. Data were generated from a semester-long after-school program that included video production and discussion. The students’ voices are presented in a multilayered text that recounts the process, the products, and the context of this investigation. Themes that emerged from the voices of the participants were freedom (and lack of freedom), the importance of addressing issues of race and ethnicity, and outlets. By and large the findings point to a dilemma that school is not meeting the needs of the participants. This is particularly true for the students of color who participated in this study. Implications include a discussion of critical multicultural education and a need for White teachers to explore culturally relevant pedagogy.