In 2016, I had the opportunity to conduct research on alternative education through Geography 379, a Human Geography field school course offered by the University of British Columbia. The primary objective of this course is to provide students with an opportunity to apply academic knowledge gained in the classroom to community development projects in BC. This course emphasizes on mutual benefit between the student and the community by following the community-based model of experiential learning. Students collaborate with local community organizations in Williams Lake, BC to design and conduct a research project that will address a need identified by the community.
My group members and I partnered with School District 27 (SD27), a school district located in the Central Interior of British Columbia, and conducted a research project at Skyline Alternate School. As an alternative education program, Skyline is catered toward the vulnerable youth population in Williams Lake, specifically for students who were expelled from their former high schools or have had run-ins with the law. Interestingly, Skyline has experienced significant demographic shifts to their school population in recent years, as more students are choosing to switch into Skyline from mainstream education systems in Williams Lake.
With this in mind, our group designed a research project to identify specific changes that could be made in order to better address and accommodate the various needs of students that attend Skyline Alternate School. Taking a mixed-methods approach, we ran focus group discussions with 39 students and conducted semi-structured interviews with 7 students. The resulting data provided a survey of student experience and satisfaction at Skyline, and enabled us to highlight several areas of improvement for our community partner. A “Day in the Life Video” was also produced in order to challenge the negative stigma surrounding alternative education schools by highlighting the supportive and nurturing environment that exists at Skyline.
Due to the sensitive nature of our research, the resulting report and video is not available for public viewing at the time. However, feel free to check out the process behind designing our research project, as well as my experience in this field school course here.