Term of Award

Summer 2000

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)


Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading

Committee Chair

William M. Reynolds

Committee Member 1

Delores D. Liston

Committee Member 2

Robert Warkentin

Committee Member 3

Gary Hytrek


High school education is currently based upon technicist pedagogy, transforming education into mere technical training for the workforce. The regimen of testing in schools standardizes experiences and fails to provide a complete view of what students know and are able to do. Students need freedom to question and to insert their own interests into what they are studying. Such freedom provides more than preparation for graduation; it provides emancipatory education. I focused on a single curricular program—Senior Project. My research questioned, "Can Senior Project provide high school students with the freedom to study topics of personal interest and the freedom to exhibit dissatisfaction with rules and procedures without violating the freedom from intrusion?" The purpose of the study was to determine if a school could provide freedom from intrusion while at the same time disrupting the status-quo goals of training students for the labor market.

My study focused on senior English classes while they were engaged in Senior Project as a culminating experience during their final year of high school. My methodology included a case study that utilized interviews, observations, and reflections. Data was gathered from interactions with students, teachers and community members. To broaden my research, I also utilized archived data from the previous two years of Senior Project at this school. For analysis, I identified themes that emerged from the data. Senior Project offered a means through which students could incorporate interests into the curriculum while rigorously researching these interests and experiencing learning both in the school and in the community. Senior Project provided opportunities for students to conduct critical inquiries. I found that more emphasis was needed in guiding students into areas of critical inquiry, so they feel comfortable and competent in conducting such inquiries. Furthermore, Senior Project offered a rite of passage from teenager to adult. The premise behind Senior Project contributed to a senior year transition project similar to the one outlined by U.S. Secretary of Education Riley. Thus, high school students can experience critical learning and develop critical knowledge through emancipatory education that prepares teenagers for the adult world.


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