This paper presents and utilizes a method to explore and describe a school using the voices of those within it. Six case studies of students with special needs attending a special education day school in the United States provide data for the analysis. Qualitative coding of student-cited elements of the school allows for categorization of the elements by degree of collective mention by students. The analysis reveals the elements at the forefront of student focus, ranging from academic content structure to cultural and environmental contexts. These elements are presented as a holistic conceptualization of the school experience, drawing attention to voices and perspectives that are often overlooked when describing schools through quantitative external accountability measures. Implications for educational research, accountability systems, and school improvement efforts are discussed.

Published in: Canada International Conference on Education, 2017

  • Date of Conference: 26-29 June, 2017
  • DOI: 10.2053/CICE.2017.0164
  • Electronic ISBN: 978-1-908320-83-4
  • Conference Location: University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada