A Case Study of MicroSociety Students: Engaging Learners in a “Real-World” Learning Community

  • Author / Creator
    Galloway, Albert Brent
  • This case study examined the perspectives of six students who participated in the MicroSociety program as elementary-aged children. MicroSociety is an experiential program designed to provide authentic learning experiences that help prepare students for life beyond school. The purpose of this study was to investigate how these young people experienced learning within this program and how these experiences contributed to their feelings of engagement and disengagement as students in a MicroSociety school.
    The theories and research of John Dewey (1938) and Jerome Bruner (1960) provided the theoretical and conceptual framework for this study. Through his theory of experiential education, Dewey advocated that learners should learn by “doing” through exploration, problem solving, collaboration and making decisions as members of their communities. Bruner also saw the value in student-centered approaches to learning that allowed students to construct their own meanings. He saw the value in students working collaboratively and believed they had a role to contribute as part of a culture of learning. Both researchers saw the importance of providing authentic and relevant learning experiences that could motivate and engage learners. The MicroSociety (n.d.) program aligned well with this framework, as evidenced by their mission to create learning experiences that motivate children to learn and be successful by engaging them in their communities and in real life. Following data analysis, an additional framework centered on communities of practice from the research of Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger (1991) was added to complement my study findings.
    The review of the literature in this study focused on student engagement, student disengagement, and the MicroSociety School experience. Recent Canadian evidence has indicated that many students are disengaged as learners, and that this continues in a downward trend throughout the middle years and onto high school. Disengagement may lead to a lack of enjoyment of school/learning or students who are simply bored with the experiences presented to them. Research on MicroSociety has rarely accounted for the student perspective, with little evidence available to suggest how or whether it contributes to student engagement.
    My primary interest in this case study was to understand how students experienced learning in a MicroSociety school. I collected data through interpretive inquiry interviews involving participants who had taken part in the program as elementary-aged children. This study suggests the MicroSociety program, as experienced by my participants, was engaging and empowering for them. This appeared to be due to the provision of real-world learning opportunities that replicated the adult world and provided participants with roles and responsibilities that allowed them to develop competence and confidence. Most importantly, participants became contributing members of a community of practice that, as they have indicated, continues to have a meaningful impact on their lives.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.