Date of Conferral
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
At a suburban elementary school in Maryland, 3 years of data revealed that the school is grappling with the problem of student apathy. While there is a growing body of research on apathy and its effects on student achievement, few researchers have examined the problem from the perspective of the apathetic student. The purpose of this qualitative case study, grounded in the social learning and cognitive development theories of Vygotsky and Piaget, was to explore student apathy and the learning environment at the target school through the perspectives of 8 former students and their parents. The research questions focused on understanding the experiences of these former students, all of who manifested a high degree of apathy in 5th grade, to determine possible sources of the problem and identify strategies to address it. Participant interview transcripts, field notes, and attendance, and archived discipline and report cards constituted the data. Coding and categorical aggregation were used to organize, condense, and analyze these data into themes. Member checking, triangulation, and peer review ensured trustworthiness of the interpretations. The findings revealed 3 themes: students had little choice and input in their schooling, there was a lack of curricular rigor and relevance, and inadequate support for students who struggled academically and/or behaviorally. As a result of these findings, a project was developed to provide the target school with the professional development needed to deliver relevant, engaging, and differentiated instruction and to create legitimate opportunities for student choice and input about their schooling. It is expected that these findings and the resulting project will affect social change by giving (a) the apathetic students a voice, (b) the target school a research-based plan and (c) other schools and districts a set of initiatives to address student apathy.