Date of Conferral







Barry W. Birnbaum


Adolescent students with psychiatric disorders who are educated in day treatment school classrooms manifest cognitive limitations, maladaptive behaviors, and social functioning deficits that often lead to academic failure, impeding their productivity when they become adults and causing them to run afoul of the criminal justice system. Informed by their students' interests and perspectives, day treatment schoolteachers can individualize existing curricular and behavioral interventions, or develop alternatives so that unwanted classroom behaviors decrease and academic performance improves. This qualitative case study used Roland Barthes' (1981, 1985) theory of semiotics as a conceptual framework for answering how an analysis of photographs taken by adolescent day treatment school students who have psychiatric disorders provide insight into the students' interests and perspectives. The photography of seven adolescent participants, who were placed in a day treatment school and involved in its photography elective, was found to have communicated their interests and perspectives. A semiotic analysis was conducted of the photographs they took, observation notes made at the time the photographs were taken, and questionnaires collecting their reflections on taking the photographs. Should school-wide photography programs be implemented in day treatment schools and in schools with similar student populations nationwide, those programs could generate more effective curricula informed by their students' interests and perspectives. This could lead to a larger percentage of their graduates becoming productive members of society, thus prompting positive social change.