A qualitative inquiry exploring out college students' experiences with queer content in secondary schools

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University of Alabama Libraries

This study is in line with a growing body of educational research that seeks to investigate the complexities queer or questioning youth experience in their middle and high school environments regarding access to academic and support structures that address a spectrum of queer identities. The purpose of this qualitative, phenomenological study was to learn directly from the perspectives of out college students about their everyday lived experiences navigating their secondary school years. The study was designed to better understand the levels of academic and support structures for participants in middle and high school, how participants learned about queer identities and possibilities during these years, and how they understood their lives in relation to the visibility of queer identities offered to them in school. Participants also offered recommendations in this study for making secondary school environments more supportive, better attuned to the identities and needs of queer or questioning youth, and more reflective of diverse identities in curricula, instruction, and overall programming. Theoretical and conceptual frameworks that guided this study included: queer theory, multicultural education, and literacy. Nine diverse, out college students contributed to this study through interviews, focus groups, and a writing prompt, which asked them to write back to their former secondary schools and teachers. Study findings included themes of: (1) Absence or negative interactions with queer content in schools, (2) Learning about queer life as a queer or questioning adolescent, (3) Navigating secondary schools as a queer or questioning student, and (4) Queering identities, histories, and support structures in schools. Recommendations participants offered for improving secondary schools for queer or questioning youth (and all students) focused on the following areas: (1) Curriculum, (2) Instruction, (3) Spaces and support structures, (4) Services, and (5) Policy. The themes and recommendations that are offered in this study are relevant for school systems, secondary school teachers, staff, and administrators, teacher education programs, researchers invested in qualitative inquiry, educational research, and local, state, and federal policymakers.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Secondary education, GLBT studies, Multicultural education