This longitudinal case study explores the evolving identity constructions and schooling perspectives of former alternative education program members, at an early stage of their adult lives. Using a critical sociocultural lens and in-depth semi-structured interviews, I revisited three young women, five years after their participation in research I had previously undertaken in a middle school, alternative program. This current effort provides individual participant profiles detailing the present life circumstances and thinking of each participant, along with brief middle school recaps and five-year interval updates. This work illustrates its participants’ evolving perspectives on selves and schooling and their present recognition of a critically important caring element in their former program. Its resulting implications highlight the influence of social and institutional practices to determinations made by, and about, youth, and imply a need for their continual reassessment. Additionally, this study addresses a call in the literature for longitudinal efforts to determine the long-term effects of alternative education programs and advocates for an inclusion of the voices of marginalized youth in measures towards reform.


Alternative Education, At-Risk Students, Identity Construction, Longitudinal Case Study, Caring Education, Social Practices

Author Bio(s)

Alice M. Harnischfeger is an Associate Professor of Education at Keuka College, Keuka Park, New York. She completed her graduate studies at The Warner School of Education, University of Rochester, with a Ph.D. in Teaching and Curriculum. She had over 20 years of prior teaching experience at the public middle and high school levels, mostly in the areas of Alternative Education and Special Education. Her research interests include exploring constructions of identity in youth, critical analysis of the effects of school practices on non-dominant/non-conforming youth, and the connection of place to institutional practices.

Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: Alice M. Harnischfeger, Associate Professor of Education, at Educational Studies Division, Keuka College, Keuka Park, New York, 14420; E-mail: aharnischfeger@keuka.edu.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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