chapter  7
98 Pages

Case Studies

ByMarilyn S. Sternglass

In presenting case studies of four students in this chapter, it becomes necessary to include material that has been cited in previous chapters. The attempt here is to examine the students’ entire experiences chronologically, bringing together interview data, student writing, instructional experiences, and testing requirements to construct a full picture of the students’ development over their college years. It should be clearly understood that these will be academic portraits, fleshed out by life experiences that have been shared with me over the years, but there is no attempt to produce a personal biography nor a psychological analysis. Students were asked questions that related to their academic performance as well as about factors in their lives that affected that performance. The extent to which they wished to share personal experiences was left entirely up to them; no prodding or follow-up questions were asked that would have made the students uncomfortable. Even within such restrictions, students were remarkably candid at times about their life histories and experiences, even when these experiences were painful. A recurrent question in my interviews over the years was, “What seems to be the most significant thing that happened to you this semester (or this year)?” Students sometimes asked me whether I meant their personal lives or their schooling, and I always answered, “Whatever you think was significant.” This question frequently triggered the recounting of life experiences they felt comfortable sharing.