Recent research (Gordon, Bridglall & Meroe 2004; HFRP 2005) suggests that the achievement gap is rooted equally in learning opportunities available to students in and out of school. Yet we know surprisingly little about the distribution of these opportunities especially those that occur outside the school day.
To help communities address this issue, Dennie Palmer Wolf, director of Opportunity and Accountability at the Annenberg Institute, has developed the Diary Day and Student Interview Process. In this process, interested adults (researchers, teachers, youth workers, etc.) interview students about a day in their lives, beginning when they wake up and ending when they go to sleep. Students narrate both their formal and informal activities, including thoughts and conversations that were important to them during the day. They also evaluate each activity for its worth to them as a learner.
A trained interviewer listens and asks questions as students talk, drawing out how they made choices, what they are hoping to gain, and what opportunities they are still seeking. If the interviews are collected from a wide range of students, this process is a powerful tool for examining patterns of student learning and the distribution of learning opportunities across schools, neighborhoods, and groups of students. The entire process depends upon the engagement and deep reflection of the students themselves.
Harvard Family Research Project. (2005). "Complementary Learning." Evaluation Exchange XI, no. 1 (Spring).
Gordon, Edmund W., Beatrice L. Bridglall, and Aundra Saa Meroe, (eds). (2004). Supplementary Education: The Hidden Curriculum of High Achievement. Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield.
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