School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Cristie J McClendon


Alternative School, Extrinsic, Intrinsic, Motivation, Phenomenology, Self-determination Theory


Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Methods | Educational Psychology


The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to investigate how high school students described their experiences attending a Type II alternative school (geared toward students with behavioral problems and poor student attendance) in Central Georgia and the factors that motivated them to persist to graduation. The overarching research question was: How do high school graduates describe their experiences attending an alternative school in Central Georgia that motivated them to persist toward graduation? Schein’s organizational culture model, Deci and Ryan’s self-determination theory and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs served as the conceptual framework. Participants included eight students who had previously attended an alternative high school and were on track to graduate. Using the information gathered through interviews, a focus group, archival data, and field notes, the following four significant themes emerged: 1) student perceptions of alternative school climate; 2) structured environment of the alternative school resulted in conformity; 3) students believed that alternative school changed their path; and 4) alternative school changed the students’ dynamic with parents. Further analysis ultimately highlighted 11 subthemes. The benefits of alternative schools are documented and contribute to instilling student intrinsic motivation to graduate and to the ultimate success of its students.