A phenomenological study of adolescents' perceptions of empowerment
Adams, Megan Glover
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This qualitative study highlights data collected over a four-month period with a focus group of ten high school students in Oglethorpe County, Georgia. The study was designed to examine how empowerment was realized in the lives of those students. The author examines the way the students discuss their experiences in school, at home, and in their community in order to uncover the extent of empowerment each one may or may not be experiencing in his life. In addition, the author looks at the ways their dialogues uncover emerging themes that show how school may or may not be fostering youth empowerment. Chapter one begins by describing the process the author went through in making decisions about designing the study and presenting it. Chapter two includes a brief review of the literature on youth empowerment and marginalized youth. Chapter three examines interpretive phenomenology and the importance of Vagle (2011) on this study. In particular Karin Dahlberg’s work on bridling (2001) is of importance to this study, as that practice was an integral part of the author distancing herself from the data and the words of the students. Chapter four highlights four of the participants as they discuss empowerment and as each highlights issues of control, power, and inadequacy. Finally, chapter five includes an extension of the review of literature in order to explore literature relevant to the themes that emerged during the study, and then concludes with a discussion of the implications and significance of this study. Examinations of the dialogues of each of the students highlighted here reveal a disconnect between the students and the system of education they are a part of. They know that their goal is to graduate high school, but several are unsure of why that is a goal other than that they have been told that it must be by their teachers or family. There is a lack of efficacy because of that lack of understanding, which was vocalized in nearly every discussion.