Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Education

First Advisor

Susanna Thornhill, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Dane Joseph, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Gary Sehorn, Ed.D.


In educational circles and beyond, there is increased concern for young men who are deemed underperforming in schools. This concern has been persistent for years, and has led to many studies exploring the growing academic divide between young men and women. Few have endeavored to investigate this phenomenon by studying young men’s experiences. Using Eccles’ Value-Expectancy (2000) framework as a guide, this phenomenological study explored the lived-experience of six young men who failed courses during their freshman year of high school. The aim of this study was to investigate the intersection of stereotypes, expectations, and perceptions within the context of their experiences of failure.

Data was collected through the use of a unique photo-elicitation meme protocol, a focus group, and individual interviews conducted by a teacher-researcher and a key informant. An informal use of the MSLQ questionnaire was added to the end of the data collection process as comparison point to the themes found in participants’ experiences of course failure. The findings of the study reveal the complexities of stereotype threat in the classroom, a lacking academic culture, and their overall expectations of struggle and poor performance in the classroom. Their relationships with teachers also stood out as a significant element of their academic progress. These all influenced students’ self-concept and understanding of their worth as a student. Implications of practice include system-wide analysis of messaging, policies, and communication expectations that perpetuate barriers for young men building a positive self-concept in schools.