Human Rights Education: An Elementary School Level Case Study By Megumi Yamasaki Ph. D. Thesis Completed June 2002 University of Minnesota Education Policy & Administration/Comparative & International Development Education Chapter 1

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In this chapter, the interview, questionnaire, and survey data results are presented. These data were analyzed by direct interpretation, study of patterns, and categorical aggregation. To validate these analyses, the researcher applied triangulation and rich description. By comparing interview, survey, and questionnaire data (triangulation), she looked for repetition and clarification of certain information. Rich description provided explanation and supplied intended meaning to the information given by the people in this case study.

Case Context

According to Stake (1995), to develop experiences as if the readers were there at the case setting, it is critical to give them an in-depth context of the case setting. Therefore, in this section the researcher is going to illustrate School X’s setting as much as possible without revealing the identity of the school.

School X has a mission statement which reads, “[School X] is a cooperative learning community of students, parents and school staff who use innovative teaching strategies that promote academic and interpersonal success for all” (Parent-Student Calendar and Handbook 1997-1998, cover). School X defines “Success For All” as follows;
Success For All is a research-based reading and language arts program. Curriculum components provide specific courses of study for kindergartners, students beyond kindergarten who are developing their abilities in reading, and for students who are beyond the initial elements in every Success for All class. Cross-grade level groups regular assessments, ninety minutes of uninterrupted reading instruction, and tutoring are also fundamentals of this program. (Parent-Student Calendar and Handbook 1997-1998, p. 4)
The same handbook also talks about human rights as a part of school’s mission. It reads:

Community representatives, lawyers, and classroom teachers collaborate as a team to teach international human rights and responsibilities to students. In these classes, students begin to examine the inequities in our community and throughout the world and to question how to make the world a better place to live. Students are empowered to be responsible towards their fellow citizens through action projects in the community. (Parent-Student Calendar and Handbook 1997-1998, p. 5).

As the researcher mentioned earlier, because the school mission includes HRE, HRE teachers are less likely to face opposition from parents as well as other teachers themselves as resistance.

In addition to the Partner’s HRE program at School X, it also has a goal of developing peace-making skills among students (Parent-Student Calendar and Handbook 1997-1998). The researcher believes that this goal assists the outcome of HRE as well as is assisted by HRE.

School X also has “behavior policy” (Parent-Student Calendar and Handbook 1997-1998). The policy reads:

It is the vision of [School X] to provide a caring and respectful environment, where learning is valued and everyone is treated with respect and dignity. This environment can only exist when student behavior is appropriate and allows for maximum learning time. A student’s right to learn and a teacher’s right to teach should not be denied because of disruptive behavior. It is important that students understand [School X]’s rules and guidelines, and develop a healthy respect for authority, property, and the rights of others. Our responsibility is to take every reasonable, legal and available intervention to stop disruptive behavior.

Classroom standards will be clearly defined and consistently applied by individual teachers and their students. At [School X] we have three general standards which students are expected to internalize:

  1. Respect Self

  2. Respect Others

  3. Respect Property (p. 9)

This policy shows that School X is also trying to incorporate HRE in its school policy and guidelines.

The students went through the HRE program during the 1996 – 97 academic year. All information used in this study was collected or written between 1996 and 1998. School X is located in an urban setting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The demographics (Kindergarten through 7th grade) of School X during 1997 - 98 school year were as follows:
Minnesota Department of Children, Families & Learning – Office of Information Technologies
Table 1: School X Student Demographics

Am. Indian male

Am. Indian female

Asian/Pacific male

Asian/Pacific female

Hispanic male

Hispanic female

Black male

Black female

White male

White female


















































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Human Rights Education Curriculum

The researcher asked the HRE instructor what kind(s) of curriculum she used for her instruction. Although the Partners has various curriculum materials on many topics that she covered, the instructor used her own material. They are newspapers, magazine articles, books, biographies, websites, video, speakers from the Minnesota Human Rights Advocate (non profit organization for human rights in Minneapolis, Minnesota), and so on. She told the researcher that she chose not to use any set curriculum because she felt that there were so many resources available from different venues. She also told me that if the researcher was interested in the topics that she covered during classes, the researcher could get all of the topics from her questionnaire that she gave to her students.

Character of HRE Instructor

Another important aspect of this particular case is the character of HRE instructor. She seemed to be passionate about teaching human rights to all students at School X through her job as a social worker. There are few examples that the researcher could provide to illustrate her passion and enthusiasm toward human rights. One was that the HRE instructor was deeply involved in the Partners training for HRE volunteers on weekends. She was a guest speaker who discussed her attempts to implement HRE at her school and demonstrated several methods that she used in her classes. Another example is that she also was active in the community and networking among school teachers to introduce how to implement HRE in schools. She went to several gatherings and meetings on human rights where HRE was introduced to interested teachers.

In addition, while the researcher was visiting the instructor to interview her, the researcher observed how she interacted with students who were interested in human rights issues. Several students wanted to help out her to get ready for their class session. She encouraged one student to explore web resources and select several sites in which the student’s classmates might be interested. Another student was encouraged to look through newspaper articles that she had collected and chose a couple of articles that the student found intriguing. Furthermore, during the interview, the researcher heard numerous student comments about the instructor in terms of how much they trusted her and consulted her when they had questions and/or problems related to human rights.

These examples demonstrate the level of the instructor’s commitment to HRE at her school. During the conversation with the researcher, she also shared that she hoped some day to incorporate HRE in every aspect of the school, including curriculum, policy, student-teacher interaction, staff interaction, and so on. She felt a little frustrated that she was limited in implementing HRE as a separate entity at School X.

Interview analysis

First, all the information was examined based on the research sub-questions, including (a) the contents of HRE, (b) effective methods to learn human rights and responsibility, and (c) actions based on the HRE knowledge as a result of changing their minds, behavior, and/or values after HRE. This framework gave the researcher a starting point to examine her main research questions: (a) understanding of human rights concepts and (b) application of human rights knowledge. Through addressing these main research questions, naturalistic generalization was developed by the researcher through a comparison with the previous research on HRE. As a result, the researcher hopes that the readers are able to make their own naturalistic generalization based on this research and their own experiences and to implement HRE in their school or organizational curriculum.

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