Defining “At Risk”: Perceptions from the Field

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This presentation will report on a qualitative study that sought to examine the perceptions of ‘at riskiness’ from the viewpoint of those educational professionals who that worked directly with students ‘at risk’ in a variety of capacities within the educational setting. Interviews with intermediate level school staff that were directly involved with students identified as being “at risk” were conducted to ascertain staffs understanding of factors that contributed to students being at risk, and how we as educators might best attempt to address students unique and varied needs. The overriding questions for the investigation were twofold. At one level the researchers were investigating the perceptions of what it means to be considered ‘at risk’, in essence, asking the proverbial question of “at risk of what”. On a deeper level, the present research sought to explore the nature of being ‘at risk’, and how ‘at risk’ is understood by personnel in the school environment who work closely with this particular group of students. The researchers conclude with a presentation of at risk “profiles” which help identify a cluster of contributing factors and needs of students at risk. With these profiles, researchers and educators can identify students with similar academic, social, emotional, or psychological traits that may in turn assist them in developing and delivering appropriate services and programming. Although not completely individualized, such profiling and clustering may in some cases allow educators to more appropriately address the needs of students as an alternative to the much too common ‘one size fits all’ approach to interventions with students at risk.


Keywords: At Risk, Marginalized, Student Engagement, Eesiliency
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Profiles of “At Risk”


Prof. Michael Parr

Professor, Faculty of Education
Education and Schooling 
Special Education, Nipissing University

North Bay, Ontario, Canada

Michael Parr currently teaches in the Faculty of Education at Nipissing University and brings with him considerable experience working with students ‘at risk’ as well as those students identified as having specific emotional and behavioural disorders. His wide variety of teaching experiences in both segregated and regular classroom settings, as well as his experiences as an administrator, have been instrumental in serving as a springboard into his research addressing the needs of students ‘at risk’. Other research interests center around teacher education, and educational leadership & change with emphasis placed on practices that foster Inclusive schools and issues of equity and social justice.

Dr. Warnie James Richardson

Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, Nipissing University
North Bay, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Warnie Richardson is an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology and Special Education at Nipissing University in North Bay, Ontario, Canada. His doctoral work and most of his writing to date have focused on the life experiences of juvenile delinquents and the incredible resiliency of at-risk or marginalized adolescents. Prior to arriving at Nipissing, he was a Special Education teacher/educational assessor for sixteen years, all in very hard-to-serve educational environments in both Canada and the Caribbean.

Dr. Jeff Scott

Professor, Science, Nipissing University
North Bay, Ontario, Canada

Jeff Scott is currently working in the role of Assistant Professor in the Pre-Service teaching program at Nipissing University. Jeff teaches the science component for primary junior Pre-Service teachers emphasizing inquiry-based learning and experiential education. Prior to joining Nipissing University, Jeff was a primary/junior teacher and has taught in both Canada and New Zealand.

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