Or, as Clive Beck notes: If students are to feel comfortable in the class, attention must be given to the social, emotional, and even physical needs of all class members. Students will not be able to learn academically or in other ways if they feel hungry, cold, isolated, or otherwise unhappy p. The critics are also right to claim that middle schooling embraces a reformist political philosophy that espouses social change rather than maintenance of the status quo, a point we take up towards the end of the chapter.
But in our view they are wrong to claim that middle schoolers endorse the lowering of academic standards in order to achieve equality of student learning outcomes. These imperatives would not be accepted by people who wanted to lower academic standards. For example, in discussing the goals of middle school reform, Jackson and Davis , p.
Transformational OBE requires a higher level of complexity, abstraction and generality, and therefore a higher level of academic rigour, than traditional OBE Chadbourne There is no doubt in our minds that middle schooling is philosophically committed to academic rigour. To argue otherwise and claim that middle schooling is engaged in a war against intellectual excellence is neither helpful nor warranted.
If a war must be declared, it should be a war against conservative ideologies, not high academic standards. Should young adolescents be made to fit school or vice versa? The underlying philosophy of reform in the middle years of schooling revolves around the provision of a seamless transition from primary schooling which is traditionally student-centred to secondary schooling which is traditionally subject or discipline-centred leading to more effective student learning, positive experiences in adolescence, and a desire and capacity for lifelong learning Carrington et al.
Philosophy includes assumptions and beliefs not only about purposes and values but also about individual interests and rights. Part of middle schooling philosophy involves constructing answers to questions such as: What is in the best interests of young adolescents? Who determines what constitutes the best interests of young adolescents and on what basis should the determination be made?
When conflicts of interests arise, whose interests should prevail? They claim that traditionally the transition has been disconnected, discordant and dysfunctional. In brief, the following thinking informs their view on this matter. Primary school students are taught by one teacher in one room for a whole year. In many cases, young adolescents find the gulf created by these differences unbridgeable.
This situation is not in their best interests. According to this view, young adolescents should accept the responsibility and challenge to fit into schools rather than expect schools to fit in with them. Depriving them of that tough initiation experience is detrimental to their best interests. In response, middle schoolers emphasise that young adolescents make the transition from primary to secondary school at a stage when the onset of puberty requires them to cope with the most significant physical, cognitive and socioemotional changes in their lives.
Failure to provide that protection contributes to the rising rate of problems such as youth alienation, substance abuse, crime and suicide. None of this is in the best interests of young adolescents. The contrasting views outlined above represent philosophical differences on what constitutes the best interests and rights of young adolescents, what constitutes the most appropriate form of school organisation to meet those interests and rights, and whose perspective should prevail.
A distinguishing feature of middle schools is the grouping of large numbers of teachers and students into small learning communities of about 4—6 teachers and 80— students. Each small community has its own name and identity; its own rooms, facilities, resources and budget; its own place and space.
A culture that values diversity, inclusion, sharing, equity, support, cooperation, shared power and facilitative leadership—rather than intolerance, segregation, hoarding, elitism, put-downs, rivalry, neglect, domination and power-based leadership. I identify myself, and others accept me, as a respected member of this community.
I feel I belong to it. The value that middle schooling philosophy places on building community rests on two broad assumptions. A second belief is that, when built with the characteristics outlined above, small middle school communities provide a model of society we all should be aiming to develop. Some literature creates a surface impression that consensus exists on what the middle school curriculum should be—for example, that it should be integrated, developmentally responsive, negotiated, relevant, authentic, outcomes-based, explorative and challenging.
However, beneath the surface there exists a rich array of issues. The discussion below presents a few of them. Integration Three questions can be raised with respect to advocacy for integrated curriculum in middle schools. Firstly, Turning Points claims that the middle school curriculum must be both discipline-based and integrated, rather than one or the other. In contrast, some middle schoolers for example, Beane attack subject-based curriculum and recommend it be replaced by integrated curriculum.
Which position should we accept, or are they both acceptable?
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Those who argue for a mix of discipline-based and integrated curriculum do not indicate what proportion of the school year should be devoted to each type; should it be 50 per cent disciplinecentred and 50 per cent integrated, or , or , or some other ratio? These types of issues carry substance if integration is conceived as integrating material, and making connections, across disciplines. However, if integration is conceived as integrating what is learned or experienced at school with what is learned or experienced outside school, then integration can occur within a discipline-centred curriculum.
When that takes place, is it valid to claim that the dichotomy between discipline-based and integrated curriculum disappears? For people other than subject scholars, such subjects are only abstract categories. But is Beane right? Could he be challenged by suggesting that in real life we can often make sense of, and respond to, situations, problems, tasks and experiences in terms of specific disciplines—for example, when critiquing a film, analysing a blood sample, or calculating the odds at the casino? Also, is it not the case that much of the work in some occupations consists of subject-specific tasks?
Thirdly, is it philosophically possible for a curriculum to be both disciplinebased and integrated? The beliefs supporting discipline-based curriculum include: that reality is discipline-based; disciplines ask different sorts of questions; children learn in a discipline-based way; and disciplines promote more economical learning, thereby assuming the existence of a fixed, external reality.
The beliefs supporting integrated curriculum deny the existence of such absolutes and are typified by beliefs such as: that all knowledge is socially constructed; subject barriers are arbitrary and artificial; disciplines serve an unjust society; and the selection of curriculum knowledge should be made problematic and not taken for granted. What implications does this philosophical conflict present for middle schoolers, particularly in light of the Turning Points recommendation that the middle school curriculum should be both disciplined-based and integrated?
Developmentally responsive, negotiated, student-based, authentic curriculum One view of the middle schooling curriculum is that it should be developmentally appropriate and responsive to the changing physical, cognitive, and socioemotional needs of young adolescents Lee Manning This view argues that the middle school curriculum should be student-centred or, more aptly, adolescent-centred; that the middle school curriculum should be changed to fit the student rather than the students changed to fit the curriculum. This view moves middle schooling further away from traditional schooling.
The argument here is that teachers are agents of society as well as teachers of students, and that, as Zemelman et al. Which of these two views should we accept? Or are they equally valid, to the point where middle schoolers should be free to choose between them? Is there scope within middle schooling philosophy for a third view, namely, one that argues for a teacher-led curriculum for young adolescents, at least in some circumstances? Middle schoolers could ask an important question here: would insisting that all curriculum must be authentic deny young adolescents the opportunity to pursue studies they find intrinsically interesting but of no apparent practical value or application to the outside world?
In doing so, it reflected the outcomes-based nature of the new curriculum frameworks developed and adopted by Australian states during the s. The four essential principles of outcomes-based education OBE developed by Spady are: clarity of focus, designing back, high expectations for all students, and expanded opportunities for all learners Killen These four principles are incorporated in the philosophy underlying the middle school curriculum, as outlined in Turning Points The outcomes-based curriculum frameworks developed by the Australian states apply to all schools—middle and traditional, government and non-government.
Middle schooling curriculum, therefore, cannot claim to be distinctive by virtue of being outcomes-based. However, of the three types of OBE—traditional, transitional and transformational—middle schooling could claim to be more philosophically aligned than traditional schooling with transformational OBE. How does OBE fit in with other aspects of middle schooling philosophy? For example, is it consistent with the idea that middle schooling curriculum should be constructivist, adolescent-centred, exploratory and negotiated?
OBE has roots in aspects of behaviourism; for example, behavioural objectives, competency-based education, mastery of learning and criterion-referenced assessment Killen Middle schooling has roots in constructivism; for example, students constructing their own meanings, making choices, engaging in discovery learning and negotiating the curriculum. Philosophically, behaviourism and constructivism seem poles apart.
How, then, can middle schooling incorporate OBE within its philosophy? OBE grounds the middle school curriculum in virtually non-negotiable, statemandated outcomes. Does the possibility exist here for a clash between fixed, predetermined, centrally set curriculum outcomes and student-negotiated, developmentally responsive curriculum outcomes? Should middle school pedagogy be teacher-centred or student-centred?
There are at least three reasons why teacher-centered, whole-class instruction can and should remain part of the school day. Is this comment by Zemelman et al. Middle schoolers believe that pedagogy should be consistent with the aims of middle schooling, practised within the framework of backward design, and based on research into how students learn best. The aims of middle schooling centre on excellence and equity; that means ensuring success for every student.
The steps in the outcomes-based backward design approach to curriculum require teachers to select outcomes, develop detailed curriculum based on these outcomes, construct assessments that allow students to show they have achieved the outcomes, and then plan instruction to prepare students to do well on the assessment. The principles of how students learn best, according to middle schoolers, are encapsulated in constructivism, authentic achievement, productive pedagogy and research on best practice.
Table 2. Krause et al. Zemelman et al. It also identifies seventeen practices that distinguish differentiated classrooms from traditional classrooms. In essence, these seventeen practices portray differentiated instruction middle schooling pedagogy as student-centred, multidimensional, flexible and facilitative. Critics of middle schooling take issue with its pedagogy. Cheri Pierson Yecke , for example, claims that the driving beliefs undergirding middle school instructional practices reflect three fundamental convictions, namely: radical equity, group rights and coercive egalitarianism.
She lists five of these overlapping beliefs as follows: 1 Belief in the equality of outcomes, as manifested by the decrease in rigour of the middle school curriculum, the calls to eliminate ability grouping, and the increased use of cooperative learning and peer tutoring, all of which result in the levelling of achievement. Our response to the claims about radical equity and coercive egalitarianism appear in the next section of this chapter.
Do these rebuttals and responses clear middle schooling of the charges laid by Yecke once and for all? In addition to the concerns raised by Yecke, the philosophy of middle schooling pedagogy invites a question asked by Zemelman et al. In our view, their answer to that question applies to middle schooling. At the level of widespread formal practice within mainstream education, middle schooling is fairly recent.
As an idea, middle schooling has a long history because it is a form of progressive education. In broad terms the philosophy of middle schooling is the philosophy of progressive education. Political philosophy The difference between the political philosophy underlying traditional and progressive education, based on stereotypes, can be characterised as follows. Traditional education in Australia is politically conservative; it focuses on maintaining social control, the status quo and the social and cultural reproduction of society.
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Progressive education is politically reformist; it focuses on promoting social justice and social change. These stereotypes mask differences within each model of education by suggesting that they are single unitary concepts in opposition to each other. Brian Hill disturbs these stereotypes by distinguishing two types of traditional education: Education I gradgrind indoctrination and Education II initiation into the most valued public modes of knowing. He goes on to distinguish three types of progressive education, namely, procedural, normative and revolutionary openness see Table 2.
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Normative openness argues for students being allowed to make up their own minds and develop in any direction they choose. Revolutionary openness contends that schools should educate students to reject the dominant value systems of a class-structured capitalist society and replace them with alternative doctrines. The compartmentalisation of types of progressive education in Table 2. With reference to Table 2. But while middle schooling philosophy does not support the overthrow of capitalism, it does question some aspects of the status quo.
For example: The Turning Points concept challenges deeply rooted and structurally reinforced norms in American education that support existing social and economic inequities between different groups of people. Schools operating based on the Turning Points principles. Social justice As a form of progressive education, middle schooling aims to contribute to the betterment of society. It advocates that middle schools be agents of social change rather than preserve the status quo, particularly with respect to social justice. This philosophy has come under fire. Some critics of middle schooling seem to support a purely meritocratic model of social justice based on equality of opportunity.
They accuse middle schooling of pushing an egalitarianism model of social justice based on equality of outcomes. Equality of opportunity is a fundamental right in our society—but to demand equality of outcomes is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt at imposing a socialist utopia Yecke , p. We believe in a form of social justice that represents a blend of equality of outcomes and equality of opportunity. Our thinking here is as follows.
Rather, it means that the proportion of students who achieve the highest level of academic achievement within each social category should be equivalent to their proportion in the whole population of the country. That is, equality of outcomes should refer to social categories, not individual students. These categories include gender, social class, ethnicity, race and geographical location urban, rural.
Educational outcomes should be proportionately equal across these categories but can be unequal within each category. In our view, social justice allows for some inequality of rewards money, power, recognition provided there is equality of educational opportunity to compete for them. However, the competition needs to be conducted on the basis of a handicap race, rather than an open race, to ensure equality of outcomes for students across, not within, social categories.
Further considerations on middle schooling, political ideology and social change The history of middle schooling in Australia has yet to be written. When that does occur, in all probability the type of developments quoted below will be considered. These developments suggest that a level of agreement exists among conservatives and progressives on recommended middle schooling practices.
But they also suggest the lack of a common ideological basis for such agreement. Throughout this era, conservatives. By the s, some conservatives had shifted ground and voiced similar objections to traditional education that the progressives had made two decades earlier.
However, their opposition to the regulation and rigidities of traditional education was made in the name of choice, market forces and economic productivity. And this shift occurred within the context of moves to introduce devolution, corporate management and workplace agreements for teachers.
Within this context it is possible to mis construe middle schooling as being part of a broader set of initiatives that were politically and economically motivated, rather than based on educational grounds; that is, as fitting the imperatives of management rather than the needs of young adolescents Chadbourne , p. We have witnessed many middle schools that have failed to empower young adolescents, have sustained the separate subject approach to curriculum, have resisted full inclusion, have surrendered to parents who demand tracking and ability grouping.
So far, this chapter has identified a range of specific issues related to the philosophy of middle schooling. A set of more general questions arises from variations in middle school practices across Australia. There is no doubt that such variations exist. For example, some middle schools group students into mixed ability classes; others stream them. Some middle schools appoint and use teachers as curriculum generalists; others appoint and use teachers as subject specialists.
Some have open-plan buildings; others operate from a more traditional design. From the perspective of philosophy, what do these variations in middle school practices mean? That middle schoolers lack a united philosophy? That they share a common philosophy but do not stick uniformly to it? That philosophically there is a set of non-negotiable principles of middle schooling but contextually mediated factors prevent schools implementing all of them?
Support for a pure model can be gleaned from a number of sources. James Beane expresses similar sentiments: In almost all cases where evidence is reported supporting the middle school concept, the schools involved have made dramatic commitments to the concept and moved ahead in very serious ways.
Educators in such schools obviously have every right to trumpet their successes. But to use such data to defend others that have proceeded only half-heartedly is unfair to both highly implemented middle schools and to critics of the middle school concept. It is also a strategy bound to backfire since schools that have only tinkered around the edges of reform are unlikely to show the same level of effects , p.
A thumbnail sketch of the story so far from this perspective reads as follows. In Australia, traditional schooling has been dominant since education was made compulsory over a century ago. During that time, reformers made periodic attempts to break the traditional mould and replace it with some form of progressive schooling. However, their initiatives either withered on the vine or remained on the fringe as fragile developments of marginal influence. Until recently, this pattern suggested that while educational reforms may come and go, the ascendancy of traditional schooling is destined to remain forever.
Middle schooling represents a form of progressive education that challenges the resilience and dominance of traditional schooling. It has stood the test of time, having grown from strength to strength in Australia for nearly two decades now. Would we please comment on this? Our response went along the lines of: There is no one true model of middle schooling in Australia. And the philosophy of each model is contextually mediated. Rather, it allows schools to select a critical mass of these elements and practices in order to claim full middle schooling status.
Middle schooling will do this by placing pressure on traditional education to shift ground and move toward a more progressive model. In turn, middle schoolers will need to acknowledge and accept the legitimacy of some traditional practices. As a result, the distinction between the old and the new forms of education will cease to exist. In its place will be a merger that is philosophically unified but operationally diverse. Recent national research on schools implementing middle years reforms supports a pluralistic approach to middle schooling philosophy.
It shows that no two schools in Australia are identical when it comes to middle schooling reforms. This raises a pressing question: How can we determine when a school has made enough reforms for it to qualify for middle schooling status? Another point we made to the journalist referred to above is that it takes time to implement the features of middle schooling.
The study also identified a preferred track or pathway for implementing reforms in order to achieve consolidation in the minimum possible time see Table 2. In our view, schools can and should make claims about their journey into middle schooling reform—wherever they are located on the continuum—so long as the claims are clear and accurate.
Which perspective? A pure or pluralistic model? Throughout this chapter we have attempted to contrast traditional and middle schooling without polarising them into philosophically watertight compartments. The outcome may have made middle schooling appear less distinctive than some advocates believe is warranted.
Or are these false dichotomies anyway? How much of this response would be based on philosophy? And how much would it be based on pragmatism and politics? It commissioned an External Agency to design the middle school Years 7—9 , in consultation with the various stakeholders. A philosophy of middle schooling can be developed by individual teachers, groups of teachers, individual schools, groups of schools, individual systems, and a federation of systems at state and national levels.
For staff and other stakeholders at these different levels, a powerful philosophy of middle schooling can serve a variety of functions. Some people, however, question the need for and the value of philosophy. The position of Kim and Kylie Midfield outlined below provides a case in point.
Could they argue that none of the functions of middle schooling philosophy listed above ever could be or should be issues for them? Could they argue that if these functions do become issues then they will be able to resolve them without a philosophy of middle schooling? Kim and Kylie Midfield teach in a middle school, their first, and so far only teaching appointment. They reckon they do not need a philosophy of middle schooling. A husband and wife team, they pride themselves with justification on being people who get things done, action workers, effective classroom teachers.
What does a personal philosophy of middle schooling look like? Middle schoolers can be asked to provide an account of their personal philosophy of teaching young adolescents in a variety of situations, such as at meetings with colleagues and parents, in job interviews, when completing application forms for promotion and when answering questions from the media. The guidelines we give our pre-service teacher education students for writing such philosophies include the following suggestions. Cover the range of elements that teachers should use to construct their philosophies of teaching young adolescents.
For example, identify your concepts, beliefs, assumptions, values, visions and ideals with respect to issues raised in this chapter. Illustrate and support your general statements of philosophy with examples of particular principles and practices that are frequently recommended in middle years discourse. This can involve using technical terms. If used accurately, technical terms can add precision to your statement and mark you as a member of a professional community who communicates within a set of shared meanings.
Constantly relate the different aspects of your philosophy to the teaching of young adolescents in particular rather than students in general.
Conclusion On some of the issues raised in this chapter our position is explicit. On others, our position is implicit, though probably identifiable, because at the beginning we declare a commitment to middle schooling philosophy that is predominantly progressive, constructivist, outcomes-based, community-oriented, developmentally responsive, student-centred, liberal reformist and contextually mediated.
We conclude with two caveats. Secondly, our position on the issues we discuss represents a philosophy of middle schooling, not the philosophy of middle schooling. We saw our job as asking questions, identifying issues, and making suggestions that readers might consider when constructing, deconstructing and reconstructing their own philosophy. We took this approach on the assumption that middle schoolers are philosophy-makers rather than philosophy-takers. Questions 1 What makes middle schooling philosophy distinctive? Does it need to be distinctive?
Should middle schooling be regarded as just good teaching? Are they all equally valid? Are there any non-negotiables? If adolescence is a murky term, then what of young adolescence? This chapter examines some of the stable and contested views of adolescence expounded in contemporary sources. Conceptions of young adolescence as a developmental stage are problematised and explored. This model will support the development of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment; the creation of learning environments and contexts that optimise schooling for middle years students, and will give direction to the organisational structures that frame them.
This interim model represents a move toward a comprehensive theory of the middle years of schooling student. That is, the middle years are characterised by dichotomy and conflict, diversity and similarity, and yet the middle years learner shares with peers unique attributes and assets that contrast with younger and older learners.
Getting started: Who are adolescents anyway? Since the s, specialist journals addressing all manner of aspects of the adolescent experience have emerged and have attracted prominent and gifted contributors. Indeed, the activity and interest level seems to be escalating in more recent times. All these scholars share an interest and concern for the lot of young people. Figure 3. The writings cited in Table 3. Other articles published in these journals in give the mean age of their samples but no range boundaries.
Unique to these articles, as opposed to texts and theoretical position papers, is the tacit assumption that their participant group aligns to some Figure 3. Smith 4. Engels et al. Frankenberger 14—18 — — Journal of Research on Adolescence Petersen a 11—14 early b 15—17 middle c 18—20 late 13—18 Schaffer 12—20 12—20 Author by text Santrock They do not detail the qualitative measures for determining if participants are adolescent. It is, however, quite startling how diverse the age boundaries are. Even if we concede that the authors might simply be describing their samples, and that their participants fall somewhere within the adolescent ambit, we still do not cater entirely for the differences.
Older articles and texts shy away from explicit age definition. Kimmel and Weiner also avoid clearly identifying chronological age boundaries and instead cite biological age puberty as the mark of onset, and social age assumption of adult roles and responsibilities as the transition point to adulthood. They do, however, give a ballpark range from around 10 years of age through to around 22 years.
Lefrancois most strongly contests the use of age for the definition of adolescence. He argues that:. Changes that occur during adolescence, while highly correlated with one another in terms of sequence and rate of appearance, are not nearly as highly correlated with chronological age p. It is however, even debatable that the sequence and rate of appearance of maturational attributes are reliably predictable for social and emotional development.
Further, in socially and culturally diverse environments, surely the notion of a consistent homogenous developmental progression must be stringently challenged. In the quest for qualitative markers, many authors write of adolescence as agony, immaturity or incompleteness Schaffer The media have been alert to this and have expended significant effort demonising our young people and rationalising this position through reference to the rather deficit view of adolescence that often underpins the scholarly literature.
The deficit view of adolescence characterises young people as lacking certain adult attributes—indeed, they are adolescent by virtue of what they are not. They are not yet cognitively complete Giedd They have not yet developed a range of mature interpersonal relationships Graber et al. Marcia ; Swanson et al. In fact, they are colloquially used to insult, to designate someone as behaving in an immature or juvenile fashion. As a professional community we are caught between a need for clarity and a need for flow.
We, like Hall and other luminary researchers, find a label useful, but we have perhaps come to a point where such a label is more misleading than useful. Perhaps it is possible to construct a theoretical model of young people that informs without constraint. Could such a model view young people as complete? It should be able to dismantle deficit conceptions, disarm the media, and provide useful directions for schools.
This kind of theoretical Nirvana will no doubt prove elusive. However, this chapter sifts through the vast research and scholarly musings about young people, and proposes a model of the middle school learner in Australia that hopefully will positively disrupt the status quo. The need to invent a term To appropriately construct a maturational model that assists educators of middle years learners, we must examine the purposes behind the invention of the adolescent.
Hall appropriated a fairly old word, first found in written form in Harper , and fashioned a science of developmental psychology. He was responding to the unique social, political and cultural climate of his time, a period of industrial revolution. The potential to explain behaviours by creating detailed compendiums of age-related developmental attributes was openly celebrated.
But, as usual, the devil was in the detail. While this idea did not hold up to close scrutiny, the classification system remained intact as a framework for developmental research. The historical motivations for considering adolescence as a distinct phase are no longer as potent as they were. Cameron Further, physical capability to parent is getting younger and younger; some girls as young as eight now experience menarche, compared with an average twelve years of age in the penultimate decades of the twentieth century.
They also are in-between. The concept of adolescence may be time-stamped and already past its use-by date. Our changing times have brought a dramatic shift in the nature of work and career. Neither person can fully be considered adolescent, or indeed adult, but to the educator they may present quite different educational needs, goals and opportunities. In many world cultures, the concept of adolescence means nothing and has never been useful Letendre People may transition from childhood to adulthood via some sort of rite of passage or ceremony, from then on being considered part of the adult community, with no time spent in-between.
As globalisation hastily brings diverse cultures together, the meaning of adolescence becomes increasingly murky. Steinberg and Lerner track a history of scientific interest in adolescence. They discuss the forums of the Society for Research on Adolescence, arguably one of the premier scholarly communities for research in this field. Other contemporary scholarly societies and journals for adolescence, for example the Journal of Adolescent Research, and Adolescence, have American affiliations on their editorial boards, and content that is notably American. This is true of most societies and publications on adolescence excepting perhaps, The Journal of Adolescence, produced by the Association for Professionals in Service for Adolescents, which has an international editorial board and an international authorship.
Steinberg and Lerner have also identified an American bias in the field. Since it is clear that adolescence is a socially and culturally related notion, we must then ask if Australia is American enough for the term to be relevant here? Eras of research and theory Steinberg and Lerner argue that there are three stages of research into adolescence. The first two stages overlap and we are presently on the cusp of the third.
The first phase roughly the s through to the s was characterised by grand theoretical models that drew on rather descriptive and anecdotal accounts of development. The second phase the s through to the early s focused on hypothesis testing and second-order applied research, and developed views on the plasticity and diversity of development. The third phase, our current venture, is characterised by a central scientist-policy-maker-practitioner organisational frame. The discussion in this chapter fits neatly in the third phase.
Hopefully, attempting to deconstruct the grand theories of development that have formed a foundation for the field of scholarship will have a direct and indirect impact on policy, practice and research interest, in just the way Steinberg and Lerner predict. Deconstructing the grand theories of development The grand theorists of adolescence include Hall , Inhelder and Piaget , Erikson , Freud , and McCandless Each has been lauded and criticised on their unique merits.
There exists a linear conception of development that appears to bring together otherwise quite divergent conceptions of adolescence. Mead ; Keith A brief examination of each theme provides reference points for the construction of a new maturational model. Hamburg All manner of connections have been notionally tied between identity development, general behavioural tenor, family and peer relationships and puberty in these theories.
From the biological perspective, individuals are doomed to a fairly predictable sequence of events by virtue of their maturational clock. Recent interest in the biological template for adolescence has also considered neural development. Giedd reports that a proliferation of neural connections characterises childhood brain development; marking the onset of adolescence, and typical of the whole stage, is a dramatic rationalisation and pruning of these connections.
The process is complete when the individual arrives at adulthood with a much more streamlined and less numerous set of connections than they had as children. Educationalists have already begun to imagine the ways they might assist students to the best possible outcome. Others, convinced that the streamlined outcome is desirable, aim to focus students on only a small number of endeavours, hoping to force the pruning through strategic neglect of some nonessential understandings.
Still others, gripped with a fatalistic view, have made little or no adjustment to their practices in the light of the new research. The majority of the biologically based theories are steeped in a sense of intractable inevitability. They presume that educationalists must support, inform and cope with adolescence. Adolescents are seen homogenously and passively, and their experiences as sequentially linked and predictable.
It is not reasonable to make a wholesale contestation against these biological views of adolescence. Clearly, physical and neural changes are a part of the maturational process and do deserve some professional attention by educationalists. But physicality and bodily changes are only part of the picture of who we are at any given point in our lives. They are a frame for our behaviours and self-concepts and as such are important, but models for development that are limited to physical constitution have been hotly contested in the adolescent literature e.
White ; Adolescence as a psychosocial event Key theorists for a view of adolescence as a psychosocial event include Piaget and Kohlberg The Piagetian approach considered cognitive development is influenced by: maturation of the nervous system; experience; intellect; and socialisation. The Piagetian research was pre-Giedd and so did not comment on neural pruning phenomena. However, it did consider that the natural maturational processes of the brain would have an underlying impact on the other three elements that contributed to cognition change. Piaget argued that a formal operations stage characterises adolescent cognition.
That is, the adolescent act of knowing or perceiving 12 years of age to adulthood is qualitatively different to children 7—11 years who are described as being typically pre-formal thinkers or in the concrete operations stage. The individual who is capable of formal operational thought exhibits a capacity for abstract logic and more mature moral reasoning. Concrete operations include thinking activities such as classifications, hierarchies, class inclusion, relations of parts to whole and parts to parts, serialisation, symmetrical and reciprocal relationships, substitution and rules for operations.
The thinking is still linked to empirical reality that is, the actual rather than the potential, based on real experience.
According to the theory, children of the concrete operational age have difficulties dealing with more than two classes, relations or dimensions at once, while adolescents in formal operations are able to make more elegant generalisations with more inclusive laws. They think formally, but only in familiar situations, are capable of abstract thought independent of concrete objects, can consider sets of symbols for symbols for example, metaphoric speech, algebra , and can appreciate that words can have double or triple meaning.
This makes them able to understand hidden meanings for example, political cartoons. They have attempted to draw extended implications from the foundation hallmarks. For example, in the journey from concrete operational thought to formal operations, they suggest adolescents should gain an ability to grasp what might be, and therefore may appear as idealistic rebels.
Further, their developing metacognitive skills might promote time spent thinking about thoughts and increase their daydreaming, which may become more positive or wishful. Their ability to look beyond the given material may give rise to pseudo-stupidity when trying to solve problems, due to a possible tendency to approach solutions at too complex a level. They should be able to appreciate symbols in literature rather than just the story line. Most importantly, their formal reasoning capabilities should provide a foundation for the development of long-term values.
They described the individual as cognitively active and constructivist. In schools, our legacy from the strong hold of these classic views of the child has been middle years pedagogy that has been designed on the presumption that those in their early teens were not yet capable of abstract and complex thought. As a result, intellectual rigour in the early secondary school years has floundered Queensland School Reform Longitudinal Study First, the expectation that all adults would be capable of formal operational thought in all areas of thought and knowledge was not universally founded.
That being the case, the enduring question is whether older people who are not yet formal operational could be considered adult. Another point of concern centres on the development of expertise. A model that describes adolescents as cognitively unfinished does not adequately account for the observation that junior chess masters, of as little as eight years of age, can beat adults at chess Chi et al. Piaget also proposed a model for moral development that derived from the cognitive development theory. This theory, like the Piagetian cognitive development theory, typically underestimated the moral capacities of children and has lost contemporary support Schaffer His cognitive development work focused on gender identity development in young children and was criticised for underestimating the strength of early gender identity, but his moral development construct initially attracted a faithful following.
In this model Kohlberg believed that moral development fell into neat, invariant stages that were sequentially ordered. The development was closely aligned to cognitive growth, but cognitive growth alone did not ensure moral development. His six-stage model was soundly criticised for its cultural and gender bias. They almost inevitably under- or over-estimate the capacities of people at particular ages. Any model that has attempted to describe a strict template for development has drawn criticism due to the demonstrably diverse range of experiences, behaviours and capacities of people at any given age.
Recent theorists like Halpern have coined the term psycho-biosocial to describe theories that consider the joint influence of nature and nurture, but this work only gives very limited attention to the social processes that contribute to maturation. Adolescence as a social construction In contrast to the biologically based and psychosocial or psycho-biosocial theories of adolescent development, the social constructionists asserted that development was more about social experience than age-linked hard wiring.
Watson believed that people are passive reflections of their grooming by others. This notion was not popular, as it did not go far enough to describe and predict behaviour. Bandura proposed that development depended on observational learning. He described people as active and reactive, and said that cognitive development reflected a continuous reciprocal interaction between people and the environment.
That is, people actively shape their environment which in turn reflects on them. The key criticism of the theory was its oversimplification of the cognitive developmental process. No account was taken of genetically endowed individual differences or the possible biological maturation impacts on development. A very popular contemporary theory of development is the Vygotskyan sociocultural model. Vygotsky considered the cultural and social contextual influences for cognitive growth.
This process was called scaffolding. The skilled instructor would adapt their dialogue as the learner became more capable and the zone extended as a result. This adaptive dialogue allowed the co-construction of knowledge. While Vygotsky has found a vital middle ground between the nature—nurture extremes, this important framework for development does not yet provide specific insight to the behaviour of the middle years learner.
Adolescence as a cultural construction Alongside the other theoretical themes has been consideration of adolescence as a cultural construction. Persistent issues Persistent issues emerge in criticism of the key developmental theories. The most predominant are based on the nature—nurture debate as already discussed.
For example, a person might have particular experiences in childhood that predisposes them to certain behaviours and understandings much later in life. A one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many connection web may describe how experiential understandings may influence development at other life points. The continuity versus discontinuity developmental debate is similar to the linear versus non-linear. In a discontinuous model the influence of any given experience may not take effect until much later. Indeed, some people experience a sense of epiphany when something they experienced long ago suddenly makes sense.
The discontinuous model differs from the diffuse in that it retains a one-to-one influence pattern, while the continuous model depicts development as occurring in a predictable and intractable sequence, and the learner as active versus passive debate centres on whether individuals have or have not agency in their own development. Each of these debates has merit and utility for understanding some aspect of human development. They are irreconcilable, however, and perhaps it is futile to try and resolve the differences.
Any new model for development should attempt to transcend the dichotomies. An interim model for maturation and development A new model for development needs to allow for the diversity of individuality as well as the conformity of social and cultural immersion. It should draw on the most productive elements of the classic theories and depict growth as both linear and non-linear; continuous and discontinuous; with influences of both nature and nurture. The developing individual should have both agency and passivity. That is, the model should embrace the dichotomies and present development holistically.
The individual is conceived as invited into a given context that is both socially and culturally framed. They bring to any life point a set of assets that are physical, emotional and cognitive. The developmental needs are viewed through the characteristic wants. This is a dynamic life path model that is constantly in flux. The focus is primarily on the learner, their assets and their developmental tasks. The individual changes and matures according to this dynamic life path model as illustrated in the next diagram, Figure 3. Depicted here is a person who might be typical of a middle years learner according to the middle years literature, a person with a set of personal characteristics or assets including global awareness and self-orientation, as well as the unique attributes that mark them as an Figure 3.
The wants and needs depicted are commonly identified in the middle years literature and are not exhaustive, for in addition to typical wants and needs the individual will have unique conceptions of their own wants and needs. These will reflect their own conception of themselves and their assets.
Engagement with others, with problems, with the environment, either scaffolded or naturally occurring, will alter their assets, and from there the cycle continues. The adolescent, in this model, only exists in social and cultural circumstances that allow them to exist or which actually create a space for them. The stable and accepted elements of the classic biological, psychosocial, cultural and social constructionist developmental theories can be accommodated as descriptions of the driving forces behind the impetus for change.
The middle years learner: A paradigm shift This life path model potentially liberates a new understanding of the middle years learner. We can embrace the anecdotal and consistent descriptions of our students from the coal face, which describe the shared attributes of middle years learners in our broadly similar Australian contexts. We can embrace the data available on physical maturation as giving potential insight to our middle years classrooms.
We can tailor our developmental experiences for students based on our understanding of them as individuals. We can enjoy the middle years for the assets the individuals bring to us rather than entertain a deficit view of our students. We can extend and challenge our students. La Trobe University Library. Borchardt Library, Melbourne Bundoora Campus. Macquarie University Library. Open to the public ; LB Mitcham Memorial Library.
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