Adolescent Success is an Australia-wide peak body organisation dedicated exclusively to the education, development and growth of young adolescents. Adolescent Success aims to:
Positions adopted by the Association are based on relevant learning theory, informed practice, research into adolescent development and other research pertinent to the middle years of schooling. This position paper draws together these understandings to locate middle years students in the Australian context, often echoing and affirming the positions of other organisations and educators. This position paper has been developed to be used as an advocacy instrument for middle schooling. Adolescent Success advocates to: middle years educators, including teachers, parents and related professionals; teacher education institutions; systems and organisations providing middle years education.
The middle years, from around age ten to fifteen, span the years from childhood to adolescence. Young adolescents in the middle years experience a range of significant physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and moral changes. During puberty, young adolescents experience more rapid and dramatic hormonal and structural changes than at any other period in their life. The sequence of physical change is generally similar from one person to another, although the onset, rate, and timing of these changes are highly individual, often creating stress and feelings of insecurity for the adolescent. Changes to brain and cognitive development peak during this period. Apart from the first five years of life, at no other time does the capacity and functioning of the brain undergo such an overhaul. This affects the learning ability of young adolescents and their success in managing the emotional, social and moral challenges of this stage. Disengagement, alienation and boredom in school often peak in the middle years and this may lead to a decline in achievement. Hence the middle years, particularly with respect to the productive engagement of young people in schooling and other contexts, is a priority for educators.
Middle schooling is an intentional approach to teaching and learning that is responsive and appropriate to the full range of needs, interests and achievements of middle years students in formal and informal schooling contexts. Middle schooling has the following elements:
3. Evidence-based approach with clearly articulated outcomes, such as:
Middle schooling implementation typically involves three phases: Initiation, Development and Consolidation. The elements of middle schooling should be increasingly evident as the reforms are implemented over time.
There is an interconnectedness between the four concepts of Educators , Places, Pedagogy and Adolescents, critical for middle schooling success. Middle schooling optimises the learning opportunities of young Adolescents in the middle years so that their potential to live and work successfully in contemporary society, today and in the future, is enhanced. Middle schooling features the adoption of interdependent and aligned Pedagogies across the domains of pastoral care, assessment and curriculum; and through organisational initiatives in their learning Placeswith key middle school Educators.
Physically: young adolescents are experiencing many physical changes as their bodies develop into young adults at varying stages and rates. Physical appearance is very important to young adolescents, often driving a desire to engage in trends for acceptance. Positive body-image programs and messages are vital to effectively inform students about the facts of physical change, as well as strategies for self-acceptance, well-being and health, and to highlight and discourage the effects that stereotyping can have on young adolescents.
Intellectually: young adolescents seek intellectual challenge whilst still developing thinking capability. Curriculum must be genuinely challenging, relevant and stimulating in order to engage them in their learning, inclusive of skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, communication, creativity and purpose.
Emotionally: young adolescents experience heightened emotions due to the changing nature of their physiology as they prepare for puberty and adulthood. Access to regular and ongoing mentoring and support services, including counselling is crucial in order to support the wellbeing of every young adolescent during the middle years phase.
Socially: the approval of their peers is crucial during adolescence, sometimes leading to acceptance-driven decisions, which at times will be contrary to parental or societal expectations. Social circles and social activities become increasingly important during adolescence, as they seek to ‘fit into’ and find their place in the social landscape.
Ethically: ethical understandings are a significant part of the holistic development of young people. Young adolescents are asking many questions, and need to explore and develop their sense of identity, to learn and understand what they believe in and voice their values. They are intensely concerned about social justice and issues that impact their world.
Dedicated: educators are advocates for this age group. They have a well developed understanding of the unique needs of young adolescents and a commitment to continuously enhance their understanding. They use this understanding to cater for learning experiences that challenge and grow young adolescents.
Empathetic: educators show an ability to understand the changing and often volatile feelings of young adolescents. They are willing to walk alongside young adolescents in their learning and are able to look beyond the ‘what’ of behaviour to the consider the ‘why’.
Relational: the most important thing an educator can do is to develop a positive relationship with their young adolescent learner. It is essential to be emotionally predictable and fair.
Knowledgeable: educators know andunderstand the idiosyncrasies of the young adolescent learner, effects of maturation, brain development, the power of technology and are interested in young adolescents. They have gained specific skills on adolescent education from reputable training institutions through further research and professional learning.
Passionate: educators are passionate about teaching this age level of student. They have and show energy and enthusiasm, strong feelings and/or beliefs about and for these learners, and are skilled and excited about teaching and learning in the middle years.
Democratic: they are places that ensure learning occurs in inclusive environments, where young adolescents have a voice that is valued, and where collaboration and decision-making is integral to learning.
Positive: they arecreative learning communities that foster confidence, optimism and success for all.
Safe: they provide an environment that builds and celebrates learning and diversity. They allow the unique characteristics of each individual to develop, fostering a sense of community.
Engaging: they are places where learners have opportunity to connect with their world through relevant experiences and activities that promote and nurture imagination and creativity.
Diverse: they offer variety and diversity of learning methodologies, through a wide range of programs, contexts and learning areas. They are accepting and inclusive of all cultural backgrounds.
Flexible: they allow individual and collaborative activity, personalisation with opportunities for play and movement. They are aesthetically appealing and functional.
Innovative: teaching and learning explores and incorporates new, advanced and transformative practices into programs. by encouraging new initiatives, entrepreneurialism and creative thinking.
Challenging: by having high expectations of young adolescents, the teaching and learning challenges their thinking and capacity to learn, causing them to rise to the expectations and be excited about their learning.
Integrative: teaching subjects in a way that promotes relevant and effective work and life skills is essential in the middle years. Educators are knowledgeable and skilled in multidisciplinary teaching, capable of making natural links between curriculum areas, engaging in learning experiences that connect multiple areas. Core teaching teams are ideal in the middle years.
Informed: pedagogical practices utilised are current research and current evidence based, and teams are specifically trained, ensuring that educators implement these practices.
Inclusive: pedagogical practices recognisethe diversity of learners, acknowledging that they have a range of different personalities, aptitudes and attitudes, cultural, religious, prior experiences and current needs.
Relevant: teaching and learning experiences are challenging, dynamic and exploratory by nature, and are negotiated, differentiated, integrated and/or interdisciplinary.
Pastoral: pedagogical practices fosterin young adolescents empathy, compassion, gratitude, a sense of belonging and connectedness, recognising it is an education of the heart alongside an education of the mind.
Responsible: pedagogical practices create an understanding that learning empowers young adolescents to be community minded and thus be active citizens who contribute positively to society.
Global: pedagogical practices developyoung adolescents as global learners and citizens, who can come to understand their place in the world. They are enthused and compelled to make connections, engage with and learn from others.
Whilst there is a variety of literature from overseas contexts, two significant papers to note from the United States are This We Believe(NMSA) and Turning Points.