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Teaching at the middle school level along with adolescents is an art form of its own. Teachers need to use an arsenal of knowledge ranging from knowledge of developmental milestones to content knowledge in order to teach and reach the students. This paper will address the milestones from early childhood to adolescence while addressing the significance each developmental milestone in "planning lessons, providing motivation, utilizing effective teaching strategies, use of appropriate materials, determining interest, assessment, and individualizing instruction (GCU, 2006)."
Child Development and the Educational Process
The following chart highlights the developmental milestones of early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence. Following the chart the author addresses the necessity of this information to developing, implementing and assessing students.
1. relevant ages
13-16 to 18
2. physical characteristics
Change in a child's motor skills as well as their physical appearances (Slavin, 2009).
Begin to develop control over large and small muscle development (Slavin, 2009).
The small muscles development is apparent when children smile, can pick their fork when eating or tie their shoe (Slavin, 2009).
Development of the large-muscle groups in the legs that control running & muscles in the arms that control throwing (Slavin, 2009).
Initial growth is slow, then growth spurt (Preisser, 1997)
Weight, height, and muscle mass increase (Preisser, 1997).
Girls can begin to menstruate in the latter half of this stage (Slavin, 2009).
More sexually developed (Slavin, 2009).
Marked increases in height and muscle mass (Slavin, 2009).
Onset of puberty (Slavin, 2009).
Growth tapers off (Slavin, 2009).
Girls have begun to menstruate (Slavin, 2009).
More sexually active (Slavin, 2009).
3. relevant grade levels
Pre K -K (Slavin, 2005)
1st - 6th (Slavin, 2005)
7th-12th (Slavin, 2005)
4. examples of physical abilities
Builds small towers (Scholastic, 2010)
Strings beads (Scholastic, 2010)
Cuts with scissors (Scholastic, 2010)
Paste (Scholastic, 2010)
Writes a word(Scholastic, 2010)
More coordinated walking (Scholastic, 2010)
Climbs (Scholastic, 2010)
Overhand throwing (Scholastic, 2010)
Dresses and undresses self
Stands on tiptoes, skips, and balances (Scholastic, 2010)
Throws and catches ball with ease (Scholastic, 2010)
Mastery of early childhood skills such as running, skipping, balancing (Slavin, 2009)
More dexterity (Slavin, 2009)
Boys fair better than girls at physical activities (Slavin, 2009)
Fine tuning of all skills learned in early childhood and middle ages (Slavin, 2009).
5. Piaget's stages
Sensorimotor Stage 0-2 years
Learns through the use of senses and motor skills, develops object permanence (Slavin, 2009).
Natural ability skills like suckling, listening, holding onto items help children explore and learn more about their surroundings (Slavin, 2009).
Preoperational Stage - 2-7 years
There is an increase in language ability (Slavin, 2009).
Children do not understand concrete logic or how to manipulative information (Slavin, 2009).
Children use symbols to represent other things, a broom is a horse (Slavin, 2009).
Lots of role-playing (Slavin, 2009).
Concrete Operational Stage
7 - 11 years
Children begin to think logically, but have trouble understanding the abstract (Slavin, 2009).
Reversible operations are performed (Slavin, 2009).
Less egocentrism when solving problems (Slavin, 2009).
Formal Operational Stage
11 to adulthood
Can understand abstract thoughts and concepts (Slavin, 2009).
Use skills such as logical thought, deductive reasoning (Slavin, 2009).
6. characteristics of language and thought
Birth - 2 years old, use their senses to understand their world (Slavin, 2009)
Information comes from what they see and hear (Slavin, 2009)
Thoughts and feelings are shown through expressions (Slavin, 2009)
Thought of the future (Slavin, 2009).
Begin to express feelings through oral language (Slavin, 2009).
Thought is more abstract (Slavin, 2009).
More reasoning skills (Slavin, 2009).
Able to process higher level thinking (Slavin, 2009).
Abstract reasoning skills (Slavin, 2009).
Evaluation of logic of language used (Slavin, 2009).
7. Erikson's stages
Stage I: Trust versus Mistrust
Depend on adults for basic needs such as food, comfort, and warmth (Slavin, 2009).
Needs meet = attachment and sense of security (Slavin, 2009).
Needs not meet = mistrust and insecure attitude (Slavin, 2009).
Stage II: Autonomy versus Doubt
Gain independence = toilet training, self-feeding and dressing (Slavin, 2009)
Stage III: Initiative versus Guilt
Three and six - learn to control their impulses and act in a socially responsible way (Slavin, 2009).
Control of impulses = more self confident (Slavin, 2009)
No control of impulses = strong sense of guilt (Slavin, 2009).
Stage IV: Industry versus Inferiority
Six and twelve - competition with peers in school and preparation for adult roles (Slavin, 2009).
Stage ends with either a sense of competence or a sense of inferiority (Slavin, 2009)
Stage V: Identity versus Role Confusion
During adolescence- children try to determine their identity and what path they will take in life (SparkNotes Editors, 2005).
Success or uncertainty of identity led to role acceptance or confusion (Slavin, 2009).
8. examples of cognitive abilities
By 2, can tell the difference between animals even if they call them by the same name (Scholastic, 2010)
Knows the difference between boys and girls by 3 years old (Scholastic, 2010)
By 4, can distinguish more from less (Scholastic, 2010)
By 5, can figure out how to win a board game (Scholastic, 2010)
By 6, can solve math problems on their own (Scholastic, 2010)
Understands that others have feelings, opinions, and wants (CliffsNotes.com, 2010)
Understands identity (CliffsNotes.com, 2010)
Understand cause-and-effect relationships (CliffsNotes.com, 2010)
Can classify things (CliffsNotes.com, 2010)
Abstract and critical thinking skills are obtained or are teachable (CliffsNotes.com, 2010)
Can consider future (CliffsNotes.com, 2010)
Deductive reasoning (CliffsNotes.com, 2010)
Test hypotheses and draw conclusions (CliffsNotes.com, 2010)
9. characteristics of behavior
Prosocial behavior is the "Be Nice" behavior. It involves children who are respectful, polite, caring and friendly.
They must also be willing to cooperate and share with others. Since this is a voluntary attribute, if a child is rejected by its peers they could acquire negative prosocial behavior (Slavin, 2009)
If a child is not part of the in crowd or feels rejected they likely to get involved in delinquent behavior that may led to problems with the law as well as dropping out of school (Slavin, 2005). This may also result in lifelong emotional and psychological problems (Slavin, 2005). This rejection can lead to aggression or withdrawal from their environment (Slavin, 2005)
Changes in physical development = changes in the socioemotional development (Slavin, 2005).
Puberty being about changes in behavior and attitudes (Slavin, 2005).
There are more feelings of anxiety accompanied by uncertainty. This results in antisocial and erratic behavior (National institute of Open School, n.d.).
Toward the end of puberty these attitudes and behaviors are more acceptable (Slavin, 2005).
joining of groups to for belongings is also part of this phase of development (Slavin, 2005)
10. sources of impact on development
Children develop socially in stages. The first part of this development involves family and close friends.
Possible socialization outside of home includes day-care or school.
Children need to resolve the conflict between initiatives versus guilt in order to grow socially and personally and establish a sense of conscience. (Slavin, 2005)
Identifies self with real characteristics such as name, how they look, what they have, and everyday behavior (Slavin, 2005).
They also identify themselves by stating what they feel, think, and believe (Slavin, 2005).
Conflicts over objects are efforts to form boundaries (Slavin, 2005)
Self-concept is how a person thinks of themselves, their interests and their beliefs (Slavin, 2005).
Middle childhood children concentrate more on their intelligence and how kind they are when describing one's self (Slavin, 2005).
Self-esteem is also tied to self-concept in that individuals question their self-worth and judgment
Of one's self according to this (Slavin, 2005).
This can cause future problems with behavior and psychological issues (Slavin, 2005)
EMOTIONAL DISORDERS - students at this age start to exhibit signs of emotional disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (Slavin, 2005)
BULLYING - cruelty from peers becomes more frequent at this age due to the differences displayed by those trying to find their identity (Slavin, 2005)
DROPPING OUT -students start to feel the pull of the world more than school. They find themselves more drawn to the working field or delinquent groups (Slavin, 2009)
DRUG AND ALCOHOL ABUSE - a large percentage (90%) of high school students are abusing alcohol and 30% of those are also using or have tried marijuana (Slavin, 2005).
DELINQUENCY - males more than females begin to hang with the wrong crowds and start to get into legal troubles (Slavin, 2005).
RISK OF PREGNANCY- higher risk of pregnancy in this age group among students from low socioeconomic families (Papalia, Wendkos-Olds, & Duskin-Feldman, 2004).
RISK OF AIDS - 1 in 3 adolescents contract STDs. It is more likely to be undetected in girls than boys.(Slavin, 2005)
11. examples of key social relationship
Begin to form relationships (Slavin, 2009)
Learn to cooperate, plan, and set goals (Slavin, 2009).
Try new skills, different types of play - solitary (no peer interaction), parallel (side-by-side), associative (sharing and turn-taking), and cooperative (together with peer to reach common goal) (Slavin, 2009)
Children are now more challenged with being accepted by their peers. They want to be a part of the popular group, wear cool clothes, and worry over what is thought of them (Slavin, 2005).
At this point they will start to look at their friends as advisors and confidant's instead of their parents or guardians (Slavin, 2005).
FRIENDSHIPS - true friendships boost self-esteem
Friends give the necessary support needed, especially among girls (Slavin, 2005).
RELATIONSHIPS WITH PEERS - these relationships are much the same as they are in early childhood. However, now adolescents see themselves as being the same as their peers with similar problems and needs. These relationships tend to be stronger and more based on that of respect (Slavin, 2005).
What are the educational implications of this information for teachers? How can a teacher use this information to effective teach her students?
Educators have to realize that our children as well as our student's are not "Mini Me's"; they do not think like us or see the world as we do, they have a different set of rules in which they live by (Slavin, 2005). As teachers we need to understand this and learn how to teach in regards to the varying ages and degrees of development of our students.
Swiss philosopher Jean Piaget believed that children's intellect happened in stages and that their cognitive ability changed with each stage. He further believed that we are born with certain schemes and that these schemes are demonstrated in our behavior or thinking about things. Our development takes place in the form of assimilation or accommodation. Assimilation happens when a person encounters something new and can deal with it in regards to what they already know. Conversely, accommodation happens when the new situation does not fit into the scope of what you already know, so changes take place within what you already know to accommodate the new situation. This theory which becomes known as cognitive constructivism implies that human development is qualitative rather than quantitative (Huitt, 2004).
As a teacher it becomes imperative that the thinking process of a student is considered when looking at the end products or assessments that they complete (Slavin, 2009). For example, think back to middle school mathematics and the process that was taken to complete mathematical equations. The teacher always said to show your work, she said that this would allow her to retrace the steps you took and to understand the rationale for the answer at which you arrived. Perhaps this teacher did not know that they were focusing just as much on the process of the students thinking as they were on the product, but just maybe they did. This is the same for all assessments; the process used by students at which they arrive at their answers needs to be considered. Slavin (2009), suggests that the appropriateness of the instruction and the assessment must be questioned for the various age groups. Is this instruction appropriate the development of child or does it require even more from them than they are capable of producing at that particular time? Slavin (2005) states that child psychologist, David Elkind, further implies that a student needs to have a "developmentally appropriate education" that takes into consideration the "physical and cognitive abilities" as well as the emotional and social needs of a student. This can be done by addressing the following areas: curriculum, lesson planning, classroom materials/manipulatives, and the schools school environment.
When planning lessons, what factors should a teacher consider and what type of instruction should it be? A teacher must consider the individuality of each student as they apply to their developmental progression (Slavin, 2009). According to Piaget, special attention must be made to the rate by which each student passes through certain developmental points, since for the most part all development is sequential. To do so, instruction should be based on planning activities that allow for small group instruction and individual instruction. Likewise, accumulative assessments should be based on the individual students development and not be a norm-based assessment in relation to the students peers of s similar age.
Furthermore, the progression of the stages fits nicely into the idea of constructivism and differentiation of learning, in that it calls upon experiences and prior knowledge to guide instruction. Lesson planning, under the Piagetian theory, needs to support the notion that we must pass through all of the stages of development without veering off course. With this premise in mind, than the idea that differentiation of instruction meets students at the level that they are at in development is the most supportive of all (Slavin, 2005).
Piaget said, "The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done" (Piaget, 1953).Within this theory the idea of constructivist or differentiated teaching is based on the premise that student learn when they are actively engaged and that one size does not fit all. Students engage in activities that construct meaning and knowledge of the subject matter. The constructivist teacher is a facilitator that creates an atmosphere that motivates students into becoming independent critical thinking learners. The author believes that a constructivist classroom would be the best way to support students through the various stages of development. Therefore a constructivist classroom looks different than traditional classroom in a number of ways: the learning is student centered collaborations.
Within this theory the classroom acts as a mode of discovery learning which allows the student to do several things. Students are able to call upon their experiences and use their prior knowledge to apply to the task. This allows students to work together and learn from one another. Students confer with group members about questions; while the teacher only interjects when necessary. The constant discussing and reflecting on their answers and choices keeps with the constructivist principle of evaluation which allows for checking of understanding (Farstrup & Samuels, 2002).
Some researcher's disagree with the stages initially set forth by Piaget; they argue that many of the abilities can be seen in children at an earlier age than Piaget reported. Some research found that children of four or five years old understood their own thinking as well as that of other people. Also research has shown that children at this age can see other person's point of view, contrary to Piaget belief that they are still egocentric (Cherry, n.d.). This does not in any way foreshadow the fact that Piaget's theory would have made him a proponent of differentiation in that the various stages call for some form of collaborative learning which allows one to move from stage to another.
Piaget's theory impacts education in such a way that it calls for curriculum to augment the student's growth on a logical and conceptual level. Instruction will have to be centered and grounded by the experiences that student's have with their environment in regards to cognitive development. This is the premise on which constructivism is based and the starting gate for further philosophical debates.
In such a constructivist classroom based on student's development, what type of activities and materials are necessary to accomplish their educational goals? What activities motivate student learning? What activities hold their interest? Activities may include but are not limited to:
The use of multimedia to supplement instruction. Students can learn or review concepts through modified or created versions of Jeopardy, Bingo, and Trivial Pursuit. Creating these games requires that students think about the layouts. As they follow the necessary steps, teachers are able to assess their understanding.
Cartoons. Humor aids in the learning process. (On Purpose Associates, 2004). Humor goes hand-in-hand with the idea that emotions effect learning. During the early stages of childhood, children are bombarded with cartoons such as Barney, Sesame Street, and numerous Disney shows that not only tickle the funny bone but aid them in learning some of those beginning concepts such as counting and their alphabet (Jensen, 1998).
Mini-lessons. Segmenting instruction into mini-lessons gets the students attention and keeps it. They take into consideration that the adolescent mind is focused on other issues thereby decreasing their attention spans (Slavin, 2005).
Music. The author finds that music serves to relax the students as well as reduce stress levels about starting and transitioning to new activities(Jensen, 1998)..
Use of analogies, parables, truisms. When learning is more concrete students take ownership and understand the concepts more (Jensen, 1998).
Choices. It is less stressful on students if they are allowed to make choices. They also feel more empowered over their learning when allowed to have choices. "Feelings of helplessness trigger the release of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that has a strong inhibitory effect" ().
According to Wiggins & McTighe (2005), teachers must plan learning experiences and instructions that are aligned with to their desired understanding results for the unit being taught. Lessons are designed in a manner that provides opportunities to hook students and hold their interest about the unit. These activities should be sequential in nature so that students gain the required knowledge and skills that will allow them to do well on the assessments that have been set forth. These activities should once again be on the higher level of Bloom's taxonomy in that they allow students to make analysis, synthesize and evaluate their understanding at each of the lessons. In a nutshell at this stage teachers are reminded that they must plan activities that are not only engaging but effectively engaging lessons. These lessons should promote exemplary achievement and show evidence that students have achieved the essential understandings while fostering the stages of their development.