Monday, April 23, 2012


Understanding the developmental standards for secondary education is a key component in managing and effectively educating middle school students. By incorporating the developmental standards in their lessons, teachers are able to engage and include all students in their class while effectively catering to their different needs. The purpose of this project is to demonstrate that I not only understand all of the developmental standards and sub-standards, but also to show that I know how to incorporate these into my future classroom and lesson plans. As an aspiring English and Language Arts teacher for middle school students, it is especially important that I am educated on the developmental and psychological growth of adolescents in their preteens to early teens. In understanding this, I will be able to better understand the level of expectations I should have for my students. I will also be able to recognize how and why students perform in different ways and how to help them succeed in the classroom.

Piaget's Theory

Piaget’s theory states that adolescents are internally motivated to understand the world around them because doing so is biologically adaptive. Adolescents take in new information and organize it, separating important ideas from less important ones and connecting one idea to another. In his theory, Piaget states that individuals go through four stages that help them understand the world. Each stage demonstrates a different way in which individuals make sense of their environment. The first stage is Piaget’s sensorimotor stage. This stage lasts from birth to about two years of age. In this stage, infants are using physical motoric actions along with their sensory experiences, such as seeing and hearing, in order to familiarize themselves with the world around them. The second Piagetian stage is the preoperational stage. This stage occurs between two and seven years of age. Children in this stage are just beginning to understand the world in terms of words, images, and drawings. Children are beginning to associate and connect sensory information with physical actions and words. The third stage described in Piaget’s theory is the concrete operational stage. This stage takes place in children between 7 to 11 years of age. Children in this stage are able to perform operations that involve objects. They are also able to think logically and apply their reasoning to different concrete examples. The fourth and final stage in Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory is the formal operational stage. This stage takes place at 11 years old and continues through adulthood. In this stage individuals are able to think in abstract terms. Individuals in this stage think in terms of ideal circumstances as well as various possibilities for their futures. Individuals in this stage become systematic and develop methods of problem solving such as creating a hypothesis.

Piaget's Theory in the Classroom

Although each individual experiences each of these stages at a different time in their life, I believe middle school educators are most likely to encounter students in Piaget’s final stage, the formal operational stage. In order to implement this theory into a middle school classroom teachers must require students to participate in group discussions. One novel that would prove be very effective in this particular activity is The Giver. This novel describes a futuristic society unlike anything currently in existence. After reading several chapters into the book the teacher would lead a group discussion based on the reading. This discussion would discuss the book’s plot as well as students’ personal opinions. Teachers should ask students what they thought of the rules and way of life described in the novel. They would answer questions such as, “What do you think is the reasoning behind their system? Why do you think they have eliminated things such as color, emotion, and choice? What would you change? What is your idea of a fair utopian society? What do you think are the downfalls of this society structure?” This activity would allow students to think in abstract terms. It will require the students to develop hypotheses about the cause and effects of such a society. It would also require them to imagine their own ideal society. Thinking abstractly, hypothesizing, and considering the future are all components of the formal operational stage.

Vygotsky's Constructivist Approach

The constructivist approach focuses on the idea that the learner should be actively seeking out new information rather than listening to teachers simply give it to them. This theory emphasizes the idea that students learn best with guidance from the teacher as well as collaboration with classmates. One of Vygotsky’s main principles is the zone of proximal development, or ZPD. The ZPD consists of various tasks and skills that are too difficult for an individual to master on their own at a specific time. However, with the assistance of an adult or a skilled peer, the individual may master a specific task. This assistance is often referred to as “scaffolding”. There are two limits within the ZPD. The lower limit refers to the level of problem solving an individual may achieve while working on a task without aid. Whereas the upper limit refers to the level of achievement an individual can accept with guidance or assistance from a more-skilled adult or peer. It is important that those providing the “scaffolding” limit the amount of assistance they contribute to the learner. Vygotsky stresses that those providing assistance merely serve as a guide or facilitator, but not a director. This theory warns that if too much assistance is given to a youth they may become too dependent on their help.

Vygotsky's Constructivist Approach in the Classroom

In order to incorporate Vygotsky’s theory of the Constructivist Approach, middle school educators should plan to incorporate many different activities that allow for collaboration amongst peers. Teachers should assign partners for many assignments, which will allow students to assist one another. In an English and Language Arts classroom there is a great focus on writing and composition. One activity a teachers could use frequently in his or her class is peer editing. Allowing students to read one another’s work provides them with the opportunity to share their information and learn from others. Rather than letting the students choose who will peer edit their papers, instructors must assign partners according to students’ academic achievement. Students with high marks in grammar and spelling will provide great support to those who may fall short in these areas. These students will be the “scaffolding” for those struggling with the subject material. The more-skilled students will be able to guide their counterparts through the editing stage. In addition, the students with a firm grasp on the material will require less attention during the editing stage. This practice will prove beneficial to both individuals because they will learn how to collaborate with one another and will stimulate learning through social interaction.

Gardener's Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Gardener proposed that students learn in many different ways. He stated that there are eight different “frames of mind” in which students may be exceptionally intelligent or gifted. Gardner states that individuals learn best when they apply their strongest form of intelligence. The first form of intelligence is verbal intelligence. Those who posses this type of intelligence are gifted in regards to communication. These individuals can use language effectively to express meaning as well as think in words. Those with a mathematical intelligence have the capability of understanding and performing various mathematical operations. Spatial intelligence refers to individuals who are able to think three-dimensionally. They are able to plan different structures and arrangements in their minds. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is the ability to manipulate objects and be physically in-tune with oneself. Individuals who posses this type of intelligence are very self-aware and coordinated. An individual who posses a musical intelligence is generally sensitive to pitch, melody, rhythm, and tone. Those with an interpersonal intelligence are able to interact effectively with others. They posses the ability to understand and relate with different types of people. Intrapersonal intelligence refers to an individual who posses a great understanding of oneself. Finally, an individual with a naturalist intelligence is someone who is ale to recognize and understand various patterns and processes that occur in nature. This theory is important to understand because it manifests the idea that not all students learn in the same way. Gardener states that everyone has all of these intelligences, but to varying degrees. Gardener argues that his is why individuals process information in different ways.

Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom

One main goal of the teacher should be to accommodate students of all different intelligences. Middle school Language arts classrooms study several different novels and plays. Middle school Language arts teachers should require their students to do a group presentation on a novel or play studied in class. Within the group there should be several different jobs that each student will choose to sign-up for according to what they feel best suits their own intelligence. Not all jobs will need to be utilized, however only one person per group can have each job. The jobs could include the Scribe who writes the written report (verbal intelligence), the speaker who presents the material to the class (interpersonal intelligence), the designer who creates the visual aid for the presentation (spatial intelligence), the actor(s) who choose to reproduce a scene from the story (bodily-kinesthetic intelligence), and the interpreter who explains a specific theme or idea from the literature and relates it to a current issue or event (intrapersonal intelligence).

Adolescent Egocentrism

Adolescent Egocentrism is the idea that adolescents believe their life is unique and interesting to everyone around them. They experience a time of increased self-consciousness and feel as though no one can quite understand them or what they are experiencing. One aspect of adolescent egocentrism is the imaginary audience. This refers to the idea that adolescents feel as if they need to be noticed or get some type of attention. They feel as if their lives are onstage and that everyone around them is aware of their personal lives. Adolescents may indulge in attention-getting behaviors in an attempt to be noticed by their peers. Another aspect of adolescent egocentrism is the personal fable. This aspect of adolescent egocentrism refers to the adolescent’s belief that they are unique and invulnerable. This is an important concept to know because it is directly related to risky behavior. It has been determined by developmentalists that egocentrism creates a sense of uniqueness and invincibility that may be blamed for some of the seemingly reckless behavior of adolescents. These behaviors include many dangerous and irresponsible activities such as drag racing, drug use, failure to use contraceptives during intercourse, and suicide (Dolcini & other, 1989). It is necessary for teachers to recognize this in order to provide adolescents with an adequate amount of guidance and attention. In theory this could keep adolescents from seeking attention through risky behaviors such as these.

Adolescent Egocentrism in the Classroom

An important skill for middle school students to adopt is that of reflective writing. In order to appeal to adolescent egocentrism, a middle school Language arts teacher could begin class once a week with a journal reflection. They may ask students to respond to a different prompt each week that always focuses on a different aspect of their lives and how they feel. The goal in this activity would be to make the adolescent feel as if they are being given the chance to express their feelings of uniqueness as well as give them the opportunity to receive personal attention. This will appeal to adolescents experiencing egocentrism because they often feel as if no one is able to understand them. They are desperate for attention, willing to partake in dangerous and risky activities just to be noticed. By providing students with an opportunity to express how they feel, they will be able to communicate their sense of uniqueness while receiving the satisfaction of knowing that by reading their journal entries someone has listened to what they had to say. Students experiencing adolescent egocentrism believe the story of their life is unique and worth sharing.

Attention Types

In order for adolescents to understand and take in new information they must pay close attention on the information being presented. Adolescents are able to allocate their attention in four different ways, two of which are divided attention and sustained attention. Divided attention is the second level of mental effort. Divided attention is when an individual concentrates on more than one activity at a time. Sustained attention however requires a bit more effort than divided attention. This type of attention occurs when an individual is able to focus on one thing for a prolonged period of time without interruption. With regards to adolescents, neither of these attention practices is particularly easy. In today’s society multitasking has become much more prevalent. With the availability of electronic media, many people engage in several activities at once. Although this may seem like a good practice of divided attention, that is not always the case. Oftentimes multitasking has the ability to greatly reduce the attention to the main task at hand. Therefore it is imperative that adolescents begin to cultivate and strengthen this ability, as it will be utilized often. Sustained attention is also essential for adolescents to conquer. As adolescents begin to engage in more difficult and complex tasks, they will be required to work during longer time frames. Practicing this skill would help adolescents complete difficult assignments and tasks in the future.

Attention Types in the Classroom

Students in the sixth grade are expected to be able to recognize various aspects of literature. In a language arts classroom instructors may show films of famous works of literature (such as a Shakespearean play). Before playing the film in class teachers may present their students with a worksheet that asks them to identify different devices within the play (eg. Stock character, antagonist, protagonist, climax, denouement…etc.). Students should be expected to complete the worksheet as they are watching the film. This activity will require students to use selective attention, as they will have to select the relevant parts of the movie to which to attend. Another activity English teachers may choose to incorporate into their classroom is to read lengthy passages or poems to their students. While reading the passage instructors may ask all of the students to pay close attention to the details and message of the passage. When finished reading the teacher would ask the students to respond to the reading by summarizing what they heard and explaining what it meant to them. In this activity students will be practicing their ability to maintain sustained attention. They will need to be able to follow along with reading in order to respond accurately.

Parental Involvement

In elementary school parents are typically fairly involved in their child’s education. However, as adolescents move into middle school that involvement greatly decreases. According to the National Center for Education Statistics an analysis of 16,000 students showed that youth whose parents were highly involved in their educational process were less likely to repeat a grade or get expelled and were more likely to receive A’s (National Center for Education Statistics, 1997). Joyce Epstein, a researcher in the field, has offered several recommendations that she believes will increase parental involvement in adolescents’ schooling. One recommendation she made states that schools have an obligation to communicate with families about school programs and the individual progress of their adolescents. This recommendation focuses on the idea that schools should foster closer and more personal relationships with parents. It is the school’s duty to keep parents informed and up to date on what is happening in their students’ classrooms. Another Recommendation Epstein makes is that the parent involvement level at schools must be increased. This recommendation proposes that parents take on leadership positions in the classroom such as tutoring or chaperoning during different events. Both of these suggestions have the ability to positively affect adolescent’s performance in school. When parents are involved, their youth tend to excel in the classroom.

Parental Involvement in the Classroom

In order to engage parents more in the middle school classroom, an effective teacher may plan to send a weekly agenda home with his or her students. This agenda could outline the various topics being discussed in class as well as the homework assigned for the week. This could help parents become more familiar with what their youth are learning in class and hopefully allow them to be more supportive. Another activity teachers may do in order to increase parental involvement in the classroom is to host a “Coffee House” each semester. This will be a day in which students read aloud or present any of their works throughout the year. Teachers should encourage parents to attend this event. This would allow the parents and teachers to become more familiar with one another. It will also show the students that their parents support their school activities.

Erikson's Theory of Development

Erik Erikson theorized that people develop in psychosocial stages throughout their lives. According to Erik Erikson, there are eight different stages. The first stage occurs during an individuals first year of infancy and is called Trust Versus Mistrust. This stage sets the standard at infancy for a lifelong expectation that the world is a pleasant place to live in. The next stage is called Autonomy versus shame and doubt. This stage occurs from late infancy to toddlerhood. After gaining trust in the first stage, infants begin to discover that they are able to control their behavior and that they are subject to independence. Initiative versus guilt is Erikson’s third stage of development and occurs during the preschool years. Children in this stage being to experience new challenges in which they must act in a responsible and purposeful manner. As a result, children who act in irresponsible manners may experience guilt or anxiety. During the elementary school years children often undergo the fourth stage of development called industry versus inferiority. In this stage individuals begin to focus their energy toward mastering knowledge and intellectual skills. Identity versus identity confusion occurs during adolescence. During this time, adolescents begin to ask themselves questions such as “Who am I?” “What am I all about?” and “What am I going to do with my life?” If adolescents are able o explore these roles in a healthy manner they may achieve a positive identity. The sixth stage in Erikson’s theory is intimacy versus isolation. This stage occurs during the early adulthood years. This is a time in which individuals begin to develop intimate relationships. This stage is very dependent on the formation of healthy friendships. Generativity versus stagnation is the seventh stage and takes place during middle adulthood. In this stage individuals who are considered to have generativity often have a concern for helping the younger generation develop and lead useful lives. Stagnation is considered the feeling of having done nothing to help the younger generation. The final stage in Erikson’s theory is Integrity versus despair. Individuals experience this stage during late adulthood. During this stage individuals reflect and look back on their lives to determine whether or not they are satisfied.

Erikson's Theory of Development in the Classroom

In a middle school language arts classroom most teachers will be dealing with students in Erikson’s fifth stage, identity versus identity confusion. In order to help adolescents discover their own identity and purpose in life teachers may choose to assign a career exploration research paper. This paper will require students to research a career they are interested in. Students may be asked to job shadow or interview a person in the field they are interested in in order to gain a better understanding of that career. This would help adolescents gain a better understanding of their own identity and help them discover what they want to do in life. They will be required to conduct research, in which they reference their sources used in the paper. Students will also be required to write a reflection component, stating why they believe they would be suited for this type of career. This paper would allow students to conduct research and compile their findings as well as personal opinions into one document.

Improving Social Skills

Social cognition is a term that refers to thoughts about social matters. Adolescents in middle school are still learning how to develop proper social skills. In a study conducted on 14- and 15-year-olds, it was determined that social intelligence and cognition was linked to peer popularity; however, academic achievement was not (Meijs & Others). This is especially important because adolescents are still learning how to interact with one another. Middle schools are designed in such a way that students are able to interact with one another on a daily basis. Students who have difficulty interacting with others due to a social or mental issue may not be received well by his or her peers. In many cases students who are anxious, socially withdrawn, or have difficulty making friends are targets for bullying (Hanish & Guerra, 2004). In addition, many students with learning disorders have a difficulty time feeling like they fit in with the rest of the class. In order to help coach adolescents through this time, teachers must help them by modeling, discussing, and reasoning with students about various social issues and topics. It is necessary for teachers to help students understand that even if someone is different, they are still of equal value. No students, especially those struggling with disabilities, should feel excluded from the classroom.

Improving Social Skills in the Classroom

Middle school students spend a great deal interacting with one another in the classroom. In order to help students learn more about different social situations teachers may choose to present their students with novels that discuss these issues. Such novels include: Of Mice and Men, Freak the Mighty, Gimp, Icy Sparks, and The Glass Castle. All of these novels reveal specific issues, mental disabilities, or social situations that students may not be entirely familiar with. Instructors may choose to discuss these issues with their students in order to help them gain an understanding of various social issues. This would be beneficial in the classroom because it would provide students with the opportunity to become more familiar with the struggles experienced by some of their peers or other people they encounter in their lives. The hope is that in learning more about these topics students will be more socially aware of how to treat one another. This would create a positive and happy environment in which all students feel welcomed. Reading and analyzing these novels will also give students a chance to apply what they learn to their daily lives.

Classroom Management Strategies

There are three major types of classroom management strategies. The first type is the authoritarian strategy. This strategy focusing on keeping order in the classroom. In this type of classroom there are strict limits and there is very little verbal exchange amongst students. The strategy has been considered unsuccessful. Students in this type of environment are generally passive learners who fail to initiate activities and have poor communication skills. Another unsuccessful classroom management strategy is the permissive strategy. A permissive classroom allows students more freedom. There is very little support found amongst these types of classrooms. Generally students from permissive classrooms have inadequate academic skills as well as low self-control. The third and final classroom management strategy is the authoritative strategy. This strategy has been proven to be the most effective in classroom management. Teachers who use an authoritative strategy of classroom management allow students a considerable amount of independence when it comes to thinking and performing in the classroom. However, they do tend to monitor their students much more. Teachers also engage students in a great deal of verbal communication and provide plenty of feedback. Even with all of this freedom, authoritative teachers still maintain rules and boundaries within their classrooms. Students who come from a classroom that utilizes an authoritative strategy tend to get along well with peers as well as display a high sense of self-esteem.

Classroom Management Strategies Put into Action

As an educator, using an authoritative strategy of classroom management would be the best option. This classroom style would allow students to communicate and express ideas while still having boundaries and maintaining order. An English/Language Arts teacher could utilize this strategy by allowing students to participate in Socratic seminars. A Socratic Seminar is an activity in which a group of students discuss a similar issue or topic. After requiring students to read a specific novel in class, a Socratic seminar could be used to identify what the students understood or didn’t understand from the reading. The teacher should allow the students to talk after one another, in no particular order. The conversation should continue to move from one student to the next. However teachers should step in and guide the group in case the class seems to deviate from the topic. This activity would provide students with the perfect opportunity to express themselves and dictate what they choose to discuss from the reading. Substandard 5.5: knowledge of various classroom management approaches, including relationships between specific management practices and student learning, attitudes, and behaviors, and the ability to use this knowledge to create an organized and productive learning environment that maximizes students' time on task; facilitates learning; and encourages student self-regulation, responsibility, and accountability


The role of the teacher is one of the most demanding jobs in the market today. Teachers are required to fully understand their subject material, adolescent development, various aspects of technology, and cultural and social issues. In order to ensure that a teacher is qualified and able to meet all of these requirements, a set of guidelines must be in place. I believe this is where the developmental standards and sub-standards come into place. Teachers should be familiar with students of all different abilities, backgrounds, and needs. In addition, they must be able to understand how to best accommodate all of their students, no matter their differences. Teachers who are familiar with the development of adolescents are able to determine why a students behaves in a particular way and is able to determine how to best meet the needs of that student.


I feel that I have a good understanding of the many theories and concepts associated with adolescent development. However, although I have studied many of these concepts, there are a few that I have not experienced firsthand. As a result, I would consider these to be my weaknesses in this field. Two concepts that I am not particular familiar with are working with students of different cultures, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses, and working with troubled individuals. I have spent the majority of my educational career in private Catholics schools. As a result, I have had very little exposure to anyone of another race, religion, or socioeconomic status. In order to familiarize myself with people of different backgrounds, I hope to interact more with public schools. This summer I plan to tutor students. I have already sent contact information to public schools in my area in hopes to work with students who are more culturally diverse than those from my previous classes. I also hope to do more volunteer work next year. A program at Ball State I have developed a sincere interest in is the College Mentor’s For Kids. This is an after-school tutoring program that pairs underprivileged youth with Ball State students. Both of these opportunities would allow me to work with students of different backgrounds. Another area I consider myself to be weak in is that of understanding and relating to troubled youth. As I mentioned previously, I attended a private school in which there was very little diversity. I have had no experience with adolescents struggling with issues such as drugs, pregnancy, abuse, financial instability, etc. All of these issues are things that many students face in today’s society. In order to be an effective teacher, I must be able to communicate with students struggling with these and other social issues. In order to be more confident and comfortable working with students struggling with these issues, I hope to take a class focused on sociology or psychology to learn more about these types of issues. One class I would be interested in taking here at Ball State is sociology 242. This class focuses on various social problems within American society. By working on these weaknesses, I hope to become a more well-rounded and effective educator in the future.