Adolescence: The Middle School Learner

I am writing my dissertation about middle school learners and the need for middle schools to address both the academic and social and emotional needs of adolescents. For this section of my literature review, I need to develop the picture of the middle school learner. I want this section to include: 1. An introduction discussing adolescence in general (this can include the history, etc) 2. Biological Changes of middle school learners (This could include a focus on developmental theories…Piaget, etc. ) 3. Cognitive Development of adolescents 4. Emotional development Here is the background information I have thus far to show you where I am headed: Background of the Problem: The transition to middle school is one of the most challenging shifts that students encounter in K-12 education. This transition not only involves the physical change to a new campus, but also increased class sizes, new instructional models, more stringent grading policies, and increased student expectations (Kingery, Erdley, Marshall, 2011). Along with the physical change to a new building, students are also encountering the day to day struggles of being an adolescent. This struggle involves the changes and challenges of puberty (Cox, Cole, & Laurson, 2016), acceptance of new peers (Kingery, Erdley, & Marshall, 2011), and decreased parental involvement (Wang, La Selle, Wu, do, & Sullivan, 2019). Eccles’ (1993) development of the Stage Environment Fit Theory explains how differences in the environmental changes and developmental needs of adolescents contribute to negative changes in adolescent behavior during this transitional period. Studies have shown that this difference also contributes to the decline in academic achievement, self-esteem, interest in school, and level of motivation (Alspaugh, 1998; Fenzel, 2000; McDougall & Hymel, 1998).  In order to assist students in having a smooth transition into the middle school setting, schools are faced with the challenge of creating practical ways to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of adolescents. However, with the demands of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), math teachers find themselves forced to give priority to academics over social emotional learning. As these demands of testing continue to inform math instruction, math teachers may find themselves unable to meet the social emotional needs of these unique students. This in turn may contribute to the underperformance of students in critical areas of mathematics. Zins, Weissberg, Wang, & Walburg (2004) noted that Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) fosters better academic performance and is linked to improved school attitudes and behavior. In order to address this issue, schools should develop programs that enable teachers to create a learning environment that addresses the academic demands of state and district policies, as well as, the demanding social and emotional needs of adolescents during this critical time in their educational achievement and emotional growth.

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