Chapter 8

Educating Adolescents

Structuring the Learning Environment: School districts and teachers face choices as to how to structure classroom learning. The two broad choices include direct instruction, where teachers work with the class as a whole, and the more flexible differentiated instruction, where students work in groups that more closely match their abilities and learning styles.
Key Terms: secondary education, direct instruction, differentiated instruction, learning styles

Preparing for High School: Middle School or Junior High: Even though junior high schools and middle schools are designed to meet the needs of early adolescents, students’ grades tend to drop when they leave elementary school. Difficulties may reflect more impersonal classroom environments and teachers involving students less in classroom decision making, compounded by the onset of puberty and its attendant changes.
Key Terms: middle school, junior high school

What Makes Schools Effective?

Skilled Teachers: Effective schools have skilled teachers who have high expectations for all students, monitor their progress, and make effective use of feedback in guiding students’ activities.

Smaller Schools and Smaller Communities for Learning: Smaller schools can overcome differences related to social class and academic background better than large schools; students have more positive interactions, fewer discipline problems, and less absenteeism. But even for large schools, it is possible to create internal smaller communities for learning that can be responsive to students’ needs.

School Climate: Effective schools have a supportive school climate that promotes achievement through the way they integrate resources into instruction and emphasize diverse types of achievements.

Full-Service Schools: Effective schools are full-service schools that collaborate with community agencies to provide a variety of health and social services for students and their families.
Key Terms: full-service schools

Parental Involvement: Adolescents whose parents are involved in their schools have more positive attitudes toward school, higher achievement scores, and higher educational aspirations. Parental involvement can include volunteering in the classroom or cafeteria, sitting down with teachers and administrators to discuss educational issues, and participating in parent-teacher organizations.

School Safety

A number of factors are likely to contribute to the presence of violence at school: societal attitudes toward violence, domestic violence, media modeling, poverty and discrimination, and the accessibility of guns.

Bullies and Victims: Many students do not feel safe at school because they are victims of bullying. Adolescents in middle school are more likely to be bullied than those in high school. Intervention programs that involve parents, teachers, and staff, as well as students, have been found to be effective in reducing bullying.
Key Terms: bullying

Teaching Peace: Schools can promote peace through cooperative learning, through training in conflict resolution and constructive controversy, and by establishing conflict resolution centers.
Key Terms: cooperative learning, conflict resolution training, constructive controversy

Education for All

Gender in the Classroom: Though large advances have been made in reducing stereotyping, some gender-role stereotyping still exists in teaching materials. In textbooks, males appear in more diverse occupations and more exciting roles, and the use of male generic language is still prevalent. As a result, students and their teachers’ evaluations of the competence of individuals of either sex for different types of work are skewed.
Key Terms: male generic language

Multicultural Education: Jigsaw classrooms, where students work in small groups, each contributing a different part of the lesson, foster cooperation and promote better relations among students from different ethnic backgrounds. Presenting material from several cultural perspectives is also helpful to minority students who may not share the dominant culture perspective. While most intervention programs have focused on problems minority students may experience at the level of the microsystem (that is, in the home and the classroom), problems of poorer achievement and higher dropout rates may have to be addressed at the level of the macrosystem (that is, in the society). The assurance of equal opportunity for jobs may be the most effective form of intervention.
Key Terms: jigsaw classroom

Academic Achievement

Socioeconomic Status: Students from low-income families score lower on achievement tests, get lower grades, and are less likely to finish high school. Home conditions are less conducive to studying, with fewer resources; high rates of unemployment offer less incentive for completing school; and teachers are less likely to be experienced or trained in the subjects they teach. Existing public programs, such as early childhood intervention programs, have been found to be effective in countering the effects of economic adversity on academic achievement.

Addressing Diversity: Academic tracking is a common solution to diverse interests and abilities among students, but tracking may also contribute to differences in achievement and dropout rates among those assigned to college and non-college tracks. Alternatives to tracking include forming small cooperative learning groups in the classroom and involving parents in the educational process. Work-study programs and computer-assisted instruction offer additional alternatives.
Key Terms: academic tracking, parental involvement, work experience

Academic Success: Mastery of basic skills by adolescents in the U.S. has changed little over the last several generations, with the exception of African American and Hispanic adolescents, whose performance has improved significantly. U.S. students place somewhat below students in other industrialized countries in mathematics and science. Spending time with friends, participating in sports, and working are also higher priorities than school for many U.S. adolescents. Not all students believe that doing well in high school is related to their future success. Consequently, they may be motivated more by the fear of failing than by the desire to learn. Academic achievement is strongly correlated with authoritative parenting in terms of involvement, communication, and expectations.

The Power of Positive Thinking: Patterns of Achievement: Adolescents can be distinguished in terms of achievement motivation patterns. Task-oriented adolescents are less likely to be disrupted by initial failure, believing it to result from lack of sufficient effort, while performance-oriented adolescents are likely to withdraw in the face of failure and attribute it to an external cause.
Key Terms: task-mastery orientation, performance-ability orientation, self-handicapping strategies, stereotype threat

Gender Differences and Achievement: Gender differences reveal more adaptive motivational patterns for males. Gender-role stereotypes contribute to the less positive attitudes that affect females’ motivation. These differences often do not appear until adolescents enter junior high and encounter work that is challenging enough to prompt defensive withdrawal.

Adolescents at the Edge

Gifted Adolescents: Adolescents who score 130 or above on an intelligence test or who have creative, artistic, leadership, or other special talents are defined as gifted and talented. Educational programs for the gifted either offer enrichment or acceleration.
Key Terms: gifted, enrichment, acceleration

Adolescents with Learning Disabilities: Adolescents with learning disabilities have difficulty in academic tasks that presumably can be traced to a neurological dysfunction. Learning-disabled high school students can fall two or more grade levels behind classmates in some subject areas and generally have poor study habits and test-taking skills. Social skills are also affected for many. Many learning-disabled students are mainstreamed in regular classes with their classmates, while others may be placed in special education classes with specially trained teachers. Each of these options presents advantages and disadvantages.
Key Terms: learning disability, mainstreaming, special education consultant, special education classes

Dropping Out: Dropout rates are related to low socioeconomic status and ethnicity, as well as parents’ or siblings’ failure to complete high school and family stress. School variables that predict dropping out are a history of difficulty or failure, low self-esteem, assignment to a non-college track, and behavior problems. Early childhood intervention programs improve academic performance in grade school and increase the likelihood of completing high school. Effective programs involve parents, provide individualized counseling, and help students meet their financial as well as academic needs.
Key Terms: computer-assisted instruction

Measuring Success

Broad social policy changes are needed to ensure that all students receive a good education, as nearly a third of U.S. adolescents fail to graduate high school with a diploma. Percentages are even higher for low-income and minority students.

Testing and Public Policy: Standards-based education reform is designed to strengthen academic achievement for all children by holding schools accountable for making progress toward meeting proficiency levels and giving parents the option of placing their children in better schools. Critics argue that federal funding primarily supports assessment, with little for program improvement. Solutions will need to address high rates of unemployment and improve the quality of schools serving low-income inner-city youth.