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Importance of Educational Reform in Middle Years Schooling

Discuss about the Organizing Schools To Improve Student Achievement.

Middle years schooling requires educational reforms as it is the primary level where tremendous academic advancements take place based education learning can be established for young adolescents (Hess, 2015).  Pendergast, Main and Bahr (2017) highlight the need for schools to reform their curriculum, pedagogy and assessment for addressing student alienation and disengagement. There has been a recent focus in the Australian education system on the adolescent years of schooling, as this age group benefits from programs designed for meeting young people’s needs (Jacob & Rockoff, 2012). This current essay evaluates philosophy, principles and issues related to middle years schooling with focus on behavioral and emotional challenges that are faced by students. Arguments for the need for educational reform focus on three perspectives of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. All reforms need to be developed and implemented by teachers, parents along with school to transform student’s boring syndrome.

Adolescence is a critical phase of a child’s life that needs to be dealt with utmost possible care. It is at this phase that a child goes through significant emotional and behavioral changes (Bowe, Ball & Gold, 2017). While a child faces a tremendous amount of changes in hormones that makes it difficult to deal with situations, middle years schooling imposes a greater number of changes. Middle school requires tremendous amounts of adjustment for children as it is a huge shift from primary school. Children at middle school years face something such as incredibly boring syndrome, where lack of interest creates multiple types of behavioral triggers. Some of student’s negative behaviours can be identified with percentage of students as given below.

Behaviour Groups

% of students

Productive

60

Disengaged

20

Uncooperative

12

Low-level disruptive

8


Changes as keeping a child’s personal belongings within lockers increase in travel time and adjusting within a social level where there is present older aggressive children might impose difficulties. Children are anxious to enter into middle school as they are fearful as well as being excited about going to middle school (Jennings, 2012). Threat from entering into a domain that is unfamiliar can result in anxiety which often parents help deal with. During adolescence, when a child is transitioning from primary school into secondary school levels there is a learning focused on social system and self-management skills. As at this period a child starts to separate from adolescence stage and getting into adult life, the transformation leads into destabilization. It has been seen that parents as well as teachers contribute equivalently towards triggering behaviours amongst students. Below is a detailed list of student behaviour as reported by teachers.

Behavioral and Emotional Challenges Faced by Students in Middle Years Schooling

A child generally starts to separate from childhood and they starts to pull or push away from adult authorities for living according to their independent terms. Often in middle school teachers as well as parents of children have been noticed to complain regarding disobedience, arguments and contending. Children at this stage experiences more behavioral and emotional changes that becomes difficult to deal with (Wilson & Corbett, 2014). At school similar attitudinal trouble is faced that requires reforming of current levels in education such that children are able to cope up with it. School education can focus on changing their curriculum, pedagogy and assessment styles to allow children at this stage to cope up with new standards of education at secondary school levels. All reforms need to be included in order to address student’s disengagement and alienation, which arises due to adolescent setting in.

Figure 1: Survey

Behaviour challenges are the major incompatibility that is faced by children in their secondary school levels. Firstly, in order to address behavioral change towards education a proactive reform need to be incorporated. Entering into adolescent stage in life brings around multiple stringent demands that need to be bringing social adjustments and self-management. Students with transiting pressures are made to live within demanding and complicated educational systems. However due to more number of adjustments in adolescent determination towards independence act makes adjustments more difficult to accommodate. Behavioral challenges increases association with disciplinary discrepancies due to puberty setting in during middle school. Common discrepancies arises when young womanhood and manhood sets in (Pendergast & Bahr, 2017). Some of the factors which determine student’s behaviour in school have been grouped into following categories as external influences, school influences and classroom influences.


Curriculum in secondary middle school possesses greater pressures with a number of assessments and changes in syllabus. Children at this age are more prone to resistant to learning. They are not easily convinced to be present in classes or attend particular sessions that can help them overcome their difficulties faced. Rather they want to emerge as independent individuals. This process often leads to their failure in securing passing grades. Therefore, the curriculum has to be designed in manner that allows students to cope up with pressures. Increasing diversity and inclusion of a large domain of subjects within secondary schools has to be studied. A gradual inclusion of subjects would allow set by step learning to take place. Reforming of curriculum will allow students to gradually cope with varying pressures at school. They will be more at ease to deal with constant rising pressures at the middle school levels. Meaning appropriately designing and reframing of the curriculum will help students stay more committed to studying and be less disinterested. Interests in studies will emerge only if it does not impose on them or they are able to act freely under its pressures. Often varying subjects confuse mind of children entering into middle school that makes them to not pursue studies for longer period of time. Some children often lose interests in studies due to the way a curriculum is presented to them. Girls and boys student disengagement levels at varied age group during middle school years can be seen below.

The Three Perspectives of Educational Reform: Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Assessment

Figure 2: Girls v/s Boys Engagement Levels in Middle School Years

Behaviour challenges arise in case teacher in class of the pupil is not able to represent the subjects in an appropriate manner. While teachers are constantly exposed to a wide variety of methodologies in order to enhance student’s learning along with instructional strategies with using various medium (McLaren, 2015). Teachers need to focus on five areas of psychological functioning: motivation, cognition and learning, context and learning, social and emotional dimensions and assessment (Pendergast & Bahr, 2005). Educational reforms focused on these aspects will help students develop skills to them learn more effectively through all of their classes. The 4S framework in school setting need to focus on varied factors which will allow developing engagement levels with students.

Educational standards currently include a sizable proportion of these concepts however greater education reforms are needed to include these variables for student’s educational growth. Developing curriculum, pedagogy and assessments that can successful address student’s alienation and disengagement can allow establishing academically rigorous educational learning contexts for young adolescents. Curriculum and pedagogical support need to implement learners towards growth mindset as such student’s effort level is more likely to remain focused on goals. Reforming education at middle school levels through dynamical changing of pedagogy, assessment and curriculum will help student learn more effectively. It is at this stage that a child can be transformed into a learning adult as at this stage they are more vulnerable and can easily be imprinted upon (Prosser, 2008). Students can be told regarding their growth against fixed mindsets as it will allow students to understand ways that their beliefs regarding intelligence can influence their academic success. Curriculum need to be linked with prior knowledge as it can impact conceptual growth with conceptual change in students. Management of classroom environment can contribute positively towards student’s behavioral change. Schools along with their teachers need to develop a conducive ambience which can help increase student’s engagement levels.


Conceptual growth in adolescent students would help adding to their existing knowledge. Moreover conceptual change would allow them to correct misconceptions or errors in existing knowledge. Prior knowledge would allow incorporating background knowledge and then drawing subsequent connections between units during the course. This development of prior knowledge will help students grow and retain their interests in future studies. Effective learning in students will help them encode learned materials into long-term memory, which will help them during their college and University life also. Formative assessment need to be designed such that it can be conducted through practice problems, sample tests and activities. Reforming assessments will help build student’s confidence that are already facing challenge and also allow increasing knowledge and skills. Through such assessments teachers can help student’s increase their long-term retrieval ability (McInerney, Smyth & Down, 2011). Moreover assessments need to be open-ended questions that needs require applying new knowledge gained to new situations or contexts along with retrieval of existing knowledge.

Developing Self-Regulatory Skills in Students

Adolescent children being confused and independent try to develop self-regulatory skills. Self-regulation skills such as organization, attention, planning, and self-control and memory strategies are bound to enhance learning and engagement, thereby significantly reducing   disengagement and alienation. Teachers can assist students by providing learning targets at the start and conclusion of each session. Usage of rubrics and questioning, summarizing and practice will allow students to apply various skills learned and also to grow their interests. Assessments currently now meant at assessing students are stressful and have become a sensitive issue for students affecting their mental well-being. Teacher’s and curriculum have responsibility to address students well-being through designing of curriculum aimed at enhancing student’s effective learning and not demotivate them.

Figure 3: Engagement Levels at Various Age Groups

Aim of reforms in education especially at middle school years need to be focused on increasing intrinsic motivation by means of classroom practices and activities that provides students a feel of independence (Ladd, 2011). There is also present extrinsic motivation in education where students can be helped to examine their personal motivations and ways such can influence their success. Through reforming education students can be helped attain a new skills or increasing existing ability. Designing curriculum effectively can allow children develop performance goals that can depict their adequate ability. Reforming education is needed through assessments as when students are seen set performance goals; they have been seen to avoid tasks which might expose their weaknesses. Therefore often it has been seen that children at middle school levels end up missing opportunities that would otherwise lead to development of new skills. Motivating students into learning new skills will allow learning new skills for attaining higher levels of competence. Teacher’s role and believe regarding students affect children’s motivation opportunities to learn and their learning outcomes. Psychological experts asserts that teachers communicating ways delivers high expectations for adolescent children by avoiding creation of negative self-fulfilling prophecies. Reforms in currently existing middle school education systems can help a student establish a social identity. Appropriate motivation and effective learning environment provides teachers to accommodate importance of relationships, community, culture and well-being on learning (Shapley et al, 2011). Through such endeavors emotional tantrums and challenges in adolescent children can be attained.  Teachers will also be able to foster healthy relationships with children with building an interest in their lives beyond the classroom. Apart from classroom, curriculum, pedagogical and assessment reforms, teachers need to look at the various communities students belong to such as families, peer groups, schools, neighborhoods. Teacher along with education heads present at institutions need to focus on culture of children such as shared language, beliefs, values and behavioral norms that can have influence on learning. This concept from social psychology connects suggestions for including culture into every aspect for increasing pupil’s engagement along with building stronger relationships. This will allow enhancing students as well as teacher’s well-being along with that of student’s and help addressing specific challenges faced by students during adolescent life years (Solis et al, 2012).

Importance of a Conducive Classroom Environment

Proponents of the current middle school systems suggests that the current system helps develop better framework to allow those students who have deeper understanding and interests in education. Advocates of this theory totally rejects any possible opportunities that might arise from reforming existing system, rather they are in favor of the current system. There are many arguments favoring this theory that leads to the understanding that curriculum and pedagogy is framed in a manner that would allow easy transition from primary into middle school levels (Prosser, Lucas & Reid, 2010). Only few students cannot cope up with additional pressures however majority of them are expected to cope with such pressures as designing of the curriculum is made in such a manner. Though there are certain behaviour and emotional challenge faced at this age but all steps must be taken to ensure that children are able to go through them to prepare them in a better manner for their future college level education. It is believed by supporters against the argument that the current framework provides a better building block for future college education to take place. Therefore, according to my views a more balanced approach needs to be taken that can provide a student framework to learn and develop oneself.

Conclusion

Analysing above perspective of transition that middle school adolescence children go through, there are a number of reforms that are required. Such reforms are primarily aimed at overcoming all challenges that are currently faced by children at this level. Though there are certain researchers and personnel present at the head of curriculum that are against accommodating any sort of reforms that would change the entire system present. However, analysing deeper challenges faced by students at middle school levels such as inability to cope with pressures, or failure to concentrate or develop interests will lead to changes to be accommodated towards effective learning of students. Analysis of high dropout rates in middle school levels, students disengage rates and lower rates of college admissions leads to the numerous problems that children might have been presented during their middle school years. While enrolment from primary levels of education to middle level is high, the rates drops to considerably lower amounts due to the several challenging factors present. Only methodical reforms by means of changing existing curriculum, pedagogy and assessment can effective learning and motivation are brought about in children. This will increase rates of admissions into college levels transiting successfully from middle school years.

Reference:

Bowe, R., Ball, S.J. and Gold, A., 2017. Reforming education and changing schools: Case studies in policy sociology (Vol. 10). Routledge.

Hess, F.M., 2015. Common sense school reform. St. Martin's Press.

Jacob, B.A. and Rockoff, J.E., 2012. Organizing schools to improve student achievement: Start times, grade configurations, and teacher assignments. The Education Digest, 77(8), p.28.

Jennings, J., 2012. Reflections on a Half-Century of School Reform: Why Have We Fallen Short and Where Do We Go from Here?. Center on Education Policy.

Ladd, H. ed., 2011. Holding schools accountable: Performance-based reform in education. Brookings Institution Press.

McLaren, P., 2015. Life in schools: An introduction to critical pedagogy in the foundations of education. Routledge.

McInerney, P., Smyth, J. and Down, B., 2011. ‘Coming to a place near you?’The politics and possibilities of a critical pedagogy of place-based education. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 39(1), pp.3-16.

Pendergast, D. and Bahr, N., 2005. Teaching middle years: Rethinking curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. Allen and Unwin.

Pendergast, D 2017, 'Middle Years Education', in D Pendergast, K Main & N Bahr (eds), Teaching Middle Years: Rethinking Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment, 3rd edn, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW, pp. 3-20.

Pendergast, D. and Bahr, N., 2017. Teaching middle years: Rethinking curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. Allen and Unwin, pp. 32-64.

Pendergast, D 2017, 'School Reform and Sustainable Practice', in D Pendergast, K Main & N Bahr (eds), Teaching Middle Years: Rethinking Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment, 3rd edn, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW, pp. 323-358.

Prosser, B., 2008. Unfinished but not yet exhausted: A review of Australian middle schooling. Australian Journal of Education, 52(2), pp.151-167.

Prosser, B., Lucas, B. and Reid, A., 2010. Connecting lives and learning: Renewing pedagogy in the middle years. Wakefield Press.

Shapley, K., Sheehan, D., Maloney, C. and Caranikas-Walker, F., 2011. Effects of technology immersion on middle school students’ learning opportunities and achievement. The Journal of Educational Research, 104(5), pp.299-315.

Solis, M., Ciullo, S., Vaughn, S., Pyle, N., Hassaram, B. and Leroux, A., 2012. Reading comprehension interventions for middle school students with learning disabilities: A synthesis of 30 years of research. Journal of learning disabilities, 45(4), pp.327-340.

Wilson, B.L. and Corbett, D., 2014. Listening to urban kids: School reform and the teachers they want. SUNY press.

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