Introductory Remarks0 This SlideShare is meant to be an online multimedia tool for teachers to access, share and critique.0 As a shareable and, after downloaded, malleable resource, it can also be annexed, pared down or changed in any way.0 The author hopes that this project can serve as professional development tool around the position paper written by the National Middle School Association entitled “This We Believe: Keys to Education Young Adolescents.’
The Four Essential Attributes0 The NMSA (2010, p. 13) describes four integral and essential attributes for successful middle level education.0 A discussion of the expounded and more specific characteristics cannot take place without at least a cursory understanding of these fundamental characteristics. Paraphrased definitions follow:
The Four Essential Attributes0 Developmentally responsive: Everything about middle level education is shaped in response to the developmental idiosyncrasies of young adolescents. 0 This includes but is not limited to assessment, instruction, curriculum, policy, organization, etc.0 Challenging: High expectations and standards are held for every member of the learning community. 0 This includes but is not limited to students, teachers, parents, administrators, paraprofessionals, etc.
The Four Essential Attributes0 Empowering: This refers to the transmission of tools which can be self-applied and result in the cultivation of qualitative change. 0 This includes but is not limited to self-responsibility, addressing life challenges, social functioning, etc.0 Equitable: Every single student needs to be recognized as an individual with a particular set of rights 0 This includes but is not limited to the right to learn, to be challenged, to have relevant learning opportunities, etc.
The Four Essential Attributes0 The NMSA (2010, p. 13) state that these attributes are achieved by the practice of sixteen more specific characteristics.0 The main body of NMSA (2010) is dedicated to describing these characteristics, their application and their implementation.0 It is noteworthy that the NMSA describe these characteristics as being distinctly “interdepentent” and therefore they need to be “implemented in concert” (NMSA, 2010, p. 13). 0 Despite this, this SlideShare will show some exemplifications of particular characteristics that are not implemented in concert. This is purely for expediency as portraying a single characteristic is easier than threading out a range of attributes from a single source.
Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment0 Value Young Adolescents 0 Educators value young adolescents and are prepared to teach them. 0 Explanation: This characteristic aligns itself with the essential attribute of being developmentally responsive. Once again, this characteristic calls for middle grade teachers and administration to work with and advocate young adolescents qua adolescence. That is, education professionals understand the uniqueness of the age group and teach to that uniqueness by way of curriculum, assessment and instruction set to the dynamics of youth culture; the desires, needs, interests of young adolescents; and the developmental idiosyncrasies of the age group.
Value Young Adolescents: Describe0 The National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform criteria is a prime example of a set of policy recommendations which seek to value young adolescents.0 “The criteria are used as the basis for self-study by middle schools seeking to improve their practice and by all potential applicants and schools designated as Schools to Watch™. The National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform lists ten criteria for distinguishing a developmentally appropriate middle school.”0 The criteria explicitly seeks out to address the recommendations from NMSA (2010) which address adolescent developmental needs.
Value Young Adolescents: Analyze0 The criteria calls for a “personalized environment” which responds to developmental needs. It lists these needs in a holistic fashion as intellectual, ethical, social and physical.0 The criteria call for small groups of students and teachers that are based on these various needs.0 The criteria encourage students to work on problems collaboratively with adults, to aspire to their career goals with informed adults, to take on their own self –interests by way of learning study and organization skills, to care for their own health with the help of specific instruction from trained adults, etc.0 By remaining sensitive to the developmental needs of the young adolescent, including respect for their opinion and autonomy, these criteria set out to respect as well as support adolescents in their move towards self-regulation and self-determination.
Value Young Adolescents: Apply0 I tend to take too much control in my classrooms and I believe this may lead to many unnecessary and mutually pernicious power struggles.0 I think the essence of the criteria as expressing the NMSA characteristic of valuing young adolescents is to respect self- determination, to walk the line of treating students as independent and intelligent youth. The trick is also teaching them the skills that they need to function independently without patronizing them.0 I think one of the ways I can apply these criteria in my own class room is by having regular and structured one on one meetings with my students in which I elicit their own personal goals, aspirations and difficulties. In this, I will mimic the “small groups” which the criteria calls for and get a better picture of the developmental needs of each student while letting them know that I respect their input and autonomy.
Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment0 Multiple Learning Approaches 0 Educators use multiple learning and teaching approaches. 0 Explanation: This characteristic speaks to the need for middle level educators to develop teaching strategies that are as varied as the developmental characteristics of the young adolescents that they teach. These teaching strategies take advantage of the idiosyncrasies of young adolescents and therefore tend to use a variety of learning styles, including physical effort, question making, and cultural expression. Above all, these learning approaches express engagement and interaction and critical attitudes which follow an ongoing discussion and inquiry-session with the teacher (i.e. as opposed to traditional listen and response). Likewise, inquiry and interaction take place through collaboration and cooperation in group work and classroom community development.
Multiple Learning Approaches: Describe0 Teaching Channel Video: Strategies for Group Work documents the group work strategies of two partner math teachers with different group work strategies.0 Each teacher is shown teaching algebra to a group with a variety of learning styles. The first teacher is shown placing the class in various “gears” while the second assigns very particular roles to each individual within their groups.
Multiple Learning Approaches: Analyze0 The first teacher stresses classroom community development in her expression of various group work styles as “gears”. When students move from first gear to second, they stop their active listening (i.e. listening as a continuous inquiry session) and independent work, etc. These group work styles all require a different set of skills but are differentiated enough to play on the strengths of any given individual student.0 The second teacher stresses individual roles within group work. Each student represents a particular portion of a mathematical process. In this manner, students focus on their individual steps and literally synthesize these steps into a larger group to finish the problem.0 Each teacher uses multiple learning approaches that have respect for student autonomy and differentiate so as to meet the learning styles of a variety of preferences.
Multiple Learning Approaches: Apply0 I think the group work strategy of the first teacher is something I will adopt in my classroom in its entirety. I believe it is varied enough to respect the developmental needs (i.e. autonomy, interaction, movement) of my students but is controlled and structured enough to meet their disability needs (i.e. Emotional Disturbance).0 The classroom breaks into different “gears” at a regular pace (every fifteen minutes) and allows students to work in groups as the class wanes and students tend to become more agitated. This seems especially apt for math which comes directly before lunch.
Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment0 Varied Assessments 0 Varied and ongoing assessments advance learning as well as measure it. 0 Explanation: This attribute speaks to the need for ongoing and integrated assessments that either serve to advance learning itself or to evaluate the learning process as a whole. These assessments are of course developmentally appropriate in the sense that they evaluate students as individuals and do not compare them to each other. The ultimate goal of formative assessments is to create a self-assessment (and therefore a self-regulation) dynamic in students. This leads to the creation of personal goals, growth tracking, etc. In this way, students discover qualities of themselves and the assessment procedure facilitates identity formation.
Varied Assessments: Describe0 Professor Jon Muellers "Authentic Assessment Toolbox” is an excellent example of the varied assessments that NMSA calls for.0 The site lists a hypothetical set of middle school assessments for a social science course.0 It provides a set of concept maps and flowcharts to be used as assessments, as well as a reflection sheet that is meant to be assembled into a portfolio.
Varied Assessments: Analyze0 The key expression of the NMSA characteristic here is the use of a multitude of assessments.0 Further, the portfolio style assessment allows students to be assessed individually without (necessarily) a quantitative component which automatically relates one student to his/her classmate.0 Finally, the use of extensive “reflection” assessments also provide the evaluative purpose that NMSA distinguishes, that is, it provides feedback on the very process of learning itself.
Varied Assessments: Apply0 I believe my usage of assessments tends to give me skewed and useless results. I tend to rely on informal assessments instead because of this.0 I think due to the population I work with (i.e. Emotional Disturbance) my students grow accustomed to standard tests and get bored with the pattern, then self-sabotage in protest.0 If instead I were to use varied assessments, especially assessments that did not increase anxiety by way of their comparative function, I think the experience of these assessments would be different and would tell me more about my students’ understanding as well as my own teaching abilities.
Leadership and Organization Characteristics0 Shared Vision 0 A shared vision developed by all stakeholders guides every decision. 0 Explanation: This characteristic details the relationship between a vision and a mission statement. A vision is an “acute sense of the possible” that draws from contemporary research and galvanizes stakeholders towards a set of goals in harmony (NMSA, 2010, p. 27). This vision is then transcribed into a mission statement in a collaborative manner, taking into account the distinctive language, input and needs of relevant stakeholders in it’s articulation. The missions statement in its fully operational form is then used as a source for decision making.
Shared Vision: Describe0 The Blissfield Middle School Mission Statement is a concise example of a shared vision that works in parallel with a mission statement which can be applied practically.0 The Mission Statement is clearly described and labeled on the Blissfield Middle School’s website. This provides easy access and shows the centrality of the mission statement to the working of the school.0 The site lists the mission statement along with a simple yet effective list of core values that it expresses.
Shared Vision: Analyze0 The Blissfield middle school mission statement is an attainable vision, that is, it is within the realm of the possible and therefore lends itself to practical application.0 The middle school mission statement reflects a vision in its discussion of creating an environment which expresses various values.0 Most importantly, the mission statement takes a concise, straightforward and simple form so that it is easily introduced into the creation of practical application.
Shared Vision: Apply0 I think the role of a mission statement can be important within the classroom environment. I think creating a democratic and collaborative process with the students would make them feel invested in it.0 Further, if the NMSA method of creating a vision within the realm of possibility is practiced, a significant amount of discussions and imagination can be applied to the practice.0 Finally, rendering the vision into a mission statement that sets high expectations for all my students should be given a central place in the classroom– perhaps above the blackboard at the front and center of the room.
Leadership and Organization Characteristics0 Professional Development 0 Ongoing professional development reflects best educational practices. 0 Explanation: This characteristic speaks to the necessity of educators to be constantly developing, that is, to practice being reflective practitioners. Effective middle grade teachers and administrators are trained in the praxis (i.e. theory and practice) of teaching relative to their distinct needs as a learning community. The gist of this attribute stresses the need for professionals to be constantly reviewing and revising their practices based on areas of need and to draw from a series of best practices as developed by their peers, appropriate research and district relevant trainers.
Professional Development: Describe0 The District 75 Professional Development Management System is an example of the type of ongoing professional development system that NMSA calls for in the respective characteristic.0 The site details the logistics , subject matter, and titles along with contact and registration information regarding the various professional developments available for District 75 teachers.
Professional Development: Analyze0 The District 75 Professional Development page is an excellent rendition of the NMSA characteristics regarding professional development primarily because it specifically meets the needs of teachers who work with students of the most profound disabilities.0 District 75 professional developments have very specific content and teachers who are train with only the best practices regarding students with disabilities.0 Further, they reflect the changing needs of these teachers and are constantly changing to meet both the demands of special education policy, the needs of teachers and developments in technology.
Professional Development: Apply0 I have had nothing but good experiences with District 75 professional developments. Indeed, I was surprised at how rigorous the workshops were. I need to identify my needs at the beginning of the year and sign up for the corresponding professional developments early.0 I think professional development is something that can be done outside of these formal workshops. I would like to engage in informal professional developments such as internet forum threads for teachers and participation in the NYC Teaching Fellows forum.
Leadership and Organization Characteristics0 Organizational Structures 0 Organizational structures foster purposeful learning and meaningful relationships. 0 Explanation: This attribute discusses the need for teams of two or more teachers working across disciplines to work with students in learning groups. This is one of the most specific attributes that the NMSA (2010) describes which can be translated directly into a learning style. They detail small teams of two that complement each other in an organic manner, take regular planning time and address the needs of students.
Organizational Structures: Describe0 This video of co-teaching meets the demands of the specific learning style that NMSA sets forth in their Organizational Structure characteristic.0 The video shows live footage of two teachers who work as a team of co-partners in a middle school ELA class crossed with a social science class.
Organizational Structures: Analyze0 The video series clearly shows a small team of two teachers working in concert to provide an interdisciplinary lesson.0 The use of readings comprehension skills complements the social science teacher’s focus on the meaning of the constitutional terminology.0 The reflection portion of the video shows the time set aside for planning sessions and the unique process that the teachers use. One, creating a baseline lesson plan and the other adding a variety of ELA activities and interpretation. This intense cooperative teaching surely meets the NMSA’s organizational demands.
Organizational Structures: Apply0 I have the opportunity to work with a paraprofessional in my school, however, I rarely feel confident enough to create situations where we both teach (i.e. to the extent to which we are trained). I think that with ample planning, including the thoughtful discussions of student needs that are exemplified in this video, I can develop a system of coteaching that works. I might begin with a health class to experiment with the strategy.0 Modeling from the video, both of us can take time to discuss what we feel comfortable lecturing about. Then we can brainstorm on various activities that would meet our needs best.
Culture and Community Characteristics0 Adult Advocate 0 Every student’s academic and personal development is guided by an adult advocate. 0 Explanation: This characteristic calls for pointed advocacy on the part of adults within the learning community which assume responsibility for each student as an individual. This responsibility is shaped towards the individual student’s needs as a young adolescent and takes on developmental contours. This advisory is different from counseling and takes one of two central aspects: listening and advising. Listening is necessary to provide an outlet for students in their normal and expected developmental “ups and downs” (NMSA, 2010, p. 35). Advising consists of the process of teaching values and skills that meet the needs of the individual student in their period of “storm and stress”.
Adult Advocate: Describe0 The Idaho State Department of Education’sleadership policies are an explicit attempt to align an advocacy system with the NMSA adult advocate characteristic.0 The policies require all adults to work together for the advisory program to work.0 The site lists the various organizational components of successful advisory programs.
Adult Advocate: Analyze0 The advisory programs detailed by the Idaho DoE are explicitly designed to meet the standards of NMSA (2010). It calls for all teachers to serve as advisors and form meetings with students in groups of 10-18.0 These teachers are responsible for these students and the development. Teachers meet for 20-30 minutes daily, at the least two to three times a week.0 The purpose is to have a personal adult advocate “to help him or her personalize the educational experience.”
Adult Advocate: Apply0 The Idaho DoE website cites research that shows that advisory programs reduce failing grades, dropouts, and student- teacher relations improve.0 This data shows the benefits of advisory and advocacy. I think they would be particular welcome in the population of students that I work with, who tend not to have any adult advocates at home.0 I think setting aside a certain amount of time every day to just talk to students and discuss how their scholastic activities and personal life is going might help to create the self-awareness, interpersonal skills and decision making abilities that are necessary to implement during the young adolescent stage.
Culture and Community Characteristics0 Health & Wellness 0 Health and wellness are supported in curricula, school-wide programs, and related policies. 0 Explanation: Health & Wellness are absolutely critical to the middle level education process as the physical and mental self-regulation of students becomes increasingly interconnected, turbulent and takes on new qualities. The risk of drugs, alcohol, smoking, eating habits and sexual activity take on a new meaning for young adolescents as their exposure to vice and their developmental changes open them up to vulnerability. This characteristic demands that adults model good habits and take on community-wide initiatives that identity risk and promote positive behaviors.
Health & Wellness: Describe0 Project Adventure’s Creating Healthy Habits program is a particular method of teaching health which can be utilized by teachers in their own schools.0 The program works in conjunction with schools and teachers and the site shows all the information relevant to starting these interactions (i.e. workshops, scheduled talks, etc.).
Health & Wellness: Analyze0 Project adventure sets forth to implement a whole host of activities and programs that are aligned with state and federal standards and can be “used in conjunction with approved school Health and Wellness curricula”.0 The focus here is not only on nutrition, but also cultural awareness, substance abuse prevention and anxiety management, all knowledge sets that are necessary to implement in the young adolescent phase and therefore are developmentally appropriate.0 The “Creating Healthy Habits Adventure Kit” sets out to cultivate a broad conception of health by way of using physical activities in a “scavenger hunt” fashion. This is appealing to adolescents and plays into their daily necessity of movement as well as establishing a cognitive basis for health studies.
Health & Wellness: Apply0 Project Adventure has activities that meet the NMSA guidelines for health and wellness that are directly useable in my classroom.0 Teaching to a broad definition of health and wellness is critical for students in the socio economic bracket that I teach (i.e. low income), especially so during the adolescent phase. One of Project Adventures “Adventure Activity Guides” seem particulary appealing.0 I think my students would enjoy the “student fitness journal”, allowing them to become self-regulating and self- aware in terms of their health habits.
Culture and Community Characteristics0 Family Involvement 0 The school actively involves families in the education of their children. 0 Explanation: This characteristic calls for the aggressive outreach of teachers and school staff towards the parents of students and the incorporation of them in the education process and learning community. This demands the creation of teacher-parent meetings, “development” programs akin to “professional developments” for teachers, and parallel home-school curricula and behavior implementation plans. As with students, teacher and staff disposition towards parents should include high expectations, frequent evaluation (informal or course) and solicitation of input.
Family Involvement: Describe0 P369k (i.e. the D75 middle school that I teach in) has an interesting program relating to the idea of family involvement.0 In addition to Parent-Teacher conferences, parents are called in every single month for a “Town Hall” meeting.0 These meetings are not PTA meetings (of which the vast majority of parents do not go). They are simply large meetings in which parents come to ask questions, air grievances and listen to various announcements from administration.
Family Involvement: Analyze0 I think this practice addresses NMSA standards regarding family involvement because it constitutes an aggressive outreach to parents.0 Further, it pulls them into the learning community by keeping them informed on the happenings of the school and its changing curriculum.0 Finally, it provides a method of informally assessing parents in their availability and capacity for support while holding them to high expectations.
Family Involvement: Apply0 I wish to practice family involvement to a higher degree. I think this is an area which I lack in.0 I think I can take the P369k model as an example and interact with all parents every month with a newsletter. This newsletter can not only inform parents on what is happening in our class, but it can also provide a variety of examples and modeled methods of interaction between them and their children.
References0 National Middle School Association (NMSA). (2010). This We Believe: Keys to Educating Young Adolescents. USA: Professional Publications.