In the Middle
Teaching and learning about young adolescents
Micki Caskey, of PSU's Graduate School of Education, says that middle schoolers are often lost in the shuffle when it comes to schooling. "They're not children, and they're not yet adults," she says, "so where do they fit in?"
A former middle school teacher, Caskey is now engaged in research on practices and policies that best serve the 10- to 15-year-old age group. It's a critical phase in a person's development, Caskey says, with rapid physiological, emotional, and cognitive changes that present special challenges.
On the one hand, Caskey says, middle school students are intensely loyal to peer groups. On the other, they want to assert their own identity. To accommodate both needs, Caskey says, these students need opportunities to talk with their classmates in small, safe groups-- what Caskey calls "social interaction with a purpose" -- as well as time to crystallize their own thoughts in writing. At this age, actual growing pains and fluctuations in metabolism mean that middle schoolers need physical activity as part of their education too.
As the editor of the journal Research in Middle Level Education, and chair of the research board of the National Middle School Association, Caskey works with education colleagues around the nation.
Caskey's goal is to make middle school education as safe and enriching as possible. This age can be a turning point, she says, and an opportunity to develop habits that will last a lifetime. "One we can look back on fondly--or else wonder how did I survive?"
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