In the Middle
Teaching and learning about young adolescents
Micki M Caskey, Graduate School of Education’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, has a passion for the education of young adolescents. She has found that young adolescents are often lost in the shuffle when it comes to schooling. "They're not children, and they're not yet adults," she said, "so where do they fit?"
A former middle school teacher, Caskey has been engaged in research on practices and policies that best serve this 10- to 15-year-old age group. It is a critical phase in human development, Caskey articulated, with rapid physiological, emotional, and cognitive changes that are unique to young adolescents.
On the one hand, Caskey said, young adolescents are intensely loyal to peer groups. On the other, they want to assert their own identity. To accommodate both needs, Caskey noted, these students need opportunities to talk with their classmates in small, safe groups—what Caskey called "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 young adolescents need physical activity as part of their education too.
As the former editor of the journal Research in Middle Level Education, and past chairs of the Middle Level Education Research SIG of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the Research Advisory Committee of the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE), Caskey has continued to work with education colleagues around the nation.
Caskey's goal is to make middle grades education a safe and enriching place for learning. This age is a turning point, she asserted, and an opportunity to develop habits that will last a lifetime.
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