Schooling for Change: Reinventing Education for Early Adolescents

By Andy Hargreaves; Jim Ryan et al. | Go to book overview
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Adolescence and Adolescents

What is Adolescence?

If the prime purpose of education for young adolescents is to provide curriculum, teaching and other services based on their needs and characteristics, it is important to understand the nature of adolescence.

Adolescence itself, as it is understood and experienced in most Western industrial societies, is the transition from childhood to adulthood, beginning with puberty. It is a period of development more rapid than any other phase of life except infancy. Adolescent development is neither singular nor simple, and aspects of growth during adolescence are seldom in step with each other, neither within individuals nor among peers (TFEYA, 1989). Early adolescents (aged 10 to 14) are complex, diverse and unpredictable (Shultz, 1981; Thornburg, 1982). At this time in their lives, young people are no longer children, nor are they adults. For the first time, many remarkable things begin to occur in adolescents’ lives. Adolescents discover that their bodies are changing dramatically; they begin to use more advanced mental abilities; and they become extremely conscious of their relationships with others (Palomares and Ball, 1980).


Development and Maturation

Adolescence is a time of enormous physical changes characterized by increases in body height and weight, the maturation of primary and secondary sex characteristics, and increased formal mental operations. As these changes occur, adolescents are very aware of them and must adjust psychologically to these changes within themselves and to the developmental variations that occur within their adolescent group. There is a strong concern among adolescents with how they match up to common behavioral and physical stereotypes (Thornburg, 1982). They also compare themselves to their peers, who may or not be maturing at the same rate (Babcock et al, 1972; Osborne, 1984; Simmons and Blyth, 1987). In addition, changes in school bring changes in the peer group, making social comparisons even more complex (Simmons and Blyth, 1987).

Just as with physical maturation, the rate of intellectual maturation varies among students, and even within individual students over time (TFEYA, 1989). Adolescents expand their conceptual range from concrete operational concerns

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