pm_moreKids_10.jpgThe period of early adolescence is an intensely emotional and highly creative period. Young adolescents are dealing with multiple changes in their lives. They are ripe with potential and require competent and compassionate guides on their journey from Age 11-15. This course will focus on the interrelated processes of development and learning, with a special emphasis on the early adolescent. Specific topics include an investigation of the physical, cognitive, socio-emotional, and moral development of 11-15 year olds. In addition, the theme of technology and its influence on the domains of development will be threaded throughout the course.

The middle school concept and many relevant advances in curriculum design, pedagogy and assessment are predicated on a working knowledge of developmental transitions occurring in the four to five years designated as “early adolescence.” Therefore, middle level teachers must have a full grasp of the research pertaining to the physical, cognitive, socio-emotional and familial changes children confront during this period. The middle grades remind us, constantly, that we don't just teach material--we teach kids. As such, teachers must also be knowledgeable and skilled in assessing their students’ developmental readiness in order to provide appropriate learning opportunities. This course provides an essential foundation for both immediate and later required courses in the Vermont Middle Level Endorsement.

Course Topics/Objectives:

NMSA Standard 1. Young Adolescent Development:
  • Middle level teachers and candidates understand the major concepts, principles, theories, and research related to young adolescent development, and they provide opportunities that support student development and learning.
  • Make decisions about curriculum and resources that reflect an understanding of young adolescent development using current research.
  • Develop middle level curriculum that is relevant, challenging, integrative, exploratory, and reflects the interdisciplinary nature of knowledge.
  • Incorporate all young adolescents’ ideas, interests, and experiences into curriculum in ways that encourage all young adolescents to observe, question, and interpret knowledge and ideas from diverse perspectives.
  • Use a wide variety of teaching, learning, and assessment strategies that are developmentally responsive, motivating culturally sensitive, and technologically sound, and know when to implement them.
  • Create learning experiences that encourage exploration and problem solving so all young adolescents can be actively engaged in learning.
  • Provide all young adolescents with opportunities to engage in independent and collaborative inquiry.

Principles for Vermont Educators
  • The educator understands how individuals learn and grow and provides learning opportunities that support intellectual, physical, social, and emotional development.
  • The educator understands how individuals and groups differ and creates equitable instructional opportunities that respond to the needs of all students.
  • The educator creates a classroom climate that encourages respect for self and others, positive social
  • The educator understands conditions and actions which would tend to discriminate against students on the basis of sex, race, color, creed, age, sexual orientation, or national origin, and takes proactive steps to address discrimination.interaction, and personal health and safety.
  • The educator recognizes multiple influences on students inside and outside the school and accesses appropriate systems of support for students.

Focusing Questions:

  • What are the major concepts, principles, and theories of young adolescent development: intellectual, physical, social, emotional, and moral?
  • What is the range of individual differences of all young adolescents and what are the implications of these differences for teaching and learning?
  • What are the interrelationships among the characteristics and needs of all young adolescents?
  • How does development of young adolescents occur in the context of classrooms, families, peer groups, communities and society?
  • How do we respect and appreciate the range of individual developmental differences of all young adolescents?
  • How does what we know about the brain inform our understanding of the developmental domains and impact our practice?

Required Texts and Online Resources

Brighton, K. (2007). Coming of age: The education and development of young adolescents. Websterville, OH: NMSA.
Bluefish by Pat Schmatz
Middle School is Not a Building
Selected readings

Online Resources:

  1. N&N Resources
  2. Resources for BB
  3. What Kids Can Do

Course Assignments:

Action Research Proposal and Project :
The final project for Nature and Needs is an “action research” project. Action Research is a process of active inquiry undertaken in the context of, and in the course of, normal professional practice. It’s a great way for professionals of all fields to think critically about their work. Because Nature and Needs is not a formal research course, the focus of this project is not necessarily on the particular elements of your research design, but rather on the Big Picture—the question you are pursuing and the classroom/school practice(s) that it may connect to. Essentially, you will be learning about your students and your practice through researching the learning environment in which you work: your classroom, club, student services office, media center, advisory, etc...or by focusing on a particular practice or policy of your school. You will be revisiting the questions
from the This We Believe study guide: TWB_Study_guide.pdf
  • Which of the five domains is least served by our school’s program?
  • How could our school address areas currently being under-emphasized?
  • In all honesty do these characteristics define our program, the way it is organized, administered, and envisioned? If not, what kind of changes in our school and its program could be made?

Your project must include student voice. Students must be participants, informants, or consultants. After all, they are the experts on what it's like to be an early adolescent learner! We feel that a combination of student interviews, case studies, and a critical review of student work is the best place to start.

Project Format:
As part of your work in your strand you will be asked to propose and implement an action research project during the fall semester and to present your findings at the Vermont Middle Grades Conference in January of 2014. During the week you will work on developing a proposal for your project that you will implement during the fall semester. The proposal will apply some aspect of teaching and learning that you learned from your strand. The project may include but not limited to: an integrated unit that you teach early in the fall semester, an investigation of student learning over time, or an analysis of middle level teaming and collaboration.

Whatever the project topic it must demonstrate your application of middle level principles in promoting student achievement and apply to the principles learned in your strand. In consultation with your strand instructors you will develop this proposal before you leave the institute and refine it before you implement it during the fall semester. The proposal will be 3-5 pages. The proposal is due to the strand instructor on or before July 15, 2013. Below are descriptions of each section of the proposal.

  1. Title: State a working title that relates to the action research project that you are proposing.
  2. Abstract: In less than 50 words describe your action research project and explain what you hope to learn or accomplish.
  3. Introduction and Rationale for the Project: The introduction explains the rationale and background for why the project is significant for your growth as a middle level educator or meet a need of students at your school. Clearly describes the purpose of the project.
  4. Relation to Middle Level Philosophy and Literature: In this section you will describe the middle level academic literature that provides a foundation for your project. Much of the literature will come directly from the strand readings but outside readings may also be included. There is an expectation that 3-5 references are cited.
  5. Project Description: The proposal provides a description of the project including a description of the participants in the projects (students/teachers) and the setting of the project. It provides a timeline for specific tasks to be completed, and a discussion of the ways in which you will collect data and assess the effectiveness of the project.
  6. Presentation: For the conference you will be expected to present on your project. There are two formats at the conference: a poster presentation (in a gallery with other posters you informally discuss your project with the aid of visuals from the poster) or a 15-minute lecture style presentation (with technology). Please state which format you prefer.


Action Research Proposal Rubric(40% of your grade):

Strand Participation Self- Evaluation Rubric (60% of your grade):

Academic Honesty & Professionalism:

All students are required to be familiar with and adhere to the “Academic Honesty Policy Procedures” delineated in the following website:


Accommodations will be provided to eligible students with disabilities. Please obtain an accommodation letter from the ACCESS office and see one of the instructors early in the course to discuss what accommodations will be necessary. If you are unfamiliar with ACCESS, visit their website at to learn more about the services they provide. ACESS: A-170 Living Learning Center, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405. PH: 802-656-7753, TTY: call 711 (relay), Fax: 802-656-0739,, Instant Messenger: UVMaccess. General office hours: 8:30am – 4:30pm Monday through Friday. Call to make an appointment.