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Literature Review Notes

The Misdirection of Middle School Reform: Is a Child Centred Approach Incompatible with Achievement in Maths and Science?

  • Problem with children discovering interests over a focus on standards and achievements p69
  • “Back to basics,” decentralized governance, charter schools etc. not useful reform.
  • Useful reform:

o   Mandatory national standards applying to every school and define what children should know at every grade level

o   Research based curriculum, challenging concepts

o   Deepening teacher understanding

  • Parents want regimentation, ability grouping to deal with “slipping academics,”
  • Innovation works better if well established than initial developments, or merely following “normal” curriculums
  • Growth and Development programme- unintended consequence that children would be unprepared for academic demands p70
  • Exposure to many topics and options, experiences not deep, students don’t develop a deep level of understanding
  • USA studies algebra later in school than other countries
  • Not really for algebra, not due to development, curriculum not prepared them for challenging mathematics,
  • Importance not of basics, but high level maths and science p71
  • Decentralization for the sake of it is counter-productive- stops implementation of precisely defined standards on a scale large enough to sustain them
  • “Ability grouping other than in the most limited circumstances, should not be employed in middle schools because the practice prevents a majority of students from ever taking challenging higher level courses in mathematics and science. Unless middle school students are instructed in algebra, geometry, biochemistry, and physics, they will likely not be prepared for, nor elect to take, rigorous courses in these disciplines at the high school level.”
  • Too many topics- decentralization. Cater to multiple topics added in by states, added in by legislatures, creates v. long textbooks- forces teachers to cover several topics in less depth p72
  • Should follow hands on, research based, inquiry centred approaches to learning
  • Teachers need to know more about the areas they are teaching- content

o   Need to be able to teach curriculums

o   Don’t overemphasise process in science

§  If don’t understand content

  • Need to be more immersed in content and inquiry based teaching


Tackling School Leaving at Its Source: A Case of Reform in the Middle Years of Schooling (2003)


  • Emphasis on ideas of community, dialog, social justice, critical literacies- do you feel engaged? P178
  • Reach out to lives of young people- not relegating it to outside of school- not treated like a child. P179
  • Tempting, when there is turmoil to collapse into “default” option of competitive Academic Curriculum p180

o   Knowledge into “subjects”

o   Hierarchy of subjects

o   Hierarchy of knowledge

o   Teacher-centred pedagogy

o   Individualized learning process

o   Formal competitive assessment

  • Removing adolescent inferiority of students against teachers- following coercive rules and regulations- little scope for questioning or contestation.
  • New form of teacher- middle school p182

o   Themes of students lives connected to curriculum

o   Positive relationships with young people

o   Creating independence and sense of identity in students

o   Conditions to create dialogic learning

  • Architecture creates privatism and isolation. P183
  • Goodman- school reform needs to engage with dynamics of power that operate at the micro-political level within schools
  • Negotiation for power-leads to compromises have to work alongside structures which they are attempting to remove- ambiguity and tension- Q- do students know the focus of the curriculum change? Do they feel a tension between curriculums?
  • Use of separate school- not bashing into each other. Psychologically valuable- see importance p184
  • Use of extended lessons- 100 minutes. Extended learning activities. Easier excursions, other sub-school activities.
  • Smaller classes- more educative relationship
  • Independence of teacher action –easy to interact with student interests
  • Not enough time to develop an integrated curriculum 185-6

o   Curriculum unscripted-fell back on teachers

o   Do you have time/support to adequately prepare curriculums?

o   Is there a change to KS4?

  • Students “become invisible in the institutional decision-making processes, there is a lack of authenticity in the nature student-teacher relationships- a situation students put simply as a ‘lack of respect’” p186

o   Did you feel respected under OM?

o   Do you still feel respected?

o   Has your relationship with your teacher changed?

  • More overt expectations- respect – swifter resolution of issues p187
  • Caring about children in social lives p188

o   Who they are- better connection

o   Better teaching- teachers need to communicate to assess

o   This aspect- go to any teachers- knows, communicate feeling

  • Problems of negotiating curriculum with students

o   Students don’t know where to take issues

o   Teachers couldn’t change things

o   Pointlessness

o   Teachers-does it feel students can engage with these materials, do they knew where they are going? Possible to listen- active teaching

  • Teacher respect for innovative ideas rubs off on students p189

o   Least satisfied students from teachers opposed to programme?

o   Easiest transition for older taught students?

o   Hardest transition for teachers opposed to OM?

  • Appreciate directed learning- you are an expert p188
  • “For example, when teachers are so constrained by the competitive academic curriculum that there is little room for student s to break into the script, when teaching becomes “defensive” as teachers unintentionally develop relationships with students that are highly institutionalized.” P189
  • Students engaging with learning- finding “own voice”

o   Did you have your voice?

o   Have you lost your voice?



The Transition from Middle School to High School: Students with and without Learning disabilities share their perceptions

  • Often traumatic p212.
  • Experiencing physical growth and change
  • “Erratic and inconsistent behaviour is present; anxiety and fear are also common and contrast with reassuring false security.”
  • Trying for independence from family
  • New methods of “intellectual functioning”
  • New school
  • Different academic requirements
  • Larger school size
  • “New social interactions”
  • Many decline in grades and attendance

o   View selves more negatively

o   Need for friendships

  • Change- overwhelm coping skills
  • Worse for disabled

o   Hard school programmes

o   “Because of the heavy load of academic requirements, students with disabilities were more likely to experience problems in these years.”

o   Academic focus

o   Mostly regular education placements

o   Lower level of support provided

§  Failing classes- full behind peers in progress toward graduation

  • Learning Disabled students usually followed more by parents and special educators


  • What were some of your fears about going to high school when you were in the eighth grade?
  • As an eighth grader, what were some of your expectations of high school?
  • What major differences between middle school and high school have you observed?
  • What do you feel was the most difficult aspect of moving to high school?
  • What do you feel was the easiest aspect of moving to high school?
  • What activities have you been involved in at high school?
  • While in eighth grade, you were introduced to the high school with various activities, such as counsellor and principal visits. What activities helped you get acquainted with the high school
  • If you had a chance to talk to current eighth graders, what advice would you give them as they prepare for the move to ninth grade?



  • Both groups gave same similar Reponses

o   Hard

o   Not see friends

o   Difficult classes

o   Difficult teachers

o   High school more mature than middle

  • Bigger, more freedom, more extracurricular, more accepting of difference
  • Difficult- block schedule, high expectations of teachers, managing time, lack of time for social activities from homework 
  • Learning disabled students more problems
  • Helpful acquaintance of friends and counsellors for transition
  • Themes

o   Social interaction

o   Activity involvement

  • Peer interaction key for transition to high school


Recommendations- 214

  • Activities to prepare students

o   HS visits

o   Explanation of activities and curricula

  • Transition teams to prepare
  • Fears should be assessed and addressed in eighth grade
  • Social interaction needed

o   Address eighth grader concern

o   Peer mentors when move to high school

  • Continuous support for students with learning disabilities as they transition
  • 9th graders involved in extracurricular activities