Being an early adolescent is a very different experience for the student of a white, wealthy family in an affluent suburb than for members of large African-communities in areas of severe urban poverty. It is different for young women than for young men. And it poses challenges for recent immigrants with inchoate grasps of the dominant domestic language of instruction; challenges that long-standing residents of the dominant culture can scarcely imagine. All students, regardless of race, ethnicity, social class, gender, or place of birth may take on any number of identities, and these may change from week to week and from situation to situation.
These variations pose serious and significant questions for the education of early adolescents. The faltering self-confidence of adolescent girls calls for strategies of gender equity that embrace active, confidence-boosting intervention, not strategies that treat boys and girls exactly the same, whatever their differences of need Robertson, At the same time, some of the strategies that schools use to address issues of race only deflect or exaggerate the problems rather than solving them. These include channelling African-American students into competitive sports activities that reinforce racial stereotypes, offer few prospects of continuing sports careers beyond school, and depress and detract from the academic success needed to make gains and have choices in the real world of work Solomon, They also include creating dubious course options, and relaxing standards simply to graduate students rather than educate them Bates, ; Cusick, You do not get young people to jump higher by lowering the bar!
If we want all young people to achieve better, we must therefore question the very structure of our school system itself, and its ability to respond to wide-ranging differences of language, race, ethnicity, culture and class in the student population.
Summary Adolescence is not created exclusively by adolescents. It is in many respects an adaptation to and reflection of adult problems and concerns, and is partially created by adults distancing themselves from the problems of adolescence by claiming a lack of influence on their norms and values Ianni, Lasch argues that in a society where self-possessed narcissism appears to be pervading wide areas of our culture, many adults seem all too keen to ape adolescent styles and values so as to symbolize their own everlasting youth and immortality, rather than asserting and leading with moral values of their own.
Young adolescents, we have seen, have become impaled on the horns of a dilemma. These are the need for independence and the need for security. The needs of early adolescents are complex, crucial and challenging for anyone entrusted with the onerous responsibility of meeting them. In the remainder of this book, we will explore how well schools currently address these needs and how they might be able to do so more effectively in the future. In their longitudinal case study of transition and adaptation to secondary school, Measor and Woods describe transition as precisely that.
Transition to adulthood and to secondary school is one of the most important status passages that people experience in their lifetimes. Whether one is moving from childhood to adulthood in preliterate societies, from single status to being married, from marriage to divorce, or from elementary to secondary school, the movement marks a passage in status from being one kind of person with certain rights and expectations to another.
These status passages are important yet traumatic. The multiple-status passage of transition can be a particular source of anxiety because the messages and directions of the passage are not at all consistent with each other. Movement from elementary to secondary school and from child to adolescent represents an increase in status. Movement from the top of one institution to the bottom of another and from older child to younger adolescent represents lowered status.
For the child, transition can be a good thing or a bad thing. Often it is both—and this can be confusing and worrying.
The Emergence of Middle Schools
The next chapter looks closely at the process of transition to secondary school and the ways in which it is and can be managed. Here, we examine what it is students are in transit between—the culture of the elementary school and of the secondary school—and the continuities and discontinuities between these cultures.
Two Cultures of Schooling? The differences between elementary and secondary schooling, and between elementary and secondary teaching, may in many ways be regarded as amounting to differences between two quite distinct cultures Hargreaves, To move from one school to another is to change not just institutions but communities, each having its own assumptions about how students learn, how knowledge is organized, what form teaching should take, and so forth.
Moving from elementary to secondary education commonly entails moving from a generalist pattern of curriculum and teaching where teachers have responsibility for more than one subject, and where, through themes and projects, they can explore the relationships among subjects, to a more specialist pattern where the curriculum and the teaching staff are divided up by subject specialization Ginsburg et at, Elementary-tosecondary transfer entails students leaving behind a relationship with a single class teacher who knows them well, for less extensive relationships with a wide range of subject-specialist teachers Meyenn and Tickle, In short, as Ahola-Sidaway has noted in her study of student transfer from elementary to high school in Canada, transfer entails movement from what, following Tonnies , she calls the world of Gemeinschaft to the world of Gesellschaft, from a personal and supportive world of community to a more distant and impersonal world of association.
Among teachers, the main differences between elementary and secondary schools are usually felt to be ones of teaching style and strategy.
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There is evidence, however, that such differences are frequently exaggerated. An Inner London Education Authority survey of teachers in England found that many had very stereotyped views of the curriculum and teaching methods in the sector other than their own. Many of these views were not based on direct experience or visits ILEA, Stillman and Maychell came to similar conclusions in their study of transfer from middle school age 9—13 to secondary school in two English school districts.
What work is done is in small groups and based upon free-ranging topics. The formalities of school learning, the use of reference books, the ability to concentrate, the ability to take notes from the board and to process work is all supposedly absent. They attributed this misunderstanding to lack of experience that teachers have with any sector other than the one in which they are presently working. The presumption that elementary or primary schools are awash with active learning and small group work is, in most respects, erroneous.
Of course, a passing and somewhat superficial visit to almost any open-plan elementary school can give quite a contrary impression—of movement, diversity, students taking initiative and small group collaboration. In a survey of teachers in Northwest England, Bennett found that most used a mixture of styles. Only 9 per cent of the teachers met the criteria of progressiveness defined in terms of the influential and highly regarded Plowden Report on primary education Central Advisory Council for Education, In a study of primary schools conducted in the mid—s, Galton and his colleagues found a preponderance of didactic teaching and almost no evidence of discovery learning or cooperative groupwork Galton et al, ; Simon, And while they found many instances of students sitting together in groups, they came across very few examples of them working together as groups.
These results are consistent with findings elsewhere. Basic skills teaching in American urban elementary schools remains a salient feature of educational life. In many ways, recent years have also seen quite deliberate moves away from it in many districts.
More recent forms of student-centered learning are, if anything, even more structured. Cooperative learning, for example, specifies strategies for making both individuals and groups accountable for their performance, and for creating positive kinds of interdependence among students Johnson and Johnson, Secondary school teaching strategies are as easily stereotyped as are those strategies teachers use with younger children. Some of the most important variations are subject related—an issue we delve into in our chapters on curriculum.
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Differences in pedagogical approach have been. Our own study of how teachers in eight secondary schools responded to an upcoming mandate to detrack or destream grade 9, found that teachers in more practical and lower status subjects, such as technical education and family studies were among the most flexible in their strategies of teaching, especially with wide-ranging ability groups Hargreaves et al, In elementary and secondary schools alike, the pictures of pedagogy that accumulated research has revealed are complex. The differences in teaching style between elementary and secondary school are less dramatic than is often believed.
So if pedagogy is not the key factor that distinguishes between the cultures of elementary and secondary schooling, what is?
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What are transferring students leaving and entering that is so different? A look at the cultures of elementary and secondary school respectively will give some clues.
The concept of school culture has been defined in many ways, and is still highly contested among writers on the subject. Corbett et al define culture as a shared set of norms, values and beliefs. Wilson widens the definition of culture to include socially shared and transmitted knowledge of what is and what ought to be, symbolized in acts and artifacts. Such characterizations of culture are especially common in writings on corporate and more general organizational cultures Deal and Kennedy, ; Ouchi, ; Schein, ; Wilkins and Ouchi, and in studies that apply these more general frameworks to education Davis, ; Deal and Peterson, Their purpose is often directed to learning how to create strong organizational cultures that will lead to greater effectiveness.
In a critique of such work, Bates argues that by searching for the conditions and processes that lead to strong cultures, researchers place the interests of prescription above the need for understanding. Moreover, he contends, apparently common cultures even strong ones do not merely emerge from the group, or naturally represent their collective interests. The strong culture of an organization, rather, arises from managerial manipulation also Jeffcutt, It supports and promotes dominant interests among those who have most to benefit from the organization, and either suppresses or seduces others with different interests, and alternative views to conform to the dominant pattern.
Culture, then, does not just emerge naturally, but is actively created and contested against competing visions and values of what people in the organization should do. Some writers prefer the term ethos to that of culture Rutter et al, ; D.
New School Versions: Reinventing and Reuniting School Program Structures
The notion of a shared or common ethos is more pervasive but also more elusive than that of culture. It is a kind of Zeitgeist; diffusely felt more than specifically identifiable. Whilst spiritually appealing to some, the notion of ethos, however, tends to elude action and intervention. Culture can admit more readily that values, beliefs and the like can be created, negotiated, imposed or subverted.
There can be majority cultures and minority ones; mainstream cultures and sub-cultures within them. Ethos, however, tends to encourage evasion of these issues, by appealing to a singular spirit that shines through us all. One aspect of cultures to which Sarason has drawn attention is that cultural norms possess what he calls sacred and profane characteristics.
Andy Hargreaves and adds another dimension to the understanding of school culture. He points out that culture has both content and form. The content of a culture is made up of what its members think, say and do.
The form consists of patterns of relationships among members of the culture which may take the form of isolation, competing groups and factions, or broader attachment to a community, for instance. Cultures can be found in individual schools Page, , even among individual departments within schools Johnson, ; McLaughlin and Talbert, They can also come to characterize whole forms of schooling, such as vocational schooling, private schooling or junior high schools.
We want to explore the cultures of elementary and secondary schooling in particular. Elementary School Culture Elementary school cultures are built upon two central, interlocking principles—the first, widely acknowledged, the second less so.
These are the principles of care and control. A study in Quebec, Canada examined the key differences between elementary and secondary school cultures as they were experienced by a group of students in transition between the two cultures. Participant observation was used to gather data regarding seventy-six students in grade 6 elementary school , and the sixty-eight who subsequently entered grade 7 in English Catholic high schools.
AholaSidaway concluded that elementary schools are like families, whereas secondary schools are based on formal contracts. Elementary students are part of the school neighborhood, have strong connections to the school community, are located in specific classrooms, occupy a designated desk, and have close ties to teachers, classmates, and their principal. Secondary students, on the other hand, go to school outside their community; occupy a large, complex building; have no home-based classroom, desk, or teacher; are controlled by bells, forms, and procedures; and have only a locker as their personal territory.
Schooling for Change
Their connections are not based on relationships with teachers or classmates. Instead, peer cliques are formed around common interests. Home, family, and community are the symbols of care that characterize the culture of elementary schools. The importance of care for elementary teachers and their students is also revealed in another study which found that student control in elementary schools is more humanistic than in secondary schools, where it is more custodial Smedley and Willower, In a questionnaire study of the entrylevel characteristics of elementary and secondary teachers, Book and Freeman found that elementary candidates had more experience working with school-aged children and more often expressed child-centred reasons for entering teaching as compared to their secondary counterparts who were more subjectcentred in their approach.
In a study of fifty primary schools in London, England one of the most systematic studies of school effectiveness ever completed , Mortimore and his colleagues identified positive school climate as one of twelve key factors associated with positive student outcomes. Classroom management was firm but fair. Enjoyment, happiness and care were also core features of these positive climates. Mortimore et al stated that: Positive effects resulted where teachers obviously enjoyed teaching their classes, valued the fun factor, and communicated their enthusiasm to the children.
The interest in the children as individuals and not just as learners, also fostered progress.