The Millennial Adolescent

  • 37 11 5
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up

The Millennial Adolescent

ISBN 978-0-86431-693-6 9 780864 316936 millennial ad cover art_final.in1 1 19/2/07 11:59:48 AM ACER Press First

2,033 24 3MB

Pages 354 Page size 497 x 695.01 pts Year 2007

Report DMCA / Copyright


Recommend Papers

File loading please wait...
Citation preview

ISBN 978-0-86431-693-6


780864 316936

millennial ad cover art_final.in1 1

19/2/07 11:59:48 AM

ACER Press

First published 2007 by ACER Press Australian Council for Educational Research Ltd 19 Prospect Hill Road, Camberwell, Victoria, 3124 Copyright © Nan Bahr and Donna Pendergast 2007 All rights reserved. Except under the conditions described in the Copyright Act 1968 of Australia and subsequent amendments, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the written permission of the publishers. Edited by Anne Findlay, Editing Works Pty Ltd Cover design by mightyworld Text design by Kerry Cooke, eggplant communications Typeset by Kerry Cooke, eggplant communications Printed by BPA Print Group Cover photo © 2007 JupiterImages Corporation National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication data: Bahr, Nanette Margaret. The millennial adolescent. Bibliography. Includes index. ISBN 9780864316936. 1. Teenagers. 2. Adolescent psychology. 3. Teaching. I. Pendergast, Donna Lee. II. Title. 305.235 Visit our website:


Dedication Acknowledgments

Part 1: Characterising the millennial adolescent

viii ix 1

Introduction Donna Pendergast


Chapter 1: Historical understandings: An overview Nan Bahr


Chapter 2: The MilGen and society Donna Pendergast Chapter 3: Australia’s MilGen adolescents, their schools and educational priorities Donna Pendergast

Part 2: Theories and ideas you just have to know about




Introduction Nan Bahr


Chapter 4: Physical aspects Nan Bahr


Chapter 5: Brain and cognitive development Nan Bahr


Chapter 6: Emotional aspects Nan Bahr


Chapter 7: Social beings Nan Bahr



iv   Contents

Part 3: What can you expect?


Introduction Donna Pendergast


Chapter 8: Middle years schooling Donna Pendergast


Chapter 9: The later years Nan Bahr


Chapter 10: Lifelong learning Donna Pendergast and Jeff Wilks


Part 4: So you want to teach these people?


Introduction Donna Pendergast


Chapter 11: The MilGen and school education Donna Pendergast






Figures and Tables

Figures Figure 3.1 Figure 3.2

Global population growth 1982–2002 Australia’s ageing population, actuals and projections, median age, both sexes Figure 3.3 The Mindfields model Figure 4.1 The location of the hypothalamus Figure 4.2 Marjorie May’s Twelfth Birthday (Kotex booklet) Figure 4.3 Frontal view of a female’s reproductive working parts Figure 4.4 The menstrual cycle Figure 4.5 A male’s reproductive working parts Figure 4.6 Profile of average growth velocity through adolescence Figure 4.7 Comparative average height gain (cm) by age for boys and girls Figure 4.8 Comparative body shapes Figure 5.1 Schemata forming knowledge domains Figure 5.2 The development of knowledge structure Figure 5.3 The components of the information processing system Figure 5.4 The areas of the brain undergoing significant development during adolescence Figure 6.1 Pathway to alienation from aloneness Figure 6.2 (a) Suicide rates in Australia (1993–2004) Figure 6.2 (b) Suicide rates in Australia by age of victim (1993–2004) Figure 6.2 (c) Suicide rates for each state and territory of Australia (1993–2004) Figure 6.3 Comparative ratio of suicide to total number of deaths in Australia in 1994 and 2004, by age and gender Figure 8.1 Middle schooling in Australian states and territories Figure 8.2 Middle years framework for the ACT

42 49 62 79 80 81 82 84 89 89 90 115 116 118 125 140 164 164 164 165 211 212

vi   Figures and Tables

Figure 8.3 Figure 9.1

Three-phase model for middle schooling reform Students enrolled in Vocational Education and Training (VET) in schools 1996–2004

223 241

Tables Table 1.1 Table 2.1 Table 3.1 Table 3.2 Table 3.3 Table 3.4 Table 3.5 Table 3.6 Table 4.1 Table 4.2 Table 6.1 Table 6.2 Table 6.3 Table 6.4 Table 6.5 Table 6.6 Table 8.1 Table 8.2 Table 9.1 Table 10.1 Table 10.2 Table 10.3

Various age spans for adolescence in contemporary literature A summary of twentieth-century generations and notable occurrences Trends defined by the United Nations that impact on families around the globe Relative percentage of 10–19 year olds to the total Australian population National rates for school numbers, school students and retention rate Total number of full-time secondary school students by state and territory, by category of school, 2004 Students in Years 3, 5 and 7 meeting national reading, writing and numeracy benchmarks, 2000 and 2004 (per cent) Selected initiatives in the Australian schooling sector Sizes for girls and women as compared to a store mannequin Health of Aboriginal young people aged 12–17 years Erikson’s stages of emotional development Running away typologies Reasons for running away given by adolescent runaways Identity statuses Kohlberg’s model for moral development Suicide warning signs A selection of publications influencing middle schooling in Australia Ingredients for best practice in middle school classrooms Students enrolled in Vocational Education and Training (VET) in schools 1996–2004 Possible facilitators for enhancing lifelong learning attributes Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) lifesaving actions during the 2004–2005 season Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) development and retention framework

14 25 46 48 51 51 52 54 97 99 135 149 150 158 162 167 207 221 240 250 254 255

Figures and Tables   vii

Table 10.4

Table 10.5 Table 11.1 Table 11.2 Table 11.3

Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) Bronze Medallion and units of competency in the Certificate II in Public Safety (Aquatic Rescue) Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) Member Rights and Responsibilities Issues of importance/concern to young people Howe’s seven core traits of the MilGen and strategies for educators Prensky’s twenty-first century landscape

256 259 294 301 302


This book is dedicated to our families, particularly to the younger members, some of whom are members of the MilGen. Kyrra, Bess, Blyton, Zeke and Bader and Jacob and Hannah



Millennium voices The following young people contributed to this book. In the text they have been allocated pseudonyms. Each one completed an extensive survey, either online or on paper. In addition, some had conversations around ideas and concepts presented in this book. ‘MilGen’ voices included in this book are not intended to be representational, but to add interest and individual perspectives and so act as a sounding-board for the ideas raised. Laura Hawke Scott Jackson Naomi Janega Bess Pendergast Blyton Pendergast Caity Reynolds Thomas Reynolds Liam Slack Cory Winter The illustrations on pages 26, 59, 79, 81, 82, 84, 90, 125, 211, 212, 269, 273, 275, 279, 281, 284, 286, 295 and 298 were drawn by Joy Reynolds.




Characterising the millennial adolescent

Introduction Donna Pendergast

Teachers play a pivotal role in the lives of adolescents. In a formal capacity, they are responsible for educating young people to live as active, informed and engaged members of society. In aspiring to this vision, teachers perform as multi-faceted players in a process we call education. This includes being mentors and role models; collaborators and guides; disciplinarians and managers; assessors and designers. To be effective educators, what teachers have to learn is that effective teaching is based on two underpinning principles: 1 2

understanding, appreciating and connecting with the young people they are educating—knowing who they are teaching; and understanding and having the capabilities to develop relevant and empowering curriculum; to employ appropriate pedagogical practices; and to utilise meaningful assessment for learning—knowing what to teach, how to teach it, and how to assess it for learning.

This book is structured around these two principles. Part 1 of this book focuses on developing an understanding of the nature of the student. There are many ways of understanding adolescence. Familiar paradigms include biomedical; psychological; critical and postmodern; each one carries unique consequences for the role of the learner, the teacher, and the curriculum. This book investigates these familiar paradigms, but, importantly departs from these well-known frameworks to focus on a contemporary construction of adolescence that is set in a particular time and era, and in a particular society. This approach favours a more fluid understanding of adolescence. Szalacha notes: … adolescence is defined differently in each society and era … although rooted in biological, social and psychological development, the concept of adolescence is socially constructed. It is intimately tied to culture and situated in a particular time and geography. (Szalacha, 2005, p. 16)

   The Millennial Adolescent

This book privileges a socio-cultural construction of adolescence based on contemporary generational characteristics. This will be the mechanism we use to consider the unique social and generational factors likely to impact upon contemporary young people as we feel it is a particularly pertinent approach given the new globalised society in which we live (Bahr & Pendergast, 2006). In looking at adolescence within this framework, we do not attempt to create a fixed, single identity of adolescence—some sort of homogeneous profile—but to privilege the massive societal change and its effects, which are increasingly recognised as having no precedent in human history. Given the orientation we have adopted for this book, it is significant that we have included student voices and examples, case studies and scenarios to connect with the young people of the Millennial Generation. The first three chapters provide foundational understanding. The first chapter introduces and problematises the term ‘adolescence’ in historical and contemporary contexts relevant for teachers. A very general discussion of the leading discourses on adolescence is introduced. The following chapter introduces a new way of conceiving contemporary adolescents, using the generational notion of millennial characteristics. We hope this model will make the book engaging while still retaining academic credibility. The final chapter in Part 1 provides an overview of the nature of adolescents in the Australian context, along with the kind of families and communities in which they live.

References Bahr, N., & Pendergast, D. (2006). Adolescence: A useful concept for this millennium. Curriculum Perspectives, 26(1), 67–73. Szalacha, L. (2005). Adolescence. In J. Sears, (Ed.), Youth, education, and sexualities, Volume One: A-J. (pp. 16–19). Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.


Historical understandings: An overview Nan Bahr

Chapter summary • •

• •

• • • •

Why should we worry about historical ideas of adolescence? Where did the term ‘adolescent’ come from? — The origin of the word — When was adolescence to the early writers? Emergence of the modern day adolescent — Storm and stress, and other perspectives — Adolescents in prominence What do people mean when they talk about adolescence? — Why has the term persisted? Theoretical models of adolescence — Biological views — Psycho-social and other views Adolescents in schools Key points Further thinking References

On the way to adulthood, children are transformed. They morph socially, cognitively, physically and emotionally. As adults, people assume particular roles, responsibilities and relationships that are culturally, socially, and biologically inscribed and are usually different from those of childhood. From almost every perspective, children are clearly not adults and are not treated as such in most cultures, and the transition and process of metamorphosis is interesting for educationalists, for researchers in a

   The Millennial Adolescent

Remembering the past in Australia When my mum tells the story of her youth in Adelaide, South Australia, she paints a picture of parental control, of rites of passage and of subtle rebellion. She was the one to sneak out on Sunday afternoons to have piano lessons against her parents’ wishes and then reap the punishment when it was discovered she could play. Apparently Grandma and Grandpa thought piano lessons were a waste of time and their scarce money and would have preferred her to use spare time contributing to the household chores. Mum thought that the money she was earning at the bookbinders after school should be used as she liked. My dad has the same sort of story, rebellion against what he saw as strict parental rules for his behaviour. Rules that, in his opinion, forgot he was almost a man. He ran away to the Northern Territory to be a jackeroo at the age of 14 and didn’t return to his father’s master building team until he was sure he would be accepted as a young adult. He waited until he had an adult achievement to report, that is, his contributions to the construction and maintenance of the rabbit proof fence. Both Mum and Dad found the transition from childhood to adulthood a rough ride. But this was in another time, the first half of the twentieth century in Australia, during the Great Depression. They were becoming adults at just the time that the science of psychology had discovered adolescence. Maybe they were just the type of people that the freshly packaged term was attempting to explain and describe. (Nan Bahr) •

Do you think their experiences and reactions would resonate with kids of today?

range of disciplines, and of course for the community at large. This ‘in between’ time is called adolescence (Hall, 1904) and has been a popular topic of discussion and scholarly research for centuries, particularly since the early twentieth century. This chapter will explore some of those pioneering ideas about adolescence. We will discuss how early researchers imagined adolescents and their motivations for doing so. We hope this will prompt readers to reflect on their own understandings of adolescence, and on current intentions behind the use of the word ‘adolescent’ in today’s society and particularly in our schools. This discussion is relevant for all practising educational professionals and those who are thinking about becoming teachers.

Historical understandings: An overview   

Why should we worry about historical ideas of adolescence? Adolescence is not as tangible a concept as infancy, childhood, adulthood or old age. The word ‘adolescence’ was coined to describe something, or a set of things, to reflect a path rather than a destination. In fact it was conceived as a term that could help people understand the journeys and transitions ahead of children in the early twentieth century. This put a date stamp, indeed maybe a ‘use-by’ date stamp, on many of the ideas underpinning the modern conceptions of adolescence. Of course the term ‘adolescent’ and many of the emergent theories of adolescence and adolescent development can provide extremely useful guidance for those working with young people, particularly teachers. The key point is that ‘adolescence’ was invented to meet the needs of a particular society at a particular time. The issues and contexts that attracted the interest of those pioneering authors in the field of adolescence need to be understood so you can judge effectively how their ideas, and those that have built on their foundation, might be useful to you.

Where did the term ‘adolescent’ come from? The origin of the word The term ‘adolescent’ comes from the Latin adolescens or adulescens which means growing up, or coming to maturity. It is a word that has historically been used to describe a deficit in maturity. A person’s attitude might be described as adolescent when someone is trying to disparage their behaviour as lacking maturity, sophistication or insight. The word has long been associated with negativity—for example, Plato (c427– c347 BC) thought that young people in his time were rather obnoxious. Apparently they displayed a range of ugly behaviours: impulsivity, lives of excess and exaggeration, and poor self-control. He was probably the first to call young people adolescent. Plato saw this time of adolescence as one of risk and general problems. Aristotle (c384–c322 BC) also had a thing or two to say about adolescents. He wrote that they ‘are heated by Nature as drunken men by wine’. Socrates (c469–c399 BC) wrote that adolescents (young people) ‘are inclined to contradict their parents and tyrannise their teachers’. For these reasons, adolescence was portrayed as a nasty era in a person’s life. Even much later, in Émile, where the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712– 1778) put forward his philosophy of education (so providing groundbreaking work in educational reform), he too wrote about the adolescent as, at best, an unfinished work. Rousseau, although not quite as negative as the earlier writers, views them as somewhat incomplete, not yet whole, not yet adult. This deficit view of adolescence is common throughout history—adolescents are seen as deficient by virtue of what they are not. Researchers with a deficit view

   The Millennial Adolescent

consider adolescents as not yet fully independent of their parents and family sanctions (Schaffer, 2004); not yet finished cognitively (Geidd, 1999); not yet developed in a range of attributes that would support mature interpersonal relationships (Graber, Brooks-Gunn & Petersen, 1996); and they have not yet completed their individual constructions of identity (for example Marcia, 1980; Swanson, Beale Spencer & Petersen, 1998; Selman, 1980). We have found (Bahr, 2005) that ‘adolescence’ and ‘adolescent’ have become common words that are used to label people who somehow fall short in maturity. However, that is not what researchers mean.

When was adolescence to the early writers? These early writers identified adolescence as the decade of life between childhood and adulthood. This roughly aligned to the second decade of life. This was a Western view, and more than that, a view relevant to only the middle classes and aristocracy and not apparent in the other lower and peasant classes of those times. In these other classes, adolescence as a distinct phase between childhood and adulthood didn’t really make sense as children worked alongside their parents and gradually assumed adult responsibilities and attitudes. The existence of a clear maturational transition phase has appeared and disappeared throughout history. In medieval Europe boys and girls were considered adult as early as 12 years of age. The Angles and Saxons declared people adult at 12, and the thirteenth-century German legal code (Schwabenspiegel) allowed 14year-old males and 12-year-old females to marry without paternal consent. To be fair, these were agrarian cultures and the distinction between child and adult was not precisely defined. Even in contemporary societies, for some cultural groups there is no conception of a distinct phase of life between childhood and adulthood.

Emergence of the modern day adolescent Adolescence was not considered a potent concept by researchers until around 1890 to about 1920, when there was a resurgence of interest. Santrock (2003) marks this as the invention of the modern conception of adolescence. The inventionist view considers adolescence as a socio-historical creation, particularly relevant to the circumstances of the early twentieth century. These few decades over the turn of that century has also been called the age of adolescence in recognition of the flurry of scientific activity and publication in the field. Hall (1904) was a key writer of the time, and the first to pull together the research on adolescence into a comprehensive treatise on this life stage for which he has been hailed the father of adolescence. There were two main reasons why adolescence attracted academic attention at this time.

Historical understandings: An overview   

First, the industrial revolution had impacted upon childhood significantly. Hierarchical societal organisation in the industrial work environment had seen the use and abuse of children as workhorses on the factory floors and in mines. New laws in Western society that prohibited and limited the exploitation of children in these environments demanded the clear identification of the limits of childhood and the boundary between adult and child. These changes created a sort of nowhere land for young people, ensured their continued dependency, and made their entrance into the economic world more manageable (Santrock, 2003). Second, the field of Psychology was finding a foothold in the sciences. In their attempts to fashion psychological theory as a real science, researchers and authors worked hard to define, classify, and tabulate their observations of human behaviour into comprehensive theoretical frameworks that aimed to explain and predict. Hall (1904) chose to focus on the emerging ‘in betweeners’, those too young for adult work and yet too mature to be considered a child. He re-energised the term adolescent, and he theorised and described in great detail the physical, cognitive, emotional and moral parameters of these young people. He attempted to explain behaviours by creating detailed compendiums of age-related developmental attributes. The Hall theory of recapitulation actually built on the earlier Haeckel notion that embryos experience the repetition of ancestral evolutionary stages in their development in utero (1868). Hall suggested that human development traced a path similar to that of species evolution (Steinberg and Lerner, 2004). This particular idea did not attract a solid following. However, the classification system became a basic frame for human developmental research.

Storm and stress, and other perspectives Hall (1904) saw adolescence as a time of Storm and Stress, a concept we review in Part 2. Briefly, this view characterised adolescents as slaves to hormonal tidal waves and catastrophic physical growth changes. They were seen as tormented by powerful emotions and unfulfilled desire. The adolescent was presumed to be railing against wild developmental changes and impulses. This concept was used to explain their restlessness and impulsivity and their frustrated relationship with adult authority and responsibility. Margaret Mead was another early influential writer on adolescence. She held an almost oppositional view to Hall. In her landmark research into the lovemaking of young Samoans (1928), Mead suggested that there was a rather smooth and indistinguishable transition for young girls to adulthood in Samoan society. She asserted that adolescence as a time of rift, or as a distinguishable stage of life did not fit with this society. Her socio-cultural view has sat in juxtaposition to Hall’s work since that time, providing a constant check against firm theoretical models that exclude societal influences. Boas’ foreword in Mead’s Coming of age in Samoa (1928) highlighted for

10   The Millennial Adolescent

the contemporary scientific community that Mead’s research challenged the view still in currency after Hall, that adolescence was an unavoidable era of change. There has been some debate about the integrity of Mead’s findings following Freeman’s revisit to Samoa in the 1980s (Freeman, 1983), but her influence as counterpoint to common discourse around adolescence has not been diminished.

Adolescents in prominence Adolescents started to gain prominence in society between 1920 and 1950. Early in this era, young people led the fashions and styles of the adult community. In the face of prohibition, adolescents drank and partied heavily and conformed to their peer values. Their place as not yet adult meant they were unburdened with responsibility and seriousness. This was at least until the Great Depression in the 1930s, and then the Second World War (1939–1944). Instead of the hedonistic world of the previous decades, adolescents enlisted, travelled, became independent and worldly. By the 1950s adolescents were a prominent community group with a vocal participation in public debate in Australia. Adolescents protested actively against political policies including the Vietnam War, but by the 1970s this activism had quietened with focus on university study, apprenticeships, and general serious preparation for the adult workforce.

Irene’s story Irene was a working-class girl in her teens in the 1960s. Well, sort of. Her mum was a nurse, dad was a police officer and the family lived in police-provided housing in Elizabeth, South Australia. Irene thought this was a high social position comparatively, and her adolescence (although that word was never used) was an extremely class conscious one. At the time, Elizabeth was filled with people attracted to the new satellite city and the jobs available at the Holden vehicle factory and the meat works. Some of the locals worked at Edinburgh Air Base, but most of Irene’s school peers in Elizabeth Grove worked at the factory. Irene felt she was clearly different from these people, her parents were professionals, and she did ballet. Irene’s sense of self evolved around her parents and their status. She saw herself as a nerd who lived an extremely restricted life, due to her parents’ curfews and perceptions of being a cut above the locals. Friends didn’t visit her at home, she didn’t have a social life with her classmates beyond school. Irene thought this was because as ‘the policeman’s daughter’ she was not likely to be invited into any dodgy activities, smoking and so on. Some of her school continued 

Historical understandings: An overview   11

peers hung out at shopping centres. Irene selected friends who were learning piano and who achieved well. She says she was a snob, people thought she was a snob, her mum was a snob, and she was proud to be a little different. She had what she saw as higher values than the run-of-the-mill riffraff. At school the teachers were authoritarian and rarely treated her or her classmates as individuals. Skirt length, nails, buttons on blazers, gloves, hats were all a focus of attention at school by the teachers. Students were rallied into compliance. On reflection Irene sees this as odd, given the industrial neighbourhood and the government school she attended. At 13 Irene was allowed to wear some low heels, and at 15 she was a debutante at a ‘Coming Out Ball’, which she remembers as her big entrée to being an adult. Irene said as a teenager she didn’t feel she was a little adult although she shared home duty responsibilities which actually impacted heavily on her as her parents worked shifts. She became an adult in her own and her parents’ eyes when she went out to work and could contribute financially to the family budget. • •

How has adolescence in Australia changed since the 1960s? Was Irene’s experience typical? Ask around and gather some pictures of experience in Australia at that time.

In the late 1970s and 1980s Australia presented an entirely different environment for adolescents. It was ostensibly a time of world peace. Decades of international immigration and the establishment of even quicker international travel options brought great cultural diversity to Australian communities, and this at times highlighted differences in conceptions of adolescence in our society. Higher education was free for those who matriculated, and there was an electronic revolution that started to place a great deal of community and economic influence within the reach of young people. Traditional career expectations began to shift. There was a focus on credentialism and personal achievement. By the 1990s free education in Australia was a thing of the past. At the same time the community was chanting the mantra ‘think smart’ in place of the former work ethic. Young entrepreneurs and computer whizzes were prized and were making personal fortunes in their early twenties. Although this wasn’t the norm, it was occurring frequently enough for young people to think more ambitiously about the impact of clever ideas. The attraction of credentials for their own sake or for a foothold in a traditional career stream began to wane. So here we are in the new millennium, and life for the young Australian is different yet again. Technological developments, new economies, a shrinking world, and expensive higher education options have had an impact. Housing and living

12   The Millennial Adolescent

expenses have rocketed in urban areas and drought has ravished wealthy rural estates. As a result many young people cannot afford to shift away from their parents’ nest until their late twenties, even if they are in full-time career stream employment. Marketing and business industries have started referring to a group of people called ‘kidults or ‘adultescents’. They are presumed to be people who refuse to grow up. They seem to continue their buying preferences and general interest patterns from pre-teens well into their thirties (see for example Cameron, 2004). They play electronic games, and are attracted to much the same fashions as those much younger. At the same time, the physical capability to parent is getting younger. Girls as young as eight years old experience menarche (however, it is uncommon). This compares with the usual 12 years of age for girls towards the end of the twentieth century. These early maturing people are not psychologically and emotionally ready for the responsibilities of raising a family (Côté, 2000). So are these people adolescent? Are they ‘in betweeners’ in much the same way as those young people in Hall’s heyday? Does the term make sense in today’s Australian societies?

What do people mean when they talk about adolescence? Historically, an adolescent was like a senior child. They were not expected to assume significant responsibility for themselves or for others, and their scope for decision making was very limited. At the extremes, adolescents were ruled by parental preferences even for the friendships they struck. There were curfews, and stringent regulation of all their activities. Their lives were presumed to be family focused, and their role was to be an apprentice adult with their parents and teachers providing guidance and goals. This type of scenario is still reasonably common in some cultures even today. When people refer to adolescents in these contexts, they generally mean ‘older child’. Ritualised rites of passage to adulthood are often featured. Adolescence for these groups is not necessarily considered as being a deficit adult.

Coming of age in Australia Generally though, the Australian adolescent in the late twentieth century (I include myself in this group) was seen as an unfinished product. Experience of adolescence in the 1980s and 1990s was a gradual loosening of restrictions. At 12 years of age I was required to pay adult fee for the toilets in John Martins store, Adelaide, and we had a family excursion on my birthday to mark my rise to adulthood there. Next was adult price at the movies at 14. At 15 I was no longer subject to compulsory education. Then there was the acquisition of my driver’s licence at 16. I gained part-time work at Target and then at an old folks’ home from the age of 17, just continued 

Historical understandings: An overview   13

about the same time as I started university and met my first serious boyfriend. At 18 I could drink alcohol and vote. At 19 I was married and would have been financially independent except I was still a student and so not yet adult in my parents’ eyes. At 21 my family had a party because I had ‘Come of Age’, and if anybody had left me an inheritance I guess I would have found out about it then. Even then, at 21, I was still a student at university and had not yet embarked upon a full-time career, and so the 21st birthday party was a token gesture and still didn’t count as adulthood in my family. I actually think I became adult in my parents’ eyes at around 27 when I bought my own home instead of renting. That move tied a knot for them and they told me that their work was ‘finished’. For the late twentieth century an adolescent was ‘almost adult’. This was definitely a deficit view. The young person’s characteristics and liberties were compared to a notional fully-fledged adult which included attitudes, responsibilities and debts, and the gap defined their adolescence. (Nan Bahr)

The adolescent of the twenty-first century is different again. This ‘millennial’ adolescent will be explored in detail in Part 2.

Why has the term persisted? Arguably, if the term ‘adolescence’ is entrenched in a dated stereotype and culturally inscribed, it may not be an appropriate label for young people of today. Beane refers to the existence of an ideology of adolescence (Beane, 2004), and many contemporary writers have problematised the relevance of the term to describe young people (Pendergast & Bahr, 2005). The term has persisted, because it is useful. It focuses the research lens on a particular section of society. It frames discourse about education, society and the lives of young people. The terms ‘adolescent’ and ‘adolescence’ define fields of research that have developed models and theories of development and maturation across the diverse range of influences that impact on the experiences of youth. The terms provide a shared vocabulary for professionals, such as educationalists, who aim to respond to the needs and provide for the futures of young people. This text explores, explicates and critically examines many of these theories and models of development. It must be recognised, however, that research into adolescence is bound by this ongoing and quite raw contestation about the very existence of a clear life stage in between child and adult. Many Australian writers and community workers have started to use the label ‘young people’ instead of adolescent (Pendergast & Bahr, 2005). This text will use the term ‘adolescent’, in the full recognition that adolescence should

14   The Millennial Adolescent

not be considered as a generic, lock step developmental stage that encapsulates a broad range of personal attributes. Rather, adolescence refers to the multifaceted set of maturational sequences and elements that impact on life for people moving from childhood to adulthood. When contemporary researchers use the term ‘adolescent’, they often don’t seem to be referring to the same thing. We conducted a scan of the most prominent journals and current textbooks on adolescence (see Table 1.1) and found today’s researchers clearly disagree on who the ‘adolescent’ is: ‘They don’t agree on age markers, boundaries for qualitative dimensions, or indeed whether the term is even useful’ (Bahr, 2005, p. 50).

Table 1.1  Various age spans for adolescence in contemporary literature Author by Journal


Age of adolescence


(years) Adolescence


Schettini, Evans and Frank


Kuther and McDonald




Pinquart and Silbereisen


Allison and Schultz


Meyers and Miller


McCabe and Ricciardelli


Journal of Adolescence


Engels, Vitaro, Blokland, de Kemp and Scholte


Keisner, Kerr and Stattin


Journal of Adolescent Research


Kvernmo and Heyerdahl




Journal of Research on Adolescence


Matthews and Conger


McMillan and Hagan


Early adolescence only

Early adolescence only

Historical understandings: An overview   15



Age of adolescence


(years) Rice and Dolgin


11–14 (early); 15–17 (middle); 18–20 (late)

Boundaries are unclear Not monolithic and uniform




Bounded by rites of passage, no real age boundary

McInerny and McInerny


Seifert and Hoffnung









Bessant, Sercombe and Watts




No age just physical markers

Upper boundary bounded by work

No precise ages 10–13 (early); 14–18 (middle); 19–22 (late)

Reproduced with permission from Pendergast, D., & Bahr, N. (Eds) (2005) Teaching Middle Years: Rethinking curriculum, pedagogy and assessment, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW.

The recent articles in Table 1.1 show us that the trend to try and provide age boundaries for adolescence is not shared in the older articles and texts of the twentieth century. Most of these writers tried to identify physical and behavioural attributes as the markers for the boundaries of adolescence. For example, Ausubel (1954) described physical (pubertal) and some qualitative attributes for adolescence, but did not delineate ages. Puberty was identified as the onset point for many (e.g. Kimmel and Weiner, 1985) and the assumption of a complete suite of adult roles and responsibilities marked the end point. There was a period in the late 1970s when some researchers (e.g. Lefrancois, 1976) openly criticised most other researchers for using age to define adolescence. He held that there might be sequences of development that might align with each other across the physical, emotional and general societal role dimensions, but that these rough correlations were more linked to each other than to any particular age. On all fronts then, what would seem to be a commonly understood notion, a word that is part of everyday language, a concept frequently emblazoned across public media, is and has been a much contested and diversely defined term. However, it is still a useful term. As students of adolescence, we should cultivate a healthy critical eye for the models and theories presented. This will help readers gain most benefit and develop useful practices in their own teaching of young people.

16   The Millennial Adolescent

Theoretical models of adolescence While we will explore in detail the various theoretical models of adolescence and aspects of adolescence that have risen to prominence in the literature, a little preview here wouldn’t go astray. Basically the theoretical models fall largely into one of two camps—those that examine biological parameters, and those that consider sociocultural parameters of maturation.

Biological views Many biological constructions of adolescence home in on the ‘Storm and Stress’ construction of development (e.g. Hamburg, 1974). They describe hormonal changes, growth spurts, and the development of secondary sexual characteristics. Basically adolescence is a time of predictable physical metamorphosis full of changes that impact relentlessly on the behaviours and emotions of young people. In these theoretical models identity, behaviour, family and peer relationships are all inextricably linked to this foundational biological process: ‘From the biological perspective, individuals are doomed to a fairly predicable sequence of events by virtue of their maturational clock’ (Bahr, 2005, p. 55). Recently these adolescence biologists have turned their attention to brain development (for example Geidd, 1999). This research is reviewed later in this text. Most biologically based theories consider the path through adolescence as an intractable inevitability. Adolescents are simply passive victims. While it is clear that there are physical changes that beset individuals between childhood and adulthood, writers who restrict their consideration of adolescence to just these physical factors have found an antagonistic research audience (such as White, 1968; 1994).

Psycho-social and other views Psycho-social writers tend to try to explain the links between physical and mental maturation, experience, intellect, and socialisation. Piaget (1955) and Kohlberg (1986) have been the most prominent writers with psycho-social views of adolescence. These writers are tied to lock step and sequential age/stage conceptions of development, but do consider the individual in quite a different way to the biological theorists. In their view, the adolescent is not simply a passive victim and their experience of adolescence sees the developmental attributes as interactive and individual. Imagining psycho-social development in stages linked to chronological ages has been central to writers in these broad paradigms. However, age/stage models of development have attracted significant criticism on the grounds that they almost inevitably under- or overestimate the attributes and capabilities of people at particular ages. Clearly people of any age are diverse across many dimensions. Interestingly, many teachers in schools still find it useful to talk about age/stage

Historical understandings: An overview   17

theories of development. They tend to use the benchmarks as a rough guide for their expectations of kids in their classrooms. Arguably, this oversimplifies the case and the teachers run the danger of misconstruing the capabilities of their charges. The biological and the psycho-social viewpoints on development have been drawn together by more recent theorists such as Halpern (1996). Halpern coined the term ‘psycho-biosocial’ in an attempt to describe theories that consider the joint influence of nature and nurture on behaviour. What limits this perspective is the scant attention given to the social processes that also contribute to a young person’s maturation.

Adolescents in schools One thing is sure for teachers. The students they teach are not like them, and these students are not as students once were. Society in the new millennium frames life differently for young people. International society and blended cultures sit alongside insular and traditional societal and subcultural groups. Local and global economies have changed the nature and value of work. Technologies have shifted cultural capital, and enabled people to stay home to work, with a developing working smarter ethic rewarded across society. Most of our young people are fluent users of technology. They develop on-line interpersonal relationships in ways that put the old pen pal model of the mid twentieth century well in the shade. Today’s adolescents in Australia pose particular challenges for teachers who grew up last century. Tomorrow’s adolescents will no doubt be different yet again. That doesn’t mean we can afford to cast aside the theoretical models that have been developed to try and explain unfolding adulthood. Many of the impetuses for development are still working and impacting on our young people. Clever educational professionals will be able to examine and draw from these models to inform their classroom practices.

Key points 1 2 3 4

Children are clearly not adults and are not treated as such in most cultures. The transition and process of metamorphosis to adulthood is an ‘in between’ time called adolescence. Adolescence was invented to meet the needs of a particular society at a particular time. The term adolescent comes from the Latin adolescens or adulescens which means to grow up, or come to maturity. It is often used to describe a deficit in maturity, which has come to be described as the deficit view of adolescence.

18   The Millennial Adolescent

5 Early writers identified adolescence as the decade of life between

6 7 8 9




13 14 15


17 18 19

childhood and adulthood. This roughly aligned to the second decade of life. The existence of a clear maturational transition phase has appeared and disappeared throughout history. For some cultural groups, there is no conception of a distinct phase of life between childhood and adulthood. Adolescence was not considered a potent concept by researchers until between 1890 and about 1920. The inventionist view considers adolescence as a socio-historical creation, particularly relevant to the circumstances of the early twentieth century. The few decades over the turn of the twentieth century has been called ‘the age of adolescence’ in recognition of the flurry of scientific activity and publication in the field. Hall (1904) has been hailed the ‘father of adolescence’. He was the first to pull together the research on adolescence into a comprehensive treatise on the hallmarks of the life stage. Hall theorised and described in great detail the physical, cognitive, emotional and moral parameters of young people. He explained behaviours by creating detailed compendiums of age-related developmental attributes. Hall’s theory of recapitulation suggested that human development traced a path similar to that of species evolution. ‘Storm and Stress’ concepts of adolescence view young people as slaves to hormonal tidal waves and catastrophic physical morphing. Mead suggested that there was a rather smooth and undistinguishable transition for young girls to adulthood in the Samoan society. She asserted that adolescence as a time of rift, or as a distinguishable stage of life did not fit with this society. This view contrasted with Hall. If the term adolescence is entrenched in a dated stereotype, and culturally inscribed, then it may not be an appropriate label for young people of today. Beane refers to the existence of an ideology of adolescence. Today’s researchers clearly disagree on who the ‘adolescent’ is. The term adolescent/ce has persisted because it is useful. It focuses the research lens on a particular section of society. It frames discourse about education, society and the lives of young people.

Historical understandings: An overview   19

20 Many Australian writers and community workers have started to


22 23



use the label ‘young people’ instead of adolescent in an attempt to acknowledge the contemporary debates. Biological constructions of adolescence generally describe the impact of hormonal changes, growth spurts, and the development of secondary sexual characteristics. Most biologically based theories consider the path through adolescence as an intractable inevitability. Adolescents are simply passive victims. Psycho-social writers explain the links between physical and mental maturation, experience, intellect, and socialisation. In this view the adolescent is not a passive victim. Age/stage models of development have attracted significant criticism on the grounds that they almost inevitably under- or overestimate the attributes and capabilities of people at particular ages. Psycho-biosocial theories consider the joint influence of nature and nurture on behaviour. This perspective is limited by the scant attention given to the social processes that also contribute to a young person’s maturation.

Further thinking 1 2



How is it useful for teachers to continue referring to models of development that were constructed for adolescents of different eras? Interview people who were adolescent in different eras. How do their experiences compare? Does it appear that adolescence for them was individual or representative of their generation? Are you a ‘kidult’? Talk to a teenager and try and draw direct comparisons between your interests and theirs. What are the key differences between you? Make a timeline of your own development through the second decade of life. Identify key changes and developments in each of the physical, intellectual, social, emotional, and moral fields.

References Allison, B. N., & Schultz, B. (2004). Parent–adolescent conflict in early adolescence. Adolescence, 39(153), 101. Ausubel, D. P. (1954). Theory and problems of adolescent development. New York: Grune and Stratton.

20   The Millennial Adolescent

Bahr, N. (2005). Chapter 3: The middle years learner. In D. Pendergast & N. Bahr (Eds.), Teaching middle years: Rethinking curriculum, pedagogy and assessment (pp. 48–64). Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin. Beane, J. (2004). Creating quality in the middle school curriculum. In S. C. Thomson (Ed.) (pp. 49–64). Reforming middle level education: Considerations for policymakers. Westerville, OH: National Middle School Association. Bessant, J., Sercombe, H., & Watts, R. (1998). Chapter 9: Youth and the media. In Youth studies: an Australian perspective (pp. 132–146). Melbourne: Longman. Boas, F. (1928). Foreword. In M. Mead, Coming of age in Samoa. New York: Morrow. Cameron, A. (2004). I’ll never grow up, not me! Macleans, 117(31), 56–57. Côté, J. (2000). Arrested adulthood: the changing nature of maturity and identity. New York: New York University Press. Engels, R. C. M. E., Vitaro, F., Blokland, E. D. E., de Kemp, R., & Scholte, R. H. J. (2004). Influence and selection processes in friendships and adolescent smoking behaviour: the role of parental smoking, Journal of Adolescence, 27(5), 531–544. Frankenberger, K. D. (2004). Adolescent egocentrism, risk perceptions, and sensation seeking among smoking and nonsmoking youth. Journal of Adolescent Research, 19(5), 576– 590. Freeman, D. (1983). Margaret Mead and Samoa. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Geidd, J. (1999). Brain development IX: Human brain growth. American Journal of Psychiatry, 156(4), 4. Graber, J. A., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Petersen, A. C. (1996). Adolescent transitions in context. In J. A. Graber, J. Brooks-Gunn, & A. C. Petersen, Transitions through adolescence: Interpersonal domains and contexts. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Haeckel, E. (1868). Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte [Natural history of creation]. Berlin: George Reimer. Hall, G. S. (1904). Adolescence (Vols. 1 & 2). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Halpern, D. F. (1996). Thinking critically about critical thinking. Mahwah, NL: Erlbaum. Hamburg, B. (1974). Early adolescence: A specific and stressful stage of the life cycle. In G. Coelho, D. A. Hamburg, & J. E. Adams (Eds.), Coping and adaptation (pp. 101–125). New York: Basic Books. Kiesner, J., Kerr, M., & and Stattin, H. (2004). ‘Very Important Persons’ in adolescence: going beyond in-school, single friendships in the study of peer homophily. Journal of Adolescence, 27(5), 545–560. Kimmel, D. C., & Weiner, I. B. (1985). Adolescence: a developmental transition. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum. Kohlberg, L. (1986). A current statement on some theoretical issues. In S. Modgil & C. Modgil (Eds.), (pp. 223–231), Lawrence Kohlberg: Consensus and controversy. Philadelphia: Falmer.

Historical understandings: An overview   21

Kuther, T. L., & McDonald, E. (2004). Early adolescents’ experiences with, and views of, Barbie. Adolescence, 39(53), 39–51. Kvernmo, S., & Heyerdahl, S. (2004). Ethnic identity and acculturation attitudes among indigenous Norwegian Sami and ethnocultural Kven adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Research, 19(5), 512–532. Lefrancois, G. R. (1976). Adolescents. California: Wadsworth Publishing Company. Marcia, J. E. (1980). Identity in adolescence. In J. Adelson (Ed.), Handbook of adolescent psychology (pp. 159–187). New York: John Wiley. Matthews, L. S. & Conger, R. D. (2004). ‘He did it on purpose!’ Family correlates of negative attributions about an adolescent sibling. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 14(3), 257. McCabe, M. P., & Ricciardelli, L. A. (2004). A longitudinal study of pubertal timing and extreme body change behaviors among adolescent boys and girls. Adolescence, 39(153), 145–166. McInerny, D. M., McInerny, V. (2006). Educational psychology: Constructing learning (2nd ed.). Sydney: Prentice Hall. McMillan, R., & Hagan, J. (2004). Violence in the transition to adulthood: Adolescent victimization education, and socioeconomic attainment in later life. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 14(2), 127. Mead, M. (1928). Coming of age in Samoa. New York: Morrow. Meyers, S. A., & Miller, C. (2004). Direct, mediated, moderated, and cumulative relations between neighborhood characteristics and adolescent outcomes. Adolescence, 39(153), 121–144. Pendergast, D., & Bahr, N. (Eds.). (2005). Teaching Middle Years: Rethinking curriculum, pedagogy and assessment (pp. 48–64). Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin. Peterson, C. (2004). Looking forward through childhood and adolescence. Sydney: PrenticeHall. Piaget, J. (1955). The construction of reality in the child (M. Cook, Trans.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Pinquart, M., & Silbereisen, R. K. (2004). Transmission of values from adolescents to their parents: the role of value content and authoritative parenting. Adolescence, 39(153), 83–100. Rice, F. P., & Dolgin, K. G. (2005). The adolescent: Development, relationships, and culture (11th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Santrock, J. W. (2003). Adolescence (9th ed). Boston: McGraw Hill. Schaffer, D. R. (2002). Developmental psychology: Childhood and adolescence (6th ed.). California: Wadsworth. Schettini Evans, A., & Frank, S. J. (2004). Adolescent depression and externalizing problems: Testing two models of comorbidity in an inpatient sample. Adolescence, 39(153), 1–17.

22   The Millennial Adolescent

Seifert, K., & Hoffnung, R. (2000). Child and adolescent development. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Selman, R. (1980). The growth of interpersonal understanding. New York: Academic Press. Smith, J. M. (2004). Adolescent males’ view on the use of mental health counseling services. Adolescence, 39(153), 77–82. Steinberg, L. (2005). Adolescence (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. Steinberg, L., & Lerner, R. M. (2004). The scientific study of adolescence: a brief history. Journal of Early Adolescence, 24(1), 45–54. Swanson, D. P., Beale Spencer, M., & Petersen, A. (1998). The adolescent years: Social influences and educational challenges. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. White, S. H. (1968). The learning-maturation controversy: Hall to Hull. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 14, 187–196. White, S. H. (1994). G. Stanley Hall: From philosophy to developmental psychology. In R. D. Parke, P. A. J. Ornstein, J. Relser, & C. Zahn-Waxler (Eds.), A century of developmental psychology (pp. 204–225). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.


The MilGen and society 1

Donna Pendergast

Chapter summary • • •

• • • •

Generational theory Getting to know the millennial adolescent — Two transitions Millennial society — A new societal paradigm—The loss of enclosure — Adolescent identity formation and ICTs — Globalisation — New work for Millennials — Media effects—What’s cool Millennial adolescents Key points Further thinking References

Generational theory The concept of intergenerational differences is not new. The basic notion is that generations typically share age, a set of experiences during formative years, and a set of social and economic conditions. These shared experiences and conditions shape


In keeping with the Millennial Generation’s tendency to abbreviate, emanating from Short Message Service (SMS) literacy, the hybrid term ‘MilGen’ will sometimes be used in this chapter and is a shortened form for ‘Millennial Generation’.


24   The Millennial Adolescent

Milly’s story Milly travels to school by train. She has an iPod, a mobile phone, and a personal computer with Internet access. She spends hours each night surfing the web, logging on to her favourite sites and interacting on weblogs, while she listens to music downloads off the web and keeps an eye on the television. She has many virtual friends she chats with regularly—she enjoys the anonymity of this support network. Milly sends and receives SMS text messages to family and friends a couple of times each day, and on the weekends she spends a lot of time SMSing her friends. She enjoys X-Box games. She has two best friends, both in her class at school. She celebrates birthdays with her girlfriends by having sleepovers and DVD movie nights. She doesn’t know what work she will do in the future but is hopeful she will go to university. She thinks school is important but boring and wastes a lot of time—it is too slow paced. She enjoys reality television, especially ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Australian Idol’. She spends her wages, earned at a fast food store a couple of afternoons a week, on ‘cool’ clothes and shoes, and shops around on eBay for quirky bargains. She has braces on her teeth, soon to be removed. She lives with her Mum and sees her Dad most weekends. Milly is a millennial adolescent. (Milly, 14 years old)

groups of people in particular ways that in turn shape their thinking, values and beliefs. They do not replace or contest psychological, medical or other paradigms for understanding individuals and groups, but sit alongside and complement these frameworks for understanding. Generations are defined by demographers, the press and media, popular culture, market researchers, and by members of the generation themselves. There is no precise consensus as to which birth years constitute a generation though there are quite close estimations by theorists. A generation is usually considered to be around 20–22 years, though the idea that because of the rapidity of change generations are shortening to 15–16 years has also been advocated (Tulgan & Martin, 2001). Typically, generations also comprise sub-generations, allowing for close scrutiny of cohorts within a generation. In fact, Generation Y is made up of three subgenerations: Generation Why (born 1982–1985); Millennials (born 1985–1999); and iGeneration (born 1999–2002). The idea is originally an American concept, but it is widely and increasingly applicable to Anglophones. Recent generations include Baby Boomers and Generation X. Generation Y, also known as ‘Millennials’ and ‘Digitals’, are those born from around 1982 till about 2002–04 (Strauss & Howe, 2000). This is the generation

The MilGen and society   25

of interest in this book. We have chosen to use the name ‘Millennial’ because it is the largest subgroup of the generation and it draws attention to the later birth end of the generation, which is of most interest to educators engaging with this book. Furthermore, throughout the book we often abbreviate Millennial Generation to MilGen, which is consistent with the tendency for the generation to cleverly devise short versions of text as a convenience for sms and other technologies. From an educational point of view, it is significant to note that Millennials started inhabiting classrooms around 1988 and the last-born of the generation will leave classrooms around 2020. Beginning around 2008–10, Millennials will share schools with the oldest of the next generation, tentatively named Generation Z, who will bring their own generational trends and characteristics. As educators entering or currently employed in the school system, it is also interesting to note that the teacher workforce is currently dominated by Baby Boomers, with Generation Xers leaving the profession prematurely. The challenge for the teacher workforce generally is to make it appealing to retain Generation X (Mayer, 2006), particularly as the Baby Boomer generation are approaching retirement. Table 2.1 provides a summary of twentieth-century generations, concluding with the Millennial Generation, which has birth years to around 2002–04. Table 2.1  A summary of twentieth-century generations and notable occurrences Birth years

Generation name

Notable occurrences during formative years



Experienced WWI



Experienced WWII


Baby Boomer

Civil rights movement


Generation X

Rise of mass media and consumerism; end of Cold War


Generation Y

Globalisation, Information/ Digital Age Source: Developed from Strauss & Howe (1998)

Each generation has its own unique set of influences and generalities. Bernard Salt (2006), an Australian commentator and adviser on consumer, cultural and demographic trends, agrees that there are pluses and minuses to being born in any generation—what is important is recognising trends and developing awareness so that this knowledge can be used for purposes such as marketing, policy development and the like.

Getting to know the millennial adolescent What makes a new generation? Typically, members of a generation share age, common experiences, as well as social and economic conditions. MilGens are characterised

26   The Millennial Adolescent


as computer and Internet competent, multi-taskers, with a global perspective. They respond best to visual language, and are heavily influenced by the media. They love the thrill of interactive games, and for them time is measured in seconds. They have a new focus on teamwork, achievement, modesty and good conduct. They live in a world where globalisation and fast capitalism are the norm. According to theorists predicting the impact of the MilGen, it is regarded as a generation with enormous potential—a youth generation that will ‘quit talking and start doing’ (Strauss & Howe, 2000, p. 5). A key feature of the Millennial Generation is that they have grown up in a time where computer technology is embedded into all aspects of their lives. They are what Prensky (2005/6) describes as ‘digital natives’. This contrasts starkly to their parents’ generation, and those before them, who experience computers as a ‘new’ form of technology rather than the norm. According to Sheahan (2005), there are nine character traits that define the Y Generation. They are street smart; aware; lifestyle centred; independently dependent; informal; ‘tech’ savvy; sceptical; stimulus junkies; and, impatient. Adding to this characterisation, Howe, who along with Strauss literally ‘wrote the book’ on the Millennial Generation—The fourth turning: An American prophecy (Strauss & Howe, 2000), identifies seven core traits that mark the MilGen as different to the two preceding generations (Generation X and Baby Boomer). Millennials: 1 2

consider themselves to be special are sheltered

The MilGen and society   27

3 4 5 6 7

are confident are team oriented have conventional hopes and dreams are pressured are achieving (Howe, 2006).

Because of these differences, the MilGen is regarded as being ‘unlike any other youth generation in living memory’ (Strauss & Howe, 2000, p. 4). The characteristics on this list are closely replicated by many others researching and writing about the MilGen, forming an essentialisation or stereotyping of what millennial adolescents might typically be expected to be. While it is important to point out that adolescents cannot and should not be thought of as a homogeneous group of young people, generational characteristics serve to provide a broad brushstroke of some of the typical commonalities of an age group, often produced as a result of societal effects. And that is what investigating the MilGen sets out to achieve. To know and understand young people, how they learn and respond in situations, is likely to enhance their life outcomes and make life easier for other generations connecting with them. Importantly for educators, getting to know millennial adolescents and their generational traits facilitates a better understanding of the preferred pedagogies, desirable curriculum, and appropriate assessment techniques to optimise learning. Furthermore, the idea of generational membership is appealing and engaging, attached as it is to a certain degree of popular culture, and it provides a compelling way of reconsidering the young people involved in formal education.

Two transitions There is one thing that is certain about young adolescents today, they are experiencing not one but two transitions—the traditional one from childhood to adulthood, and the transition of the nature of society. Millennials are born into an era of unprecedented transition from industrial to information-based culture and economy, from print-based to multimedia, digital approaches to communication. Their social and cultural patterns are characterised by this significant paradigm shift. This is where the stimulus junkie, impatient, technological savvy behaviours arise and are reinforced. Linked to this is the scepticism and need for street smarts and independent dependence, the result of a necessary positioning as parents and adults are no longer the competent leaders of the changing society, but often the uncomfortable facilitators trying to keep abreast of the rapidity of technological and other consequential changes, including the all-encompassing effects of globalisation. Frequent change and technological progress are comforting realities for the Millennial Generation, yet, the same environment provides unsettling challenges for those generations before, including Generation X, the Baby Boomers, and long

28   The Millennial Adolescent

before them, the GI generation. All of these generations happen to share society at this time, but it is the Millennials who are most at ease in our contemporary world. Ironically, it is most likely to be Generation X and Baby Boomers—the mature role models and leaders of Generation Y and the classroom teachers—who are somewhat nervous and uncomfortable in this new world.

Millennial society The social and economic conditions unique to the MilGen have been investigated and reported by many interested researchers. Pinquart and Silbereisen (2005) for example propose three ‘common threads’ that are consistently identified throughout the literature as influencing adolescents’ lives in contemporary society, these being globalisation, individualisation/pluralisation, and demographic change. Globalisation is regarded broadly as any processes, innovations and changes that increase the interconnectedness of the world. Globalisation of the economy is bound to the expansion of new communications technologies, such as the Internet, creating a global village where the traditional boundaries of time and geographic space have been negated. Millennials’ social and cultural patterns are characterised by this significant paradigm shift. An increase in territorial mobility within and between countries has consequently reduced the sense of community. Individualisation and pluralisation of life paths refers to the never before experienced lack of clear guidelines about future roles, the difficulties associated with long-term decision making where careers and jobs have not yet been created. This ambiguity challenges what have been relatively predictable ‘social scripts’ for adolescents of times past. Consequences are difficult to predict. And finally there are demographic changes related to the decline in fertility, smaller family units, immigration and emigration patterns, ageing populations, improved health initiatives. These trends create a new kind of uncertainty for adolescents. It is important to consider the society in which these young people live, work and play, as these are the factors that facilitate the development of young people’s identities. While acknowledging the work of Pinquart and Silbereisen (2005) and the development of three ‘common threads’, I have chosen here to separate some of the factors and focus on the following characteristics of contemporary society and the connection to MilGen characteristics. These are the loss of enclosure through information and communication technologies (ICT); adolescent identity formation and ICTs; globalisation; new work order; changing families; and media effects.

A new societal paradigm—The loss of enclosure Millennials are also known as ‘digitals’, because the last couple of decades have seen the emergence of mass digital computer and on-line technologies. This of course coincided with the new millennium, hence the generation’s name. Commentators agree that the new information technologies are the defining characteristic of

The MilGen and society   29

the contemporary era—and the enabling tool for massive globalisation trends— impacting on every aspect of our public and private lives. This is the first time in history that people (as information and communication technology (ICT) users) have had access to information and the ability to communicate with whomever they want, without the historical constraints of time, bodies, identities, communities and physical geographic boundaries. As such, it is recognised as a major paradigm shift in literacy, which has in turn created a major shift in the way society and individuals operate. New media, information technologies and the Internet have changed the nature of interpersonal relations, by enabling those with access (mostly people in advanced capitalist nation states) to communicate, shop, bank, work, gain an education, and play remotely. Electronic media has created a simultaneous universe, where constraints imposed previously by time and place, around which communities were established, have been penetrated. And, importantly, the ongoing and rapid metamorphoses of new media and the effects of media globalisation seem beyond our imagination. With the sophistication of ICT it is possible to be almost any place, any time within cyberspace. No longer are people constrained by enclosures such as distance and time. A young adolescent growing up in a country town in Australia in the 1970s was limited to the resources in the local community. For many, this meant no or limited television, access to public telephones and perhaps a home telephone. A council library and the local school library were the primary sources of information and communication. Computers were mysterious—typically massive structures taking up whole floors in office buildings in major cities, used only for data storage and complex calculations. In the late 1970s, some students may have been introduced to computers when they shaded in punch cards and posted them off to be processed by the computer in the city as part of their maths classes. Millennial adolescents in the same town today can access a range of mass communication technologies. Telecommunications technologies—mobile phones, the international satellite phone system, the Internet, the worldwide web, computers—are all examples of communications technologies that are currently in use around the world. They are also very recent inventions, constantly evolving and hybridising to form unexpected forms of media. But, for Millennials, they have been part of their life since birth, and are to them ‘normal’. Millennial adolescents in Australia are prolific users of such technology. The following data give a sense of how engaged with the technology young people in Australia are. In 2002: • • •

61% of Australian households had access to a computer at home, up from 44% of households in 1998 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2003); 46% of Australian households had home Internet access, up from 16% of households in 1998 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2003); 46% of 14 year olds, 55% of 15 year olds and 73% of 16 year olds have their own, personal mobile phone (Davidson, 2004);

30   The Millennial Adolescent

• •

12% of children aged 6–9 use text messaging at least once per day; 49% for those aged 10–14; and 80% for 15–17 year olds (Giles, 2004); 48% of young people use the Internet for downloading music files, with 5% reporting that that’s the main reason they use the Internet (Davidson, 2004).

Nevertheless, in Australia, as in all countries, the digital divide serves to marginalise certain members of the community. For example, ‘power users’ of the Internet are likely to be predominantly young, male, earning in excess of $75,000, employed, and living in metropolitan areas; while those on low incomes, without tertiary education, living in rural/remote areas, or of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage, or with disabilities, or with a language background other than English, or aged over 55 are less likely to be on-line. Barriers to on-line access include set-up and access costs, lack of physical access, uninterest/confidence or perceptions of irrelevance, security concerns, lack of skills/training and illiteracy (http://www. Internationally, the G8 nations (United States of America, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and United Kingdom) account for under 20 per cent of the world’s population, but ‘own’ 80 per cent of Internet hosts and most traffic occurs in these nations. Of the 80 per cent of Internet hosts, the US ‘owns’ around 83 per cent. This suggests that the United States of America is at the centre of the information economy in our world today. What is known about the digital divide in general is that just under one-tenth of the world’s six billion people have access to the Internet; and men have greater access to ICT than women (Tichawangana, 2004). The point to be made about the digital divide is that, like the first two paradigms of human communication (alphabet, printing press), the ICT revolution is not equitable; it serves particular interests and by its nature reinforces the positioning of marginalised groups in society. Millennial adolescents cut across many of these categories, hence are likely to have differential access to ICTs.

Adolescent identity formation and ICTs Will the major literacy paradigm shift to information and communication technologies bring an end to the traditions of our book-based culture? The bookbased culture produced industrial model schools, dependent upon the transmission of knowledge primarily through paper-based resources. This model still prevails in most communities today. Herein lies the nexus for Millennials—they are living in a world that has shifted in many ways, yet the schooling they are likely to experience has not shifted to the same extent. Schooling remains for most a book-based cultural experience formulated to suit the context of their parents and earlier generations. Undoubtedly, the period since 1980—when human communications technology created the shift from paper-based to electronic media—has been a ‘transformational

The MilGen and society   31

time’, with information and its accessibility changing work, education and family life. Concerns range over the abandonment of grammar through Short Messaging Service (SMS) shortcutting, to the risks of child exploitation and perversion through Internet chat sites, from loss of childhood to the explosion of knowledge widely available on the net, to work intensification and the expectation that people are available instantly, either by phone, fax or e-mail. All these changes impact on what it means to be a member of the Y Generation as a millennial adolescent. There is a growing corpus of research around the effects of ICT, and in particular, identity formation, which is recognised as a significant event in adolescence. For example, Holloway and Valentine (2003, p. 155) report that traditional adult–child relations ‘appear to be reversed in many households’ because children are more technologically competent than their parents, and technology has taken such an allconsuming hold on the household that young people are elevated in their relationships with parents and other adults. This is not surprising, given that millennial adolescents are not threatened by technology but have the attitude that it should be employed for their purposes. They keep abreast of technological advancements with ease and enthusiasm. They are, after all, typified as being techno-savvy. From the parental perspective, the fear is that children will be put at risk of ‘virtual’ dangers through their use of ICT because they may lack the emotional competence to match their technical skills. However, the parents lack the technical skills to oversee the process. Interestingly, these researchers found that there is a higher degree of understanding among children of danger due to virtual exposure than their parents realise. They also dispute commonly held views such as that ICT is addictive, dangerous and isolating, instead arguing that: • • • • •

The home computer does not have an inevitable negative impact on household relations. The home computer is generally used as a different tool in different homes. Children are not spending excessive time indoors in front of the computer rather than outdoors playing. ICT use does not encourage social isolation or the breakdown of family relations and friendships. Young people appear to use technology in balanced and sophisticated ways to develop and enhance both on- and off-line social relationships.

Other benefits of developing technological capability and engaging in games such as those delivered by GameBoy and Xbox are beginning to emerge. Enhanced communication skills, the capacity to associate actions with consequences, and other capabilities such as enhanced business skills are being identified as benefits. While this seems to be comforting rhetoric, others disagree with this rosy analysis. For example, Calvert (2003) raises a more cautionary flag on the effects of the use of ICT by young people. Her research reveals that children and adolescents

32   The Millennial Adolescent

use on-line virtual worlds to experiment with the construction of their identities and this has both positive and negative effects. Furthermore, young people may struggle with the shift from virtual reality to reality, as their skills, relationships, power base and so on may in fact be radically different in reality to that experienced in the virtual world. Anderson (2003, p. 115) also raises concerns, noting strongly that ‘the evidence is now clear that playing violent video games increases aggressive behaviour and decreases prosocial behaviour in children and young adults’. Harley (1998, p. 62) concurs, warning that there is ‘confusion between fantasy and reality … inappropriate television and other screen media content does have a negative impact on young children’s development’. The argument is that young people lose the capacity to differentiate between virtual and real worlds, and between appropriate and inappropriate social behaviours. There are, unfortunately, some internationally recognised examples that support such a view. The Columbine High School massacre in the USA that occurred on 20 April 1999 is one such case. Two teenage students shot and killed 13 and wounded 23 of their fellow classmates and teachers before killing themselves. A range of influences was explored, including violent video games (Anderson & Dill, 2000). Phone bullying is a recently documented phenomenon belonging to the larger family of what has been dubbed ‘e-bullying’. Acting on the results of a United Kingdom study that found SMS bullying was growing faster than any other form of bullying, Education Queensland, fearing a potential influx, introduced guidelines on the use of identified technologies, including digital Internet-enabled palm pilots, pocket organisers and personal computers. The policy is explicit on what constitutes e-bullying and is now used by all government school principals when determining whether to hand a student a short or long suspension or to expel them for breaches. The policy also prohibits the use of phone and digital cameras in toilets, lockers and change rooms (Gregory, 2004). In another domain, the new word ‘cyberchondria’ has been coined to describe the practice of searching on-line for illnesses to match physical symptoms experienced by individuals, who are often adolescents too embarrassed or unable to approach a doctor for a real assessment. Cyberchondria or health anxiety for the information age sometimes involves cyber quacks peddling products or perhaps luring people into health swindles. This may have serious consequences such as misdiagnoses (Muller, 2005). Genuine health problems currently being diagnosed in the MilGen, include hearing damage from listening to personal music players too loudly. This is a particular concern because of the proliferation of iPods, MP3s and the like, iconically associated with the MilGen. And it is not just the more sophisticated forms of technology that cause concern. Television and the changing nature of programs, particularly the proliferation of reality programs such as ‘Big Brother’, ‘Survivor’ and ‘Australian Idol’ are also an

The MilGen and society   33

issue. ‘Big Brother’ was made a hit by MilGen viewers. As reported by McLean (2005), its success can be attributed to its ability to catch the youth market by revealing contestants’ use of sexual innuendo, explicit language and what some consider to be distasteful behaviour—all drawcards for the adolescent market. The effects of the proliferation of such media is to present this as normal behaviour, rather than extreme or marginal behaviour, hence potentially shaping the identity formation of adolescent viewers. These kinds of ethical dilemmas are a key focus of the micro effects of ICT on the identity formation of adolescents. While the jury remains firmly out on the overall effects of modern day technologies, violent/unsettling games and activities that are easily accessed through such devices are the defining feature of our current generation. In all likelihood, it may take many decades until a definitive view is reached on this aspect of our way of life. Ironically, by this time, the impact of ICT will have constructed new identities that will be seen as the norm. Donnison concurs that there is no doubt ICT has had a huge impact on the character development of Millennials, suggesting that they are: … technosavvy, image driven, develop graphicy skills before literacy skills, do not think in a linear fashion but rather think non-linear, loopy, in hyperlink hopscotch fashion. Time, for them, is measured in microseconds and survival is of the fastest, not the fittest. They have a strong sense of immediacy, a desire for instant gratification, and a low boredom threshold. They learn by interaction and doing rather than sitting and listening and prefer to experience and feel rather than think and analyse. (2004, p. 23)

So how do these micro effects that shape individual identities flow on to become macro effects? What happens at an individual level impacts on communities—home, school and beyond.

Globalisation Possibly the most important macro effect of the advance of ICT is that it is a product of globalisation. Prominent social theorist Lyotard (1984a; 1984b), along with many of his contemporaries, notes the emergence of globalisation, with its inextricable reliance on ICT, as the dominant cultural practice in the Western world in the late twentieth century. Hickling-Hudson (1999, p. 82) provides this explanation: globalization refers to supra-national ideas and processes which are borderless, beyond the nation state ... Globalization is both a process that is happening and an awareness that it is happening. It refers to an intensified, more global distribution of a particular economic system based on capital, as well as technology and technological processes, migrants, refugees, travellers, ideas and cultural movements.

34   The Millennial Adolescent

What this means for millennial adolescents is that the world is a different place. The opening up and flow of people, media images, technology, finance and ideology—on a global scale—means that they will experience life in dramatically different ways from any previous generation. For example, media globalisation might be experienced as made for television wars, such as the Iraq War; terrorist events with international impact, such as the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks; natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and the devastation of New Orleans. Globalisation also means that millennial adolescents consider themselves members of a global community, with raised awareness of global issues and the capacity to move into virtual spaces around the globe with relative ease. And while there is a frequently heard argument that every generation is one of vast changes and subsequent changes in attitudes, values and ethics to the previous generation, there is growing acknowledgement that this generation has experienced a major shift unlike any currently living. Globalisation, and what some have catchily described as the ‘McDonaldisation’ of so many aspects of life has a massive effect on the individual adolescent, and on the collective trends within the Millennial Generation.

New work for Millennials A fundamental shift linked to globalisation is the shift from the ‘old work order’, the traditional, assembly line approach typical of mass production. Products were replicated faithfully, they were standardised with no flexibility. With globalisation and the ‘new work order’, the approach is towards forms of production which employ new ways of making goods and commodities, and serving more differentiated markets or niches through segmented retailing strategies. Labour markets are characterised by part-time and declining full-time employment, a decline in the demand for unskilled labour and rising youth unemployment. Progress and change are fundamental to the twenty-first century, so the capacity to constantly modify also will be essential. In the ‘old work order’ and the traditional approach to education, we encouraged students to develop specialist points of view so that eventually they were able to function as particular types of experts. We also focused on getting students to be able to reproduce facts and figures and learn how to handle knowledge and language in ways limited to their particular disciplines. This is no longer suitable for a global economy and a global workforce—we no longer need people with just those capacities. Further evidence of the global nature of work is evident in recent advertisements attracting students to university. For example, Queensland University of Technology’s slogan ‘A University for the Real World’ relies on catchy, visually stimulating snapshots of recent graduates in settings around the world. A two-second scene in Paris, followed by a two-second scene in London, then America, and so on characterising the notion of work as a global enterprise, and graduates as global workers.

The MilGen and society   35

With the loss of permanent jobs and narrow career paths, the portfolio approach to careers will become increasingly the norm for Millennials. Hence, the ‘new work order’ stresses the role of education and learning as a lifelong enterprise.

Media effects—What’s cool The shift in influence from family to peers that typifies adolescence remains a feature for millennial adolescents. What sets them apart, however, is that the media and advertising effects for this generation are stronger and this magnifies their need to be accepted by their peers. Huntley (2006, p. 144) agrees, going as far as saying that Millennials are the ‘first genuine consumer generation, a group who started spending and dictating the spending habits of others at an early age’. It is not unusual for Millennials to have experienced, from as young as the age of two, exposure to entertainers such as the Wiggles and Hi5. As they grow older, agerelevant entertainers replace these early influences. Coupled with the entertainment aspect of such experiences is the merchandising of products ranging from clothing, to school bags, crockery, books and DVDs, enabling the influence of the entertainer/s to impact widely on the individual. This effect is reinforced by slick advertising that appeals to the Millennials’ desire to be accepted in their peer group. The ‘must have’ attitude of Generation Y extends from what they wear, to what they eat, what music they listen to, what brand of technology they use. The effect for some is so great that these young people have also become know as ‘Generation C’—for the consumer generation. One of the character traits of Millennials is being lifestyle centred, and this is reflected in their massive consumption patterns, where they ‘need’ to have the newest, slickest, coolest fad—right now. The character trait of being impatient means that the need for instant gratification pushes the drive to consume. And the reach through the technology web that pervades their existence is extensive. Millennial adolescents are a defined segment in the economy, and this is further supported by the fact that many are earning a regular income and are not limited as previous generations were by restrictive lending practices. For Generation C, the credit door is wide open. The financial cost of gaining and maintaining peer group acceptance by being cool is proving to be an issue for many young people. For example, Passmore (2005, p. 38) reported that: [Y]oung people addicted to technology are dialling up debts that will take a lifetime to overcome … peer pressure on young people to incur debt for goods and chattels in a ‘must-have now’ society is driving the upswing in personal debt.

A metamorphosis of celebrity cool has been defined by the MilGen. Celebrities are no longer confined to the traditional cinematic variety; they may be experts in cooking, home maintenance, or personal grooming. Take for instance Jamie Oliver, known

36   The Millennial Adolescent

internationally as the ‘Naked Chef’. His website describes him as ‘20‑something, streetwise and passionate about food … at the cutting edge of modern life and modern cooking’ ( He is also watched by millions of viewers every week. Similarly, the recent phenomenon, ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’, described by their on-line fan club as: an elite team of gay men who have dedicated their lives to extolling the simple virtues of style, taste and class. Each week their mission is to transform a style-deficient and culturedeprived straight man from drab to fab in each of their respective categories: fashion, food and wine, interior design, grooming and culture. It’s a full lifestyle make-over—a make better show where straight guys turn in their pleats for flat fronts, learn about wines that don’t come in a jug and come to understand why hand soap is not a good shampoo (and vice versa). When the journey is done, a freshly scrubbed, newly enlightened, ultra hip man emerges. The Fab Five: Kyan: Grooming; Ted: Food & Wine; Carson: Fashion; Jai: Culture; Thom: Design. (

Along with these and other celebrities, there’s the new reality television genre that includes programs such as ‘Changing Rooms’, ‘Backyard Blitz’ and ‘The Block’. These programs have real people engaged in home makeovers, and the viewers go through the ordeal with them, and gain some tips along the way. The cleverness of these celebrities and the television programs, Internet sites and inevitable merchandising of products that results, is that they are reaching people where they are most needy, in their everyday, mundane lives. They serve as extended family to many millions of people around the world. The need for such familial connections is fulfilled through the media world, since it is becoming less available in reality (see Pendergast, 2004 for further discussion).

Millennial adolescents Returning to Sheahan’s (2005) nine character traits of the Y Generation: street smart, aware, lifestyle centred, independently dependent, informal, tech savvy, sceptical, stimulus junkies, impatient; it is easy to see how this generation has been shaped by the society in which they have experienced their formative years. Martin and Tulgan (2001, p. 4), who have focused their work about the Millennial Generation on the process of managing them in the work situation, suggest that the generation can be described in four positive ways as: 1 2 3 4

a generation of new confidence, upbeat and full of self-esteem the most education-minded generation in history a generation paving the way to a more open, tolerant society a generation leading a new wave of volunteerism.

The MilGen and society   37

Social and economic conditions, dominated by technological innovation, particularly in the information and communication domain, along with globalisation, changes in household formation and a shift to portfolio careers based on knowledge economies have shaped the nature of young people who inhabit the schools and workplaces around our country today and into the future. While the key events shaping Millennials are yet to be confirmed, it is likely to include: • • • •

digital revolution: Internet, WWW, e-mail, Chat lines, Blogs, SMS texting school violence terrorism (towards the birth end of the generation) September 11 (possibly marks the birth end of the generation).

Snipe and Zevenbergen (2005) agree, suggesting that the unique generational characteristics shaping Australian millennial adolescents include Internet chat lines, school violence, September 11, Bali bombings, terrorism, the War in Iraq, and Kosovo. What is interesting about Millennials is that, unlike the two generations (Generation X and Baby Boomers) preceding them who have typically been defined by negative youth trends, they have the potential to be an optimistic and positive generation (Salt, 2006). This attitude leads Howe and Strauss (2000) to predict that Millennials will be a ‘hero’ generation, capable of great collective deeds, and demographers expect that the full potential of the generation will begin to take effect around 2010. Evidently, the Millennial Generation is a product of the transitional contemporary society and our evolution into the Information Age. How do we, as educators utilise this?

Key points 1


The current generation of adolescents is known by phrases such as Millennials, Y Generation, and Generation C. Authors have created various lists of personality traits describing this generation, typically: streetsmart, aware, lifestyle centred, independently dependent, informal, tech savvy, sceptical, stimulus junkies, impatient. Adolescents are experiencing two transitions—the traditional change from childhood to young adulthood, and the change in society to an information-based society. Millennials are born into an era of unprecedented transition from industrial to information-based culture and economy, from print-based to multimedia, digital approaches to communication. While the jury remains firmly out on the overall

38   The Millennial Adolescent





effects on young people of modern day technologies, it is the defining feature of our current generation. The emergence of globalisation, with its inextricable reliance on ICT, is the dominant cultural practice in the Western world in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. A fundamental shift linked to globalisation is the shift from the ‘old work order’, the traditional, assembly line approach typical of mass production, to the ‘new work order’, with its need for an ‘expert novice’ approach to work. Millennials live in a world that has shifted in many ways, yet the schooling they are likely to experience has not mirrored these shifts. Schooling remains for most a book-based cultural experience that was formulated to suit the context of their parents and earlier generations. The tools which we need to educate our students in are those that give access to communication and technical processes, and which equip individuals to be lifelong learners. The notion of lifelong learning focuses on the need for continual learning and on the skills and capacities that equip individuals and societies to embrace this expanded notion of learning and the challenges of living and working in knowledge economies and the new work order. Millennial adolescents are influenced by a range of factors, with media and communications having more effect than in previous generations.

Further thinking 1



4 5

Conduct a web search to locate information about each of the generations mentioned in this chapter. Construct a matrix comparing the features of each generation. To which generation do you belong? How does the contrast in values typical of your generation affect relationships with millennial adolescents? How can this be used as a positive factor to improve relationships between the generations? The MilGen made ‘Big Brother’ and other reality television programs a hit—why? What features of the generation are responsive to the reality television genre? Investigate the debt of adolescents. Do you consider it to be ethical to provide credit to people as young as 15? How might the organisation of classrooms, curriculum, pedagogy and assessment need to be modified from the traditional modernist constructions typical of a book-based culture, to accommodate the new needs of millennial adolescents?

The MilGen and society   39

References Anderson, C. (2003). Violent video games and aggressive thought, feelings and behaviours. In S. Calvert, A. Jordan, & R. Cocking (Eds.), Children in the digital age (pp. 101– 120). Westport: Praeger. Anderson, C., & Dill, K. (2000). Video games and aggressive thoughts, feelings and behaviour in the laboratory and in life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(4), 772–790. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2003). Household use of information technology, Australia. (Cat. 8146.0). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2004). Schools Australia. (Cat. 4221.0). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. Calvert, S. (2003). Identity construction on the internet. In: S. Calvert, A. Jordan, & R. Cocking (Eds.), Children in the digital age (pp. 57–70). Westport: Praeger. Caslon Analytics. (n.d.). Caslon Analytics profile: The digital divide. Retrieved June 20, 2006, from Davidson, J. (2004, 14 February). Teens and technology: Where they get lost on line. Australian Financial Review, p. 21. Donnison, S. (2004). The digital generation, technology and educational change: An uncommon vision. In B. Bartlett (Ed.), Education: Weaving research into practice: Volume Two (pp. 22-31). Nathan, Queensland: Griffith University, School of Cognition, Language and Special Education. Giles, D. (2004, 25 April). Txt message kids bleed parents dry. Courier Mail, p. 17. Gregory, J. (2004, 6 April). Pupils face suspension for phone bullying. Courier Mail, p. 3. Harley, E. (1998). What children need from the media: A developmental framework. In J. Squires & T. Newlands (Eds.), Caring for children in the media age (pp. 55–68). Sydney: New College Institute for Values Research, University of New South Wales. Hickling-Hudson, A. (1999). Globalisation, post colonialism and educational change. In D. Meadmore, B. Burnett, & P. Obrien (Eds.), Understanding education: Contexts and agendas for the new millennium (pp. 82–90). Sydney: Prentice-Hall. Holloway, S., & Valentine, G. (2003). Cyberkids: Children in the information age. London: Routledge Falmer. Howe, N. (2006, April). A generation to define a century. Paper presented to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Annual Conference, Worldwide Issues, Chicago, ILL. Retrieved June 29, 2006 from 2006/04/a_generation_to.html Howe, N., & Strauss, W. (2000). Millennials rising: The next great generation. New York: Vintage Books. Huntley, R. (2006). The world according to Y: Inside the new adult generation. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. Lyotard, J. (1984a). Defining the postmodern. In G. Bennington et al. (Eds.), Postmodernism (pp. 6–7). London: ICA Documents 4.

40   The Millennial Adolescent

Lyotard, J. (1984b). The postmodern condition: A report on knowledge. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Martin, C., & Tulgan, C. (2001). Managing Generation Y. Massachusetts: HRD Press. Mayer, D. (2006). The changing face of the Australian teaching profession: New generations and new ways of working and learning. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 34(1), 57–71. McLean, S. (2005, 13–14 August). Headline grabber has reached its use-by date says expert. Courier Mail, p. 17. Muller, N. (2005, 8 August). Terminal illness. Courier Mail, p. 17. Passmore, D. (2005, 7 August). Lifelong debt only a mouse click away. The Sunday Mail, p. 38. Pendergast, D. (2004). Nu Xs: Is it 2 L8 4 Family? In Proceedings of the International Federation of Home Economics 20th World Congress (pp. 68–85). Kyoto: International Federation of Home Economics. Pinquart, M., & Silbereisen, R. (2005). Social change and adolescent development at the beginning of the 21st century. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 15(4), 395. Prensky. M. (2005/6). Listen to the natives. Educational Leadership, 63(4), 8–13. Salt, B. (2006). The big picture. Sydney: Hardie Grant. Sheahan, P. (2005, September). Are you ready for the Y Generation? Retrieved September 2, 2005, from Snipe, S., & Zevenbergen, R. (2005). Maths, sex and rock’n’roll – how can we engage the Millennial student? Australian Journal of Middle Schooling, 5(2), 5–11. Strauss, W., & Howe, N. (1998). The fourth turning: An American prophecy. New York: Broadway Books. Tichawangana, F. (2004, 24 April). Understanding the digital divide. Zimbabwe Independent, (sourced via COMTEX). Tulgan, B., & Martin, C. (2001). Managing generation Y: Global citizens born in the late seventies and early eighties. Amherst, Massachusetts: HRD Press.


Australia’s MilGen adolescents, their schools and educational priorities Donna Pendergast Including contributions from Annemaree Carroll, Julie Bower, Francene Hemingway & Adrian Ashman

Chapter summary • • • • • • •

The global community — Population — Young people in the world — Families — World economy The Australian community — Population — Families — Adolescent school education — Measuring educational success — School leavers, completers and beyond Initiatives in schooling — Educating boys — Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education — Delinquency — Learning and information and communication technologies (ICTs) Summary Key points Further thinking References

This chapter provides demographic information about Australia’s adolescent MilGens. It then considers four current priorities in schooling: the education of boys; information and communication technologies in teaching and learning; selfregulatory interventions for delinquency; and Indigenous education directions. 41

42   The Millennial Adolescent

The global community MilGens are the first generation born into society that features international interdependence and global engagement. They regard themselves as participants of a global community to an unprecedented extent. For this reason, a global perspective is considered first as a demographic platform for building a profile of Australia’s adolescents.

Population On 22 July 2006 the world population was 6 529 879 592. Every second of that day there were 4.1 births and 1.8 deaths, representing an increase of 2.3 people per second. This translates to a population increase of just over 74 million people per year. In 1982, the first birth year of the Millennial Generation, the world population was 4 608 405 979, and in 2002, the last of the birth years of the MilGen, the world population was 6 229 629 168, an increase of 1 621 223 189 (United States Census Bureau, 2006a). While this billion and a half people represents the world population increase rather than the total numbers of births during this time, it is evident that the birth numbers during the twenty-year period of the Millennial Generation are massive. Figure 3.1 below represents the global population growth during the birth years of the MilGen. Global Population Growth 1982 – 2002 Population (in millions)

7000 5532

6000 5000





















4000 3000 2000 1000

20 02

20 01

20 00

19 99

19 98

19 97

19 96

19 95

19 94

19 93

19 92

19 91

19 90

19 89

19 88

19 87

19 86

19 85

19 84

19 83

19 82



Figure 3.1  Global population growth 1982–2002 Source: Developed from US Census Bureau, 2006b

The United States Census Bureau (2006b) predicts that part-way through their lifetime, MilGens will see in 2050 the world population rise to 9 224 375 956. This means that the firstborn of the MilGens will, at age 68 and well before their life

Australia’s MilGen adolescents, their schools and educational priorities   43

expectancy of 83 for females and 78 for males is reached, experience more than doubling of the world population. Paradoxically, in terms of global population growth, these current assessments reveal there is an overall slowdown that can be attributed primarily to declines in fertility. While population numbers will continue to increase due to declining mortality and increased life expectancy and with fertility rates in parts of the world still at above replacement rate, the United States Census Bureau (2006b) projections suggest that the level of fertility for the world as a whole will drop below replacement level before 2050. Over the next 25 years, the size of the child population relative to the total population is expected to decline (US Census Bureau, 2006b). What all of this means is that the MilGen is numerically a large cohort—the United Nations has estimated as many as 1.8 billion based on the present numbers of children aged under 15 (United Nations, 2005a). Demographic events are bound to impact on the lives of the MilGen.

Young people in the world The United Nations (2005b), in the World Youth Report, 2005: Young people today and in 2015, urges that young people must become the focus of international attention, citing the following as evidence of the need to prioritise on the emerging generation: … world leaders must also commit themselves to ensuring the well-being of the next generation; today’s children will be the youth of 2015 … in 2003, a quarter of all children in the developing world were malnourished. Eleven million children under the age of five die each year, mostly from preventable and treatable diseases … moreover, 115 million children are currently not in school. (United Nations, 2005b, p. iii)

The United Nations (2005b) has identified 15 priority areas for youth action: education; employment; hunger and poverty; health; environment; drug abuse; juvenile delinquency; leisure-time activities; girls and young women; youth participation in decision-making; globalisation; information and communication technology; HIV/AIDS; youth and armed conflict; and intergenerational relations. A brief summation of each is presented below.

United Nations priority areas for youth The following information summarises the 15 priority areas for youth action and excerpts of how they were described in terms of progress or challenges in 2005.

44   The Millennial Adolescent

Education Since 1995, the number of children completing primary school has continued to increase, and four out of five young people in the eligible age group are now in secondary school. The current generation of youth is the best educated so far. However, 115 million children are not in school, and 130 million young people are illiterate.

Employment In spite of the progress achieved in education, global youth unemployment has increased to a record high of 88 million. There is growing pressure on young people to compete in an increasingly globalised labour market.

Globalisation Young people are adaptable and perhaps best able to make use of the new opportunities offered by globalisation. However, large numbers of young people have not benefited from this process, especially in developing countries. Globalisation has had an impact on youth employment opportunities and migration patterns, and has led to profound changes in youth culture and consumerism and in global citizenship and activism.

Information and communication technologies The proliferation of ICT within the context of globalisation over the past decade has presented both opportunities and challenges for young people. The global digital divide affects individuals of all ages.

Intergenerational relations The share of young people in the world’s total population is gradually declining and youth development will increasingly be geared towards the potential benefits it can bring to other generations. Despite its changing structure, the family remains the primary social institution for the congregation and interaction of generations.

Poverty Estimates are that 18 per cent of all young people live on less than US$1 per day, and around 30 per cent live on less than US$2 per day.

Health On a global scale, young people are reaching adolescence earlier and marrying later. Premarital sex rates seem to be increasing. HIV/AIDS is the primary cause of mortality, followed by violence and injuries.

Australia’s MilGen adolescents, their schools and educational priorities   45

Environment Young people are concerned about a sustainable future. They are generally excluded from key decision-making processes that relate to the environment, and this should be redressed.

Leisure Young people are finding new ways to spend free time, which in developed regions often involves technology. An understanding of the importance of leisure for overall wellbeing is increasing.

Drug abuse There has been a large increase in the use of synthetic drugs worldwide.

Juvenile delinquency Delinquency among young people is perceived as a genuine threat to many societies globally. Responses to delinquency vary greatly, from judicial approaches including policies of incarceration, to social approaches.

Girls and young women There has been a greater awareness of gender issues among governments, yet equal access to education and labour markets remains a problem in many countries.

Participation in decision making There has been a growing recognition of the importance of youth participation in decision making.

HIV/AIDS Ten million people, mostly in Africa and Asia are currently living with HIV/AIDS. The effects on the economy, on social stability, on health provision, have been devastating.

Youth and conflict Young people are disproportionately represented in conflicts. An international legal framework is in place to protect minors, yet there is no evidence of improvement. Source: United Nations, 2005b, pp. 3–5

46   The Millennial Adolescent

The United Nations (2005b, p. 2) makes an important observation fundamental to the global decision making about young people— ‘a simple but often ignored fact: young people today are different from any of the previous generations of youth. It is essential to ensure that youth interventions are relevant and valid for the current young generation in society and not mired in the realities of times past.’

Families On a global level, the United Nations (2003) has identified four trends that impact upon families around the globe: changes in family structures; demographic ageing; the rise of migration; and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Specific changes associated with these four trends are detailed in Table 3.1. The effect of these trends is to challenge the world’s ability to fulfil basic functions of production, reproduction, socialisation as well as needs of family members regarding health, nutrition, shelter, physical and emotional care and Table 3.1  Trends defined by the United Nations that impact on families around the globe Trend area

Specific changes

Changes in family

• Shift from extended to nuclear families as well as rise of one-person households and of cohabitation became evident during the last 50 years • Falling fertility rates, migration, increases in divorce rates and increase in the number of older persons are responsible for smallersize households • Household size has fallen to an average of 3.7 persons in East Asia, 4.9 in Southeast Asia, to 4.1 in the Caribbean, 5.7 in North Africa and to 2.8 in developed regions • Age at first marriage has risen to between the mid to late twenties in all regions of the world, often due to better educational and employment opportunities for women • Women have fewer children later in life • Current fertility rates are 1.57 children per woman in developed regions, 3.1 in less developed countries and 5.47 in least developed countries.


Demographic ageing

• Lower fertility rates and higher life expectancy contribute to a larger share of older persons within the overall population • Globally, the number of older persons (60 years and over) will more than triple from 606 million to 2 billion by 2050 • In developed regions, 20% of population is older than 60—by 2050 it will have reached 33%. In developing regions the share will increase from 8% to 20% • Support ratios (number of working people in relation to retired persons) have been declining • Ageing impacts on inter-generational solidarity, housing, social security systems, care giving and health costs.

Australia’s MilGen adolescents, their schools and educational priorities   47

Rise of migration

• 175 million people (3% of world population) reside outside their country of birth; 20 million refugees in 2001 • Violence, discrimination, natural disasters and the hope for better economic opportunities have been the main factors for migration • Migration can cause major stress on family life due to cultural, ethnic, racial and religious differences and lack of integration • Seasonal and internal migration of men contributes to higher number of female-headed households around the world • Trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children have increased and have become a major part of organised crime.


• 42 million people live with HIV/AIDS • HIV/AIDS affects the most productive members of society who often have just started their own families • Care for infected relatives, coping with the loss of numerous family members and the increase in the number of orphans cause major stress on families and societies • Family structure has changed to increasing adolescent and grandparent-headed households in some regions of Africa.


Source: Adapted from United Nations, 2003

personal development (United Nations, 2003). The nature of what has been accepted as the base of society, the family, is changing for millennial adolescents. They are more likely to have separated parents, and experience in a blended family, than any previous generation. Hence, understandings of family and community, which have tended to rely on essentialist, functionalist definitions are no longer applicable.

World economy Eighty per cent of the world’s gross domestic product belongs to the 1 billion people living in the developed world, which includes Australia—the remaining 20 per cent is shared by the 5 billion people living in developing countries (United Nations, 2005b). This represents a massive imbalance in the distribution of global wealth and capacity building.

The Australian community Population In 1982, Australia’s population was 15 184 200. In 2002, at around the birth end of the MilGen, it had grown to 19 662 800 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2004b). On 22 July 2006, Australia’s population was 20 585 453, with one birth every 2 minutes 10 seconds, one death every 3 minutes and 55 seconds, a migrant adding to the population every 4 minutes 47 seconds, representing a population growth of one person every 2 minutes and 12 seconds (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006a).

48   The Millennial Adolescent

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) population at 30 June 2001 was 458 500 of whom nearly a third lived in New South Wales, just over a quarter in Queensland, 14 per cent in Western Australia and 12 per cent in the Northern Territory. The Northern Territory had the largest proportion of its population who were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, at 29 per cent (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006b). The relative percentage of adolescents in the Australian community has declined over recent years, due to decreased fertility rates and increased life expectancy, leading to the net effect of an ageing population (ABS, 2000). This trend is expected to continue, as Table 3.2 shows. In approximate figures, at this time, around 2.8 million people or around 14 per cent of the Australian population of just over 20 million are aged between 10 and 19 years of age, covering the years commonly considered to be the adolescent years. Table 3.2  Relative percentage of 10–19 year olds to the total Australian population Year

Australian Population

Number of population


aged 10-19 1990

17 022 133

2 610 915



18 116 171

2 554 041



19 164 620

2 673 152



20 090 437

2 792 454



20 925 290

2 788 762



21 697 009

2 721 432


Source: Developed from US Census Bureau, 2006

In 2000, the median age of the Australian population was 35 years. Figure 3.2 provides projections of the median ages of the Australian population to 2050. This clearly indicates that the population is an ageing one, with the median age continually increasing across the years. Over the past 50 years the average life expectancy of a newborn boy has increased from 67 years in the period 1952–54 to the MilGen’s 78 years in 2001–03. For a newborn MilGen girl the average life expectancy has increased from 73 to 83 years during the same period (ABS, 2006a).

Families Australian families have changed dramatically in the past 30 years (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), 2005). Comparing the thirty-year period

Australia’s MilGen adolescents, their schools and educational priorities   49 Australia’s Ageing Population, Actuals and Projections, Median age, both sexes 50 45

Median age

40 35


























30 25 20 15 10 5 0 2000


Figure 3.2  Australia’s ageing population, actuals and projections, median age, both sexes Source: Developed from US Census Bureau, 2006

1971–2001, in 1971 lone parent families constituted 5.7 per cent of all family types; in 2001 this had risen to 15.4 per cent. In 1971 50.2 per cent of families were couple families with children; in 2001 this had dropped to 47 per cent (ABS, 2003a). Couple families include intact families, blended families and stepfamilies. The latest available data on family characteristics are from 2003. Of all families in 2003, 84 per cent (4.6 million) were couple families, 14 per cent (799 800) were lone parent families and 2% (98 900) were other families (ABS, 2003b). The proportion of children living in couple families is on the decline, reducing from 86 per cent in 1992 to 81 per cent in 2003, while the proportion of children living in one-parent families is on the climb, with 19.3 per cent compared to 14.2 per cent in 1992 (AIHW, 2005). For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in oneparent families, the rate has more than doubled. These figures represent changes to family types, particularly since couple families include step and blended, along with intact. While the dominant family type remains the couple family, childless couples are expected to become the average Australian family in less than 20 years (Vermeer, 2004). The number of people living alone in households is also on the rise, particularly as women become more highly educated and are having fewer children, later in life; and divorce rates increase (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2004b). The average number of children in a family is also decreasing; however, the number of households is increasing, due to higher divorce rates and single person households. According to studies compiled by the AIHW (2005, p. 76), children undergoing transitional change from one kind of family to another ‘encounter some difficulties adjusting to new changes and are at an increased risk for mental health and for overall wellbeing’. Furthermore, it is suggested that:

50   The Millennial Adolescent some children from non-intact families, particularly lone-parent families, are also likely to experience adverse developmental outcomes such as low educational attainment, increased likelihood of engaging in aggressive, antisocial and criminal behaviour and substance use in adulthood. (AIHW, 2005, p. 76)

The fertility rate, which is a measure of the average number of children born per woman during her reproductive years, has stabilised after a rapid decline over the last 30 years. Replacement rate per woman is considered to be 2.1. In 1971 the fertility rate per woman was 2.9; in 1981 it dropped to 1.9 and has stabilised currently at about 1.7, which for Australia represents a declining fertility rate. The three main drivers of low fertility in Australia are: the changing age of mothers, declining family size and childlessness (ABS, 2006b). These factors are consistent with two of the four United Nations (2003) trends that impact on families around the globe, specifically changes in family structures and demographic ageing.

Adolescent school education In 2005 there were 9 623 schools in Australia, of which 72 per cent were government schools and 28 per cent were non-government schools. Over the past 10 years there has been a noticeable trend towards combined primary/secondary schools, with an increase in number of 266 since 1995 (ABS, 2005). Table 3.3 provides a summary of some of the changes that have occurred in schooling in the last decade. Trends that are noteworthy from these data include increased retention for all categories of students noted, with the greatest improvement being the retention of Indigenous students from 30.6 per cent to 39.5 per cent over the 10-year period. A major focus of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education initiatives has been to encourage young people to continue their education beyond Year 10 in order to increase their employment prospects and opportunities for postschool education. Nevertheless, at 39.5 per cent this falls well short of the nonAboriginal people’s retention rate of 76.6 per cent. Successful completion of Year 12 is considered to be a key component to improving the economic and social status of Aboriginal peoples. Those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people who had completed Year 12 reported higher levels of mainstream employment, lower levels of financial stress and were more likely to be studying or working full-time than those who had not completed school to this level (ABS, 2006b). Table 3.3 also provides evidence of a noticeable trend away from government schools, with an almost 4 per cent shift to independent and Catholic schools over the decade. In terms of state and territory and sector load, Table 3.4 provides an account of where students are enrolled in secondary schools around Australia.

Australia’s MilGen adolescents, their schools and educational priorities   51 Table 3.3  National rates for school numbers, school students and retention rate Characteristic

Participants Units




School students


3 109

3 247

3 348



9 648

9 609

9 623

Students in government





















schools Year 7/8 retention rate to Year 12—male Year 7/8 retention rate to Year 12—female Year 7/8 retention rate to Year 12—Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Year 7/8 retention rate to Year 12—non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Source: Selected from ABS, 2006b

Table 3.4  Total number of full-time secondary school students by state and territory, by category of school, 2004 Location




All schools

New South Wales

305 199

112 828

66 458

484 484


221 604

81 023

65 863

368 490


162 769

46 129

45 325

254 223

South Australia

60 277

17 649

16 607

94 532

Western Australia

80 134

25 792

24 668

130 594


26 284

6 250

4 839

37 373

Northern Territory

8 956

1 493

2 094

12 543

Australian Capital

16 049

8 470

3 889

28 407

881 272

299 634

229 743

1 410 646

Territory TOTAL

Source: Selected from ABS, 2004a

52   The Millennial Adolescent

From this table, which focuses on the adolescent years of schooling, it can be calculated that 34 per cent of secondary students are enrolled in New South Wales; 26 per cent in Victoria; 18 per cent in Queensland; 9 per cent in Western Australia; 7 per cent in South Australia; 2.6 per cent in Tasmania; 2 per cent in the Australian Capital Territory; and less than 1 per cent in the Northern Territory. There were 235 794 equivalent full-time teaching staff in Australia in 2005, with 79 321 employed at non-government schools and 156 564 at government schools. Of these, 68 per cent of all teaching staff were female, comprising 79 per cent in primary schools and 56 per cent in secondary schools (ABS, 2006b). The trend towards the feminisation of the teacher workforce has been identified by many education commentators as being of ‘widespread concern … particularly in primary schools where the proportion is down to 21%’ (House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Training, 2002, p. xxii).

Measuring educational success A number of comparative measures are available to gauge how Australia’s young, mostly pre-adolescent people are performing educationally. The Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) has established national benchmarks for reading, writing and numeracy for Years 3, 5 and 7 students. This is an agreed minimum standard. While there has been controversy regarding the implementation and value of this mechanism, the data produced from the testing provide an interesting insight into the performance of young people Table 3.5  Students in Years 3, 5 and 7 meeting national reading, writing and numeracy benchmarks, 2000 and 2004 (per cent) School





Year 2000






Year 3

Boys (all) Girls (all) Indigenous

90.9 94.3 76.9

91.5 94.6 82.9

87.4 92.6 na**

90.0 95.0 76.8

92.7 92.8 73.7

93.3 94.1 79.2

Year 5

Boys (all) Girls (all) Indigenous

85.2 89.6 62.0

86.6 90.9 69.4

90.2 94.9 na

92.3 96.2 81.7

89.4 89.8 62.8

91.0 91.5 69.4

Year 7

Boys (all) Girls (all) Indigenous

nt* nt nt

89.1 93.0 71.0

nt nt nt

91.3 95.9 78.8

nt nt nt

81.9 82.3 51.9

*nt = not tested **na=not available Source: Developed from MCEETYA (2000 & 2004)

Australia’s MilGen adolescents, their schools and educational priorities   53

in reading, writing and numeracy at a snapshot in time, which can be compared with performance levels over time. Table 3.5 is a compilation of the percentages of students meeting benchmarks, divided into gender and also Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups for each of the tests, for two years, 2000 and 2004. What these benchmarks indicate is that girls outperform boys in reading and writing at all year levels and have similar levels in numeracy skills, for both of the years reported. Indigenous students are well below the benchmarks at all year level tests in reading, writing and numeracy. The percentages of Indigenous students reaching the benchmark for writing and numeracy decline significantly in all year levels tested in 2004, particularly in the numeracy area, with a decline of 27 per cent in the Year 3 test results (79.2 per cent) compared to Year 7 test results (51.9 per cent). Importantly, when comparing 2000 test results with 2004 test results for reading, writing and numeracy for boys, girls and Indigenous students, there was an across the board improvement in the percentages of students achieving benchmark scores. Another comparative measure of achievement utilised in Australia is the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which compares internationally how well 15 year olds approaching the end of their compulsory years of schooling are prepared for life beyond school, with a particular focus on reading, mathematical and scientific literacy. It was conducted for the first time in 2000 with 43 countries participating. In 2006 more than 53 countries, including Australia, participated. Overall, for the latest available comparison (2003), Australian students performed well, with both male and female students scoring above the OECD average in all three areas of mathematical, scientific and reading literacy (OECD, 2003). Predictably, female students surpassed males significantly in the reading literacy category.

School leavers, completers and beyond In 2005, 22 per cent of young people aged 15–19 were school leavers (left school in 2004). For this group, 34.7 per cent of males engaged in some form of full-time education, compared to 42.9 per cent of females. Around 10 per cent of both males and females were unemployed, while 35 per cent of males and 19 per cent of females were employed full-time (ABS, 2006b). As noted earlier, retention rates to the non-compulsory Years 11 and 12 have increased in the last 10 years from 73 per cent to around 77 per cent, with males having a retention rate of almost 70 per cent and females 81 per cent. Completion rates in 2004 were around 62 per cent for males and 73 per cent for females (ABS, 2006c). An interesting reality is that ‘on average, Year 12 male students achieve lower marks than female students, although male and female high achievers are performing about equally’ (ABS 2006c, n.p.). This appears to be consistent across the states and territories.

54   The Millennial Adolescent

The first statewide survey of the destinations of students completing Year 12 in state and non-state schools across Queensland was conducted in 2004 to gain a greater appreciation of the achievement of young people, and to provide a basis to review the senior years of schooling and relevant educational policies (Polesel, Helme & Teese, 2005). The survey was completed by 23 650 young people, representing a 59.9% response rate. The study found: • • • • • • •

more than 90% of completers were studying or in paid employment 36.6% were studying—a university degree 30.8% were studying—vocational education and training 14.9% were working full-time 11% were working part-time 4.6% were seeking work 2% not working, seeking work, or studying (Polesel et al., 2005).

Initiatives in schooling So far I have provided a demographic picture of Australia’s adolescents, with respect to their schooling. The remainder of this chapter looks to educational priorities that clearly redress some of the less desirable patterns described. A particular focus is placed on delinquency and a response to this. But first, a non-exhaustive list of some key position and policy documents is shown in Table 3.6, each providing direction for the current and future schooling sector. Table 3.6  Selected initiatives in the Australian schooling sector Title

Brief summary

The Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-First Century, 1999 Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, 1999

A list of agreed-to national goals providing a basis for investment in schooling to enable all young people to engage effectively with an increasingly complex world.

Contemporary Learning: Learning in an Online World Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, 2005

A series of policy, strategy, frameworks and action plan documents to support jurisdictions and schools in meeting the National Goals in relation to student outcomes in the use of ICTs.

Australian Directions in Indigenous Education 2005–2008 Australian Education Systems Official Committee, 2005

Recommendations to focus the national effort towards achieving equitable outcomes in education.

Australia’s MilGen adolescents, their schools and educational priorities   55

The National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools Commonwealth of Australia, 2005

A strategy for all Australian schools to provide values education in a planned and systematic way.

New Framework for Vocational Education in Schools Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, 2001

A policy framework providing directions designed to assist schools to engage in learning that develops a broader range of skills and qualifications.

Boys: Getting it Right. Report on the Inquiry into the Education of Boys. House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Training, 2002

Report and recommendations emanating from a national inquiry into boys’ under-achievement.

Several of these areas of concentration will be further detailed in the remainder of this chapter, and others will be featured at appropriate points throughout this book.

Educating boys There has been increasing concern over gender patterns in educational performance and social measures in Australian schools. In general, boys do not achieve as well as girls across a range of educational and social measures (Collins, Kenway & McLeod, 2000), a pattern that is reflected in almost all other OECD countries (House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Training, 2002). Specific areas of concern for boys compared to girls are their lower literacy achievement, lower school retention and lower levels of participation in higher education. They also have higher rates of school exclusion. A national inquiry into the underachievement of boys in schools was conducted in 2002 by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Training because of the extent of the problem. The result was the development of a clearer understanding of the issues that facilitate and those that inhibit the effective education of boys. Some of these include: •

Labour market changes: There are many shifts in the labour market, including a greater proportion of part-time work, a decline in unskilled labouring and traditional trades, new job types, more women in the workforce. The most significant change is that in all areas of the labour market, better communication and interpersonal skills are required. The investigation found that, in general, boys do not develop these skills as effectively as girls and this affects the long-term adaptability of boys to the changing labour market. Social change: The changing status and roles of women in society, particularly their higher levels of work engagement and the increase of single-parent families headed by women impact on boys—but the extent of these effects are difficult to determine.

56   The Millennial Adolescent

Policy change: The success of policies and initiatives focusing on the education of girls over the last couple of decades in order to achieve equity with boys, have by and large not addressed boys and the changes that the success of these programs might make. There is a need to provide for distinctive, but complementary, education strategies for boys and girls. Learning styles: It was found that, generally, boys respond better to structured activity, clearly defined objectives and instructions, short-term challenging tasks and visual, logical and analytical approaches to learning. It was established that insufficient detail is paid to differing learning styles in many schools, and that in general schooling tends to favour passive learning, with a detrimental effect on students with other learning styles. Added to this, boys are more likely than girls to respond negatively to irrelevant curriculum and poor teaching. Assessment strategies: The inquiry revealed that boys respond better to assessment tasks with real-world relevance, enhancing boys’ motivation and engagement with learning. Peer relationships: Boys, particularly those in the middle years, are influenced by their peers to a great extent. The challenge for schools is to employ strategies to establish positive peer cultures and to provide effective interventions for those already engaged in negative peer cultures and destructive behaviours. Teacher–student relationships: Positive relationships between teachers and students are essential for effective teaching and learning, especially for boys. Organisational structures can facilitate this, with middle schooling and separate senior school examples of what might work well. Teachers require skills in establishing and maintaining positive and productive relationships with students. Male teachers as role models: The decline in the proportion of male teachers, particularly in primary schools, needs redressing. The inquiry stated explicitly that ‘male role models do matter and boys benefit by men modelling appropriate behaviour and respectful relationships with other men and women. This is much more effectively demonstrated to boys by men than it can be taught to boys by women in the absence of men.’ (Adapted from House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Training, 2002, p. xxii)

Twenty-four strategic recommendations were developed from the inquiry, many of which are now emerging on the education scene. For example, in 2006– 07 a national initiative targeting at-risk and disadvantaged boys called Success for Boys, was launched. The key intervention areas are: positive male role models; literacy; information and communication technology; and improving Indigenous boys’ engagement with school and educational achievement. The report pointed to middle schooling as an organisational structure which can ‘create student centred learning environments to more effectively meet students’ needs’, with the caveat that ‘the effectiveness of any organisational structure depends on the commitment of the

Australia’s MilGen adolescents, their schools and educational priorities   57

school leadership and staff, the level of school resourcing and the quality of teaching’ (House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Training, 2002, p. xxi). The inquiry also found that ‘peer relationships become particularly important to boys during the middle school years and schools need to employ strategies to ensure that peer influences are positive’ (p. xxi).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education As is apparent from the data already presented in this chapter, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Australia are yet to achieve equitable outcomes compared with students from other backgrounds. The consequences of this are profound, as Mitrou, Lawrence and De Maio (2006, n.p.) explain: One of the most powerful tools for socioeconomic improvement is improving educational outcomes. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience relative disadvantage across a range of socioeconomic indicators, with education being one of those indicators. The education sector is well placed to make positive long-term change to the life outcomes of Indigenous children, families and communities.

The What Works. The Work Program: Improving outcomes for Indigenous Students. The Guidebook reinforces the enormity of the consequences, boldly stating that ‘more than 90 per cent of students who fail to successfully complete Year 10 will be dependent on government welfare support for the rest of [their] lives’. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are significantly over-represented in this group (Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST), 2005, p. 1). Nevertheless, there have been gains, evident in indicators such as enrolment, participation and achievement levels of Aboriginal school students. For instance, the national benchmark literacy and numeracy standards indicate an improvement in the proportion of these students achieving reading benchmarks in recent years (see Table 3.5), but these rates remain well below those for all Australian students. On average, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders: • • • • • • •

are less likely to get a preschool education remain well behind mainstream rates in literacy and numeracy skills development before they leave primary school have less access to a secondary school in the communities in which they live tend to leave school much younger are about half as likely to go through to Year 12 are far more likely to be doing bridging and basic entry programs in vocational education and training institutions and universities obtain fewer and lower-level education qualifications. (DEST, 2005, p. 5)

58   The Millennial Adolescent

In 2005 the Australian Directions in Indigenous Education 2005–2008 was devised, providing information and recommendations with the intention of improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students (Australian Education Systems Official Committee, 2005). Recommendations were developed around the key areas of early childhood education; schools and community partnerships; school leadership; quality teaching; pathways to training, employment and higher education; and finally, the enabling process which can give effect to the aforementioned recommendations. Considerable attention has been given to determining the learning styles which might be specific to Aboriginal students. The following list includes those that are typically suggested and which can all be applied to the general population as a mechanism for improved education. This improved education: • • • • • • • • •

assumes all learners can and will succeed; makes its demands clearly known; includes explanations of the purpose and value of what is being learnt and efforts to ensure that they have meaning for the student; provides a series of well-structured steps relevant to the competence and background knowledge of students; searches for strategies to which students will respond; provides a maximum of explicit guidance and modelling; provides opportunities for practice, and consistent useful feedback; accommodates variations in pace, and pays special attention to the needs of students who don’t get it first time; and includes a level of intensity and manageable change. (DEST, 2005, p. 18)

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population profile is inconsistent with the profile of other Australian people. However, the Aboriginal population is expected to increase at an annual growth rate of at least 2 per cent, representing twice the growth rate of the remainder of the population (DEST, 2005). This means a younger overall population cohort, and a clear imperative for educational attention.

Delinquency It is quite a challenge to locate data about incidents requiring classroom withdrawal, school suspensions and expulsions or other interventions. On the other hand, information and particularly strategies for dealing with bullying are in abundance, suggesting that this has been identified as an area of need. This section will focus particularly on delinquent behaviour and its connection with schooling, and introduces an innovative approach to intervention.

Australia’s MilGen adolescents, their schools and educational priorities   59

Mindfields: A self-regulatory intervention for young people at risk who want to change their lives This section is contributed by Annemaree Carroll, Julie Bower, Francene Hemingway and Adrian Ashman. Involvement in delinquent behaviour is a relatively common occurrence during adolescence (Carroll, 1995; Carroll, Green, Houghton, & Wood, 2003; Moffitt, 1993; Oyserman & Saltz, 1993). According to Loeber (1990), delinquent acts are a subset of antisocial behaviours in which the behaviours violate criminal laws, for example, theft, vandalism, physical aggression, truancy and substance abuse. The outcomes of delinquent involvement can lead to disciplinary consequences ranging from school suspension and expulsion to legal convictions and incarceration (Lorion, Tolan, & Wahler, 1987). In Western societies, youth crime rates have increased substantially over the past 10 years. In the USA, arrests of individuals under 18 years of age have increased 98 per cent for assault, 23 per cent for property offences, and 120 per cent for drug offences (Stahl, 1998). In Australia, the Australian Institute of Criminology (2006) reported that juvenile offending is 50 per cent higher than adult offending with the offending rate of persons aged 15 to 19 years being four times the offence rate of the remainder of the Australian population. In other words, the highest rates of offending are for young people aged 15 to 17 years. Moreover, males are almost four times more likely than females to be identified as offenders, although female offending rates have increased from 21 per cent in 1995 to 23 per cent in 2004 with females being more involved in assault, motor vehicle theft, and unlawful entry with intent

60   The Millennial Adolescent

(Australian Institute of Criminology, 2006). The number of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 10 to 19 years in detention between 1997 and 2003 consistently ranged between 54 and 60 per cent of the incarcerated population, yet young Indigenous people of the same age comprise only 5.3 per cent of the adolescent population in Queensland (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2003a). According to the Children’s Court of Queensland (2005), there was a 66.4 per cent increase in the number of young people coming before it; males accounted for 79.5 per cent of young people while 15–16 year olds represented 57.9 per cent of juvenile defendants. Young people appearing before the District and Supreme Courts aged 16 years or older were ascertained in 71.4 per cent of cases. Theft and related offences and unlawful entry with intent offences accounted for almost half of all charges against juveniles (Children’s Court of Queensland 12th Annual Report 2004–2005). In 2003, the Australian Government released figures to show that crime costs Australia almost $32 billion per year. Data from longitudinal research such as the Cambridge Study (Farrington & West, 1993) and the Dunedin study (Moffitt, 1993; Moffitt & Caspi, 2001; Moffitt, Caspi, Harrington, & Milne, 2002) provide strong evidence of the developmental course of antisocial and delinquent behaviour. Findings from recent research using the life course perspective on delinquency (Moffitt et al., 2002) has shown that the antisocial behaviour of adolescent-limited offenders is associated with delinquent peers, a tendency to endorse unconventional values, and non-violent delinquent offences (Moffitt & Caspi, 2001). Research findings (Carroll, Hemingway, Bower, Houghton, Ashman, & Durkin, 2006; Carroll & Ashman, 2003–2005) not only provide strong support for this, but also show that approximately 20 per cent of Australian primary and high school students are at risk of engagement in such delinquency and that these rates increase throughout the high school years. Young people at risk are vulnerable to negative future events such as educational underachievement, early school leaving, drug abuse, delinquency or mental health problems. Those who engage in risky behaviours not only experience personal psycho-social, physical and behavioural factors but also a range of family, school and community risk factors that contribute to the development of negative outcomes. Important processes of self-regulation, identity formation, decisions about educational opportunities and life satisfaction, the consolidation of developing social values, and the construction of plans for one’s future are all very salient during adolescence, and directions taken here have long-term implications. Hence, for adolescents at risk, interventions that empower them with strategies for positive change and provide innovative ways to engage them in this process are vital for the development of positive health, social and educational outcomes.

Australia’s MilGen adolescents, their schools and educational priorities   61

The literature suggests that interventions with young people at risk must be evidence-based with clear aims and a consistent delivery. A cognitivebehavioural approach with varied activities and strategies has been found to be most effective with well-trained and committed staff and ongoing evaluation of the program’s effectiveness. The interventions are best when they are multi-systemic, addressing multiple risk factors, and matching intervention to client. Screening for participants is crucial to success and cultural relevance is vital. Much research to date has focused on preventing difficult behaviour leading to later delinquency, rather than on young people with established offending behaviour. Programs for juvenile offenders, based explicitly on a change model of juvenile offending and that incorporate risk and protective factors in an evaluation process, are extremely rare, and as such Mindfields has the groundbreaking opportunity to report on findings that may enhance treatment outcomes for young people at risk. Therefore, the need to develop effective intervention programs, particularly for the late onset offenders is critical. In a review of ‘Promising Interventions’ Paschall and Fishbein (2002) suggested ‘an approach that combines learning theory, cognitive psychology, and neuropsychology to focus on the emotional, motivational, and cognitive functions involved in psychopathology’ (p. 221) may have protective and therapeutic effects. The innovative and interactive Mindfields: A self-regulatory intervention for young people at risk who want to change their lives takes this combined approach.

The Mindfields model and intervention Founded on evidence-based research, Mindfields provides a coherent framework commencing with a thorough screening process that teaches young people a number of self-regulation strategies with supported guidance, that addresses risk and protective factors of the young people, and that provides weekly opportunities to fulfil a self-set goal. Self-regulation is an integral component of the intervention as encouraging young people to be more thoughtful, reflective and controlled in their behaviours has been shown to have a direct effect on the offending of adolescents (Bandura, 1986; Stewart & Rowe, 2000; Zimmerman, 2000). Factors pertaining to risk and resilience are also addressed through examining aspects of young people’s individual, family and surrounding community that may either contribute to harmful consequences or increase resistance to problem behaviours through warm and caring environments, supportive networks and open communication (Howell, 2003). As can be seen in Figure 3.3, Mindfields is based on a model of change. The Mindfields intervention comprises three important elements: an intensive screening and baseline process; a six-session intervention with a weekly evaluative continued on page 63

Figure 3.3  The Mindfields model




Self-Set Goal

Support Person

Key Outcomes

Self-Regulatory Life Skills

Participant Makes Decision


Key People


62   The Millennial Adolescent

Australia’s MilGen adolescents, their schools and educational priorities   63

component; and a post-intervention evaluation with 6-week and 12-week followup evaluations. Training in the administration of the screening process and delivery of the six-week intervention occurs over a four-day period. Professionals who undertake training become certified Mindfields facilitators. Within the four-day training workshop, facilitators become familiar with the screening and evaluation process, and the theoretical framework on which the model and intervention is based. They are taken through each of the six sessions and engage in exercises utilising the paper and interactive resources. They understand the importance of goal setting and are taken through a cultural awareness workshop to assist them in understanding adolescent and Indigenous identities.

Screening process The screening process provides the facilitator with an opportunity for initial rapport building with the young person prior to the intervention while simultaneously taking baseline measures to assist in the empirical evaluation of the program. Baseline measures are taken in three ways: Participant Profile, Interview, and Mindfields Interactive Screening Tool.

The six-session intervention The intervention is conducted over a six-week period with each session consisting of two hours face-to-face contact time with each young person. The six sessions focus on the following: Making a Change, Life Mapping and Taking Control, Toward an Ideal Self, Overcoming Obstacles, Building on Strengths, and Looking Forward. There are two core elements in each session. The first is the development of self-regulatory life skills and the second is the planning and achievement of a personal goal. Over a six-week program, young people are challenged to reflect on their current situation and make positive changes in their lives. Cognitive behavioural strategies, such as social problem solving, assertiveness training, reading body cues, and identifying unhelpful thoughts that affect actions are enhanced through the use of interactive video components, designed to engage the participants and counteract low levels of literacy often found among this population.

Evaluation process Evaluation is built into each session, with the facilitator providing weekly evaluative feedback. Each week the facilitator is asked to rate on a 10-point scale the young person’s engagement with the program in terms of cooperation, comprehension, motivation, mood, readiness to change, goal setting, goal attainment, self-control, and social problem solving. They also document information on the young person’s

64   The Millennial Adolescent

goal in terms of achievements, obstacles and benefits. In addition, at the conclusion of the six-week intervention, the Mindfields Interactive Screening Tool is repeated to gather baseline data immediately on completion of the program and again at six weeks and at 12 weeks to examine maintenance and generalisation of skills.

Learning and information and communication technologies (ICTs) In Chapter 2, discussion about contemporary society identified and explained common threads that impact on all people, including the rapid development and uptake of ICTs and the effect this has had in terms of creating a major paradigm shift in society. This shift centres around ICTs and digital literacies. Education and schooling has a complex symbiotic relationship with society. Hence, schools must demonstrate leadership about ICTs and their effective use in teaching and learning. As the guardians of the education base from which each generation emerges, it would be negligent for school systems and decision makers not to prioritise ICT education at this point in human history. Paradoxically, while there is a dire need to understand the statistical facts around ICTs, the collection and reporting of computer and Internet use does not have a long history in the Australian Bureau of Statistics data sets because of its recency and rapid uptake. The data that are available, however, paint a clear picture about usage. In 2002, 61 per cent of households had access to a computer at home. This increased to 66 per cent in 2003. In 2002, 46 per cent of households had Internet access from the home computer, this increased to 53 per cent in 2003 (ABS, 2004d). In terms of usage, the 2001 census asked respondents to provide information about their computer use in the week prior to the census. Of those in the 15–24 age group 1 502 700 people (59 per cent) used a computer and 60 per cent of these accessed the Internet at home in that week. Females had a slightly higher usage rate than males (+4 per cent). Of the full-time students in this age group, 80 per cent had accessed the Internet compared with 61 per cent of part-time students. Of those not attending educational institutions, 43 per cent had accessed this technology (ABS, 2004c). The rates no doubt have continued to increase over the years since these data were collected. In terms of employment, there were 235 696 persons employed in ICT specialist businesses at the end of June 2003, 68 per cent being males (ABS, 2004d). Mobile phone uptake in Australia is among the fastest rates in the world. In 1998 fewer than half (44 per cent) of Australian households had access to some type of mobile phone. In 2002 almost three in four households (72 per cent) had access to a mobile phone (ABS: 2004d). Fortunately, ICTs are receiving considerable attention in educational spheres. In 2005 the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth

Australia’s MilGen adolescents, their schools and educational priorities   65

Affairs published an overarching statement, Contemporary Learning: Learning in an Online World. It describes the contemporary context, articulates the national policy framework, and identifies significant actions required. It is an elaboration based on relevant goals from the Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-First Century, 1999. The Statement superseded the 2000 publication, Learning in an Online World: The School Education Plan for the Information Economy, acknowledging that significant changes have occurred in the five-year period. This point is an important one, as it highlights the rapidity of progress and development in ICTs, and the need for school education to keep pace. The Statement identifies the context of our society as being shaped by: • • • • •

international interdependency and global engagement values, ethics, responsibilities and cultural sensitivity communities and economies exploiting communication, information and knowledge rapid development and uptake of ICT in work, learning and leisure access to technologies and policies to address inequalities. (MCEETYA, 2005, p. 3)

The Statement notes that for learners, ‘ICT capabilities and digital literacy are essential skills’ (MCEETYA, 2005, p. 7). Quality teaching integrates ICT and personalises learning for students, teachers and the education community. This requires investments in the key areas of leadership, professional learning and workforce planning. Most of the sectors in each of the Australian states and territories have developed specific initiatives. For example, Western Australia’s public schools operate under the Curriculum Through ICT Program for schools. This program supports teachers as they integrate ICT into learning and teaching (Department of Education and Training, 2006). Similarly, Queensland’s state schooling sector has the Smart Classrooms Strategy, which ‘establishes Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) as the bedrock of 21st century schools, where new technologies spark greater interaction between students, teachers, parents and guardians. Through Smart Classrooms, schools will cement new technologies into the core of education, alongside English and Maths’ (Department of Education and the Arts, 2006).

Summary The demographics show that there is increasing pressure on adolescents both in Australia, and globally. Indicators such as population trends; the current situation of the 15 United Nations priority areas for youth development; and the four United Nations family trends, suggest that this generation will have new and unprecedented demands placed on them throughout their lives. Educational achievement is a mechanism to improve social and employment outcomes, both for the individual and

66   The Millennial Adolescent

for the development of the community, at local and global levels. This points to formal schooling as having a key role to challenge and engage the MilGen in ways relevant to their world. Their unique traits may not always flourish in adverse situations, but a supportive school environment has the potential to contribute to this goal. Examples of priorities to redress some of the current shortfalls demonstrate a national commitment to centring school education as an important early step during the formative years.

Key points 1




Members of Australia’s Millennial Generation regard themselves as members of the global community. Global trends include doubling of the world population during the lifetime of the MilGen due to declining mortality and increased life expectancy; a gradual worldwide decline in fertility rates to below replacement rate; a decline in the child population relative to the total population. This means the generation following the MilGen will be proportionately smaller than this generation. The United Nations has identified four trends that impact on families around the globe—changes in family structures; demographic ageing; the rise of migration; and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The United Nations has also identified 15 priority areas for youth action: education; employment; hunger and poverty; health; environment; drug abuse; juvenile delinquency; leisure-time activities; girls and young women; youth participation in decision-making; globalisation; information and communication technology; HIV/AIDS; youth and armed conflict; and intergenerational relations. Demographic changes in Australia have the net impact that the relative percentage of adolescents in the Australian community has declined over recent years, due to decreased fertility rates and increased life expectancy, leading to the net effect of an ageing population. Trends in school education in Australia include a shift away from public schools; increased retention to Year 12; improvements in benchmark testing; higher levels of engagement and achievement of girls than boys; increased focus on national priorities such as values education, Information and Communication Technology.

Further thinking 1

Conduct a search of the Australian Bureau of Statistics on-line data sources to investigate student participation in vocational education

Australia’s MilGen adolescents, their schools and educational priorities   67


3 4

and training or specific subject choices. What do the patterns suggest about the direction of Australian schooling? Select one of the following categories of students: students from a Non-English Speaking Background; students with disabilities; another group of your choice. What specific initiatives are in place at a national; a state/territory; and a sectoral level to meet the specific educational requirements of this cohort? Behaviour management incidents in school systems are on the rise. Conduct an analysis of data and suggest reasons for these problems. The MilGen were born into transitional society, as clearly evident from the demographic snapshots presented. Predict what the educational challenges for the Z Generation might be.

References Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2000). Larger and older population. Australia by age and sex. (Cat. 3201.0). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2003a). Census of population and housing: Selected social and housing characteristics, 2001. (Cat. 2015.0). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2003b). Population Characteristics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2001 Census Data. Retrieved January 4, 2007, from http://[email protected]/0/A86E2DAA16C7C227CA256BE30080BA4F Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2004a). Schools Australia. (Cat. 4221.0). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2004b). Year Book Australia, 2004. (Cat. 1301.0). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2004c). Census of Population and Housing: Australia’s Youth, 2001 (Cat. 2059.0). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2004d). Measures of a knowledge based economy and society, Australia 2003 (Cat. 1377.0). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2005). Schools Australia. (Cat. 4221.0). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2006a). Population Clock. Retrieved July 22, 2006, from 1647509ef7e25faaca2568a900154b63?OpenDocument Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2006b). Australian Social Trends, 2006. (Cat. 4102.0). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.

68   The Millennial Adolescent

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2006c). Year Book Australia, 2006. (Cat. 1301.0). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. Australian Education Systems Official Committee. (2005). Australian Directions in Indigenous Education 2005– 2008. Canberra: Author. Australian Institute of Criminology. (2006). Australian crime: Facts and figures 2005. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2005). A picture of Australia’s children. (Cat. PHE58). Canberra: Author. Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. New Jersey: Prentice Hall. Carroll, A. (1995). The Development of Delinquency: Integrating Reputations Enhancement and Goal Setting Theory. Unpublished PhD doctoral dissertation. University of Western Australia. Carroll, A., & Ashman, A. (2003–2005). Creating safer communities: Addressing risky behaviour in young people through self-regulation. Canberra: Australian Research Council Linkage Grant. Carroll, A., Green, S., Houghton, S., & Wood, R. (2003). Reputation enhancement and involvement in delinquency among high school students. International Journal of Disability, Development, and Education, 50(3), 253–273. Carroll, A., Hemingway, F., Bower, J., Houghton, S., Ashman, A., & Durkin, K. (2006). Impulsivity in juvenile delinquency: Differences among early-onset, late-onset, and non-offenders. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35(4), 519–529. Children’s Court of Queensland (2004–2005). Children’s Court of Queensland 12th Annual Report. Brisbane: Brisbane Law Courts. Collins, C., Kenway, J., & McCleod, J. (2000). Factors influencing the educational performance of males and females in school and their initial destinations after leaving school. Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs: Canberra. Commonwealth of Australia. (2005). National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools. Canberra: Author. Department of Education and the Arts. (2006). Smart Classrooms. Retrieved July 3, 2006 from Department of Education and Training. (2006). The Curriculum Through ICT Program for schools. Retrieved June 28, 2006 from curriculumict/about/about.htm Department of Education, Science and Training. (2005). What Works. The Work Program: Improving outcomes for Indigenous Students. The Guidebook. Author: Canberra. Farrington, D. P., & West, D. J. (1993). Criminal, penal and life histories of chronic offenders: Risk and protective factors and early identification. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 3(4), 492–523. House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Training. (2002). Boys: Getting it right. Report on the inquiry into the education of boys. The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia: Canberra.

Australia’s MilGen adolescents, their schools and educational priorities   69

Howell, J. C. (2003). Preventing and reducing juvenile delinquency. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Loeber, R. (1990). Development and risk factors of juvenile antisocial behavior and delinquency. Clinical Psychology Review, 10, 1–41. Lorion, R. P., Tolan, P. H., & Wahler, R. G. (1987). Prevention. In H. C. Quay (Ed.), Handbook of juvenile delinquency (pp. 383–416). New York: John Wiley. Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) (2000). National Report on Schooling in Australia 2000: National Benchmark Results Reading, Writing and Numeracy, Years 3 and 5. Canberra: Author. Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA). (2004). National Report on Schooling in Australia 2004: National Benchmark Results Reading, Writing and Numeracy, Years 3, 5 and 7. Canberra: Author. Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs. (2005). Contemporary Learning: Learning in an Online World. Canberra: Author. Mitrou, F., Lawrence, D., & De Maio, J. (2006). Educational attainment. In Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2006b). Australian Social Trends, 2006. (Cat. 4102.0). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. Moffitt, T. E. (1993). Adolescence-limited and life-course-persistent antisocial behavior: A developmental taxonomy. Psychological Review, 100(4), 674–701. Moffitt, T. E., & Caspi, A. (2001). Childhood predictors differentiate life-course persistent and adolescence-limited antisocial pathways among males and females. Development and Psychopathology, 13(2), 355–375. Moffitt, T. E., Caspi, A., Harrington, H., & Milne, B. J. (2002). Males on the life-course persistent and adolescence-limited antisocial pathways: Follow-up at age 26 years. Development and Psychopathology, 14(1), 179–207. OECD. (2003). Learning for tomorrow’s world: First results from PISA 2003. Author. Oyserman, D., & Saltz, E. (1993). Competence, delinquency, and attempts to attain possible selves. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65(2), 360–374. Paschall, M., & Fishbein, D. (2002). Executive cognitive functioning and aggression: a public health perspective. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 7, 215–235. Polesel, J., Helme, S., & Teese, R. (2005). The next step report 2005 on the destinations of Year 12 school leavers in Queensland. The State of Queensland: Brisbane. Stahl, A. (1998). Delinquency cases in juvenile courts. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Fact Sheet 79. Author: US Department of Justice. Stewart, L., & Rowe, R. Problems of self-regulation among adult offenders. Forum on Corrections Research, 12 (2). 49–52. United Nations. (2003). Major trends affecting families world-wide. Retrieved May 4, 2006 from United Nations. (2005a). Report on the world social situation, 2005. General Assembly A/60/117. United Nations. (2005b). World youth report 2005: Young people today, and in 2015. ST/ ESA/301.

70   The Millennial Adolescent

United States Census Bureau. (2006a). International Data Base. Retrieved July 22, 2006 from United States Census Bureau. (2006b). Total population for the world: 1950-2050. Retrieved July 22, 2006 from Vermeer, T. (2004, April). How the traditional Australian family is changing – Kids to fade out of the picture. Sunday Mail, 25 April, 38. Zimmerman, B. (2000). Attaining self-regulation: A social cognitive perspective. In M. Boekaerts, P. Pintrich & M. Zeidner (Eds.), The handbook of self-regulation (pp. 13–39). San Diego, USA: Academic Press.



Theories and ideas you just have to know about

Introduction Nan Bahr

Theories provide us with a frame of reference or model of how something works. Theoreticians who focus on the human state try to make a best-fit model. They try to imagine a typical case and generate a set of frameworks that might assist us to predict behaviour or some outcome, or simply explain how things work. They aim to understand how elements of interest might impact upon each other, and give rise to or predict behavioural, emotional, moral, physical, cognitive or social change for individuals and groups. Theories help give us insight. However, theories do not provide the templates for growth and change. They are simply someone’s informed and researched view regarding what might happen as people grow and interact with the physical and social world. When you consider a theory as a platform to understand a child or adolescent’s behaviour in your classroom, school or community, you need to bring to the picture your knowledge of the unique circumstances that surround the individual. The information you gather about the child or adolescent is extremely valuable as you go about evaluating and planning your targeted responses. A common sense amalgam of relevant notions from theory and your grounded understanding of the context will be essential for you to provide the very best support for children in schools. Every educator must have a thorough and considered critical understanding of contemporary theories regarding physical, cognitive, emotional, social and moral development. You need to know that age and developmental stages are not inexplicably locked together or uni-dimensional; that context and experience may override and overwrite many ‘typical’ sequences of development as described by theoreticians; and that every person is unique. But educators also need to know what theorists are saying, how they are describing development, and how they have constructed their models to explain the changes we see in people over time. The theoretical constructions are extremely useful, and many of those relevant to adolescence are presented here in an overview for every educator to understand and consider.


74   The Millennial Adolescent

This part of our book also presents some basic information (as opposed to theory) about how young people grow and change physically during adolescence. We know that people grow taller, change shape, become sexually mature and that their brains change. These and many other events mark adolescence from other times in our lives. We also know that girls and boys develop differently. We know that young people become sexually attracted to other people and that they start to develop preferences for those from the opposite and/or same sex during adolescence. We know that genetics plays a part in much of a young person’s physical development, but we also know that environment, society and culture impact heavily on the way they change and respond to changes. All of this material is fundamental knowledge for the professional educator. Apart from theory and straightforward clinical information, educators need a firm understanding of society and how children and adolescents experience life in today’s communities. The social environment that envelops young people has a profound impact on their adolescent experiences. This combined with racial and cultural differences between people makes for a very complicated network of influences. We will discuss some of the differences and diversity that exists in Australian society. In particular, we will explore some social and emotional issues that impact upon Indigenous adolescents by focusing on various community contexts. There are some general health problems that are of constant concern for teachers, parents and school communities. The media remind us that many of our young people are unhealthy; they cite rising obesity figures, eating disorders that are wasting away our young, and that there has been an alarming emergence of preference for sedentary activities (Australian Government, Institute of Health and Welfare, 2004). Australia has particular issues that need attention, such as adolescent health in rural and Indigenous communities and these will be explored. Responding to the needs of young people is not a new concept. Professional educators have always worked to improve the lives of students. As we journey through the various theories, bodies of knowledge, and contemporary issues that shape adolescent experience in Australia, we will consider some of the responses that teachers and school communities have made. We will also consider what has worked, what hasn’t, and what the current trends and/or innovations are that may assist schools to provide the best possible educational experience for adolescents in schools. We will look at individual interventions, and classroom and whole school and policy approaches, which address the needs of adolescents that flow from the many changes and developmental tasks they face. After reading this part, it will be up to you, the responsible professional, to decide what actions and approaches are in the best interests of the adolescents you are working with.


Physical aspects Nan Bahr

Chapter summary •

• • • • • •

• • • • •

Hormonal and structural changes — The march to womanhood — The menstrual cycle — Becoming a man — Acne — Secondary sexual characteristics Precociousness Size and body shape Teen parenthood Sexuality Gender development Health and lifestyle — Eating disorders — Anorexia nervosa — Bulimia nervosa — Obesity — Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health during adolescence Boys versus girls debate Summary Key points Further thinking References

Our conceptions of self, to a large extent, depend on our appearance and physicality. What we accomplish using our physical resources colours our perception of the world


76   The Millennial Adolescent

Bettie’s story I remember a young girl I taught in Adelaide, South Australia. There was nothing particularly unusual about this girl academically or socially, but I do have a very clear picture of her development from a child to a gangly adolescent. Let’s call her Bettie. She was in Grade 6 when I first encountered her. At the age of 10 she was tall. Indeed Bettie was taller than any of the other girls, and she was a good head taller than any of the boys in her whole school. She was also on crutches at first, having had the misfortune to break her leg while running around the oval one day. This didn’t stop her attracting the boys though. In the last term of the school year alone she had told me of at least four ‘boyfriends’ she had kept for at least a week. It seemed that having a boyfriend was important, and also that it only required a nodding acquaintance, holding hands, open declaration to anyone who could hear that they were a pair, and then on to the next one. I must say I was surprised at the time that a 10 going on 11 year old would have any sort of romantic interests. Bettie stayed on crutches for a long time. When I saw her again in Year 8 she was again in plaster and told me she had only had a few months at a stretch out of plaster and off crutches for the past couple of years. Her mum had taken her for checking. She was worried that there was some kind of bone disease apparent, but it turned out that Bettie had just grown very quickly, outgrowing her body’s capacity to maintain long bone strength. She also said to me that she was a bit of a klutz, and that this was a problem since she had always been great at sport but had to give it up. By year 11 she was no longer taller than her mates were. She wasn’t short either, more an average height and she had thrown away the crutches for good. She did however, have a noticeable stoop. She told me her mum nagged her about loping along, but she felt she was too tall and didn’t want to stand out too much. She was heavily involved in the school theatre department, and had not had a single ‘boyfriend’ since Year 8.

(Nan Bahr) • • • •

How do you think Bettie’s growth spurt impacted on her experience of adolescence? In what ways might Bettie’s experiences have influenced her sense of identity? How might Bettie’s growth spurt be related to her lack of coordination and fragile bones? Do you see any long-term effects for Bettie from her adolescent experiences? Why?

Physical aspects   77

and provides a framework for learning about ourselves. Therefore, as teachers, we must know about the physical developmental processes our students are experiencing. These are reflected in behaviour, emotions and relationships. And for adolescents, who are trying hard to figure out how the world operates, the physical changes they experience have a potent impact on their world view. While the sequencing of much of our physical development is pretty well according to a grand template and rolls out in much the same way from one person to the next, not everything occurs in a set way (Richter, 2006). Some aspects of our physical development cause other things to occur and are tied together. For example, hormonal changes during puberty are tied to the development of secondary sexual characteristics. However, there is individual variation at multiple levels, and we will discuss these. To complicate things, adolescents’ feelings and ideas about themselves and the ways in which they interact with the world as they grow and change are coloured by our societies’ multifaceted sets of ideals, standards and expectations for physical development. Many other things also impact on our conceptions of self and these will be discussed when we turn our attention to the development of identity through adolescence. In this chapter we will present some basic information about the types of physical changes to expect during adolescence, and consider some challenges that confront adolescents during this time of development.

Hormonal and structural changes It is public knowledge that adolescence is marked by some of the most rapid and dramatic hormonal and structural changes an individual experiences in their whole life. Indeed the term ‘adolescent’ was coined by G. Stanley Hall in the early 1900s to address this observation (Hall, 1904). There are other points in our life when we undergo rapid change. For example, pre-natal, early childhood, and mid-life and menopausal times are eras of significant change. For adolescents, the combined elements of social maturation and identity formation mean that changes that occur are particularly potent. Hormonally, girls and boys experience changes in their chemical balance during puberty. Sometimes there is a smooth transition towards adult hormonal balance, but many young people experience hormonal imbalance along the way. Since hormones are linked to emotional responses this can mean that during times of flux people may feel anxious, depressed, uncertain and mixed up. They may flip wildly between times of elation and times of sadness or feel angry and snap at people. They may also be quick to make hurtful comments to people they care about, and so on. The particular hormones that course through the body during puberty are responsible for sexual maturation and activity, therefore romantic thoughts and sexual arousal are common at this time. The ways that young people respond to, or repress, these thoughts and feelings are driven by belief and values systems that

78   The Millennial Adolescent

have been a part of their lives right through childhood. This is yet another thread of influence on the experience of adolescence.

The march to womanhood Between the ages of 9 and 16 years girls can expect to start menstrual periods (menarche) (National Women’s Health Information Center, 2002). The first period marks the start of puberty for them and the average age of menarche is 12 years. Researchers are noticing a general trend to a younger start for puberty (Slyper, 2006), and there are genetic and racial variations. There is some evidence that nutrition may also impact on the start date for menarche. A quick review of the processes that underpin the menstrual cycle will give insight to some of the issues girls must come to terms with during puberty. Maturation through puberty for girls has five stages (Rice & Dolgin, 2005). During stage 1 girls start developing downy pubic hair and breasts start to bud. Stage 2 involves the enlargement of the labia majora and minora and coarsening and thickening of the pubic hair. At stage 3, the labia darken, redden and the pubic hair thickens further. By stage 4 the uterus has enlarged and changed shape from the tiny pre-pubescent teardrop-shaped body to a larger more triangular shape. Stage 5 is full maturity.

The menstrual cycle Key parts of the body that are involved in the process of maturation and the ongoing menstrual cycle are the ovaries, uterus and associated sexual organs, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. The ovaries, hypothalamus and the pituitary work together to drive the menstrual cycle through four phases of activity. These four phases are usually complete within 28 to 32 days (National Women’s Health Information Center, 2002). The menstrual period (loss of uterine lining through the vagina) occurs at the beginning of the next cycle. Most women settle into a generally reliable cycle but it can take several years for this to happen, and irregularity is a feature of adolescence. Most girls don’t settle into a regular cycle before they are 17. Some girls can come to full maturation within 18 months and some can take up to six years. Some may have a two-month gap between periods, and some may have two periods within a month. Some girls are tentatively entering into sexual activity and this irregularity can be a nightmare for them (especially if they have had protected sex and the condom has burst). Even girls who have a very solid understanding of the mechanisms of conception and who are sure they haven’t had unprotected sex, can find a late period excruciatingly worrisome. Painful cramps, discomfort, and a general swollen feeling that fluid retention gives, anxiety and mood swings are all features of the menstrual cycle to varying degrees for girls. As a result, the vast majority of girls do not find menstruation a

Physical aspects   79

pleasant experience. Their menstrual period may last for three to five days, but can be as long as seven days. Attempting to predict menstruation dates and duration is a constant concern of young girls and can impact on their enthusiasm to commit themselves to some activities. Cramping (dysmenorrhoea) is probably the most annoying issue of menstruation. Painful cramps involving the lower abdomen and pelvis, and sometimes headaches affect about 40 per cent of women, and 10 per cent of women are incapacitated for up to three days at a time (A.D.A.M. 2006). It is a key influence on loss of time from school during adolescence for girls (Hillen, Grbavac, Johnston, Straton & Keogh, 1999). Women who spend a lot of time together tend to align their cycles, and also menstruation can be hastened by stress or a sudden change of environment (Neufield, 2002). This could mean that a group of girls may all start an unexpected period during a long school camp!


Figure 4.1  The location of the hypothalamus

Phase 1 During phase 1 of the menstrual cycle the ovary produces oestrogen and other hormones so that eggs (ova, or ovum for the singular) are ready for release. The ovary is all set to go, fully equipped with its complete complement of eggs since the girl’s birth. During phase 1 the body purges the uterus of its well-developed lining which was prepared during the previous cycle in readiness for a fertilised egg. When no fertilised egg arrives, the uterine lining breaks down and about 50 millilitres of menstrual fluid is lost. This fluid looks a lot like blood but actually is of quite a different composition containing the purged lining of the uterus, some blood and plasmin (a substance that inhibits clotting). During menstruation girls can experience low iron levels and may feel tired and lacklustre.

80   The Millennial Adolescent

Girls also tend to be embarrassed about menstruation and mortified if their state is discovered, especially if they have not managed to conceal the fact from peers. During this phase girls are most likely to be affected by stress, anxiety, depression and mood swings. Some faiths (such as Muslim and Jewish strict sects) consider girls and women in menstruation as ‘unclean’, and there are stringent rules about the types of things they are allowed to do during this time of the month. Many cultural groups celebrate menarche to indicate the ‘coming of age’ of a young girl. It is one of the rites of passage to womanhood.

Figure 4.2  Marjorie May’s Twelfth Birthday was a booklet of advice for girls about menstruation. It was produced in Australia in 1932 by Kotex, a manufacturer of sanitary napkins. Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

Phase 2 Phase 2 is called the follicular phase. During this time follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) provokes five to seven ovarian follicles to mature. Each follicle contains an ovum. As the follicles mature, luteinising hormone (LH) is introduced into the system and the ovary starts to secrete oestradiol which shuts off the FSH. Survival of the fittest comes to the fore and the largest follicle secretes inhibin, a substance that allows it to take over as the dominant follicle. This follicle bulges at the outer surface of the ovary as it gets ready to ovulate (release from the ovary). During this time the follicles are secreting oestrogens to start a new layer of endometrium (lining) in the

Physical aspects   81


Fallopian tube

Ovary Cervix Vagina

Figure 4.3  Frontal view of a female’s reproductive working parts

uterus. This layer is called the proliferative endometrium. Girls are oblivious to the developments of this phase in the cycle.

Phase 3 The mature follicle secretes a lot of oestradiol which triggers an acute release of LH. This occurs at about day 12 and proceeds for about 48 hours. The LH causes the ovum (egg) inside the follicle to mature at the same time as it weakens the wall of the follicle. Finally the ovum pops out of the ovary and moves into the fallopian tube. This is the tube that links the ovary to the uterus. The ovum is the largest individual cell that the body contains, being about 0.5 mm in diameter. Ovulation (the release of the egg into the fallopian tube) can cause pain for some girls for a couple of hours. Ovarian cysts are reasonably common for girls and women, and the presence of these can exacerbate any pain associated with ovulation. The sudden change in hormone levels can also prompt some mid-cycle bleeding. This can be a source of anxiety for some. White stringy mucus is produced at this time, designed to catch and accept sperm. At the end of this phase the whole system is poised for fertilisation.

Phase 4 During this stage the corpus luteum (residual follicle) forms as a solid body in the ovary after the ovum is released. It produces progesterone and oestrogens for about two weeks. Progesterone further prepares the uterine lining. When no fertilised egg takes up residence in the uterus the corpus luteum dies and the progesterone levels fall, prompting menstruation.

82   The Millennial Adolescent





Corpus luteum

Primary follicle










Follicular phase Menstruation

11 12


14 15




17 18 19

20 21


23 24


26 27 28

Luteal phase

Figure 4.4  The menstrual cycle

This whole rather complex cycle relies on interactions between the hypothalamus, the pituitary and the ovary. The responses of the elements in the system depend on the levels of endocrine hormones that are produced during the feedback loop between the key players. There are two peaks in the levels of oestradiol over the month (during follicular growth and the luteal phase), and there is a peak in the levels of progesterone, which is fundamentally on vacation until ovulation. These fluctuations impact on the delicate balance of neural chemicals in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus has a range of regulatory roles for the body, discussed later on, but it is useful to note that a key role is the regulation and coordination of emotional behaviour as well as motivation. Oestrogen influences the take-up of fats in the body, and the heightened levels of oestrogen in the bodies of adolescent girls result in changes in fat deposits and body shape. Some girls will become a little plump during adolescence simply as a result of their bodies coming to terms with the new balance of oestrogen.

Anne’s story All the girls in my class were about 12 years old and I guess most had started their period. I never asked them all, so I can’t be sure of that. There was one girl in the class, Anne, who looked less mature than the others. She seemed very childlike to me and had a very androgynous frame. She had childlike interests continued 

Physical aspects   83

and had some socialisation problems with her peers. As it turned out she was not as mature as the others and had not yet started her period. However, she was displaying some unusual types of behaviours in the class and around the school. She would pretend to inadvertently drop tampons out of her bag, and would dramatise the coming onset of her ‘next’ period when the class was lined up to come in. She would use a faux whisper tone that was so loud that even the boys were included in her little ‘secret’. I became concerned about how the class were reacting to her with embarrassed giggling, snickering and sniping about her. So I decided to have a chat with her about it all. It turned out that the pretence was all to cover up the fact that she hadn’t started menstruating and she felt that this was central to the kids in the class not liking her. • •

When most girls like to keep their menstruation a secret why might Anne have wanted to behave this way? What would be the best way for her teacher to respond?

Becoming a man Boys start puberty generally between the ages of 13 and 15 years. The onset of puberty is not marked as clearly for them as it is for girls, and in many ways their system is simpler. Like the girls, there are five stages of development through puberty for boys, and each relates to the physical appearance of their genitals. Just like girls though, boys proceed from induction to the maturation process through to full maturation at varied rates. For some boys it can be two years, for others as long as five (Rice & Dolgin, 2005). In stage 1, downy pubic hair starts to appear. In stage 2, the scrotum and testes enlarge, redden and the skin becomes folded or wrinkled. At the same time some sparse pubic hair will appear. In stage 3, the penis lengthens and there is a bit more thickening and coarsening of the pubic hair. Stage 4 involves the enlargement of the glans, and stage 5 is full maturity. Along the way some boys develop breasts temporarily in response to the hormonal surges of their body. This is called gynecomastia, and can be a great source of embarrassment and confusion. The reproductive system of boys is a constant rather than a cyclic one. FSH is released by the pituitary gland and fed to the testes to prompt the continual production of sperm. Excess sperm is stored in the epididymis, which occasionally requires release to make room for fresh sperm. This occurs via ejaculation during intercourse, following masturbation, or automatically during night emissions. Most boys experience wet dreams (night emissions) at some time during puberty, and many boys experience erections frequently and at the most inappropriate times, sometimes in response to nothing in particular. Maturation signals the production of

84   The Millennial Adolescent

Vas deferens

Seminal vesicle


Prostate Epididymis Testes

Figure 4.5  A male’s reproductive working parts

LH from the pituitary gland which stimulates testicular cells to produce testosterone. Testosterone is associated with some emotional responses, irritability and aggression, as well as the activity of sweat glands. Spermarche is the first ejaculation a male experiences. During puberty the hormonal balance for boys is just as unsettled as for girls and this can result in heightened emotions from time to time.

Acne Acne is caused by overproduction of androgens from the adrenal gland: testosterone and androsterone. These hormones are present in both male and female adolescents, and stimulate body hair growth (armpits, pubic etc.) and general physical growth. Boys have more of these hormones than girls do as they are fundamentally male chemicals linked to the development of more masculine characteristics. Testosterone is involved in the growth of the sebaceous glands and production of oils. The result is enlargement of skin pores and the development of more oily skin. If the production of oil in the glands is too great, too slow, or out of sync with the growth of the pores, then acne develops. Girls often experience changes in their acne over their cycle and may develop more pimples just prior to and during their period. Boys don’t have this same cyclic development of acne, but tend to have the greatest incidence of the most serious acne simply because they have more of these male hormones racing through their system. Product marketeers have exploited the generally misguided views on the causes of acne. Medical opinion asserts that acne is not tied directly to diet or cleanliness. Although cleanliness and diet can help to stop acne from worsening, the story that acne arises from poor hygiene and diet is not true. Acne is all about the

Physical aspects   85

relationship between changes in the size of the skin glands and the oil produced by them. All adolescents will experience acne to a greater or lesser extent. Around 80 per cent of young people will experience recurrent acne, and 30 per cent serious acne at some time or other. About 15 per cent will seek medical help to manage it (Rice & Dolgin, 2005). Acne involves basically two types of eruptions of the skin; blackheads and yellow heads. Blackheads arise when the oils situated where the pore opens to the air solidify and form a plug, oxidise and turn black. As oils are continually produced, the plug stops the pore from self-clearing and pressure builds up behind it. This causes local discomfort. Rough treatment at the surface of the skin (squeezing etc.) can cause lesions that can become infected. Plugs may form deep inside the sweat gland and the pressure build-up can result in the development of deep-seated painful cysts. Yellow heads have not yet formed a solid oxidised plug. The types of things that exacerbate the problem are using oily cosmetics (moisturisers etc.), topical rubbing (e.g. sports equipment such as helmets and shoulder pads), holding telephones against the face, touching the face, and hot and humid climates. Acne can also be aggravated by overwashing, abrading the skin and stress. Although acne can improve in summer, this is most noticeable in hotter, drier climates like South Australia rather than in tropical environments such as Northern Queensland. The UV from the sun has a positive effect on acne. Some people also find that exercise reduces the incidence of acne—this is primarily due to the production of androgens produced in response to exercise. Prolonged acne can have a serious effect on self-esteem. Those who experience ongoing acne for five years or so feel the emotional effects in the long term.

Roger’s story Roger had a sheltered life at home. By the age of 12 his sexual development had clearly not been a topic of discussion in his life, or he hadn’t paid attention, before he found his class at school learning about body changes during adolescence. The assessment piece for his science class was a labelling exercise requiring students to label a line drawing of male genitals. Roger went one further. He decided to embellish the diagram and give the line drawing some pubic hair. He was very proud of his efforts and showed his mates. Unfortunately he had decided that pubic hair ought to grow from the penis and the glans. He immediately became a figure of ridicule and was humiliated. • •

Why might Roger have wanted to impress his mates with his drawing embellishments? How might a teacher respond appropriately to this situation?

86   The Millennial Adolescent

Secondary sexual characteristics Up to now the discussion has focused on primary sexual characteristics, that is, those physical components directly involved in reproductive capability. Apart from the reproductive organs, there are many other changes to a young person’s body during adolescence that arise because of hormonal changes and affect their general appearance at this time. These are called secondary sexual characteristics. For girls there is change in height, appearance and development of breasts, growth of pubic, armpit, and leg hair, widening of the hips, and the development of a more rounded body shape. Boys grow taller, develop broader shoulders and a more muscular frame, squarer jaws, more pubic, armpit and body hair (stomach etc.) and the development of a beard. Both boys and girls start to sweat more and need to adjust their hygiene routine to cater for body odour. For both boys and girls there are voice changes. This is not as noticeable for girls but their speaking voice can descend about half an octave. Boys’ voices drop in pitch fairly dramatically, sometimes more than an octave, and they may find themselves in an uncomfortable position when their voice ‘breaks’, where it squeaks a little, when they are trying to speak. This can be embarrassing, and can also impact on the motivation for boys to sing in choirs, speak publicly and so on. There is a noticeable change in the profile of a boy’s neck during this time as their Adam’s apple (larynx) becomes larger and more prominent as the vocal cords lengthen.

David’s story I don’t know what it was, but from when I turned 13 or thereabouts and for the next year or so I seemed to get erections at the most embarrassing of times. I think I always managed to disguise myself by putting things on my lap or adjusting myself. I know I would have been mortified if anyone noticed. I don’t think they did. I know I used to panic that I’d be called to the board or something, and thinking about it just made things worse. It doesn’t happen now. I used to wonder about other boys, and what might be happening to them. I started to worry that I might be gay. I’ve stopped worrying about that now too. I guess these types of problems are pretty normal for kids. Aren’t they? •

How might a teacher appropriately create an environment where issues like these that boys face as they go through puberty are not a problem for them?

Precociousness Key take-home messages for teachers of adolescents is that the physical changes individuals experience during puberty are very individual with respect to onset,

Physical aspects   87

completion, and rate of change. Even the sequencing of the development of the more obvious secondary sexual characteristics is variable. Young people who are substantially out of sync with their peers can suffer a range of effects in their relationships with others. However, the development of the primary sexual characteristics impacts as well. For example, girls who are coming to terms with menstruation may have to deal with ongoing undercurrents of personal management. Questions such as: Should they go on camp? or Should they put their name down for the swimming carnival? Precociousness, the early development of secondary and primary sexual characteristics, can be problematic at a range of levels for young people (Taga, Markey & Friedman, 2006). It is true to say that a girl who has not begun puberty will not hold the same sort of interests as a girl that has started puberty (Rembeck, Moller & Gunnarsson, 2006). The girl who reaches menarche early will find herself losing interest in the types of things her immature peers are interested in and her mind will turn to romantic thoughts more often. This can distance her from the friends she has grown up with. She may be embarrassed by her appearance, especially her budding or well-developed breasts, if she feels alone in her experience and immature mates can also find a thousand ways to ridicule these differences. A sense of aloneness and segregation can haunt an early developing girl. Some girls find themselves attracted to older males, and since they look older than they are, men are attracted to them. The girls are often delighted at this attention. However, they can find themselves in situations that they are not ready for socially or emotionally. Although they might find being in adult type situations exciting at first, they can feel trapped and uncertain about how to extract themselves especially when things progress beyond their expectations or desires. Teen pregnancy is more prevalent with early developing girls. Young boys who develop early can experience similar problems. They too can be attracted to the pursuits of older males and the romantic interests of older women before they are emotionally or socially ready. Their greater stature and muscularity makes it possible to outperform their peers in sports, and this can become a mainstay of their identity. This in itself is not a problem, but may result in an imbalanced perception of a boy’s capabilities, and may impact on his motivation to work academically if that doesn’t come as easily. Early development is not always a problem. Many early developing boys are quite advantaged by their increased physical stature (Taga, Markey & Friedman, 2006). Adults tend to invest early maturing boys with more responsibility and more adult privileges. Early freedoms and removal of guidance systems and supports are common. Depending on the boy, this can work well, but given enough latitude some boys make serious misjudgments that often surprise the adults around them. In fact there is a greater incidence of delinquent and rule breaking, risk-taking behaviour among early developing boys than other boys. However, girls tend to have a worse experience of early maturation. They are plumper than their peers, substantially taller

88   The Millennial Adolescent

than the boys their age, and can feel distant and alienated from the peer group. This can result in free floating anxiety, depression, loneliness, and alienation from school. The drive to find a place to belong draws girls to older mates, and thus to a range of adult pastimes (smoking, alcohol, sex) (Taga, Markey & Friedman, 2006). Late maturing boys and girls are also at a disadvantage. The size and stature differences can really impact on a young boy’s self-esteem, leading to feelings of inadequacy (Richter, 2006). Girls who are late to mature also have a tough time. They tend to look like children and unfortunately are treated as such. Theirs is a world of close supervision and limited freedom. So early or late development are both problematic because all young people are striving to belong, to understand their place, and to accept responsibility under guidance; they are belied by their physical appearance. Acting out in class, big noting type of behaviour, class clowning, disengagement may all act as levers to draw admiration and a level of respect from peers. Another influence on the experience of adolescence is race. Racial differences in the development of secondary sexual characteristics are apparent in Australian classrooms. Pacific Islander youth from the Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga, and Maori from New Zealand are often large-framed people. In parts of Brisbane where there are corridors of Pacific Islander families, the disparity of body size and maturity between boys and girls of the same age from European, Anglo Saxon, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and Samoan families is very noticeable. In these circumstances it is impossible for teachers to ignore the effects of pubertal and adolescent development on the dynamics of their classroom and learner interactions.

Size and body shape As for all other aspects of adolescent development, the only constant in the growth of young people to mature stature and body shape is the variety. The rate of growth is quite individual, but even so there are consistent trends in the growth of girls as compared to boys. Figures 4.6 and 4.7 show the general trends. For both girls and boys there is a slight dip in growth rate just prior to puberty. Girls tend to have a growth spurt earlier than boys and reach their adult height more quickly. The sudden growth period can affect a range of aspects of a young person’s life. At the most basic level, hand and eye coordination can be affected. A degree of clumsiness is sometimes the result. Long bone strength can be diminished for a time (think back to ‘Bettie’), and young people can appear awkward and gangly. Selfconcept can also be affected. Confident and active children aged 10 can transform into sedentary and cautious adolescents as far as physical activity goes. The fastest kid on the track team can become slow and gangly despite their increased height and leg length, due to the poor coordination of their physical resources. As young people gain in height, their body shape changes and this not only reflects their sexual maturity. Their individual genetic program for adult stature has

Physical aspects   89

Growth velocity (mm/yr)


200 Pre-pubertal dip


Growth spurt



0 1









Age (years)

Figure 4.6  Profile of average growth velocity through adolescence

Height gain (cm)

10 9




7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 6




10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Age (years)

Figure 4.7  Comparative average height gain (cm) by age for boys and girls

a significant impact at this time. Although all young people tend to gain bulk during this period, the genetic blueprint for each individual prescribes their developmental path. Prior to adolescence, children are basically either pudgy or slightly built. Sheldon (1940) first described the shape of a person’s body as their somatotype. Sheldon described three basic different somatypes (or body types). These body type classifications are still useful today. Sheldon’s categories of body type were the mesomorph, endomorph, and the ectomorph. The mesomorph is basically an athletic build. A mesomorph has broad shoulders, comparatively narrow hips, and a torso that is well proportioned with their limbs (Sheldon, 1940). Female mesomorphs are hourglass shaped and males are more rectangular shaped, or even triangular shaped with tapering from their shoulders to

90   The Millennial Adolescent

their hips. Mesomorphs have muscular bodies and generally have very good posture. An ectomorph, however, has a more delicate and spindly build (Sheldon, 1940). Both males and female ectomorphs are relatively flat-chested. They can be described as wiry and spindly. Many are quite strong, but appear fragile and skinny. In contrast to the mesomorph they have narrow and fine shoulders. Finally the endomorph is soft and round by comparison. Their muscles appear underdeveloped and they can seem overweight. Weight loss is difficult for the endomorph. During adolescence young people develop into one of these main body types or some combination or midpoint between the extremes. Figure 4.8 shows these builds comparatively.




Figure 4.8  Comparative body shapes

The development of young people into one or other of these shapes can take them by surprise. Mesomorph males are generally pleased, as are mesomorph and some ectomorph females, and this reflects the values placed on these particular shapes by contemporary media. Those who develop as endomorphs and ectomorph males are generally not as pleased. I recall a boy that I taught in my Year 9 class who would wear a big jumper at all times, every day, all year. Some days he looked as if he would literally expire from the heat, but he would refuse to take off his jumper. Although he was the subject of ridicule by some of his peers, he preferred this discomfort to the prospect of anyone finding out he was shaped like a string bean—a true ectomorph. His experience and reaction is a reminder that just about everything that occurs during adolescent development is embarrassing to the young people involved. Anything that draws attention may cause anxiety to adolescents. This poses a particular problem for teachers who want to respond appropriately to the changing needs and concerns of their students, but utmost discretion must be maintained, even for what might seem the slightest thing. A boy who is hesitant to come to the board in the classroom, perhaps should not be pressured to do so. A girl who wants

Physical aspects   91

to spend lunchtime in the classroom reading to herself, by herself, should perhaps be allowed to do so.

Teen parenthood As adolescent bodies mature to full adult reproductive capacity, young people’s interests and obsessions take a turn toward the romantic and the affectionate. Children as young as nine partner off and can be found kissing, cuddling and petting in secluded parts of the school grounds. Dreamy eyes across a classroom, holding hands under the desk, note passing, promises of undying love are all part of adolescence in and out of school. Secret crushes on teachers, older students, and open obsessions with famous personalities attract the constant attention of young people. Some young people experiment sexually together, many masturbate, and some of their joint activities lead to pregnancy and an early start to parenthood. Parenthood during the teen years is a tough burden. For young women there is social stigma, not always so for boys. Some schools are happy to accommodate teenage pregnant girls, but even today in Australia there are many that simply won’t allow the continued enrolment of a pregnant girl. Of course once the baby is born, a range of issues emerges to interrupt the continued education and attainment of equivalent life opportunities for the young parents. Again the burden is not always as great for the teen father. There are a few schools in Australia that have set in place structures and facilities to enable parenting teens to continue their schooling. Some schools offer day care facilities, flexible hours, part-time enrolment options and an accepting community for continued learning.

Sexuality Not all young people feel that they fit neatly into the proclaimed gender stereotypes for appearance, behaviour and interests (Patterson, 1995). They may secretly or openly identify somewhere along the continuum between what is considered masculine and feminine (Harrison, 2003). A term that is sometimes used colloquially is ‘shim’—that is, not a she, and not a him, but someone somewhere in between. The notion that sexuality is a dichotomy is quite a flawed one and has been the basis for many an unhappy adolescence. There really is a complicated set of possibilities between male and female and sexual orientation. I hesitate here, as the concept of ‘sexual preference’ is often also used in the media. Unfortunately this term conjures up images of free choice, and it is clear that sexual orientation (the gender/s to which an individual feels romantically and sexually attracted) has very little to do with choice (Floyd & Stein, 2002; Lasser & Gottleib, 2004; Schneider & Tremble, 1985). The continuum of sexual attraction includes people who are same sex attracted (lesbian or gay), and bisexual (attracted by either sex). Transsexual

92   The Millennial Adolescent

individuals (those who dress and present themselves in the usual attire of the opposite sex) are not necessarily homosexual. People who identify with anything that doesn’t fit neatly with social stereotypes often face victimisation, bullying, segregation, ridicule and recrimination. Young people can be so terrified of possible responses, or so devastated by their social exclusion, that they suffer depression, perhaps attempt to repress their inclinations, and in extreme situations, commit suicide (Elia, 1993; Garofalo, Wolf, Kessel, Palfrey & Durant, 1998; Garofalo, Wolf, Wissow, Woods, & Goodman, 1999; Savin-Williams, 2001).

Gender development As discussed, sexual development does not equate directly with gender development. Where sex refers simply to a person’s reproductive chromosomes, gender refers to a person’s alignment with the types of roles and behaviours that are ascribed to men or women. The gender of a person is influenced markedly by social learning since birth. As a result, gendered behaviour is often considered a cultural phenomenon. Adult men are expected to appear and interact with the world and others in socially prescribed ways. The same is true for women. Adolescent girls and boys are progressively apprenticed into these frameworks through a multitude of daily models, directions, rewards and punishments. There are four predominant frameworks for considering how gender is constructed. These are the individual framework, the socialisation framework, the biological framework, and the social construction framework. First, the individual as constructor of gender—in this view gendered development reflects the individual’s preferences for behaviour. An effeminate male would be assumed to be acting on a personal decision for gender ambivalence. Those in our communities who are threatened by difference, and who see gender expression and alignment as a personal preference, often find it difficult to relate to people who do not fit squarely within the accepted stereotypes. Victimisation can arise as a result. Next, the socialisation view—this view assumes that gendered behaviour is founded on interaction with others. That is, that people behave in ways that reflect their experiences with role models presented via the media or through personal relationships with gender exemplars. Guidelines for socially accepted behaviour are assumed to be clearly set, and again those who do not align neatly with an accepted standard for gendered behaviour are not easily tolerated. The third view is the biological framework. Here, the theory states that gendered behaviour reflects a genetic stamp and that gender-stereotyped behaviour reflects the natural order of things. A person’s gender is regarded as fixed and immutable and fundamentally an expression of their physical make-up. Gender is viewed as an innate blueprint, and individuals behave in particular ways as men and women through deep compulsion, not choice.

Physical aspects   93

The social construction view considers how gender is constructed and reconstructed in and by society. The basic assumptions are that culture determines the expression of gender, that socioeconomic climate drives particular models of accepted gender behavioural standards, that geography, family and education impact on the expression of gender, and that gendered behaviour is a function of personal and collective power. Society and the media expend a great deal of effort in setting the stereotypes for sexuality and gendered behaviour. The term hetero-normativity (Evans, 1999; Harbeck, 1992) describes society that considers heterosexuality normal and which denigrates and oppresses those that are not heterosexual. Every child, regardless of their eventual sexual orientation, is inducted into the societal expectations regarding partnering and stereotyped gender expression. Adolescents who find themselves same sex attracted, or in any way different from the hetero-normative views they’ve been inculcated with since childhood, can feel self-hatred, confusion, fear and estrangement. Adolescence can be a dangerous time for these individuals until they find a place in life where they are able to accept themselves. Interestingly, many young people will admit that they have experienced times of doubt regarding their sexual orientations (Lee & Houk, 2006). They may find themselves admiring others and may even feel sexually attracted at times. These feelings can spark panic and confusion even for those who settle into a heterosexual identity comfortably with maturity. This panic or even the fear of the unknown can prompt homophobic reactions. Homophobia can also arise from very fundamentalist views of what is natural and normal (Elia, 1993). Homophobia comprises a range of behaviours designed to denigrate homosexuals or indeed anyone who doesn’t fit neatly into heterosexual stereotypes. Victims are targets for vitriol, venom and violence. Ironically victims are often heterosexual but simply exhibit some sort of behavioural or appearance difference that attracts attention of the bullies. Homophobia and homophobic-related behaviour is unfortunately a staple problem in many school grounds.

Health and lifestyle Eating disorders Anxiety can be a foundation stone to several negative events through adolescence. For example, there is a common trend for many, perhaps most, girls to be quite dissatisfied with their bodies during puberty. They don’t want to gain weight and yet they do, they often feel their body is out of control, and they can feel large and awkward especially by comparison to their comparatively short male peers. Adolescence is the modal time of onset for many of the debilitating eating disorders that threaten the health and wellbeing of young women and some young men

94   The Millennial Adolescent

(McCabe, Ricciardelli, Mellor & Ball, 2005; McCabe & Ricciardelli, 2006). These young people try to take control of their appearance through their eating, and they often develop distorted concepts of their own bodies.

Anorexia nervosa One extreme outcome associated with over-controlling behaviour is the development of anorexia nervosa. An anorexic person refuses to maintain normal body weight for age and height and works doggedly to ensure no weight gain is made. They literally starve themselves, and may combine strict eating regimens with exercise programs designed to burn up any calories ingested. By the time an anorexic presents for treatment they generally weigh 85 per cent or less than what is expected for their age and height (Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc., 2005). Girls may stop menstruating or not start at the age they otherwise might have, and male hormones may drop dramatically in boys. Effectively, puberty is stopped in its tracks for these people. Anorexics generally refuse to believe that low weight is dangerous for them and the overriding fear is that they will gain weight. This is at odds with their appearance which generally seems undernourished and fragile. Even given overwhelming evidence that they are dangerously underweight, an anorexic perceives him or herself as chubby or fat (Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc., 2005). Anorexic people employ a range of extreme behaviours to ensure that they limit their weight gain. They often have odd eating habits, obsessive and compulsive

Catherine’s story Catherine was a bright, well-groomed, outgoing girl in Year 8. She was the principal’s daughter and seemed quite comfortable with this. Her school reports for all subjects were unanimously favourable, and she had a strong group of friends that had been together since their early schooling years. She was class captain in Year 8 and went on to be class captain every year of high school, and then school captain as elected by the teachers and her student peers in Year 12. She was a good-looking girl, well proportioned, and quite athletic. Anyhow, Catherine developed anorexia. It must have been bubbling away as an undercurrent for a long period of time before she ended up hospitalised in the middle of Year 12 dangerously at risk of losing her life. The whole thing took a huge toll on her family. • •

Do you think there may have been warning signs teachers could have looked out for? What are some reasons why Catherine may have developed anorexia?

Physical aspects   95

rituals around eating and an in-depth knowledge and belief system about foods that are to be avoided. Anorexics can respond very negatively to attempted interventions to their lifestyle, diet or eating regimens. There are consistent personality traits that seem allied to anorexia. They tend to be perfectionists, high achieving and diligent workers. That is they take control of their lives and schooling and have a highly developed internal locus of control. Interestingly they also tend to be family focused and dependent. They believe they are responsible for their fate rather than circumstances being out of their control. Ordinarily, these characteristics denote successful and achieving individuals. However, anorexics are so intent on attempting to control their contexts that they exhibit low tolerance for change and new situations, preferring a contextual status quo. Adolescence is an inordinate challenge to these sensibilities. In addition to dealing with rather dramatic physical and social changes during this period, anorexic adolescents can fear what changes may lie ahead, particularly looming adulthood and associated adult responsibilities and life. Dieting can be their attempt to cope with adolescence. They can exhibit depression, irritability, and/or withdrawal in response to their time of life and their poor nutrition. Anorexia is apparent in just one per cent of female adolescents (Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc., 2005). So in a secondary school of around 1000 adolescents you would expect perhaps up to 10 girls to be exhibiting the dangerous behaviours of anorexia. Of course adults and younger children can develop anorexia but the incidence is rare (McCabe & Ricciardelli, 2006). Teachers are keen to identify young people at risk of anorexia, but it is extraordinarily difficult since many of the traits are associated with the types of behaviours and interests that we prize in schools. These young people are more often than not the ‘good’ kids. They work hard, are attentive, conscientious, diligent, eager to please, avoid conflict and get along well with others. They take pride in their appearance and in the quality of their work. They are the kids who respond well to their teachers, thrive on approval, and generally appear to be learning and getting through school very well. But underneath all of these positive characteristics, they are feeling defective and inadequate. Their drive to be special and to earn the esteem of others is part of the complex set of influences tied to their efforts to control their weight through dieting. Media images that assert the positives of being thin are very much taken to heart, and the puppy fat of adolescence is not tolerated by these adolescents. The normal physical changes of puberty can lead to feelings of hopelessness, loss of control and chaos. Anorexia is not as common for males. The incidence of anorexia in adolescent boys is extremely low (McCabe & Ricciardelli, 2006). This is perhaps because the ‘ideal’ body image for males as portrayed by the media is not the skinny waif. Boys aspire to heavier, more muscular profiles. Boys who want to take control of their physical destiny can be attracted to protein shakes, steroids and a range of sporting and body conditioning pursuits.

96   The Millennial Adolescent

Bulimia nervosa A person with bulimia nervosa will binge eat, and then take dramatic steps to purge their food intake. They may cause themselves to vomit, take laxatives, exercise or fast to make up for what they see as eating indiscretions (McCabe & Ricciardelli, 2006). They are keen to undo the calorie intake whatever way they can. They enjoy eating, but feel out of control. In between binge periods they might diet for extended periods of time. They eat again when they are hungry and then feel disgusted with their behaviour and try desperately to undo it. In effect a diet-binge-diet cycle exists for them. Like anorexics, they are obsessed with their body shape and only feel good about themselves if they are thin. Unlike anorexics, bulimics do not have welldeveloped impulse control and this can be seen in a range of other behaviours in their life such as stealing, substance abuse, problems with credit card use and other risky behaviours. They often don’t see the consequences of their impulsive actions, or don’t consider them carefully. Bulimics may not actually be skinny, but they are still behaving dangerously and can die. Like anorexia, bulimia is a hidden problem and is actually a dark secret for those affected. Their friends can be completely unaware that anything is amiss. Bulimics feel guilty when they eat and guilty when they purge. The whole picture is one of shame, for their behaviour, and for their concept of their own body image. They are often depressed and lonely and harbour a deep sense of inferiority. There are actually more bulimics than anorexics. About four per cent of young women have bulimia (McCabe & Ricciardelli, 2006). Again, for much the same reasons as for anorexia, the incidence of bulimia for males is extremely low. Bulimic behaviours often occur with anorexia. About 50 per cent of anorexics develop bulimia or bulimic patterns (McCabe & Ricciardelli, 2006). It’s hard to know how accurate these figures are because bulimia is marked by secrecy, and the vast majority of bulimics will not self-report, and will have successfully hidden their behaviours from family and friends. Bulimia is actually pretty rare in children, and tends to emerge a little later. It is comparatively more prevalent for young adult women than it is for adolescents. Risk factors for bulimia are heightened anxiety and low impulse control. Bulimic behaviours are a response to deep feelings of inadequacy. Dissatisfied with their appearance, bulimics can allow these feelings to impact on their interpersonal relationships and can have difficulties establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships. While they can profess their independence, they often feel very dependent on others. They find comfort in eating but soon regret any overindulgence. They are easily stressed and do not respond well to stressful situations. Dieting is an attempt to improve their lives and feel better about themselves. Of course the dieting leads to hunger, to craving and then to binge eating. Then follows the guilt and the purging behaviours.

Physical aspects   97

As stated, very few males have anorexia or bulimia. Society does tend to value a different body shape for men than for women. Society, well supported by the popular media, portrays the ideal woman as tiny, thin and waif-like. It has been common in fashion magazines to include predominantly pre-adolescent and androgynouslooking girls. Table 4.1 shows the marked disparity between the size and shape of real girls and women as compared to store mannequins. Clearly, the ideal woman (the mannequin) is a terrible match for reality. Adolescence throws some unwanted bodily changes at young girls, and eating disorders can be the result. For most boys though, their adolescence brings strengthening, muscularity and bulk—the very things prized by society and the media for the ideal male. For boys their self-esteem suffers if these changes don’t occur fast enough, or if the metamorphosis is not complete. Table 4.1  Sizes for girls and women as compared to a store mannequin Girl




11 years

15 years




145 cm

162 cm

 162.5 cm

183 cm


38 kg

55 kg

 65.7 kg






~ 91.5 cm

 ~ 86 cm


 ~74 cm

~ 58.5 cm


 ~101.6 cm

~ 86 cm

 Dress size

Source: Adapted from Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc., 2005

Obesity Childhood and adolescent obesity has reached epidemic proportions in Australia (Australian Government, Institute of Health and Welfare, 2004). About a quarter of Australian school-age children are overweight or obese. This reflects an increase in the number of overweight and obese children aged seven to 15 years by 60 per cent since the mid-1990s (Australian Government, Institute of Health and Welfare, 2004). This is more than triple what it was in the 1980s. Obesity is more prevalent for boys than girls, particularly during the adolescent years. Adolescent obesity is linked with a range of terrible life-threatening health outcomes in mid-life. Obesity is the term used to describe those who weigh more than 20 per cent above the expected weight for age, height, and body build. A key influence on the development of obesity is nutrition. Of course a person’s genetic

98   The Millennial Adolescent

predispositions play a part, as well as basal metabolic rates, systemic disorders and so on. Recent research has drawn attention to the roles sleeping rhythm and amount, as well as effects that air conditioning and climate control may have on fat metabolism. However, increasingly, it is apparent that the eating habits of young people are very poor, and this is on a grand scale in Australia, and appears to be getting worse each year. Popular diet staples are: • • • •

cereal-based foods (such as pastries, cakes, biscuits, muesli bars, pies and pizzas) confectionery (such as chocolate, lollies and other candy items) sugars and sugar-based products (such as sugar, honey, jams and spreads). fast foods—many adolescents eat these regularly (too much salt and fat).

These high fat, high sugar, high carbohydrate diets are associated with weight gain, and in turn can set the physical conditions for Type 2 diabetes, cardiac failure, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke and so on. Although overweight, these people are actually seriously undernourished and can find difficulty thinking clearly, may also exhibit emotional effects such as depression, anxiety, and may even have difficulty sleeping. All these things impact on each other, and so there is a complex interrelationship between diet and wellbeing. Contemporary sedentary lifestyles also have an impact. There is a wide variety of engaging pursuits available to young people that actually require them to sit still for many hours on end. Computer games, play stations, chat rooms, videos, even magazine reading all require long periods of physical inactivity that in turn impacts on metabolic rate.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health during adolescence A recent large-scale research project has taken the first steps to examining the physical and mental health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) children and adolescents (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2005). There has long been held the notion that a variety of differences exist between the wellbeing of Aboriginal children and adolescents and non-Aboriginal children and adolescents. The Western Australian (WA) Aboriginal Child Health Survey (WAACHS) describes their health and considers the antecedents of a range of issues. The survey was conducted in Western Australia between May 2000 and June 2002. Personal, family and community data were collected from the carers of 5289 Aboriginal children in WA. The general findings of the research were that ‘Aboriginal young people had significantly more physical and mental 

Aboriginal or Indigenous are terms used here to refer to people of all Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander identities.

Physical aspects   99

health problems and were more likely to engage in lifestyle risk factors than nonAboriginal young people’ (Blair, Zubrick & Cox, 2005). Also that ‘Aboriginal young people tend to be caught up in a cycle of disadvantage that includes family and community factors as well as recent history, facilitating their making less optimal life choices, thereby perpetuating the cycle’ (Blair, Zubrick & Cox, 2005). Table 4.2 reports the key findings of the research for Indigenous adolescents. The data show that Indigenous children and adolescents generally displayed a higher incidence of a range of health problems such as infection, asthma, poor vision and lower dental health than their non-Aboriginal peers. Indigenous adolescents engage in more body changing strategies than non-Indigenous peers. They tend to use more strategies to try and lose or gain weight or increase muscle (Blair, Zubrick & Cox, 2005). Table 4.2  Health of Aboriginal young people aged 12–17 years

• •

Infections: Recurring infections involving the ear, skin and/or gastrointestinal tract occurred in 23.6% of young people. Sequelae of recurrent ear infections: Abnormal hearing occurred in 6.9%, unintelligible speech in 4.8%, difficulties in saying certain sounds in 4.3%, and learning difficulties in 9.6% of young people. Asthma: Ever having asthma was reported by 24.4% of young people, of whom 12.9% used medication, and these rates were inversely related to geographic isolation. This compared with 17.3% in non-Aboriginal 12–16 year olds, of whom 8.7% used asthma medication, with no association with area of residence. Vision: 11.3% of Aboriginal young people had abnormal vision and 7.8% wore contact lenses or glasses, compared with 20.7% and 16%, respectively, in non-Aboriginal 12–16 year olds. The prevalence of abnormal vision decreased as the level of relative isolation increased. Oral health: 45.6% of young people had decayed, missing or filled teeth. The prevalence of poor oral health decreased with increasing isolation of residence.

Health risk factors reported by Aboriginal young people •

Smoking: The proportion of young Aboriginal people who regularly smoked cigarettes peaked at 58% in 17 year olds compared with about 41% in 15 year old non-Aboriginal young people. Adjusted for age, sex, level of relative isolation and parental smoking, smoking was inversely associated with school attendance and adequacy of parenting style.

100   The Millennial Adolescent

Marijuana: 40.8% of Aboriginal 15–16 year olds had tried marijuana compared with 33% of non-Aboriginal young people of the same age. Using marijuana was associated with parental use of drugs, poor school performance and, adjusted for age, with school attendance. Alcohol: Alcohol consumption peaked in Aboriginal 15–16 year olds, and almost half of those consuming alcohol had drunk to the point of vomiting in the past 6 months, similar to the pattern seen in non-Aboriginal 15–16 year olds. Insufficient physical exercise: Of Aboriginal 12–16 year olds, 21.6% of males and 33.0% of females had not exercised strenuously in the previous week compared with about 6% and 11% of non-Aboriginal male and female 12–16 year olds, respectively. Blair, EM et al. The Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey: Findings to date on adolescents. MJA 2005; 183: 433-54. © Copyright 2005. The Medical Journal of Australia—reproduced with permission.

Indigenous health is a concern at all ages, but particularly for adolescents, who are facing a range of health issues associated purely with their development and changes through puberty. It is disturbing that adolescent suicide and risk-taking behaviour is much more prevalent for Indigenous than for non-Indigenous adolescents. Of note, the incidence of many health, nutrition and risk-taking problems decrease with increased isolation of the Indigenous communities.

Boys versus girls debate Popular debate has raged in recent years around Australia regarding the differences between boys and girls and what this means in terms of the most appropriate educative responses (Mills, 1999). The cited differences centre on language skill, literacy levels, learning styles, relevance of curriculum, teacher behaviour, student classroom behaviour, career stereotypes and impact on aspiration and so forth. The common themes are that boys seem not to achieve as well academically as their girl peers, and that girls do not tend to select sciences and masculine stereotyped courses. A closer look at the research shows that there is no clear-cut or uniform delineation between boys and girls. Rather, there are differences between sub-populations. That is, the question isn’t so much: What’s happening to the boys?, but rather: What’s happening to which boy? It is also true that not all girls are advantaged. So again, the question is: Which girls are advantaged and which are disadvantaged? Complex interactions appear to exist between cultural groups, socioeconomic status, gender, rural versus metropolitan location and school factors (such as size, teacher gender,

Physical aspects   101

cultural mix). For a teacher or a school to respond appropriately to the learning needs of their students, they would need to invoke interventions that do not focus on gender alone.

Summary This chapter has explored the key physical development processes during puberty, some of the variations in sequence and expression of that development, and some related behavioural issues. Adolescence is more than puberty, but puberty is an undercurrent to many of the emotional and social experiences that are unique to adolescence.

Key points 1






A person’s physical attributes provide the framework for their perceptions of themselves and the world. Since dramatic physical changes are a characteristic of adolescence, it is vital that we come to understand their influence on a young person’s behaviours, thoughts and relationships. Hormonal cycles take a while to settle into a regular adult pattern. Our emotional state can be related to hormonal balances. Young people are likely to feel somewhat unsettled at times as they develop toward hormonal cycle stability. Although the sequence of physical change is generally similar from one person to the next, the nature and precise timing of these changes are highly individual. This almost inevitably results in young people feeling either ahead or behind their peers in some way. These feelings of difference can underpin feelings of inadequacy or isolation, and may prompt risky behaviours. Teen parenthood brings substantial stigma in today’s society, particularly in certain cultural groups, and is usually more harsh for young mums than for the dads. This stigma, and the practicalities of juggling parental responsibilities, can interfere with schooling and career ambitions of young people. Gendered and sexual developments are often highlighted during adolescence as young people evolve to their adult selves. Educators and other specialists working with young people at this time need to be aware of the many challenges, insecurities and tensions that can emerge. In an effort to control the seemingly uncontrolled physical changes of adolescence some young people develop life-threatening eating

102   The Millennial Adolescent

disorders and behaviours. The establishment of healthy eating and healthy lifestyle during adolescence may depend to some extent on the sensitive work of educators to promote healthy acceptance of physical changes and appearances. 7 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth are at particular health risk emerging from a range of disadvantaged and disadvantaging life circumstances.

Further thinking 1 What effect might an irregular menstrual period have on the behaviour, 2 3 4 5

6 7


9 10

motivations and attitudes of adolescent girls? In what ways can teachers support adolescents who are late maturers? What is the best advice to give a young person who is experiencing severe acne? How might teachers contribute to the prevention of eating disorders? What impacts would teen pregnancy and parenting have on a young person’s life opportunities? How might teachers and schools respond most effectively? What is the relationship between sexuality and gender? What health issues might a young Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person in a metropolitan school experience? How might these impact on their experience of education and schooling? There have been many different models of best approach to appropriately cater for the educational needs of boys and girls. What are some key considerations that would drive the development of appropriate schooling for boys or girls? Puberty can be relatively short (12 to 18 months) or very long (up to a decade). How might protracted puberty impact on adolescence? Why do teachers need to know about puberty?

References A.D.A.M. (2006). Healthcare Centre. [online] Retrieved August 6, 2006, from http://adam. Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc. (2005). Statistics: How many people have eating disorders? [online] Retrieved August 6, 2006, from stats.html

Physical aspects   103

Arraj, J., & Arraj, T. (2006). William Sheldon’s body and temperament types. [online] Retrieved August 6, 2006, from Australian Government, Institute of Health and Welfare (2004). A rising epidemic: Obesity in Australian children and adolescents, Risk Factors Data Briefing Number 2. [online] Retrieved August 6, 2006, from no_2.pdf Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2005). The health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Canberra: AIHW/ABS [online] Retrieved August 6, 2006, from au/publications/index.cfm/title/10172 Biro, F. M., Khoury, P., & Morrison, J. A. (2006). Influence of obesity on timing of puberty. International Journal of Andrology, 29(1): 272–277. Blair, E. M., Zubrick, S. R., & Cox, A. H. (2005). The Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey: Findings to date on adolescents. The Medical Journal of Australia 17 October. [online] Retrieved August 6, 2006, from issues/183_08_171005/bla10515_fm.pdf Callender, M. P. (1932). Marjorie May’s Twelfth Birthday: Australia: Kotex Australia Ltd (booklet). Claessens, A. L., Lefevre, J., & Beunen, G. P. (2006). Maturity-associated variation in the body size and proportions of elite female gymnasts 14–17 years of age. European Journal of Pediatrics, 165(3): 186–192. Davies, S. L., DiClemente, R. J., & Wingood, G. M. (2006). Predictors of inconsistent contraceptive use among adolescent girls: Findings from a prospective study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 39(1): 43–49. Elia, J. P. (1993). Homophobia in the high school: A problem in need of resolution. High School Journal, 77, 177–185. Engler, P. A., Crowther, J. H., & Dalton, G. (2006). Predicting eating disorder group membership: An examination and extension of the sociocultural model. Behavior Therapy, 37(1): 69–79. Evans, K. (1999). ‘Are you married?’: Examining heteronormativity in schools. Multicultural Perspectives, 3, 7–13. Floyd, F. J., & Bakeman, R. (2006). Coming-out across the life course: Implications of age and historical context. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 35(3): 287–296. Floyd, F. J., & Stein, T. S. (2002). Sexual orientation identity formation among gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths: Multiple patterns of milestone experiences. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 12, 167–191. Garofalo, R., Wolf, R. C., Kessel, S., Palfrey, J., & DuRant, R. H. (1998). The association between health risk behaviors and sexual orientation among a school-based sample of adolescents. Pediatrics, 101, 895–902.

104   The Millennial Adolescent

Garofalo, R., Wolf, R. C., Wissow, L. S., Woods, E. R., & Goodman, E. (1999). Sexual orientation and risk of suicide attempts among a representative sample of youth. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 153, 487–493. Graber, J. A., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Warren, M. P. (2006). Pubertal effects on adjustment in girls: Moving from demonstrating effects to identifying pathways. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35(3): 413–423. Hall, G. S. (1904). Adolescence (Vols 1 & 2). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Harbeck, K. M. (Ed.). (1992). Coming out of the classroom closet: Gay and lesbian students, teachers and curricula. New York: Amethyst Press and Productions. Harrison, T. W. (2003). Adolescent homosexuality and concerns regarding disclosure. Journal of School Health, 73, 107–113. Hillen, T. I., Grbavac, S. L., Johnston, P. J., Straton, J. A., & Keogh, J. M. (1999). Primary dysmenorrhea in young Western Australian women: prevalence, impact, and knowledge of treatment. Journal of Adolescent Health, 25(1): 40–45. Lasser, J. S. & Gottlieb, M. C. (2004). Treating patients distressed regarding their sexual orientation: Clinical and ethical alternatives. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 35, 194–200. Lawrence, A., & Lawrence, L. (2004). Wellness on the Web. [online] Retrieved August 6, 2006, from Lee, P. A., & Houk, C. P. (2006). Lack of differences between males with or without perceived same sex attraction. Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology & Metabolism, 19(2): 115– 119. Lien, L., Dalgard, F., & Heyerdahl, S. (2006). The relationship between age of menarche and mental distress in Norwegian adolescent girls and girls from different immigrant groups in Norway: Results from an urban city cross-sectional survey. Social Science & Medicine, 63(2): 285–295. Lundbeck Institute (2005). Brain explorer: Hypothalamus. Denmark [online] Retrieved August 6, 2006, from McCabe, M.P., Ricciardelli, L., Mellor, D., & Ball, K. (2005). Media influences on body image and disordered eating among Indigenous adolescent Australians. Adolescence: 40(157): 115–127. McCabe, M. P., & Ricciardelli, L. A. (2006). A prospective study of extreme weight change behaviors among adolescent boys and girls. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35(3): 425–434. Mills, M. (1999). ‘What about the boys?’—Which boys? The Professional Exchange: Teachers Talking to Teachers, Vol. 22: 4–6. Brisbane: Board of Teacher Registration. National Women’s Health Information Center (2002). Menstruation and the menstrual cycle. Washington, D.C. [online] Retrieved January 24, 2007, from http://www.4women. gov/faq/menstru.htm

Physical aspects   105

Neufeld, K. M. (2002, 8th Oct). Menstrual cycle synchronization might be reality. [online] Retrieved August 6, 2006, from Patterson, C. J. (1995). Sexual orientation and human development: An overview. Developmental Psychology, 31, 3–11. Rembeck, G. I., Moller, M., & Gunnarsson, R. K. (2006). Attitudes and feelings towards menstruation and womanhood in girls at menarche. Acta Paediatrica, 9(6): 707–714. Rice, F. P., & Dolgin, K. G. (2005). The adolescent: Development, relationships, and culture (11th ed.). Allyn and Bacon: Boston. Richter, L. M. (2006). Studying adolescence. Science, 312(5782): 1902–1905. Savin-Williams, R. C. (2001). Suicide attempts among sexual-minority youth: Population and measurement issues. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69, 983–991. Savin-Williams, R. C., & Ream, G. L. (2006). Pubertal onset and sexual orientation in an adolescent national probability sample. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 35(3): 279– 286. Schneider, M.S., & Tremble, B. (1985). Gay or straight? Working with the confused adolescent. Journal of Social Work and Human Sexuality, 4, 71–82. Sheldon, W. H. (1940). The Varieties of Human Physique. New York: Harper & Row. Slyper, A. H. (2006). The pubertal timing controversy in the USA, and a review of possible causative factors for the advance in timing of onset of puberty. Clinical Endocrinology, 65(1): 1–8. Taga, K. A., Markey, C. N., & Friedman, H. S. (2006). A longitudinal investigation of associations between boys’ pubertal timing and adult behavioral health and wellbeing. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35(3): 401–411. Weber State University (2006). Child and family studies. [online] Retrieved August 6, 2006, from


Brain and cognitive development Nan Bahr

Chapter summary • • • •

• • • • • • • •

A potted history of ideas about cognitive development and learning Theories of mind Learning theorists — Behaviourism Cognitive development theorists — Jean Piaget — Lev Vygotsky — Schema theory Information processing theories — Level of processing — Reception learning — Cognitive load theory Metacognition Experts vs novices Cognitive style Brain development research Summary Key points Further thinking References

Those of us working with young people are inevitably preoccupied with trying to understand the way they think and learn and how these processes and attributes can in turn inform our work. Teachers, of course, are keen to understand learning processes, and the suite of things that go together to impact on the effectiveness of


Brain and cognitive development   107

learning in school and after school. Youth workers of all types clamour for models and explanations of adolescent thinking. In most ways, adolescents think and learn as adults do, but their learning success and behaviour is also affected by changes to the very tools they have available to them for thinking and learning during this time of upheaval. In this chapter we will provide an overview of the key theories and theorists that have influenced the way we understand thinking and the development of thinking and learning particularly through adolescence. We will examine the theories in an argumentative sequence from the early notions of thought and learning through to contemporary and cutting edge ideas from brain development research. In doing so we will introduce and explain common terms used to describe cognitive development. We will attempt to convince readers of the merits of a socio-constructivist perspective; that is, we consider learning to occur as a complex function of the things an individual brings to learning combined with social and contextual influences that makes sense of the things they come to know. We hope we will lead teachers to a position where they are reflective and critical of the impact of neat theories on their classroom interactions and the sequencing of learning experiences for adolescence. It is very enticing to think that we can present a tidy case to explain the ways people learn, what learning means for them, and the functions of society in that learning. Unfortunately, the quest for tidiness results in a tendency to oversimplify what is perhaps better construed as an almost intractable knot of influences that affect learning and what and how adolescents come to know.

A potted history of ideas about cognitive development and learning This is not a text on educational psychology. But no study of adolescence would be complete without at least a whirlwind tour of some of the key theories and ideas. Wouldn’t it be terrific if research worked in a clean linear way? That is, for each theory or model to explain something about the human condition, to be built on earlier ideas. Sadly this is not the case. Researchers look at particular facets of behaviour that interest them without full regard to the multitude that could be considered. While working in these pockets of their own interest, they create terms that almost (but not quite) match different terms coined by other researchers. To further complicate things, researchers work to different basic assumptions which in themselves can be challenged. Then they propose their theory or a model, which is designed to assist in the explanation of a phenomenon, but in itself does not explain everything about this phenomenon. In addition, these theories respond to the questions of their contemporary society and so are inextricably tied to social, economic and political agendas. After all, they are just theories anyway.

108   The Millennial Adolescent

So what is a theory? A theory is someone’s best guess about how a phenomenon works, using some related evidence, and aimed at helping make predictions about other phenomena. It is a good thing for all educated people to have a healthy scepticism about theory, and to endeavour to understand the contextual agendas, the background to the key debates, and the nature of the evidence used to support and argue the theories and models. As consumers of research ‘products’, professionals who work with adolescents need to develop a critical eye, continually asking the question, So what does this mean for the way I work with kids? As a professional, you really need to know something about the theories and models as they can be very useful in guiding practice and framing futures, but beware the temptation to accept them as truth.

Theories of mind The philosopher René Descartes (1596–1650) reflected on early Greek debates (Plato and Aristotle) about the distinction between the mind and the body. Can the mind, thought and knowledge be considered as physical entities? In what ways is the mind distinct from the flesh and bone that comprise us? What is knowledge anyway? How do we know? What is it to know? The famous statement cogito ergo sum: ‘I think, therefore I am’ gave shape to much of the early thinking about humanity, learning and knowledge.

Learning theorists Early learning theorists provide a rich history to educational psychology. Each set of ideas that we consider below has served to drive the research agenda and the beliefs about learning for whole eras of society.

Behaviourism Ivan Pavlov (1849–1936) is just as famous for the way he collected his evidence as he is for the theoretical proposals he crafted. Pavlov kept dogs (1928). He would feed these dogs to a strict routine. Every time it was feed time he would ring a little bell and Pavlov noticed that the dogs tended to salivate when they could see food. What he found interesting was that over time his dogs must have learnt that the sound of the bell indicated food was imminent. They would salivate just at the sound of the bell. Pavlov called this conditioning (later termed classical conditioning). Pavlov termed the bell, the neutral stimulus and the food, the conditioning stimulus. So the idea progressed that you could encourage particular responses for events by partnering those events with those that already elicited a response of some kind (Pavlov, 1928). For teachers, the power is in the partnering. Through the association of the two events teachers could lead students unconsciously to new behaviours.

Brain and cognitive development   109

Other behaviourists developed theories regarding how you might strengthen or weaken the effect of the conditioning relationship. Watson (1913; 1919; 1925; Watson & Rayner, 1920) and Thorndike (1898; 1911; 1931) were key behaviourist researchers of their time. Thorndike proposed the Law of Effect, which described the behavioural consequences of linking behavioural responses to negative or positive effects (1898). B. F. Skinner (1938; 1948; 1957; 1968; 1971) was the next key behaviourist researcher. He developed the work of Thorndike and Watson and considered how these relationships could underpin the way people learn (1948). He was perhaps the first learning theorist. Skinner’s work focused on learning as a function arising from the relationship between stimulus and reward. This became known as operant conditioning. You could encourage desired behaviour by partnering desired responses with some other pleasurable reward, and you could discourage the behaviour by punishing undesired responses. Skinner showed that behaviour could be shaped (1938).

Operant conditioning in action I heard about a teacher who became the target of a rather cruel joke by her students. Her class had decided to see if they could shape her behaviour in an odd way. While she was presenting to her class they would smile and engage with her and the material, but only when she stood near her desk. They would chat to each other and largely ignore her when she wasn’t at her desk. Over several lessons they were able to trap her in the corner near her desk. She no longer would wander around the room checking on them. A pretty funny example of operant conditioning, but the laugh was actually on the kids, because they were now trapped into fully engaging in the class activities. (Nan Bahr) •

Who was shaping who?

Many teachers use the ideas of operant conditioning in their classrooms. They give stamps, stickers, awards, early marks, and praise when students exhibit the right behaviours. They give detention, lines, corporal punishment, exclusion and harsh words when students exhibit undesired behaviours. There is no doubt that reinforcement (promoting behaviours through a system of rewards) and inhibition (extinguishing behaviours through a system of punishments) have effects on behaviour. But links to the structure of knowledge is not so clear. The unifying notion of the behaviourists was that behaviour was considered as the tangible evidence of learning. Learning was assumed to be an overt change in behaviour in response to stimuli. This premise discounted the possibility that a person could learn something without an associated behaviour.

110   The Millennial Adolescent

Building on this work was the research and theory of Bandura (1977). Bandura’s social learning theory (later called social cognitive theory) considered learning as the result of people modelling their behaviour on others, especially where enacting this modelled behaviour was reinforced (Bandura, 1977). This was the start of researchers focusing on what a learner was thinking about, particularly whether they thought enacting a modelled behaviour was likely to be reinforced or punished. Bandura’s work opened up consideration of the workings behind moral judgment and values. This work has currency today with researchers reflecting on social cognitive theory to explain a range of social behaviours. The self-regulated learning model of Zimmerman (1998) extends from this base. People trying to understand adolescents from a fundamentally behaviourist approach, would look to their exhibited behaviours and try to draw some conclusions about how these were being reinforced. This is called applied behavioural analysis (ABA) (Alberto & Troutman, 1999; Schloss & Smith, 1998). If the behaviours were undesired, then they might orchestrate a range of negative reinforcers, or provide vicarious experiences demonstrating the possible evil outcomes of persisting with the behaviours. It is assumed that any behaviour that is exhibited exists because there is some reinforcement (Alberto & Troutman, 1999; Schloss & Smith, 1998). Behaviourists, social learning theorists, and social cognitive theorists would try to ascertain what the positive reinforcement was behind negative behaviours. This would inform any intervention or experience (even vicarious) to try and demonstrate possible or likely negative outcomes. Let’s look at teen drinking. I can think of recent television advertisements that have shown attractive young women behaving vulgarly or vomiting on their boyfriends. This is a clear example of an attempt to shape behaviour by alerting people to the likely negative outcomes of the behaviour. Some would say that the potency of television, in particular reality TV and teen soapies, demonstrates the relevance of these fundamentally behaviourist ideas about learning and behaviour.

Cognitive development theorists In this section we will consider cognition and theories of cognitive development. Cognition is best defined as the act of knowing or perceiving (Krause, Bochner & Duchesne, 2003). When contemplating learning and thinking, theories fall into two broad categories: • •

those that emphasise qualitative changes in the way people think as they develop, and those that examine the progressive steps, actions and operations that take place when a person receives, perceives, remembers, thinks about, and uses information.

Brain and cognitive development   111

Some researchers have made contributions to both categories. As you read through the next few pages it will be useful to attempt to categorise the theories into one or the other. It will give you greater insight to the part a teacher might play in facilitating development in others.

Jean Piaget Jean Piaget (1954; 1963), with an eye turned solely to the benefits to science, measured, questioned and painstakingly recorded the development of thinking and understanding in his own children as they grew up. He came up with some very persuasive insights for his time.

Structuralism Piaget (1954) decided that people develop to adulthood through defined stages, that they rely on particular experiences to progress from one stage to the next, and that these stages were immutable in terms of their sequencing and their alignment to an individual’s age. This was later termed structuralist theory or structuralism (Case, 1992). The relevant stages for adolescence were termed the Concrete Operational (ages 7 to 12 years) and Formal Operational (12 to 15 years) stages (Piaget, 1954). In the Concrete Operational stage young pre-teens would begin to grasp the ideas of seriation and classification. By analogy, they would be focused on developing the filing system ready for more information to be included. This was seen by Piaget to involve the sorting of information into classifications and hierarchies, and the development of mental rules for class inclusion and the relationships of parts to whole and parts to parts. Key cognitive activities and capacities for this stage were: finding order and sequence (serialisation), and identifying symmetrical and reciprocal relationships, substitution, and rules for operations. Piaget (1954) argued that thinking for individuals at the Concrete Operational stage was still linked to concrete examples. People understand the actual rather than the potential, and learn best from real experience. Piaget identified that they demonstrated difficulty when dealing with more than two classes, relations or dimensions at once. In the Formal Operational stage, Piaget saw developing strengths in abstract thinking. Young people with the thinking capacities of Formal Operations were able to imagine, consider the hypothetical, see subplots in stories, understand and enjoy symbology (1954). By comparison with the Concrete Operational stage, these individuals could develop more elegant generalisations, and consider more inclusive laws. Piaget suggested in the early part of the Formal Operations stage people would think formally only in familiar situations, but the overriding element of this stage was the development of abstract thought independent of concrete objects,

112   The Millennial Adolescent

understandings of symbols for objects, emotions or mathematical values (such as metaphoric speech, algebra), appreciation that words may have double or triple meaning, and ability to understand hidden meanings. It is conceivable, using Piagetian structuralist type thinking, that during Formal Operations an adolescent may become idealistic—they may have the ability to grasp what might be. For some young people there may be a sort of pseudo stupidity demonstrated when they try to understand basic problems at unrealistically complex levels and become unduly confused. Piaget imagined that people would progress more or less uniformly through the stages with some differences in pace reflecting individual diversity, but the idea was that everyone would attain Formal Operations by adulthood. That is, all adults would demonstrate Formal Operations capacities across all their dimensions of thought and activity. This was a problem. Structuralism as proposed by Piaget did not account for later observations that not all people attain Formal Operations, and that it is possible to attain Formal Operations capacities in some fields of understanding while maintaining a Concrete Operational capacity for others. For example, I think I’m at the Formal Operational stage with respect to educational psychology, but I’m still Concrete when it comes to Statistics!

Constructivism Piaget considered children to be ‘little scientists’ who developed their own understanding of the world independently of others’ influences and instead relied upon their natural interactions with the world to build knowledge and understanding (1954; 1963). This has been termed constructivist theory or constructivism (Cellerier, 1987; Inhelder & de Caprona, 1987). Piaget believed each of us has a burning drive and desire to understand, and that we constantly work to fit each new experience into our knowledge and understanding of the world using processes of accommodation and assimilation (1954). Assimilation is where new information is simply added to the existing structures. Accommodation is the process where existing cognitive structures are modified to allow new information to be included. Both of these processes were termed adaptation; a sort of filing mechanism for new information where either the files were changed so that new information could be linked with it, or the new information was just added to the file. When everything was happily filed away, Piaget considered this a state of equilibrium. Disequilibrium occurred when new information was not able to be filed at all, or was in the process of being filed. Sometimes belief and faith systems that are part of a strong cultural identity can result in individuals holding new information in limbo, unable to file it with the rest of the related understandings of the world, and unable to give it up or debunk it due to their faith. The resultant disequilibrium can be unsettling and can hinder further cognitive development.

Brain and cognitive development   113

The processes of adaptation were seen to work together. As an analogy, people clearly needed more than one file for their gathering wealth of information, and at the same time too many files would be unwieldy. Piaget (1954) proposed that an ongoing and relentless organisation and reorganisation of the knowledge was a mechanism for equilibrium. This activity prevented people from over-assimilating (overloading a limited file system) and from over-accommodating (creating too many files). The whole idea of the organisational structure or scheme was to make information more accessible for understanding new experiences. The basic tenets for Constructivism are that: • • • • •

all knowledge is constructed cognitive structures are activated in the process of the construction of knowledge cognitive structures are under continual development purposive activity transforms existing cognitive structures, and the environment presses the organism to adapt.

Piaget didn’t get it all right, but he didn’t get it all wrong either. His structuralist theories have been soundly disputed by learning theorists, but the constructivist case has attracted the imagination of many researchers and has formed the foundation of many contemporary views of learning and knowledge construction. Neopiagetians such as Biggs & Collis (1982), Case (1992), Flavell (e.g. 1985), and Halford (e.g. 1989) have spent great energy developing theory from a fundamentally constructivist base. A key idea to take away from Piagetian research is that an adolescent is constantly being driven to construct meaning and knowledge of the world. A teacher subscribing to a Piagetian view would embrace discovery learning, would facilitate learners finding out for themselves, and would deliberately set up experiences to challenge their world view. However, Piaget would argue that young people develop their knowledge structures in spite of the social context. This is the very point contested by the next theorist to review, Lev Vygotsky.

Lev Vygotsky Lev Vygotsky’s work lay largely undiscovered for decades. In the 1960s his work was translated from Russian and rocked the field of educational psychology (Vygotsky, 1962). A key idea of Vygotsky’s was that an individual’s knowledge and understanding could not be considered apart from the social context in which it was created. He argued that new knowledge depended on the nature of old knowledge, and that knowledge was mediated by social tools such as language. These are the fundamental premises of socio-cultural theory. Gone was the Piagetian notion of the little individual scientist, and instead Vygotsky considered shared or social cognitions and the place of relationships in learning.

114   The Millennial Adolescent

Socio-cultural theory proposed that we learn about things as social beings. That doesn’t mean simply that we are immersed in a group when we learn things but that the social contexts of our lives provide the meaningfulness of symbols and communication tools. Even the contexts of our lives are culturally framed by relationships with others. The immediate social environment of any learning setting reflects values, beliefs, habits, ways of being and discourses of the contributing culture (Nuthall, 1996). In fact the very way we think is bounded and facilitated by cultural tools. I know that when I think about something, I often use a type of mental narrative. I have difficulty thinking through things that I have no words for. I think with language, and my language is a construct of my culture. Aboriginal Australians have words to describe the land in such incredible ways, in ways that are not catered for using the English language. Cultural contexts provide ways for thinking things through and for using language (contextualised and decontextualised). So Vygotskian theory provided a vantage for understanding thinking, learning and development. Language was conceived as the prominent thought tool that was inextricably connected to the nature of someone’s knowledge and interactions with the world. Teachers who were convinced by this Vygotskian view of thought and developing cognition, spent energy developing student vocabulary, discourse skill and awareness, symbolic repertoires, and literacy and control of symbology (Garcia, 1999). In tandem with the cultural tool concepts, Vygotsky coined the terms scaffolding and the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) to describe aspects of the relationship between a learner, things to be learnt and the social contexts where this learning best occurs. Scaffolding occurs when someone works with a learner and guides them to greater complexity of understanding through cycles of demonstration, support and guidance to independent performance and then back to demonstration for the next level of complexity. It is based on pressing an individual to aim a little higher than their current capability and constantly driving them to work in the ZPD. In this way knowledge is created in the interaction between teacher and student arising from the social and cultural sharing between them. In the Vygotskian teaching arrangement ‘Both student and teacher are engaged in the process of constructing their minds through social activity’ (Garcia, 1999, p. 217). Vygotsky did not have a particular theoretical design for adolescence. However, teachers who have found his theories compelling try to develop communities of learning in their classrooms, focus on the development of social tools for learning (such as language), and carefully create environments that scaffold students in the ZPD.

Schema theory Schema theory is born of constructivist research and considers the organisation and structure of knowledge. We introduce the concept here, because the first logical

Brain and cognitive development   115

link is from the work of Piaget, who coined the term ‘scheme’ to describe the organisation of knowledge (1954). Researchers working in this area, though, are actually quite contemporary and bring to their understanding and argument concepts that were developed by those who worked long after Piaget (for example Marshall, 1995). Contemporary researchers are interested in knowledge construction, not only to inform our understanding of the human experience, but also to help in the development of artificial intelligence systems, computer systems and so forth (Schank & Towle, 2000). This type of work was certainly not something Piaget would have contemplated. It is imagined that knowledge has two different levels, deep and surface. Deep knowledge is concerned with meaning and connectedness. Surface knowledge is concerned with superficial elements. For example, someone with deep forensic knowledge might be able to identify a likely murderer from a suite of evidence. Someone with surface forensic knowledge might just be able to put all the evidence into a list, without noticing linkages. There are other angles to knowledge, such as the declarative and procedural types of knowledge. Declarative knowledge is best described as that knowledge that can be easily stated or explained. Procedural knowledge is to do with how an act is performed, and not what can be said about it (Rittle-Johnson & Alibali, 1999). For example, tying a shoelace relies on procedural knowledge. Telling someone how to tie a shoelace without demonstrating relies on declarative knowledge. Schema theory further considers knowledge to exist in domains. Knowledge domains comprise the information and skills that relate to a specific subject area (Bahr, 1996; Flavell, 1985). That is, the things we learn about certain topics and fields of interest become networked together, enabling us to more quickly gain access to information that might be relevant to a situation or problem. Figure 5.1 shows how these knowledge domains might develop. Each spot in the figure represents an idea or an instance or a piece of information, or schema (schemata for plural). The lines show the ways the schema are connected to each other. The vector diagram


Family BBQ

Figure 5.1  Schemata forming knowledge domains


116   The Millennial Adolescent

represents how these clusters of networks might exist as knowledge domains, and how these might overlap. 5.2a. Growing networks

5.2b. Partial knowledge model

5.2c. Increasing hierarchy

5.2d. Content change

5.2e. Superlink

Figure 5.2  The development of knowledge structure Source: Adapted from Chi & Ceci, 1987

Brain and cognitive development   117

Boiled down to the main premises, schema theory proposes that our knowledge is formed into unconscious mental structures that comprise integrated units of knowledge (Brewer & Nakamura, 1984). Theorists suggest these structures are generic representations, and that we continuously organise new information into these structures (Gagne, Yekovich & Yekovich, 1993; Marshall, 1995). They also posit that structures are hierarchically organised and may have structures embedded within them (Derry, 1996; Rumelhart, 1984). The schemata are described as modular with different cognitive domains having schemata with different structural characteristics (Brewer & Nakamura, 1984; Minsky, 1975). The resultant schemata facilitate the making of inferences and provide reference for comprehension (Gagne, Yekovich & Yekovich, 1993). The bottom line for this theory is that knowledge is personally constructed by each individual (Marshall, 1995). The old teaching tenet ‘I can’t learn this for you’ is certainly upheld by the schema theorists. Figure 5.2 shows some of the ways schemata may become structured. Figure 5.2a describes a growing network where a person starts by recognising how things superficially link together, and gradually develops a more sophisticated understanding about the meaning of each element to the others. Figure 5.2b shows how a skeletal knowledge structure can have detail added to it. Figure 5.2c shows the development of hierarchical understanding from the foundation upwards. Figure 5.2d shows how the frame of a knowledge structure can be maintained with different information substituted through the accommodation adaptation process. Figure 5.2e shows how learning something new may link together other already established structures (Chi & Ceci, 1987). Teachers who are convinced by the merits of schema theory might work to present information to students in ways that heighten the chance that the material would be linked to existing knowledge networks. Drawing students’ attention to their prior knowledge in an area is one way of doing this.

Information processing theories Information processing theorists focus on the mechanics behind knowledge storage and retrieval. For them learning is all about the process of filing discrete pieces of information—how we receive information, process it, store it and retrieve it, are of principal importance. The parts of the information processing machinery are the receptors, sensory buffers, short-term (working) memory, and long-term memory (McInerney & McInerney, 2006). Many information processing theories are quite complicated, so please remember this is a basic shamelessly simplified introduction. Figure 5.3 on page 118 shows how the components of the system are considered to link to each other. Stimuli from the ambient environment are sensed by the relevant sense organs, and record of the stimuli is kept for a very brief (less than 1 second) period of time

118   The Millennial Adolescent

in the sensory buffer. There is a sensory record for each type of stimulus from the five senses. There is a constant barrage of sensory information confronting this reception component. This amounts to huge masses of information. We select the things that are to be processed further, and this is called attention. If information receives none of our attention then the record fades and quickly disappears. The next step involves the working memory (WM), which is also called short-term memory by some (STM). Information is stored in WM for a few seconds. Again the information will decay if we don’t apply some sort of process to it so it can move on to the more permanent storage of the long-term memory (LTM). There are a number of strategies both conscious and unconscious that facilitate this. Rehearsal (repeating the information over and over in a rote fashion), and chunking (remembering several things together as a single element) are key processes (Chi, Glaser & Rees, 1982). The better we rehearse and chunk the information, the more effectively it will be stored in LTM. If we only loosely rehearse it, then it will be displaced by new information and forgotten. LTM is the relatively permanent storage of information. It seems to have an unlimited capacity and memories can stay there for an indefinite period of time. How well we are able to retrieve (remember) information depends on how the information was linked to other information in LTM. We remember things that have happened to us (episodic memory), words and language (semantic memory) and how to do things (procedural memory) (McInerney & McInerney, 2006). Attention is required to move information from the buffer to WM

Very limited duration of memory trace


Neurological duplicate of all sensory information




Limited duration of the memory trace Limited capacity

Figure 5.3  The components of the information processing system

Relatively permanent store

Virtually unlimited capacity

Brain and cognitive development   119

For teachers, a key aspect of this whole process is the way we can facilitate moving information to LTM, enabling students to access that information when they need to later on. For a start, we need to help students to pay attention to important features of information. We can do this by focusing their attention, and this is helped by activating existing knowledge. We can maximise their selective attention by helping them to distinguish between interesting and important elements. We can help students sustain their attention through providing rewards and encouragement. These activities will help students move the right information into their WM. Then how do we facilitate them overcoming the limitations of WM?

Working memory limitations: driving and talking In Queensland the State Government is seriously considering the introduction of laws to prevent young inexperienced drivers from talking to hands-free devices while driving. There has even been some suggestion that they should not be allowed to talk while driving but I guess that would be hard to police. In many buses though there are signs asking passengers not to talk to the driver. •

In terms of the theories you have been presented with, what might explain any effect that resulted in reduced driving capacity while talking?

WM can only handle a limited amount of information at a time, and if it isn’t moved out and into LTM appropriately coded for later retrieval, then the information is gone. A strategic suggestion to help is to develop tools for external memory (such as taking notes, building concept maps) that remind students how the information links with prior knowledge and which sets up the information in ways that will prepare them for future information. We can also help students to restructure their knowledge by promoting chunking, showing them how information groups together and so forth. These are called encoding strategies, and it is nice to know that these can be explicitly taught (see Figure 5.3). Getting information out of LTM is also important. There is no real benefit to facilitating the store of information if it isn’t accessible. The more frequently knowledge is activated, the more easily it will be remembered, recalled, retrieved from LTM. Helpful activities fall into three categories: • • •

practising retrieval (activities that require students to repeatedly recall the information they have stored) organisation (activities that promote the clustering, categorising and grouping of information), and elaboration (activities that help students to transform new knowledge using imagery, key words, paraphrasing, summarising, self-question).

120   The Millennial Adolescent

Level of processing Another influence on remembering and forgetting is the level or depth of processing involved (Lockhart & Craik, 1990). Deep processing occurs when we analyse, associate new knowledge with existing knowledge, and attach detailed meaning to the new information (Lockhart & Craik, 1990). Shallow processing occurs when we only give information limited attention and analyse superficially (Lockhart & Craik, 1990). Information that has only been processed at a surface level is forgotten easily. Research has shown us that people can process at both levels simultaneously, and that deep and surface learning are affected by familiarity and the type of information (Lockhart & Craik, 1990). The information processing models show us that remembering and forgetting is as much a part of the way we happen to record the information the first time we encounter it, as it is about any other sort of intellectual measures. Graeme Halford’s complexity theory (1993) is an example of work that is investigating the relationships between a child’s developmental cognitive capabilities and the processing of information. His work is complex, but is making and will make a powerful impact on the way we understand thinking, learning and development.

Reception learning Ausubel’s research (1963, 1966, 1977) focused on addressing the persistent goal of learning theorists and teachers—how to make learning meaningful. He wanted to counteract the surge towards knowledge that was little more than the systematic collection of relatively unrelated ideas and facts by rote. He discovered that meaningful learning could be facilitated using the reception learning approach. This involved the presentation of new materials to learners with the information already organised ready for consumption. He wrote about advanced organisers. These were ideas presented to learners before the teacher launched into the new learning materials (Ausubel, 1978). Ausubel reacted against practices that created meaningless learning. Examples of these are: • • • •

use of words and terms that students don’t know arbitrary presentation of facts without benefit of an organisational or relational structure failure to link new knowledge to prior knowledge and experience, and failure to link assessment and evaluation to anything more than rote recall or recitation of discrete unrelated facts (Ausubel, 1978).

Ausubel’s ideas were welcome; they showed us how to take the findings from learning research and develop practices that would make learning more efficient. He showed us how we could create positive learning experiences and how we could fail to facilitate effective learning. Our next researcher, John Sweller, with his cognitive

Brain and cognitive development   121

load theory (Sweller, 1988; Sweller & Chandler, 1994), had the same basic agenda, to improve learning effectiveness, but his work focused on attentional elements.

Cognitive load theory Cognitive load research investigated the relationship between attentional demands and performance. John Sweller’s (1988) work has identified that too many attentional demands lead to reduced performance. A novice who is unable to detect the important from the unimportant elements in an array of available information, will suffer under increased cognitive load. Also, until someone has a way of linking information together, there is almost always increasing cognitive load. The more we learn about something then the more information we can handle on the same thing at the same time because of our ability to link the information.

Learner driving: Cognitive load Learning to drive is a good example of how the same task can elicit different levels of cognitive load depending on expertise or experience. When I have taught people to drive it has been noticeable that they consciously manage every action that they take in the driver’s seat. I have seen people say to themselves, ‘Clutch in, gear stick to first gear, gently press the accelerator pedal, release the clutch slowly until the car bonnet rises, release the clutch fully, increase accelerator …. Oooh whoops, is anything coming?’ Of course, as expert drivers, these elements all happen without close attention.

Relating this to classroom contexts and particularly on-line environments, it is interesting to see how increased cognitive load can almost paralyse a struggling learner (Sweller & Chandler, 1994). For example, many software packages are full of bells and whistles designed to engage, excite and motivate learners. However, this is counterproductive if the users are novices to the concepts the teacher is hoping will be learned, or if they are struggling. The ‘exciting’ on-line environment, instead of providing a functional learning space, instead provides a confusing context where students are less likely to figure out what they are required to do or learn (Bahr & Bahr, 2002). Teachers who understand cognitive load theory help learners by simplifying material.

Metacognition Information processing theories have provided teachers with much to work with in the classroom, but a nagging concern taken up by some researchers surrounds the issue

122   The Millennial Adolescent

of when and how people use the information they have stored. Metacognition means thinking about thinking (Weinert, 1987). If we can monitor our thinking, control and manage the way we are thinking, then we would be at a great advantage. Selfmonitoring and self-regulation are key terms that have emerged from this research (Zimmerman, 1998, 2004). Self-monitoring helps us keep track of our thinking, understanding and remembering. Self-regulation involves the selection of strategies to assist in thinking, understanding and remembering. This has been a particularly exciting area of research, and there are a range of strategies that have been proposed to help students work more metacognitively. Teaching students to ask questions of themselves is one small way to develop them metacognitively. For example, when working toward completing a learning task students could ask themselves a set of questions: 1 2 3 4 5

What is the task asking me to do and know? What options do I have to help me work toward the goal? Which option will get me closest? What was the task again? Now that I’ve taken a step, am I closer to my goal? Am I there yet? If no, back to question 2.

For adolescents, metacognitive thinking is extremely important. Through adolescence, young people are presented with exponentially increasing options for almost everything about their daily lives and who they are. They need to be able to work with new information, develop short-term and long-term goals, use the information they have stored to assess and analyse information that they are encountering that may effect or affect these goals and so forth. Teachers who work to develop metacognitive skills and strategies through adolescence are doing much more than helping students manage a developing store of knowledge.

Experts vs novices Some very important insights to learning and knowledge have arisen from research into the nature of expertise and how experts use their knowledge in new situations as compared to novices (for example Chi & Ceci, 1987). It is important to remember here, that expertise is not age dependent. I have seen far too many adults beaten by junior chess champs to support any notion that age and ability in terms of expertise are age related. In fact key research in this area looked closely at very young chess masters and compared their performance and use of knowledge for novel chess scenarios with novices who had only sufficient knowledge to solve any set problem, but certainly no long-term experience or expertise at chess (Chi & Ceci, 1987). Of course these novices were fully fledged adults, who had no general mental impairments, and who if we recall structuralist theory, should be more able to think abstractly than the youngsters. The young champs won, every time, more

Brain and cognitive development   123

quickly and elegantly than any of the adults. They weren’t smarter. So it must have been something to do with the way they managed, monitored and retrieved chess information from their vast banks of chess knowledge that made the difference. Expert–novice theory developed from these types of observations. Novices have been found to show reliable thinking characteristics when faced with a novel problem. They tend to use surface features of the question or problem, focusing on the exact details of the problem rather than any hidden or symbolic issues that are not immediately apparent. They demonstrate limited chunking skills, and tend to try and pack all the multitude of details regarding a problem into their memory as separate elements (Chi, Glaser & Rees, 1982). Basically they don’t know how to distinguish between the important and the insubstantial elements of the problem. They have less effective metacognition, and tend to use more trial and error approaches to the problem solving. By contrast, experts demonstrated a strong knowledge base, that is, they could say a lot about knowledge that was relevant to the problem from their prior knowledge. They more effectively chunk the information in any new problem than novices, and they demonstrate a strong metacognitive approach (Chi, Glaser & Rees, 1982). The expert–novice research encouraged teachers that they might prompt better performance by teaching in ways that fast-track students to thinking like experts. It is conceivable that this could be achieved by teaching question/problem analysis strategies, working with experts on real problems (modelling and apprenticeships), and by practising chunking and memory strategies such as: • • • •

mental imagery mnemonic images developing coding forms and classification tables, and metacognitive strategies.

Teachers who ascribe to this view would focus on self-questioning, apprenticeships and peer mentoring, as some key techniques or pedagogies in their classrooms.

Cognitive style Cognitive style is another term that has surfaced in the research literature to describe the way people learn (Ferrari & Sternberg, 1998; Riding & Rayner, 1998; Sternberg, 2001). Basically, it refers to the habits of information processing that a person acquires over time which create an almost preferred approach to processing information (Jonassen & Grabowski, 1993; Keefe & Ferrell, 1990). The take-home message is that individual learners are individual, and no one solution to facilitating learning will fit everyone equally.

124   The Millennial Adolescent

The key point here in a book about adolescence is that all these theories have something to offer for an understanding of adolescence. As an adolescent’s life changes in response to their physical and social maturation, then their learning will be affected. What they know of the world will be challenged, they will need to reorganise, adjust, and dismantle their understandings of their relationship to others and their agency in society. All the theories that we have flashed through give insight to the ways we might assist them. Adolescents shouldn’t need to trample through this transition in their lives reeling from trial and error. Of course assisting adolescents as learners about themselves and their world is not straightforward. Recent research into brain development has shown us that the very tool that adolescents rely on to develop their stable and reliable knowledge of themselves and the world is under construction. The work of Geidd et al. and others (Geidd, 2004; Geidd et al., 1996; Geidd et al., 1999; Nagel, 2005; Wolfe & Brandt, 1998) has begun to detail the structural and functional changes of the adolescent brain.

Brain development research The brain provides the executive control of all our bodily responses, both automatic and deliberate. In the past quarter century there have been incredible improvements in technology and this has supported amazing growth in our understanding of the changes the brain undergoes over the life span. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is one of the emerging technologies that have allowed researchers to record the activity of the brain during thought and activity. Geidd (2004) has been a lead researcher in the field regarding discoveries about the adolescent brain. At no other time of our lives, aside from the first five years or so, is there such dramatic overhaul of the capacity and functioning of the brain (Nagel, 2005). There are both general and specific changes to the adolescent brain, and the flux does not settle until well into the twenties. Generally it has been shown that during early adolescence there is a proliferation of neuronal connections (Geidd, 2004). Brain activity is maximised at this time of life, and neurones branch and re-branch extensively at a rather frantic pace. In later adolescence these connections are pruned away leaving a much trimmed-down system for adulthood (Geidd, 2004). Two possible perspectives arise. The first idea is that we should try to focus an adolescent’s activities in an effort to prompt premature pruning and hence a more adult approach to thought. The second, and alternative view, is that we should encourage students into diverse experiences and activities to try and keep as many neuronal connections alive as possible thus stemming the possibility that the pruning reflects some kind of mental limitation. Apart from hazy information regarding the actual impact of experiences on brain structure and function during adolescence, it is not clear which of these two ideas is best, and they are of course oppositional. As

Brain and cognitive development   125

a result there is little clear response for people working with adolescents, except the knowledge that there is substantial development during this phase of life that could help our understanding of some aspects of behaviour. Specific parts of the brain are featured most prominently in these changes. Figure 5.4 shows the locations of these: the amygdala, cerebellum, corpus callosum, and frontal cortex.

Corpus callosum Frontal cortex




Figure 5.4  The areas of the brain undergoing significant development during adolescence

The amygdala has a role in managing our emotional responses. Adolescents have been shown to rely more on this part of the brain than the frontal cortex, which would suggest they might be more inclined to emotional responses to situations than otherwise (Nagel, 2005). The cerebellum is involved in coordination and muscular control. During adolescence its function is upset by dramatic change and growth (Geidd, 2004). Recall that the muscular frame and size of adolescents are also undergoing change at this time. This may explain some adolescent clumsiness. The corpus callosum is a set of nerves that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. It is understood to be involved in creativity and problem solving. It also undergoes substantial change and growth during adolescence and this may mean a destabilisation of their capacities in these areas (Geidd, 2004). Finally, the frontal cortex—this is the executive controller of the brain. It is involved in planning and judgment executive functions. Geidd (2004) has suggested that many of the coordinated functions of the frontal cortex are closed for construction during adolescence. This could result in instances of faulty judgment and in the move to prominence of the emotional responses directed by the amygdala. The revelations of brain development research have taken the field of adolescent development by storm. At present there are no clear take-home ideas for the teacher, but as the research into the relationships between experience and activity on brain

126   The Millennial Adolescent

structure and function during adolescence progresses, we will gain much better insight into appropriate professional responses.

Summary The adolescent responds to the world through their knowledge and understanding. In this chapter we have discussed the possible effects that maturation of the nervous system, experience, and the development of cognitive processing capabilities have on adolescent experience. Those of us who work with these young people can gain great insights from cognitive and learning theory and how we can extend and enrich their experience and capabilities in school. The social, emotional and moral development of adolescents will be explored in the next chapter.

Key points 1



There are two broad theories of cognitive development: those that emphasise qualitative changes in the way people think as they develop, and those that examine the processes of cognition and the use of information. Each theoretical position has underscored particular approaches to curriculum and pedagogy in schooling. Contemporary theory considers that people learn to think and change the way they think as a result of their own prior understandings, the likely use for the knowledge, and the social context in which the engagement with that knowledge occurred. Recent research in brain development has noted specific and peculiar changes to brain functioning during adolescence.

Further thinking 1


3 4 5

Some theorists have described growth, maturity and associated cognitive changes in terms of delineated stages. What are these types of theory called? How have they impacted on teacher practices? Do individuals construct their own knowledge of the world, or is their knowledge so tied to cultural frames that we can discount the place of the individual in learning? How can we explain the fact that some people hold beliefs in spite of overwhelming evidence that their views are wrong? How might teachers assist students to remember information they have learnt? How might a behaviourist go about deciding on ways to improve learning for students?

Brain and cognitive development   127


It is possible to take a little from each theory to inform a foundation for your work as a teacher. This will inform your work with adolescents. What key premises will you take into your classroom practice?

References Alberto, P. A., & Troutman, A. C. (1999). Applied behaviour analysis for teachers (5th ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill. Ausubel, D. P. (1963). The psychology of meaningful verbal learning. New York: Grune & Stratton. Ausubel, D. P. (1966). Cognitive structure and the facilitation of meaningful verbal learning. In R. C. Anderson (Ed.), Readings in the psychology of cognition. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Ausubel, D. P. (1977). The facilitation of meaningful verbal learning in the classroom. Educational Psychologist, 12, 162–178. Ausubel, D. P. (1978). In defense of advance organizers. A reply to the critics. Review of Educational Research, 48, 251–257. Bahr, N. (1996). Relationships between musicianship and mathematical skill. Unpublished dissertation: University of Queensland. Bahr, N., & Bahr, M. (2002), Information environments: Integrating pedagogies to reduce cognitive load and enhance knowledge, The British Psychological Society, Psychology of Education Section Annual Conference, London, November. Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press. Biggs, J., & Collis, K. (1982). Evaluating the quality of learning: The SOLO taxonomy. New York: Academic Press. Brewer, W. F., & Nakamura, G. V. (1984). The nature and function of schemas. In R. S. Wyer & T. K. Srull (Eds.), Handbook of social cognition (Vol. 1, pp. 120–159). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Case, R. (1992). Neo-Piagetian theories of child development. In R. J. Sternberg & C. A. Berg (Eds.), Intellectual development. New York: Cambridge University Press. Cellerier, G. (1987). Structures and functions. In B. Inhelder, D. de Caprona & A. CornuWells (Eds.). Piaget today. London: Lawrence Erlbaum. Chi, M. T. H., & Ceci, S. J. (1987). Content knowledge: Its role, representation, and restructuring in memory development. Advances in Child Development and Behaviour, 20, 91–142. Chi, M. T. H., Glaser, R., & Rees, E. (1982). Expertise in problem solving. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Advances in the psychology of human intelligence (Vol. 1, pp. 7–75). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Derry, S. J. (1996). Cognitive schema theory in the constructivist debate. Educational Psychologist, 31(3–4), 163–174.

128   The Millennial Adolescent

Descartes, R. (1637). Discours de la méthode. In R. Descartes (J. Veitch, Trans.). (2004), A discourse on method, meditations on the first philosophy. London: Orion Publishing Group. Ferrari, M., & Sternberg, R. J. (1998). The development of mental abilities and styles. In D. Kuhn & R. S. Siegler (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology (Vol 2). New York: John Wiley & Sons. Flavell, J. H. (1985). Cognitive development (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Gagne, E. D., Yekovich, C. W., & Yekovich, F. R. (1993). The cognitive psychology of school learning (2nd ed.). New York: Harper Collins. Garcia, E. (1999). Student cultural diversity: Understanding and meeting the challenge (2nd ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Geidd, J. (2004). Structural magnetic resonance imaging of the adolescent brain. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1021, 77–85. Geidd, J., Blumenthal, J., Jeffries, N. O., Castellanos, F. X., Liu, H., Zijdenbos, A., Paus, T., Evans, C., & Rapoport, J. L. (1999). Brain development during childhood and adolescence: A longitudinal MRI study. Nature Neuroscience, 2(10), 861–863. Geidd, J., Vaituzis, C., Hamburger, S. D., Lange, N., Rajapakse, J. C., Kaysen, D., Vauss, Y. C., & Rapoport, J. L. (1996). Quantitative MRI of the temporal lobe, amygdala and hippocampus in normal human development: Ages 4–18 years. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 366, 223–230. Halford, G. S. (1989). Reflections on 25 years of Piagetian cognitive developmental psychology, 1963–1988. Human Development, 32, 325–357. Halford, G. S. (1993). Children’s understanding: The development of mental models. London: Lawrence Erlbaum. Inhelder, B., & de Caprona, D. (1987). Introduction. In B. Inhelder, D. de Caprona & A. Cornu-Wells (Eds.), Piaget today. London: Lawrence Erlbaum. Jonassen, D. H., & Grabowski, B. L. (1993). Handbook of individual differences, learning and instruction. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Keefe, J. W., & Ferrell, B. G. (1990). Developing a defensible learning style paradigm. Educational Leadership, 48, 57–61. Krause, K. L., Bochner, S., & Duchesne, S. (2003). Educational psychology for learning and teaching. Victoria, Australia: Thomson. Lockhart, R. S., & Craik, F. I. M. (1990). Levels of processing: A retrospective commentary on a framework for memory research. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 44, 87–112. Marshall, S. P. (1995). Schemas in problem solving. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. McInerney, D. M., & McInerney, V. (2006). Educational psychology: Constructing learning (4th ed.). Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson, Australia. Minsky, M. (1975). A framework for representing knowledge. In P. H. Winston (Ed.), The psychology of computer vision. New York: McGraw Hill. Nagel, M.C. (2005). Understanding the adolescent brain. In D. Pendergast & N. Bahr, Teaching middle years: Rethinking curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.

Brain and cognitive development   129

Nuthall, G. (1996). Commentary: Of learning and language and understanding the complexity of the classroom. Educational Psychologist, 31, 207–14. Pavlov, I. (1928). Lectures on conditioned reflexes (W. Gantt, Trans.). New York: International Universities Press. Piaget, J. (1954). The construction of reality in the child (M. Cook, Trans.). New York: Basic Books. Piaget, J. (1963). Origins of intelligence in children (M. Cook, Trans.). New York: Norton. Riding, R. J., & Rayner, S. G. (1998). Cognitive style and learning strategies. London: David Fulton Publishers. Rittle-Johnson, B., & Alibali, M. W. (1999). Conceptual and procedural knowledge of mathematics: Does one lead to the other? Journal of Educational Psychology, 91(1), 175–189. Rumelhart, D. E. (1984). Schemata and the cognitive system. In R. S. Wyer & T. K. Srull (Eds.), Handbook of social cognition. Vol 1. (pp. 161–186). Hillsdale NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Schank, R. C., & Towle, B. (2000). Artificial intelligence. In R.J. Sternberg (Ed.) Handbook of intelligence. New York: Cambridge University Press. Schloss, P. J., & Smith, M. A. (1998). Applied behaviour analysis in the classroom (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Skinner, B. F. (1938). The behavior of organisms: An experimental analysis. New York: Appleton-Century. Skinner, B. F. (1948). Walden two. New York: Macmillan. Skinner, B. F. (1957). Verbal behaviour. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. Skinner, B. F. (1968). The technology of teaching. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. Skinner, B. F. (1971). Beyond freedom and dignity. New York: Knopf. Sternberg, R. J. (2001). Epilogue: Another mysterious affair at styles. In R. J. Sternberg & L. F. Zhang (Eds.), Perspectives on thinking, learning, and cognitive styles. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Sweller, J. (1988). Cognitive load during problem solving: Effects on learning, Cognitive Science, 12, 257–285. Sweller, J., & Chandler, P. (1994). Why some material is difficult to learn. Cognition and Instruction, 12, 185–233. Thorndike, E. L. (1898). Animal intelligence. An experimental study of the associative process in animals. Psychological Review Monograph, Supplement 2(8). Thorndike, E. L. (1911). Animal intelligence. New York: Macmillan. Thorndike, E. L. (1931). Human learning. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. Vygotsky, L. S. (1962). Thought and language. E. Hanfmann & G. Vakar, Eds. & Trans. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Watson, J. B. (1913). Psychology as the behaviourist views it. Psychology Review, 20, 158– 177. Watson, J. B. (1919). Psychology from the standpoint of a behaviourist. Philadelphia: Lippincott.

130   The Millennial Adolescent

Watson, J. B. (1925). Behaviourism. New York: Norton. Watson, J. B., & Rayner, R. (1920). Conditioned emotional reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3, 1–14. Watson, R. A. (2002). Cogito, ergo sum: The life of René Descartes. Boston: David R. Godine. Weinert, F. E. (1987). Introduction and overview: Metacognition and motivation as determinants of effective learning and understanding. In F. E. Weinert & R. H Klue (Eds.) (pp. 1–19), Metacognition, motivation and understanding. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Wolfe, P., & Brandt, R. (1998). What do we know from brain research? Educational Leadership, 56(3), 8–13. Zimmerman, B. J. (1998). Academic studying and self regulation. Educational Psychologist, 33, 73–86. Zimmerman, B. J. (2004). Sociocultural influence and students’ development of academic self regulation: A social-cognitive approach. In D. M. McInerney & S. Van Etten (Eds.), Research on sociocultural influences on motivation and learning (Vol. 4), Big theories revisited. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.


Emotional aspects Nan Bahr

Chapter summary •

• •

Emotional development — Types of emotions — Erikson’s theory of psycho-social development — Erikson: Strengths and limitations The self ­­— Cultural definition ­— Self-esteem — Self-concept — Self-efficacy Alone vs loneliness — Symptoms of loneliness Homelessness — Social factors influencing homelessness — Impact of homelessness on youth — Implications of youth homelessness for society — Runaways Delinquency — Definitions — Delinquency onset types — Chronic delinquency warning signs — Contributing factors Identity — Identity influences — Identity and competing cultures


132   The Millennial Adolescent

• • • • •

Moral development — Piaget and moral reasoning — Kohlberg — Gilligan Suicide — Suicide and depression Summary Key points Further thinking References A new class of ‘untouchables’ is emerging in our inner cities, on the social fringes of suburbia, and in some rural areas: young people who are functionally illiterate, disconnected from school, depressed, prone to drug abuse and early criminal activity, and eventually, parents of unplanned and unwanted babies. These are the children who are at high risk of never becoming responsible adults. (Dryfoos, 1990, p. 3)

We write with a firm conviction that schools can make an important and beneficial difference in the lives of young children, but we remain equally convinced that schools are not in fact making that difference with those children now being labelled ‘at risk’. (Pianta & Walsh, 1996)

These quotes from the 1990s show dark and morbid views of adolescence that sometimes prevail in communities and in the media. The pictures they paint are of disconnected, discontented youth who lack positive morals and values. We still tend to problematise adolescence, even sometimes pathologise it. Parents wait with bated breath for their children to enter their unmanageable troublesome teens, and preservice teachers who aspire to teach adolescents are considered ‘game’. It’s not fair to paint our adolescents in these ways. Through adolescence, young people are at an exciting point of their maturation. On the whole they are thoughtful, caring and responsible people. In many ways they are just beginning to make valuable contributions to the society they will soon be steering. They are critical and reflective, and they are passionate and energetic. We have discovered in earlier chapters the types of physical and cognitive changes and developments that confront adolescents. In this chapter we will explore emotional and moral development and allied issues of resilience and vulnerability. The emotional dimension of adolescence can tie in with several other issues that extend from aloneness, loneliness and alienation. We will introduce key theory and theorists in the field of emotional and moral development (such as Kohlberg). Some adolescents have a traumatic time (as do people of all ages

Emotional aspects   133

and phases of life) and this book wouldn’t be whole without a brief discussion of the types of issues that emerge as young people in the throes of developing their moral and emotional perspective of the world are dealt life challenges.

Emotional development Our emotional responses are central to our growth and maturation. Emotions underpin learning and engagement with others, and provide a framework for a person to understand the world. Our emotions relate directly to our value system and our concepts of importance of various notions and concepts. Our emotions range between positive and negative poles and direct our actions and responses to the environments we find ourselves in. Emotions influence and are affected by everything we do and think. It is not surprising that they are subject to a developmental framework just like our other personal characteristics, and that during adolescence there is a developing complexity to our feelings and the ways in which we interact with the world. Emotional states can also reflect our hormonal balance, and this can create further complexity for adolescents. And this is just the time when the equipment we use to rationalise, control and coordinate our emotional states—the brain—is undergoing significant reform. So, adolescents have a lot to deal with, and this can impact upon judgment, risk-taking behaviour, and interpersonal relationships, just when society tends to expect a greater capacity to accept and demonstrate responsibility, reliability and assuredness. Some adolescents get caught up in a range of emotive issues that stress and confront them and the society they live in.

Types of emotions Emotional states are of three fundamental types: basic emotions, self-conscious and social emotions.

Basic emotions Basic emotions are apparent from early in childhood, and include fundamentals such as happiness or sadness, anger, fear or surprise (Saarni, Mumme & Campos, 1998). Adolescents have these well in order.

Self-conscious emotions Self-conscious emotions take a bit longer to develop. They are called higher order emotions and involve more complex cognitive development (Saarni et al., 1998). Self-conscious emotions involve reflection on ourselves, and link experiences with core values. They develop through reflecting on messages sent to us from significant others regarding what is valuable and worthwhile. Through praise a young person can come to understand what behaviours are respected by others, and they will measure their performance against these expectations and ideals. By about three

134   The Millennial Adolescent

years old, jealousy, envy and guilt start to appear, and gradually move on to shame and pride. Early on these emotions arise in response to anticipated reactions by others, and as we get older and tend to judge ourselves more we do not base our self-conscious emotions on others. There is variation in self-conscious emotions depending on culture. For example, some Asian cultures focus on shame, and much of their self-conscious emotional development is organised around the experience of shame (Fischer, Wang, Kennedy & Cheng, 1998). This is not true of most Western cultures, which actively minimise shame experiences for young people. During adolescence, young people begin to reflect more on their own judgments of themselves. Many go through a period of transition from a focus on the anticipated opinions and values coming from significant adults in their life, through to a focus on their peers’ expectations and values, and eventually to personal critical reflection as a foundation for their emotional state.

Social emotions Social emotions are related to public and private emotional display parameters (Menon, 2000). These are strongly culturally socialised. Children learn how to control and display emotions in accordance with a strict code that they learn both vicariously and directly from the society they live in and their local culture. Cultural groups define how people should feel in certain circumstances and how those feelings should be expressed. Young people who feel a part of multiple cultures and subcultures can be paralysed by conflicting emotional sets and rules and expectations for the expression of feelings. Emotional conflict can be a strong undercurrent for anxiety throughout adolescence. Of course the degree of conflict experienced is directly related to the psycho-social development of the individual.

Erikson’s theory of psycho-social development Erikson (1976) proposed eight stages of psycho-social development. His theory considered the developing self, conceptions of self and how these direct our interactions with others and our emotions. According to Erikson, the adolescent (defined by him as between 12 and 18 years) would be at stage five, the identity vs role confusion stage, with significant social relationships occurring mainly with peer groups and role models (see Table 6.1 for an overview of all the stages). During this stage adolescents seek to form their identity at the same time as they attempt to clarify their role in life. The identity formed at this stage basically sticks well into adulthood. During this stage adolescents are focused on figuring out how they fit in to society and who they are. Up to this point in life, as a society here in Australia we tend to batch kids together. I know my son at the tender age of five has often heard me say, ‘Hey sweetie, why don’t you go and play with that little boy, he’s the same age as you? You should have fun’, and generally the play arrangement works out. Sounds like

Emotional aspects   135

a common enough mum-type of thing to say. Imagine though, how appropriate the same comment would be if it was said to two adults. Apart from the fact that as adults we don’t always associate with groups of people our own age, it would be extraordinarily silly to suggest that two adults would get along well simply because Table 6.1  Erikson’s stages of emotional development Stage of





social crisis


Key processes

relationships Stage 1

0–1 yr Infancy

Basic trust vs mistrust

Parents/ guardians

Trusting others to provide for basic needs.

Stage 2

2–3 yrs Early Childhood

Autonomy vs shame/guilt

Parents/ guardians

Attempts to develop autonomy while minimising guilt, shame and doubt.

Stage 3

3–6 yrs Play Age

Initiative vs guilt


Exploration while anticipating consequences for actions.

Stage 4

7–12 yrs School Age

Industry vs inferiority

Neighbourhood/ school

Understanding of ability and relationship to effort.

Stage 5

12–18 yrs Adolescence

Identity vs role confusion

Peer groups, role models

Development of a construct for beliefs, abilities and needs at the same time as coming to terms with multiple and multifaceted roles.

Stage 6

The 20s Young Adulthood

Intimacy vs isolation

Partners, friends

Pursuit of close relationships without promiscuity.

Stage 7

20s to 50s Adulthood

Generativity vs stagnation/self absorption

Household, workmates

Support for the next generations while ensuring one’s own continued productivity in society and achieving sufficient rest.

Stage 8

60s + Old age

Ego integrity vs despair

Humankind, my kind

Coming to terms with the past.

Source: Developed from Krause, Bochner, & Duchesne, 2003

136   The Millennial Adolescent

they are the same age. The same is true of adolescents. We know that they have begun to map out their sense of personal identity. They are beginning to realise that they have unique strengths and weaknesses, and that people regard them as a distinct personality. Most people try to invent themselves in certain moulds and behave in ways that fit with their set of values. The tricky bit is trying to establish a coherent sense of who you are at the same time as you try to fit into the varied life roles you begin to collect. As an adolescent, you are likely to be an employee, a student, a sibling, a babysitter, perhaps a horse rider, an athlete, a musician and so forth. Young people can be consumed by their interests. An adolescent pianist may spend four hours each and every day practising their technique. In an interview series I conducted with adult musicians, the vast majority said they had decided they were going to be musicians at around the age of 14 and that their adolescence was characterised by many hours every day engaged in musicianship building pursuits (Bahr, Christensen & Bahr, 2005). If people find that their developing sense of identity clashes with the roles they find themselves in there is conflict. Calling this an ‘identity crisis’ is perhaps too strong, but certainly the disequilibrium of this situation can underscore a set of anxieties and strong and complex emotional responses. Neo-Erikson theorists describe this as a typical and indeed necessary rite of passage through this fifth stage of psycho-social development (see for example Marcia, 1980).

Erikson: Strengths and limitations Erikson’s proposal has attracted criticism because of its strict association between developmental characteristics and specific ages (Krause et al., 2003). Like many theories (for example Piaget) that consider development in terms of discrete stages aligned with specified ages, Erikson’s theory is challenged by those who develop quickly or slowly or who do not exhibit all anticipated stage characteristics together. Erikson’s work is also criticised because it tends to focus on childhood and early stages of life rather than psycho-social development across the lifespan, even though Erikson’s developmental stages were presented as a lifespan theory. Another aspect of Erikson’s theory that has been soundly criticised has been his consideration of psycho-social differences between the sexes in biological terms, just like his contemporary, Freud (1966). He saw genetic programming as the prime foundation to development. This deterministic view is rather limited and has certainly gone out of favour with contemporary researchers. A strength of Erikson’s work was the consideration of social contexts and their interaction with the individual’s cognitive, physical and emotional development. Another strength is the highlighting of the potential positive impact of a role model in a young person’s life. This has actually been borne out in much recent research into

Emotional aspects   137

the development of resilience through adolescence, discussed later in this chapter. These aspects of Erikson’s theory and model are very useful to teachers working with young people. Providing opportunities for life experimentation, encouraging and supporting the development of meaningful relationships with adult mentors, broadening a young person’s exposure to various viewpoints are all key to the development of a healthy and strong identity, a clearer idea of roles, and a deeper understanding of complex emotional responses.

The self Emotional development is very much tied to an individual’s sense of self. We have multiple selves, and there are multiple aspects of self that can be described and have been explored by researchers. The key ones are: self-esteem, self-efficacy, and selfconcept. It is important to note from the outset that a person’s cultural reference has a profound impact across all of these aspects of self.

Cultural definition Different cultures have different notions of the self. Most commonly, the self refers to the individual being. That is, people are primarily responsible to themselves, their achievements are their own and their goals emanate from their own personal perspective. People are individuals, and variety, diversity and difference are valued, or at least expected. Each person is accountable for their own actions, and is responsible for meeting the needs of their dependants. These are best described as individualistic cultures (Shweder & Haidt, 2000). An alternative view is held by collective cultures (such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures). In these groups, the individual is an inextricable part of the whole community. The individual’s goals are community ones, and achievements are only understood and valued in terms of gains for the group (Shweder & Haidt, 2000). For teachers, it is absolutely vital to understand the orientation to self held by the adolescents they are working with. Motivations, goal setting, group interaction and activity will be bound by these perspectives. To some extent mixing the perspectives in a collective can be like mixing oil and water if the teacher hasn’t carefully thought through the parameters of any activity that binds the members together. Orientation to self feeds an adolescent’s understanding of identity, morality and values and provides the foundation for their emotional development.

Self-esteem Self-esteem and self-concept are often confused (Strein, 1995). However, they are subtly different. Self-esteem refers to how a person feels about themselves and can

138   The Millennial Adolescent

be described positively or negatively. Self-esteem can fluctuate wildly (at least in my experience this is true), and can interact with self-concept. Self-esteem can be considered globally or specifically. For example, a young person may have high self-esteem and generally feel pretty good about themselves, and be comfortable with their achievements, general capabilities and life circumstances. That is, their global self-esteem may be quite high. This high self-esteem could take a dive in certain circumstances, and yet still remain generally high. The same confident and comfortable young person may feel out of their depth, inadequate, and awkward if dropped into a group of judgmental and negative peers for a period of time. I know of some young individuals at school, who were a good example of this phenomenon—more nerdish than other students. When they were together, they were outgoing, confident and comfortable. They were active communicators and clearly were capable and relaxed. One of these was encouraged by his father to be involved in sport. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, this was not his area of strength, and he was not a strong contributor to team successes. When immersed in the sporting team he was no longer bright, able, comfortable and assured. You could almost feel his self-esteem plummeting as he put on his sports uniform. To his credit though, he was able to maintain a high general self-esteem by focusing his emotional energy and identity-building processes around his other skills. He maintained a high general self-esteem overall.

Self-concept Self-concept is a term that refers to the knowledge we have of ourselves. We develop our self-concept through interacting with the environment. We are influenced by significant others and by our successes and failures as we attempt to do things. When you are asked to describe yourself, you will draw on your self-concept. It is linked to self-esteem, but does not include that emotive and affective dimension. Researchers have described many different aspects of self-concept. For example, adolescents will have an academic self-concept that reflects their specific and general academic achievements. They will have non-academic self-concepts too, which refer to their physical appearance, physical abilities and so forth. Our self-concepts develop through comparison of our achievements with others, and through comparison with ourselves across our various endeavours (Marsh, 1993). In that way we come to understand the nature of our strengths and weaknesses. Context is also a factor in the development of self-concept. An adolescent who achieves well at something may not consider that endeavour a strength in other situations. In academic settings for example, a high score on some assessment piece by comparison with the rest of their class might not equate to a strength if the class was considered to be low ability. Success is also a concept, and for some adolescents social success achieved through mediocre performance on something may be considered more potent than a high achievement in the task.

Emotional aspects   139

Some factors underpinning the development of positive self-concept include significant others, parental relationships, socioeconomic status, race and nationality, birth order, physical disabilities and stress (Marsh, 1993).

Self-efficacy Self-efficacy is the third leg of the construct of self. Self-efficacy is bound by context or field, and in this way is similar to self-concept. Self-efficacy though, relates to someone’s feelings of competence and ability (Bandura, 1995). It is assuredness with regard to someone’s expectation of their likely ability to successfully complete a task. Someone with strong self-efficacy will feel in control, capable and more confident to solve complex issues in a field. Someone with poor self-efficacy will feel powerless and helpless. People in this situation often also have low self-esteem. Self-efficacy, self-esteem and self-concept are linked together and feed the emotional state of individuals. Teachers can influence each of these pillars of self by the types of experiences they provide students, the breadth of those experiences and the ways they regard success and failure in endeavours. During adolescence, when young people are striving to carve themselves a place as an adult in society, these elements of self have particular potency. The emotional development that is fed by these understandings, beliefs, and attitudes becomes the reference point for lifelong learning and experience.

Alone vs loneliness As we’ve described, adolescents try hard to develop a coherent picture of where they belong in the world. In the process of trying out different options it is common to feel at best unique, and at worst odd. Some adolescents develop feelings of isolation and alienation from their peers and from significant adults in their lives. These feelings can develop from poor social, cognitive and behavioural skills. Time alone can be a healthy step towards being comfortable with oneself. Although we all like some time to ourselves, if alone time is protracted an adolescent’s view of their place in the world can be challenged. Sometimes, extended alone time can result in reluctance to re-engage with others, or shyness. Young people might desperately wish to engage with others, and yet feel anxious about initiating contact. Because their mind is full of egocentric ideas about their appearance and so forth, they can sometimes think that others would naturally share those ideas. They can project their feelings of negativity and through a fear of potential rejection actually withdraw from peers. This can become a cycle—the more they are alone, the more they feel they won’t fit, meaning they spend more time alone, increasing their sense of loneliness and isolation. This isolation can turn into a sense of alienation. Figure 6.1 on page 140 shows one way aloneness could escalate into alienation through a state of loneliness.

140   The Millennial Adolescent

A sense of loneliness may interfere directly with an adolescent’s motivations, goal setting and learning. Sadly, some adolescents are perpetually lonely regardless of the richness of their social contexts. This can arise from unrealistic expectations that they may have developed for themselves, or that have been imposed upon them by others. It might even arise from a poor self-image that they could have acquired in a variety of ways. Loneliness during adolescence has serious implications for longterm wellbeing and learning (Buchholz & Catton, 1999). In frustration, or for some sort of self-saving purpose, some adolescents develop repertoires of antisocial behaviours. These can be exhibited due to the lack of alternative learning, role modelling responses or reactionary and protective needs. Negative behaviours can escalate simply in an effort to get attention, any attention, regardless of its negativity, as a type of affirmation of their relationship to the group. Again, there are serious implications for learning and developing for adolescents feeling and behaving in these ways. The learning and living contexts that teens meet from time to time will require them to develop special coping strategies for homesickness (residential schools, school camps, school trips and tours). It is often surprising to some youth workers


1. I’d like to have some time by myself.

2. I want to be alone.

ALIENATED 3. Where is everybody?

8. I wouldn’t want to be with you.

Pathway to alienation 7. You think you’re better than me! I don’t need you anyway.

4. I’d like to find someone to engage with.

LONELY 6. I don’t care anyway, get stuffed.

Figure 6.1  Pathway to alienation from aloneness

5. Okay, so I’m not good enough hey?

Emotional aspects   141

and teachers to have to deal with homesickness despair with adolescents who have only been away from home for a short period. Even a 10-day field trip, excursion or camp, can evoke strong separation anxiety for some adolescents. Separation from family can amplify feelings of loneliness and alienation. Kimmel and Weiner (1995) explain that youth are particularly susceptible to loneliness and describe adolescence as a time of ‘mourning’ for the lost relationships of childhood and in response to distress with the experiences of uncertainty arising through the transitions of adolescence.

Melanie’s story Melanie is one of the adolescents in your Year 9 class. She is a capable student and is quiet during class. Outside class you have noticed that she doesn’t seem to have a close circle of friends and is often alone. She seems content indulging in solitary activities (reading) and spends quite a large proportion of her spare time quietly working in the library. •

Should you be concerned? Alienation might describe the way Melanie is behaving; what are the alternative explanations? Should you as her teacher intervene? What are your responsibilities?

Jim’s story Jim doesn’t have any friends in his home class (Year 8). The kids poke fun at him and he struggles academically. You berate students for their treatment of him but over a period of weeks you notice that he actually seems to actively antagonise them. For example, last Monday the class was working independently on a research project in the library. Jim was not settling down to work and you tried several times to set him back on task. During the lesson he wrote on the desk, borrowed another student’s pen without asking and at the height of his misbehaviour stabbed a fellow student with his compass and then claimed it was an accident. You decide that you need to consult with the school Guidance Officer. •

What do you anticipate will be the considerations and suggestions of the Guidance Officer?

Kimmel and Weiner (1995) also make some interesting points about popularity. It is useful to realise that despite apparent popularity some students will still experience a strong sense of loneliness and alienation during their adolescence, and this may interfere with their learning.

142   The Millennial Adolescent

Symptoms of loneliness Loneliness can be confused with depression. They are not the same thing. Loneliness is a term that describes the feeling of intense longing for reciprocal positive engagement with other people. All people are lonely from time to time. Depression is a clinical state of profound sadness. Depression can bring about feelings of loneliness and beliefs that you are separate or different from everyone else. When someone is feeling lonely and alienated they can develop a suite of behaviours and beliefs that have a negative impact on their day-to-day lives. These types of behaviours and beliefs include: • • • • • • •

feelings that they have little to share with other people and so don’t bother they decide that they don’t like themselves they criticise or judge themselves they feel they can’t trust people they feel embarrassed or ashamed of themselves they feel different from other people, and they can sometimes feel they have a mental health condition.

Imagine you are the head of middle school at a large private school that has day and resident students. Devise a strategy for your colleagues and you to identify and manage homesickness as it arises with your students. You will need to consider the scenarios in which homesickness might arise; common indicators; cultural differences. You might like to present your strategy as a flow chart, a concept map or a table.

Happy Miles Caravan Park Happy Miles Qld 4026 Dear Sir/Madam, I’m very worried about my son. He spends a lot of time moping around and says that he has no friends at school. I’ve tried to get him to join some clubs near our home and he goes along once or twice but then says nobody likes him so refuses to go again. He’s always saying that he’s bored, but I’m busy with the caravan park management and don’t really have time to constantly entertain him. There are no other kids his age at the park, and there’s just him and me, so I’m worried about the time he spends by himself. I’m not sure how you can help, but as his continued 

Emotional aspects   143

care teacher I hoped you might be able to help sort this out somehow. Perhaps you could talk to Michael. I worry that he might start to get into trouble or let his school work drop if he doesn’t get more interested in things, and school’s always been a bit of a struggle. I feel like I’m just nagging him all the time. Please ring me at the park any time (07 3123 4567). Yours sincerely, Beth Jones The letter seems to suggest that Michael is lonely or alienated. How do you think this has developed? What might be the outcomes if the situation continues? Can the teacher help?

Unfortunately loneliness begets alienation which begets loneliness and so forth. Adolescents can behave in ways and commit to beliefs that keep loneliness in their lives. They may become withdrawn, choosing to stay at home all the time. They may come to believe that they are ugly, stupid, or boring, and that no-one understands them. They might decide that they are black sheep and will never fit in. They might spend all their money on dope/alcohol then be unable to afford to do anything else. They can become scared to meet new people, or might let other people boss them around. Worst of all they can begin to believe that there is something wrong with them. In time there can be escalation through other problems, for example: • • • • • • • • •

depression self-harming or suicidal thoughts drugs, tobacco and alcohol abuse free floating anxiety or fear anger violence prostitution criminal activity and delinquency, and mental illness.

Causes of isolation Loneliness and alienation are not always driven by the individual alone. A range of circumstances can set the foundations. Physical or geographic isolation can be particularly difficult for adolescents. Some remote and rural communities provide little peer companionship for young people, and limited discretionary recreational activities. Discrimination or harassment because of sexuality, race, gender, religious

144   The Millennial Adolescent

beliefs, intellectual or physical ability, or looks can create an invisible barrier for some adolescents, effectively isolating them from peers. Moving to a new place where there may be new language, culture, and/or customs can also be isolating. Contemporary lifestyles are highly mobile and adolescents can be uprooted several times to be relocated due to changes in household employment. Even if there has been no upheaval, or discrimination, adolescents can be isolated due to a general lack of opportunities to get involved with others due to a lack of money for recreation activities. They can also be isolated due to the parenting they have experienced—a controlling or abusive parent, adult or partner, can cause loneliness or alienation, as can being removed from a parent through divorce or moving away. Any number of circumstances can create a feeling of social isolation for adolescents. It is best to assume that all adolescents are going to feel isolated and lonely at some time.

Loneliness solutions Happily, there are many ways to help lonely people out of their despair. Skills like assertiveness, conflict resolution, negotiation and problem solving make a huge difference and these can be actively taught through personal development programs at schools and youth centres. Encouraging and supporting lonely and isolated people to carefully consider and make a list of what is contributing to their loneliness and then discussing how they might change their relationship with these things can help them put fear aside and take a risk. Even asking a new person over for dinner, or going to a party can be an effective start to recovery. If they are experiencing an abusive situation then they will need support to tell someone they trust, to seek counselling, or to draw on community support. Schools that provide adolescents with opportunities to meet and share common interests with others can make a substantial impact on the sense of connectedness experienced by their students. It is vital that loneliness and alienation are addressed proactively. Festering alienation and isolation are typical factors in adolescent homelessness.

Homelessness Homelessness literally means young people (in this case) living on the streets. Western Sydney Housing Information and Resource Network Incorporated (WESTHIRN) (2001) states that youth homelessness involves the absence of secure, adequate and satisfactory shelter as perceived by the young person. A brief excerpt from their report: Youth homelessness is the absence of safe, secure, affordable and adequate shelter as perceived by the young person. At least one of the following conditions applies to be defined as homeless: •

An absence of shelter;

The threat of loss of shelter;

Emotional aspects   145 •

High mobility between places of abode;

Existing accommodation is considered inadequate because of overcrowding, its physical state, lack of security of occupancy, or lack of emotional support and stability in the place of residence;

Unreasonable restrictions in terms of access to alternative forms of accommodation. (WESTHIRN, 2001, p. 3)

Homelessness can also be taken to include a variety of living circumstances. Some of the most common include: • • • • • •

staying with friends/relations living in a squat living in a shelter street living ‘home alone’, or hiding.

Homelessness may exist in a variety of guises. Students may roam between temporary billets that may be offered by friends and relatives. They may be living in emergency shelters offered by some government or charity organisation. They may be squatting in unoccupied or condemned buildings. They may rest and shelter under bridges, in charity deposit boxes or they may even live in their car. These living circumstances all have things in common and all have an impact on the way a student may perceive school, middle-class teachers and the type of futures and lifestyle being promoted as valuable by others. Because of the diversity of homelessness it is difficult to obtain exact data about the actual numbers of adolescents experiencing homelessness. A conservative estimate would be millions worldwide. There is a misguided prevalent view that we don’t have a problem in Australia. In fact youth homelessness has become one of the most serious social issues facing Australia, and has been at crisis level since the 1980s. According to the Burdekin Report (1989), it is estimated that there are 20 000 to 25 000 homeless children and young people under 18 across the country, including at least 8500 aged from 12 to 15 years. Many of these live in inadequate and insecure accommodation such as refuges or squats. Youth homelessness in Australia has doubled since 1991.

Social factors influencing homelessness In general, homelessness is a result of several social factors, which we will discuss briefly: • • •

breakdown of family domestic violence (sexual, physical, emotional) unemployment

146   The Millennial Adolescent

• •

poverty lack of education.

Breakdown of family At the end of last century 80 per cent of homeless young people came from broken families (Burdekin, 1989), which were described as homes where there had been divorce or formal separation between the parents, or where there was significant ongoing conflict within the home. Of 104 homeless young people interviewed for the Salvation Army report No place that’s home (Smith, 1995b), 48 per cent cited family breakdown as critical to their homelessness. According to Chamberlain and Mackenzie (1998), the homelessness risk level for young people in ‘blended’, divorced, and single parent families was seven times higher than the risk level for teenagers in nuclear families. This view was supported by a government report from Victoria that stated that family/relationship breakdown was the most common reason given by young people for using homeless services during 1996–97.

Domestic violence The Burdekin Report found that 50 per cent of homeless young people had suffered physical or sexual abuse, 45 per cent of homeless young people cited sexual or physical abuse of themselves as critical reasons why they had become homeless, and 20 per cent also cited physical abuse of others in the home (Burdekin, 1989). Howard (1991) interviewed Sydney street kids who revealed very high levels of physical and sexual abuse, particularly for young females. Of the girls interviewed, 73 per cent reported they had been physically abused and 82 per cent had been sexually abused. Their sexual abuse reportedly mostly began under the age of 11 (67 per cent), with just over another quarter (26 per cent) experiencing their first sexual abuse between the ages of 12 and 15 years. For males, 77 per cent reported physical abuse and 29 per cent sexual abuse, with 59 per cent reporting the first sexual abuse prior to the age of 11. For both males and females the abuser was usually an older male.

Unemployment There have always been young people who have left home because of family conflict. During the 1950s and 1960s such young people usually found employment quickly, thus avoiding homelessness; however, today, with high levels of youth unemployment, homelessness becomes much more likely.

Poverty The Burdekin Report (1989) cited strong links between family poverty and youth homelessness. The report points out that poverty often contributes to drug and alcohol problems, social isolation and domestic violence, which may compel a young person to leave home. Many families are simply unable to support an adolescent.

Emotional aspects   147

Lack of education Homelessness is linked to home environment backgrounds where there is a low level of education. In these households there can often be a more limited understanding of the options that might be available to address adolescent or family problems. As a result adolescents who present with issues for support or management may find little comfort or direction from home. This can make them feel misunderstood, hopeless, and can lead to despair and home leaving.

Impact of homelessness on youth Homeless young people are more at risk of health problems such as malnutrition, infection, sexually transmitted diseases, psychiatric disorders, and problems caused by violence or drug and alcohol abuse. Young people are often unaware of, or unable to pay for, existing health services. Additionally, those adolescents who live on the street are provided with a set of experiences and exposures that influence their selfconcept, their learning and cognitive development and their social skill development. Street living also brings with it a range of life dangers and risks. Surviving with homelessness and street living demands a whole new set of understandings and competencies. Students who have experienced such upheaval and uncertainty often bring a contrasting perspective on the goals of schooling and learning to their classrooms. In some ways, homelessness may be the catalyst for the early development of some adult views, and yet this may well be combined with familiarity with a cocktail of dangerous practices and risky behaviours. A large number of homeless young people resort to prostitution and crime to obtain shelter and other basic necessities. Drug and alcohol abuse—even attempted suicide—are common means of escape. Educational and employment opportunities are usually greatly diminished, and many suffer ill-health. The effect on young women is particularly distressing, according to Howard (1991), who reports that their levels of drug use, signs of emotional distress, and suicide attempts are all higher than for males.

Homeless gambling It is estimated that 75 per cent of homeless young people have a gambling problem (Howard, 1991). Homeless youth engage in gambling as a means of relieving their boredom and sense of meaninglessness. The Howard study also emphasised the extent to which the young people feel disconnected from society and see gambling as a way of participating in the world they feel so isolated from (Howard, 1991).

Homeless crime and prostitution Of homeless youth who are involved in drugs, around 70 per cent are also involved in crime, and 30 per cent in prostitution. Sexual abuse and prostitution are strongly

148   The Millennial Adolescent

linked, with 63 per cent of those homeless youth involved in prostitution having been sexually abused (Howard, 1991).

Homeless suicide Homeless young people express low self-esteem, alienation, aloneness, abandonment, a sense of being trapped and used, as feelings that lead them to be suicidal. Suicide attempts had been made by 82 per cent of the females, and 61 per cent of males in Howard’s survey of homeless young people (1991). Over 66 per cent of both sexes reported some to many self-inflicted wounds to their bodies.

Implications of youth homelessness for society The Burdekin Report (1989) points out that youth homelessness is a tragedy not only for those directly affected but for society as a whole. The Australian nation suffers the lost opportunities and untapped potential of thousands of its young people. There are also the costs of crimes committed, imprisonment, health problems and costs to the welfare system in supporting the chronically homeless. Homelessness impacts to a greater or lesser degree on all other aspects of adolescent development. There are some common antecedents for homelessness that can extend from running away or ‘throwing away’ scenarios, which will be discussed next. Unfortunately running away is quite common and can be the first step towards protracted homelessness.

Runaways Research distinguishes between runaways and throwaways and also between running from and running to (Rice & Dolgin, 2005). These are not insignificant differences and may make the actions, intervention and support or acknowledgment by teachers appropriate or inappropriate, necessary or unnecessary.

Runaway typologies Table 6.2 gives an outline for running away typologies. It is important to distinguish the difference between ‘running from’ and ‘running to’ typologies. When an adolescent is running from something there is usually an undercurrent of anxiety. They may not actually wish to leave home but feel they must, either to protect themselves, to enable themselves to do something unpopular with those in the home environment or to protect others. Those that are running to something may be seeking an idealised state, for example establishing a life with a partner. Leaving home for an uncertain future and livelihood is an extreme act and generally occurs in an environment of high emotion. Roberts (1982) writes about ‘throwaways’, whose parents/guardians have told them to leave home; rootless runaways, who run away for fun, to seek pleasure and gratification; anxious runaways, who may be

Emotional aspects   149

attempting to escape the influence of a multi-problem family; and terrified runaways, who may be escaping physical or sexual abuse. Rice and Dolgin (2005) describe a running away continuum as follows: • • • • • •

non-runaways runaway explorers runaway social pleasure seekers runaway manipulators runaway retreatists endangered runaways.

Clearly the non-runaway just stays at home. They might threaten to run away, or might even stay away overnight from time to time for some sort of emotional effect on the household, but their intent is actually not to leave. Runaway explorers are on a mission of discovery. They may actually have nothing to run from or to, but simply be seeking something beyond the home environment that may have become mundane to them. Social pleasure seekers may feel restricted in overly protective households, or may actually lack social opportunity due to geographical isolation. Runaway manipulators are described as having the goal of challenging the authority figures in their home by showing their ability to control their circumstances. By running away they may be able to coerce authority figures to adapt to meet their requests by trading their presence at home for specific conditions. Runaway retreatists are Table 6.2  Running away typologies Distinction between the terms


Leaving home of their own volition. Tend to feel that they have few emotional ties to their home. They may feel estranged from their parents. Worried about the home setting, may feel they are an undue burden, that they are exacerbating negative emotions by staying home. Fear for their own safety at home or the safety of others should they stay.


Leaving home because they have been told to go.

Running to …

Runaways who are seeking something, and leave home to find it. Abstract goals like freedom and more concrete goals like being with a partner can be factors.

Running from …

Runaways who are leaving home because they are uncomfortable, unhappy or unsafe.

Runaways Rootless Anxious

Source: Adapted from Rice & Dolgin, 2005

150   The Millennial Adolescent

setting their own agenda, retreating from what they feel are environments that are not conducive to the pursuit of their interests. The endangered runaways are those who actually get a thrill out of taking risks, and running away is the start of a set of risky behaviours. These types of running away are considered a continuum because of the strength of the conviction to stay away from home generally shown and the personal resolve necessary by the person running away. Strength of conviction and resolve progressively increase through the types (see Table 6.2 on page 149). The clear possible consequences of running away are homelessness and street living. You may be surprised to find the number of students who fall into these categories that attend school (although often irregularly). I know I was surprised to find out that a student in a Year 10 class was actually living under the school building. This student had found a way to enter under the floor from outside the building and was squatting there, hiding from the cleaners and caretaker staff that might be in the school after hours.

Why run away? In presenting the typologies of running away some of the influences have been suggested. Basically the influences fall into the following categories: • • • • •

family relationships parental problems academic problems social relationships psychopathology.

Table 6.3  Reasons for running away given by adolescent runaways Reasons for running away given by adolescents Some runaways were asked what led them to leave home and these are their responses: • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Poor home environment Arguments with parents Doesn’t like stepfather/stepmother Doesn’t like mother or father Sexual abuse Curfews Physical abuse Punishments ‘Nobody understands me’ No freedom Fighting with siblings Parents don’t like boyfriend/girlfriend To go with boyfriend School problems Source: Adapted from Rice & Dolgin, 2005

Emotional aspects   151

Family relationships There is a whole range of ways a family can become dysfunctional and so not develop positive home influences on young people. The media tend to focus on the most confronting, but family relationships can become very untidy from what might seem fairly low level negativity. Parental rejection, for example, may be perceived rather than actual, may relate to a parent’s busy life, may stem from problems the parents may be having with each other, may reflect sibling rivalry and so forth. Family members may have developed a fairly non-communicative relationship with each other, or parents may be uncomfortable discussing particular topics with their family. A child may be longing for displays of affection, but be confused by a parent who doesn’t display affection openly. The household may have so many different things happening in it that people don’t have emotional space or time to care for each other. These types of things can fester for some young people, can result in them feeling doubt about their family’s support, and may make them feel rejected. The irony is that in many of these families, the sense of rejection felt by the young person would come as a complete surprise to the rest of the family. Of course there are more moderate level circumstances that also may impact on a young person’s inclination to run away. In some families there develops a tendency to constantly downgrade a child, to act suspiciously of any achievements, and/or to simply ignore them. An otherwise loving family may not adequately manage children’s behaviour, and this may blossom into circumstances where boundaries are confused and authority is not respected or understood. Inconsistency or excessive punishments are both possible elements here. Parental separation or divorce can also provide impetus for adolescent discontent or confusion, even if the separation is amicable. The adolescent’s confused feelings can be amplified if their parent commits to another partner or if they acquire new step siblings, especially if there has been an intervening period where the parent may have relied emotionally on their children. At the upper end of dysfunction are conflictual home situations, abuse (physical, sexual and emotional), domestic violence, and substance abuse. Many possible scenarios can underpin an adolescent’s desire to run away. Most runaways have some type of dysfunctional family history. The likelihood of running away is increased when these circumstances are combined with other influences. Anecdotally it has been said that: ‘a mother’s love is the key to keeping teenagers crime-free’. This hasn’t been fully explored, but it may make a lot of sense. Of course the love would need to be openly displayed. Delinquent behaviour Adolescents taking risks can bring upon themselves the wrong sort of legal attention. Peer pressure and identity goals can lead some adolescents to be disobedient, perhaps to steal, to experience legal difficulties, and perhaps arrest. Fear of consequences, or even shame, can lead a young person to run away.

152   The Millennial Adolescent

School problems School is not always a positive part of a young person’s life. Over time they can develop an understanding of themselves as being inadequate, especially if learning difficulties are not well addressed early. Some young people develop negative attitudes toward school from their own experiences, but occasionally they acquire them from their parents. Parents who have had schooling difficulties may convey to their children values and beliefs that serve to undermine the development of positive attitudes for their children. Engagement with school, display of acceptable behaviour, and the development of effective problem-solving skills can all be affected by poor attitude and low motivation. The situation can compound over time to result in the establishment of poor social relationships at school, and difficulties with peers. This negativity can encourage a young person to seek a different type of life, and they might run away. Psychopathology Some adolescents run away because they are mixed up. They may be mentally wired a bit differently to others, or they might learn to view the world differently as a result of some negative life experiences. Heightened anxiety, suicidal tendencies and alcohol and drug use may be factors that lead someone to run away. Many of the lifelong and debilitating mental illnesses that challenge people in our society start to emerge during puberty. This may be due to peculiarities in the actual maturation of their body’s systems. A person who is feeling disconnected, disoriented, and depressed as part of mental illness may run away to try and alleviate their anxieties.

Runaway characteristics Notwithstanding the vast array of influences that may urge a young person to run away, researchers have identified some common personal characteristics among those that do take that step (Rice & Dolgin, 2005). They are: • • • • • • • •

they have strong egos they resent being put down they are impulsive they have poor judgment they feel that they are unable to control the environment they feel that they are unable to communicate freely they have poor communication/relationships with adults, and they have no sustained close relationships with adults.

Of course not every runaway will exhibit all of these, but it would seem probable that those having more of the characteristics described above are more likely to run away if other negative circumstances, like the ones previously discussed, also exist in their lives.

Emotional aspects   153

There are some things schools, teachers, youth workers, and communities can do to militate against some of these. For example, adolescents need to feel they have some control. Actually allowing them some real agency can help them develop a sense of personal impact on their lives. Providing confidential avenues for young people to talk openly about their experiences can also help. This can be helped along by introducing young people to the local support services available to them in ways that will make them feel comfortable taking a first step to talk through their issues. Schools that work to link people together, providing mentoring and supporting and encouraging role model relationships can make a great impact on creating positive adolescent experiences.

Delinquency Definitions Delinquency is a legal term for criminal behaviour carried out by a juvenile and is often the result of escalating problematic behaviour. Definitions of delinquency vary among different groups. Calhoun, Light and Keller (1997) define delinquency as an act that defies or diverges from cultural and legal norms. Breckenridge (cited in Tomovic, 1979) adds significant detail to this in defining delinquency as: … a condition arising in the matrix of socio-personal disorganization and in the sequence of experience and influences that shape behaviour problems. It is the product of dynamic social process, involving numerous variables and the failure of personal and social controls. It is a symptom of deep socioeconomic and social ailments.

This definition of delinquency sees crime as a basic lack of positive social ties or bonds.

Distinction between crime and delinquency A crime is basically an act that breaks the criminal code that is established by society through written law. Delinquency and deviance, on the other hand, are acts that merely break ‘cultural law’ or norms. Delinquency can incorporate crime. Delinquency is usually specific and descriptive of age, that is, young people. An adult who behaves contrarily or goes against cultural norms or who engages in criminal activity would not be called delinquent, but they would be called criminals if they broke laws of the criminal code.

What is juvenile delinquency? Juvenile delinquency is a term that refers to children (as opposed to adolescents) who behave delinquently. Children often test the limits and boundaries set by their parents and other authority figures. Among adolescents some rebelliousness and

154   The Millennial Adolescent

experimentation is common, but not always delinquent. However, a few children consistently participate in problematic behaviours that negatively affect their family, academic, social and personal functioning. These children present great concern to parents and the community at large, and are referred to as juvenile delinquents. Delinquent acts fall into two broad categories: • •

status offences; acts which would not be considered offences if committed by an adult (e.g. truancy, running away, alcohol possession or use and curfew violations), and delinquency offences; acts which involve destruction or theft of property, commission of violent crimes against persons, illegal weapon possession, and possession or sale of illegal drugs.

Delinquency onset types Australian Institute of Criminology (Bor et al., 2001) has found that aggression in toddlers is the single biggest predictor of teenage delinquency. These toddlers learn early that aggression is rewarded and set in place a pattern of behaviour that leads down the slippery slope. There are two types of adolescent delinquents: early onset and late onset. That is, those who began their delinquency as children and have been noted as juvenile delinquents for a time are the early onset type. Those young people who start delinquent behaviours during their later teens are of the late onset delinquency type. The precursors and the resulting effective management of delinquents are affected by the type. Obviously a long-standing delinquent has developed over time and the chances of resetting their behaviour can be complicated and perhaps even remote.

Chronic delinquency warning signs Professionals who work with young people have a much better chance of steering a young person away from delinquency than they have of stamping out the behaviour after it has established. Teachers and parents should watch for certain characteristics, including the student: • • • • • • • • •

characteristically resorting to name calling, cursing or abusive language habitually making violent threats when angry having previously brought a weapon to school having a background of serious disciplinary problems having a background of drug, alcohol or other substance abuse or dependency having few or no close friends being preoccupied with weapons, explosives or other incendiary devices displaying cruelty to animals having witnessed or been a victim of neglect or abuse in the home

Emotional aspects   155

• • • • • • • •

bullying or intimidating peers or younger children tending to blame others for difficulties and problems they cause consistently preferring TV shows, reading materials, movies or music expressing violent themes, rituals and abuse reflecting anger, frustration and the dark side of life in school writing projects being involved with a gang or an antisocial group on the fringe of peer acceptance being often depressed and having significant mood swings having threatened or attempted suicide, and/or having tantrums and uncontrollable angry outbursts.

Principled intervention is probably indicated for any of these behaviours. Teams of professionals working together in an adolescent’s interests have the most potent effect in deterring problem behaviours. If you are working with adolescents or children at risk please be very careful not to try and address these behaviours by yourself.

Four perspectives on delinquency When gathering a team together for the benefit of a young person it is vital to keep in perspective the types of skills, beliefs and attitudes that each participant in the process is likely to bring. Some key perspectives follow.

A parental view Parents may define disruptive and delinquent behaviour as disobedience— fighting with siblings, destroying or damaging property, stealing money from family members or threatening parents with violence. An educational view School staff members often regard delinquent behaviour as that which interrupts or disturbs classroom learning, violates the school code of conduct and threatens the safety of faculty and students. A mental health view Mental health professionals consider delinquency to include a wide range of disruptive behaviours that may involve aggression toward others or animals, destruction of property, deceitfulness, theft and violations of curfew and school attendance. A legal system view The majority of states and the federal government consider persons under the age of 18 to be juveniles. However, when children under this age commit serious crimes (for example murder) they may be prosecuted as adults. Teams of professionals that may work with young people at risk of delinquency or actually exhibiting delinquent behaviours could include school psychologists, social

156   The Millennial Adolescent

workers, youth workers, police, doctors, community agencies, support teachers, teachers, and so on. Each team member will bring their own view of delinquency and this will impact on the ways they work. This certainly complicates things, but it is vitally important, since delinquency is such a multifaceted issue, that no one professional attempts to resolve the issues by themselves.

Contributing factors Recent research into maltreatment and delinquency has examined the links between child maltreatment and offending (Stewart, Dennison & Waterson, 2002). The study found that the more a child is physically abused or neglected in their adolescent years, the more likely they are to offend than younger children who experience maltreatment. This finding is considered ‘unusual’ because it has been believed that delinquency is linked to early childhood maltreatment, which includes physical abuse, sexual abuse or emotional abuse (Stewart, Dennison & Waterson, 2002). What the study found was that the frequency and the intensity of the abuse at a certain point in life, in particular the teenage years, is more likely to lead to delinquency. As for most things during adolescence, the generally accepted key influences are peers, family and school.

School and delinquency When a student feels a general lack of academic competency, they can begin to feel worthless and alienated. Truancy is often a child’s way of dealing with schoolrelated failures. In Queensland truancy is termed ‘unauthorised absence’. Truancy further compounds the problem of academic failure.

Academic competency and the delinquent I met a young lad in a youth detention centre. He was 17 years old at the time and discussions were proceeding about whether he should be transferred to the ‘big’ gaol when he turned 18 years or whether he should see his term out in the juvenile detention centre, where he had become a big fish. This was a very awkward situation, and of course there seemed to be no right answer. I was interested in the lad’s background and asked him about his experiences at school. He said he hated school and that was pretty well all I could get out of him. By all accounts he was a wily and clever boy. However, I found out that he had very poor literacy, equivalent to perhaps a Grade 2 level of fluency and comprehension (equivalent to a six year old), and that generally he was performing academically, continued 

Emotional aspects   157

at the detention centre school, some 10 years behind his age peers across the state. I also found that he was a consistent truant before his incarceration. If his attendance at school could be squeezed together in consecutive days, he probably would only have spent around three years in full attendance at school. Poor literacy and numeracy skills are particular problems for young offenders with about 50 per cent of those in detention having performed badly at school. (Nan Bahr)

Peers and delinquency During adolescence, acceptance by one’s peers becomes extremely important to the sense of self-worth. Associating with a circle of friends who exhibit delinquent behaviours and perform delinquent acts increases the risk of non-conformity to social norms as well as deviant and delinquent behaviours. Peer influence is a potent force as young people transition from childhood to adulthood. The nature of the influence is bound together with the search for identity which is a characteristic goal for young people.

Identity The central developmental goal of adolescence … is the formation of a coherent self identity. (Rice & Dolgin, 2005, p. 174)

In brief, our personal identity is based on what we know about ourselves and how we know it, and impacts directly on conceptions of how knowledge is relevant to us. Our identity construction drives our goals and motivation. Complex elements of identity construction underwrite an individual’s behaviour and social interactions. During adolescence, individuals try to reconcile competing identities (contextual, cultural, sexual). This is a difficult and energetic process. Some adolescents, in their pursuit for resolution of the identity construction, exhibit behaviours that place them at risk, interfere with others, or disadvantage them in their adulthood by impacting on their learning and life opportunities. It often results in the sending of mixed messages to those who are close to them. For example, a teen might beg, ‘Can you drop me a block from school, Mum? I want to walk the rest of the way.’ They might plead for their dad or mum to work in the tuckshop and then go out of their way to pretend they don’t know them if the relationship is noted by peers. They are often confused by their strong feelings of attachment to their family and by the perception that growing up means distancing themselves from their family and aligning more

158   The Millennial Adolescent

with their peers. No more kisses for mum at the school gate. During this time, even adolescents who are not on the slippery slope to delinquency, need to try on a variety of roles and will test extremes and boundaries for behaviour before settling in on the identity that will stick into adulthood. Formation of ‘a coherent self-identity’ is described as the central goal of adolescence (Erikson, 1976). Marcia (1980) proposed four identity statuses, they are: Identity-diffused, Foreclosure, Moratorium and Identity-Achieved. These are developed in Table 6.4. Table 6.4  Identity statuses Identity

Identity foreclosure

Identity diffusion


Instead of resolving identity conflicts for themselves, they adopt the goals and ideologies of significant others.

Lack a direction or a clear idea of who they are and what goals to set. They may feel confused about who they are.

Experiment with different identities and roles without committing to any. Decision on their identity is deferred for later.

achievement The individual has successfully negotiated identity conflicts and feels comfortable with who they are and their aspirations.

Adapted from Marcia, 1980

Many researchers have considered that the pathway to identity is quite different for men and women (such as Streitmatter, 1989). Cotterell (1996) describes the formation of social identity in terms of social group. He sees schools as being quite influential here through the imposition of structures and organisational systems on the type of social relations students are exposed to. The labelling of groups within the school system also provides a foundation for group identification and a sense of identity for young people who compose the groups. Bessant, Sercombe and Watts (1998) give a comprehensive overview of identity development through adolescence and discuss the notion of ‘one self, many identities’ (p. 46) as a potent element of resolution with particular implications for teachers. Our multiple identities have multiple dimensions. • • • • • •

The cultural dimension through developing a sense of belonging and adopting feelings about symbols, values and common histories. The social dimension through relationships and identification with significant others. The personal dimension which encompasses notions of ‘I am’. The self-esteem dimension which encompasses our satisfaction with ourselves. The active dimension which encompasses our self-efficacy notions of ‘I can’, and The self-concept dimension which includes things we know about ourselves and ideas we have about ourselves.

Emotional aspects   159

Adolescent identity as a teaching issue ‘Hey, I’m here to teach, identity of my students is of no importance to me at all. I need to sort out who I am before I need worry about who they think they are. I need to sort and sequence the information so knowledge is built logically, that doesn’t change ...’ • • •

Tell me about that teacher. Describe professionalism, effectiveness, uniqueness. Tell me about the issue. Is identity an important consideration for teaching? All the time? Just when planning? Is identity consideration just rhetoric? Teachers plan without really concerning themselves with student identity.

Identity influences The principal influences on adolescents as they pursue a sense of identity are remarkably consistent with the influences for every other aspect of their life: family (parents, siblings, birth order, race, nationality, divorce/separation, vocational aspirations), life circumstances (socioeconomic status, physical disability), and significant others (gender identity, stereotypes, modelling). Identity formation responds to interaction between idealised conceptions, experiences, and a sense of personal acceptance. Idealised notions of preferred ways of being are provided to young people (some would say young people are bombarded) via the media, their peers, and their idols. Experiences that provide a framework for identity formation emanate from times spent with family, teachers, and friends. A sense of acceptance is gleaned from feelings of belonging, rejection, and isolation. One of the most potent influences on an adolescent’s identity is their friendship group and peers.

Influences of peers and school Peers provide the rewards of belonging and status, and punish through isolation and ostracising. Peers are the measuring stick for how successful an experimental identity has been. Their reactions take precedence over the family at times, especially as the individual moves towards adolescence. This is when more time is spent with the peer group while the amount of time spent with family decreases. Peer groups often have strict codes of behaviour. These codes can include: modes of dress, codes of conduct, hairstyles, preferences in music, and attitudes to school, parents and other groups (Heaven, 1994). It is possible for several peer

160   The Millennial Adolescent

groups with differing cultural values and modes of conduct to co-exist within an age group at one school. Peers exert significant pressure on group members to conform. At times the wildly unique group membership requirements can be at odds with local norms. Weird hair styles and ‘uniforms’ for group members send a strong signal about who’s in and who’s out of a group. Adolescents who attempt to copy behaviours and dress can be ridiculed for even the slightest inconsistency. In this way young people are rewarded and punished into adopting particular identities. These reward and punishment processes are not unique to peers. Schools, the community and the media use similar methods to influence the identity development of young people. Schools offer rewards formally and informally through notoriety, privileges and status. They punish by labelling and oppressing. Schools support the development of affiliate behaviour because they organise students into same age grades which result in the concentration of numbers of adolescents at similar levels of cognitive and biological development. The community rewards by providing young people with freedoms and positive relationships. It punishes by applying restrictions, curfews and limits. The media reward by providing leadership opportunities, and a ‘voice’ to young people. They cover student summits, anoint young people as ambassadors and so forth. The media punish through repression, by extinguishing the voice of young people or by focusing attention on negativity.

Identity and competing cultures Although this chapter has been working from the position that we all have multiple identities and that adolescents go through processes to adjust to this reality, sometimes adjustment is very hard. This is particularly true of adolescents who need to reconcile competing identities. Competing identities sometimes emerge when students feel they are a part of two different cultural groups or if they engage in two distinct contexts. Aboriginal peoples, for example, are challenged in their attempts to reconcile the perspectives of their cultural background and its values and beliefs with some of the dominant Western cultural ideas and expectations. When these adolescents go to school they may find that their different perspectives are not well understood or catered to and this can cause them a sense of disloyalty to their heritage if they accept the underlying values of their school. At the same time, these adolescents may have been well and truly inducted to Western perspectives through their engagement with non-Aboriginal peers and their families at school, and through their interaction with non-Aboriginal teachers over the years. Most school policies and expectations have been designed without direct focus on Aboriginal cultural values. There is no straightforward solution to these conflicts. We know that these types of deep-seated identity conflicts can be detrimental to the students. How might a teacher address or ameliorate the distress experienced by adolescents who are trying to rationalise their position as a part of two or more conflicting cultures?

Emotional aspects   161

Moral development Moral development involves developing a sense of ‘fairness’, understanding the world in terms of rights/freedoms and developing a sense of reasonable consequences and responsibilities, that is, justice. This involves development of a clear idea of the differences between equity and equality, and aligning oneself to particular values and beliefs. Through actively engaging with moral dilemmas in our daily lives we are challenged to develop a sense of justice. Piaget (1932) proposed a theoretical construct that considered moral and social development. He integrated his theory of cognitive development with moral development and socialisation which contrasted directly with other prominent theorists on developing morality, Kohlberg (1984, 1987) and Gilligan (1982), who were more interested in the social interactions that underscored moral development. All these researchers were enamoured with age/stage boundaries, and so have the same inherent weaknesses that attach to all fixed considerations of development. Gilligan’s ideas regarding sex differences in moral development are an interesting adjunct to Kohlberg’s scheme.

Piaget and moral reasoning Piaget’s work on morality extended from his general cognitive development stage theory. He emphasised moral reasoning development, in line with his view that development is an individual thing with each of us constructing our own understandings of the world along a predetermined sequence in response to environmental prompts and rules. He proposed two types: heteronomous morality and autonomous morality. In brief, heteronomous morality referred primarily to authority. Right or wrong is judged with regard to the likely consequences, the rules broken and the punishment. In heteronomous morality the individual is a passive consumer of an existing ‘real’ set of rules. Autonomous morality involves a shift toward perspective taking. It involves consideration of intent, various impact and fairness. Piaget suggested that young children would hold heteronomous morality and that moving to adolescence would mark the shift to autonomous morality. Piaget’s ideas on morality have attracted criticism, principally because it can be demonstrated that these types of morality interact and very young children do demonstrate autonomous morality at times. The ‘I didn’t mean to do it!’ cry from young kids as they plead for mercy in their punishments is common. Recognising the role of intent in moral understandings at this level would not reliably indicate that a child had moved to a more sophisticated level of morality.

Kohlberg Kohlberg’s work added depth to the stage consideration of moral development. Table 6.5 considers each stage and level of Kohlberg’s theory of moral development

162   The Millennial Adolescent

and attempts to specify the type of behaviours and attitudes that might emerge in the classroom for students at each stage and level. Kohlberg saw an interaction between the mental capacity development of people, their social interactions and their morality. People were seen to generally move from trying to please others, to the internalisation of existing expectations, through to the establishment of a comprehensive set of guidelines for morality that reflect a mature understanding of their own values and beliefs and how these might contrast with others. Table 6.5  Kohlberg’s model for moral development Kohlberg’s levels and stages Level 1: Pre-conventional morality Stage 1: Punishment orientation Stage 2: Naive reward orientation Level 2: Conventional morality Stage 3: Good boy/good girl orientation Stage 4: Authority orientation Level 3: Post-conventional morality Stage 5: Social-contract orientation Stage 6: Morality of individual principles and conscience

Morality understood in terms of rules set by adults. Behave in ways simply to receive reward or punishment from significant others. Morality revolves around doing the right thing, to be good according to society’s rules. Focus on doing the right thing and for being regarded by authority as being moral. Living up to expectations, maintaining trust and respect. Focus on what’s best for society. Maybe even breaking some laws to ensure justice is achieved. Consideration of social contracts that exist between people, and of diversity in morality. Developing own set of moral principles that may differ from the majority.

Source: Adapted from Krause, Bochner, & Duchesne, 2003, Table 3.8, p. 97

Kohlberg’s description of moral development has actually stood the test of time. Research attention has focused on amplifying and extending his work, but his fundamental premises have not been debunked significantly. The idea that people move through complex levels of morality is well regarded. The key criticism of his work is the same as is levelled at all models that present invariant sequential stages in development for the human condition. That is, the stages can be considered as a guide, but in actuality do not present in an invariant sequence (Turiel, 1983, 1998, 2001).

Gilligan Another criticism levelled at Kohlberg’s theory referred to consideration of gender. Kohlberg did not explore gender differentiation, but arguably wrote about developmental trends more true of males than females, especially given that he based his model on findings from a study that used males exclusively. Gilligan

Emotional aspects   163

(1982) expanded and extended the theory to give a better representation of how development might differ between genders. She agreed that interaction with society was a key element in the development of morality, but she wanted to recognise that males and females experience society differently. This is a contentious issue, because research into gender differences has not yet shown reliable differences in morality (see for example Braebeck, 1982; Walker, DeVries & Trevetham, 1987). The combination of moral conflict, identity challenges, life circumstances, and maturational discoveries can lead a young person to despair. For some adolescents, their trip along an emotional roller coaster can lead them to contemplate suicide.

Suicide Suicide is the most extreme act an adolescent can carry out. Young people contemplating suicide have reached such a level of hopelessness and emotional despair that total escape seems the only solution. Sadly, it seems suicide can be an impulsive act, when people are fatally blinded by the complexities of the problems they find themselves with. We can help those at risk by providing them with a range of supports and self-help strategies. The fallout from a suicide is far greater than the unfortunate one who dies, it touches all who have been a part of their lives and can leave an indelible stain on the lives of their peers. There are ways teachers can help adolescents, through raising an awareness of the antecedents (warning signs) for suicide, developing knowledge of techniques for suicide prevention and an understanding of strategies for coping with loss through suicide. Adolescent suicide is at crisis level in Australia. Figures 6.2 and 6.3 (pages 164–165) show the data recently released from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, showing a shocking tragedy across the nation. There were 23 709 deaths from suicide in the 10-year period 1993–2004 of which 1407 were aged between 15 and 19 years (1091 males and 316 females). Figure 6.2c provides some detail of the levels apparent across Australia. The heightened rate for the Northern Territory reflects the increased incidence of suicide for remote and isolated people, and for Aboriginal peoples. For those adolescents who experience ongoing conflict between their core beliefs or conceptions of self and the majority, suicide is even more prevalent (for example Aboriginal peoples, and gay/lesbian/bisexual or transsexual youth). Most teachers would recall an adolescent that took their own life. During my own 25 years or so in the education system (10 teaching in secondary schools, and not including the years of my own schooling) there have been 15 deaths, 14 of which were adolescents who either foolishly took risks or who committed suicide. I think most teachers would tell the same sort of story, and most teachers wonder if they could have helped. I knew some of those who died very well and can attest that they had some very confronting challenges during adolescence. One boy, for example, was born with malformed genitals and spent some time during his early secondary years getting

164   The Millennial Adolescent (a)

Rate* Male Female

25 20 15 10 5




* Age-standardised rate per 100 000






Year of registration


Male Female











75 and over

Age group (years) * Rate per 100 000 estimated resident population


Rate* 25 20 15 10 5 0 NSW









* Age-standardised rate per 100 000

Figure 6.2  (a) Suicide rates in Australia (1993–2004)  (b) Suicide rates in Australia by age of victim (1993–2004)  (c) Suicide rates for each state and territory of Australia (1993–2004) Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006

Emotional aspects   165

surgical adjustment. Another boy came from a home where there was ongoing conflict, alcoholism and a general lack of support for him by his housebound father. In my experience they have all been boys. I know that suicide for males is at a higher rate than for females, and some research suggests this may have something to do with the methods they choose (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006). Generally males select more violent and conclusive methods than females. I think teachers are in a prime position to help students, but teachers are generally not trained counsellors and should keep this in mind at all times. %

Males 1994 Males 2004 Females 1994 Females 2004











75 and over

Age group (years)

Figure 6.3  Comparative ratio of suicide to total number of deaths in Australia in 1994 and 2004, by age and gender Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006

It helps to have a look at the literature, but remember much of the material written about suicide extends from researchers’ ‘best guesses’ about the reasons prompting suicide. Some insight is gained from those who have unsuccessfully tried to end their lives, but even then there may be some problems assuming that an unsuccessful attempt is the same as a successful one (that is, did they subconsciously want to fail?). It is a morbid topic, but as part of an overall appreciation of the experiences of adolescence it is important for each teacher to think it through. Suicide is sometimes considered in conjunction with consistent patterns of behaviour that seem to be shared by adolescents who appear to lack resilience. There are some resources available that describe some of the key differences between those ‘at risk’ of not coping with the trials and conflicts that most of us experience at some time or other, and those who are more likely to weather any personal trauma. (In the next chapter we will explore resilience further.) The literature in this area explains that adolescent students benefit immensely from strong mentor relationships they

166   The Millennial Adolescent

establish with adults. Adolescents who have a relationship with an adult who they feel accepts them unconditionally (that is not dependent on success or failure), who gives clear guidance, who shows genuine interest in their welfare and who shares some interests are the most resilient. Strong teachers can focus on striking these types of relationships with students (Merrell, 1999). Another strength or point of resilience is often the sense of religiosity or belief that an adolescent feels. Teens who have a strong faith (whatever the belief system) are often the most able to cope with the trials and conflicts they face (Merrell, 1999).

Suicide and depression Depression is a factor in many who suicide. Of course not all those who struggle with depression will attempt suicide, but since it does feature prominently for those who take their own lives it is useful to develop insight to some of the key indicators for depression.

Adolescent depression: diagnosis and treatment Table 6.6 lists some common precursor behaviours for people who attempt suicide. It is thought that any person with five of them is at great risk, perhaps only three should be an alert for a teacher. The signs for child and adolescent depression are remarkably similar to those for suicide: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Academic decline Disruptive behaviour, and problems with friends Sometimes one can also see aggressive behaviour, irritability and suicidal talk The parent may say that the adolescent hates himself and everything else Feel sad or cry a lot and it doesn’t go away Feel guilty for no real reason Life seems meaningless Have a negative attitude a lot of the time, or it seems like they have no feelings Don’t feel like doing a lot of the things they used to like and want to be left alone most of the time It’s hard to make up their mind, forget lots of things, and hard to concentrate Get irritated often Sleep pattern changes Eating habits change Feel restless and tired most of the time Think about death, or feel like they’re dying, or have thoughts about committing suicide.

Teachers should be alert to any behavioural changes that might indicate a student is not emotionally well. Some of the signs for depression will not be readily observable for teachers, but they may be able to understand more fully by asking questions and by getting the right team of professionals together to help a student.

Emotional aspects   167

Even if depression isn’t in evidence and the student is exhibiting a response to some sad event in their life that is temporary, it doesn’t hurt to try and give appropriate support. The fact that depression can be an undercurrent for suicidal thoughts may well mean you are saving someone’s life by just showing you care. Table 6.6  Suicide warning signs Some warning signs for suicide • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Preoccupation with death Talk of death /Preoccupation with death and dying Suicidal threats/talk Helplessness/hopelessness Behavioural changes/Withdrawal from family and friends Sudden change of mood Loss of interest in things previously of interest Giving away special possessions and making arrangements to take care of unfinished business. Making final plans (saying goodbye, letters, affairs in order) Depression Suicide attempt Difficulty with appetite and sleep Taking excessive risks Increased drug use

Risk factors for suicide Depression is one key risk factor for suicide, and Table 6.6 provides some sort of insight into what we should be looking for to identify those people at risk. But it is also important to understand the aspects of a person’s life that seem to coincide with suicide. Some of these are listed below. • • • • • •

• •

Previous suicide attempts; these can lower the threshold for suicidal response to environmental prompts. Having a close family member who has committed suicide can raise the profile of suicide in a person’s repertoire of possible responses to issues. Past psychiatric hospitalisation. Recent losses: this may include the death of a relative, a family divorce, or a break-up with a girlfriend, or humiliation. Social isolation: the individual does not have social alternatives or skills to find alternatives to suicide. Drug or alcohol abuse: drugs decrease control of impulses, making impulsive suicide more likely. Additionally, some individuals try to self-medicate their depression with drugs or alcohol. Exposure to violence in the home or the social environment: the individual sees violent behaviour as a viable solution to life problems. Handguns in the home, especially if loaded, provide opportunity.

168   The Millennial Adolescent

Suicide and schools Suicide of someone within your school community has far-reaching effects. Students can be incredulous: ‘My friend is still a kid: kids don’t die!’ Professional staff and parents may feel plagued by feelings of responsibility or ‘What ifs?’ There is some thought that postvention, full and considered response to the community in the event of someone taking their own life has a positive effect on reducing suicide in the future (Sewell, 2001). Postvention programs help people to express their emotions, to reflect on and celebrate the life that has been lost, and to share their angst with each other.

Steps we can take to prevent suicide Postvention is a powerful preventative measure for future suicide, but it is cold comfort given the circumstances for it to have the most potent effect. There are other preventative measures that seem to be effective, but they depend on people taking action in response to recognising dangerous warning signs and circumstances.

Three steps parents and teachers can take 1 2 3

When you notice a worrying change in behaviour, get your child professional help; insist, even if they reject the idea. When your child comes to you with concerns, support them, listen, avoid undue criticism, and remain connected. Become informed, find as much information as you can.

Teachers can also help by establishing the conditions for full discussion of the issues and the steps parents and friends can take to help.

Three steps teens can take When you notice a worrying change in behaviour, or if your friend tells you in confidence of their plans: 1 2 3

Take your friend’s actions seriously. Encourage your friend to seek professional help; accompany if necessary. Talk to an adult you trust. Don’t be alone in helping your friend.

Summary In this chapter we have explored the emotional and moral development of adolescents and some of the possible circumstances that can arise from conflict and distress. The constant theme is that a young person’s life is a product of their interactions with others, their family, their peers and their schools. We as professionals working with young people need to recognise that the path travelled through this time is not always easy and that many young people have incredible personal burdens to manage at the same time as they are coming to terms with who they are and what

Emotional aspects   169

they can offer the world. It is vital that we work as a team with other professionals to ensure there is balance and support for the maturation and growth that is needed for healthy adulthood.

Key points 1 2



5 6


Basic emotions, self-conscious emotions, and social emotions are the three types of emotions commonly referred to in the literature. Erikson proposed a theory of psycho-social development which was influential in the field. He tied emotional attributes to age brackets, and gave a comprehensive overview of the development over a person’s life span. His work has been criticised for its strict association between developmental characteristics and specific ages. A strength of Erikson’s work was its consideration of the influences of social contexts on emotional development. A person’s sense of self is significant to their emotional development. Perceptions of self are variously influenced by culture, self-esteem, self-concept and self-efficacy. Although being alone is desirable at times, protracted periods of isolation, or the feeling of being socially isolated can be very damaging to a person’s emotional wellbeing. Loneliness, although inevitable at some time or other, can have a profound influence on a range of negative behaviours for young people. Homelessness can develop from a fairly typical runaway scenario. Homelessness may exist in a variety of guises, and may be prompted by a variety of social factors. Young people experiencing homelessness are more likely to be exposed to harmful living conditions and to engage in risky behaviours. Specialists working with young people need to be alert to any indication that an adolescent is homeless and be familiar with the range of local help agencies that can assist. Professionals who work with young people should watch for certain characteristic behaviours as warning signs for potential delinquency.

Further thinking 1 2

In what ways do schools/teachers influence the development of identity for young people? What is meant by youth homelessness? What are the common antecedents for homelessness? Who can we categorise as ‘homeless’?

170   The Millennial Adolescent

3 How might a homeless adolescent perceive schooling? Why? How

would this impact on their school life and learning? 4 What are the ‘warning signs’ for suicide? Who is most at risk? 5 Consider how a teacher or school might comprehensively address 6 7 8

9 10 11


suicide prevention through policy and/or action. Where can teachers/schools turn for assistance in preventing suicide? How can teachers identify students who are experiencing feelings of isolation? What are key social, cognitive and behavioural skills that help students to avoid developing a sense of alienation? How might teachers help students to develop these skills? What are the implications for learning for students who are experiencing loneliness and/or alienation? In what ways might an individual’s identity impact upon their goal formation and motivation to learn? Some students seem to deliberately try to alienate themselves from authority and even their peers. What might the motivations be? How can teachers help? Is it possible to be happy and lonely at the same time? What type of things might contribute to an adolescent feeling lonely? What type of behaviours might act as a warning sign for teachers?

References Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006). Suicides Australia: 1994-2004. Report number 3309.0, released 11:30am (Canberra) Tuesday 14 March 2006. Retrieved January 4, 2007, from 25713000705C19/$File/33090_1994%20to%202004.pdf Bahr, N., Christensen, C., & Bahr, M. (2005). Profiling absolute pitch recognition. Psychology of Music, 33(1), 58–93. Bandura, A. (1995). Self-efficacy in changing societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bessant J., Sercombe, H., & Watts, R. (1998). Youth studies: an Australian perspective. Longman: Melbourne. Bor, W., Najman, J. M., O’Callaghan, M., Williams, G. M., & Anstey, K. (2001). Trends and issues in crime and criminal justice (No. 207): Aggression and the development of delinquent behaviour in children. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. Braebeck, M. (1982). Moral judgment: Theory and research on differences between males and females. Developmental Review, 3, 274–291.

Emotional aspects   171

Buchholz, E. Z., & Catton, R. (1999). Adolescents’ perceptions of aloneness and loneliness, Adolescence, 34(133), 203–213. Calhoun, C., Light, D., & Keller, S., (1997). Sociology. (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. Chamberlain, C., & MacKenzie, D. (1998). Youth homelessness: Early intervention & prevention. Sydney: Australian Centre for Equity through Education. Cotterell, J. (1996). Social networks and social influences in adolescence. London: Routledge. Council to Homeless Persons. (1998). Youth homelessness—Council to Homeless Persons Homelessness Information Sheets. Victoria: Author. Dryfoos, J. G. (1990). Adolescents at risk: Prevalence and prevention. New York: Oxford University Press. Erikson, E. H. (1976). Identity, youth and crisis. New York: Harper. Fischer, K. W., Wang, L., Kennedy, B., & Cheng, C-L. (1998). Culture and biology in emotional development. In D. Sharma & K. W. Fischer (Eds.), Socioemotional development across cultures (No. 81, 00.21-44). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Freud, S. (1966). The complete introductory lectures on psychoanalysis (J. Strachey, Trans.). New York: Norton. Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Heaven, P. C. L. (1994). Contemporary adolescence: A social psychological approach. Melbourne: Macmillan Education. Howard, J. (1991). Dulling the pain: Two surveys of Sydney street youth. Paper presented to the Ninth National Behavioural Medicine Conference: University of Sydney. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (The Burdekin Report). (1989). Our homeless children: Report of the National Inquiry into Homeless Children. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. Kimmel, D. C., & Weiner, I. B. (1995). Adolescence: a developmental transition (2nd ed.). New York: John Wiley and Sons. Kohlberg, L. (1984). Essays in moral development. Volume II: The psychology of moral development. San Francisco: Harper & Row. Kohlberg, L. (1987). The development of moral judgment and moral action. In L. Kohlberg, Child psychology and childhood education: A cognitive-developmental view (pp. 259–328). New York: Longman. Krause, K., Bochner, S., & Duchesne, S. (2003). Educational psychology for learning and teaching. Southbank, Victoria: Thomson Australia. Marcia, J. E. (1980). Identity in adolescence. In J. Adelson (Ed.), Handbook of adolescent psychology. New York: Wiley. Marsh, H. W. (1993). Academic self-concept: theory, measurement, and research. In J. Suls (Ed.), Psychological perspectives on the self: Vol. 4. (pp. 59-98). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Mason, J., & Marsden, A. (1998). Young homeless people & gambling— it’s just something to do. Sydney: Salvation Army (Sydney) and University of Western Sydney.

172   The Millennial Adolescent

Menon, U. (2000). Analyzing emotions as culturally constructed scripts. Culture and Psychology, 6(1), 40–50. Merrell, K. W. (1999). Behavioral, social, and emotional assessment of children and adolescents. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Piaget, J. (1932). The moral judgment of the child. (M. Gabain, Trans.). London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Pianta, R. C., & Walsh, D. J. (1996). High-risk children in schools: Constructing sustaining relationships. New York: Routledge. Rice F. P., & Dolgin, K. G. (2005). The adolescent: Development, relationships, and culture (11th ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Roberts, A. R. (1982). Adolescent runaways in suburbia: A new typology. Adolescence, 17, 379–396. Saarni, C., Mumme, D. L., & Campos, J. J. (1998). Emotional development: Action, communication, and understanding. In N. Eisenberg (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology, Vol 3: Social, emotional and personality development (5th ed., pp. 237– 309). New York: Wiley. Sewell, K. (2001). Suicide postvention in schools—Should we lift the cone of silence. In N. Bahr (Ed.), Adolescents in schools and communities ( pp. 81–93). Flaxton: Postpressed. Shweder, R. A., & Haidt, J. (2000). The cultural psychology of the emotions: Ancient and new. In M. Lewis & J. Haviland (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (2nd ed., pp. 397– 414). New York: Guilford. Smith, J. (1995a), Being young and homeless. Analysis and discussion of young people’s experiences of homelessness. The Salvation Army Youth Homelessness Research Project, Australia. Smith, J. (1995b). No place that’s home. Salvation Army report. Stewart, A., Dennison, S., & Waterson, E. (2002). Trends and issues in crime and criminal justice (No. 241): Pathways from child maltreatment to juvenile offending. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. Strein, W. (1995). Assessment of self concept. (ERIC Digest. Report: EDO-CG-95-14)(ERIC Document Reproduction Service: ED389962). Streitmatter, J. (1989). Identity development and academic achievement in early adolescence. Journal of Early Adolescence, 9(1–2), 99–116. Tomovic, V. A. (1979). Definitions in sociology: Convergence, conflict and alternative vocabularies. St. Catherines, Ontario: Diliton Publications, Inc. Turiel, E. (1983). The development of social knowledge: Morality and convention. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Turiel, E. (1998). Moral development. In N. Eisenberg (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology, Vol 3: Social, emotional, and personality development (5th ed., pp. 863–932). New York: Wiley. Turiel, E. (2001). Foreword. In L. Nucci, Education in the moral domain (pp. ix-xx). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Emotional aspects   173

Walker, L., DeVries, B., & Trevetham, S. (1987). Moral stages and moral orientations in reallife and hypothetical dilemmas. Child Development, 58, 842–858. Western Sydney Housing Information and Resource Network Incorporated (WESTHIRN) (2001). Report into the needs of Homeless Youth in Holroyd. Holroyd City Council [Online] Retrieved January 4, 2007, from community/homelessyouth.htm


Social beings Nan Bahr

Chapter summary •

• • •

• • • •

Social development — Theoretical foundations — Social identity — Values Culture — Gangs Family Resilience characteristics — Vulnerability — Protective factors Proactive development of lifelong resilience through adolescence — Things that work — Bullying Summary Key points Further thinking References

In this chapter we discuss some significant theories and models of social development. In doing so we will contemplate the nature and force of peer group influences as well as the influences of families, cultural heritage and lived experience. The chapter will consider birth order issues, family structures, responsibilities, pressures and family relationships and their impact on teaching and learning through adolescence. We will also discuss common issues that emerge in schools such as bullying, truancy, and academic performance problems from a social perspective.


Social beings   175

Peer obsession I remember well my own trip through secondary school. At the time, my family was considering moving across town. Now this wasn’t unusual since they had moved every three years as a condition of my father’s employment all the way through my schooling life to that point. I was quite used to being the new kid and don’t remember being traumatised by this in the least. But in secondary school the notion of abandoning my little clique was completely untenable. I remember feeling as though I could never leave my friends. I refused to move, and put on some very unseemly tantrums. I wasn’t pretending, I honestly felt my world would close in if I left my friends. This was odd really since the projected move was during my time in Year 9 and I’d only met the group of friends I considered myself inseparable from halfway through the previous year. I don’t remember much about my parents’ response. I do know that we didn’t shift and at the time I thought I had won. In reality I think the mortgage deal fell through and the option fell apart. The point here is that my friends, whom I lost track of within minutes of graduating from high school, were the sun to my orbit during high school. Peer orientation is a feature of adolescence and feeds the social development process. (Nan Bahr) •

How do you remember feeling about your peers during secondary school? Do you think you ever made decisions that were completely reliant on the relationships you had with your peers? How might peer orientation impact on classroom learning?

When people experience life difficulties they either cope or succumb. The capacity to manage through adversity is an important life skill that relies on a particular set of personal strengths. Adolescence is a perfect time to establish and hone these strengths. Professionals working with young people can have potent impact on the development of these specific strengths at the very time they are conceptualising themselves as adults. Many of these strengths are developed through social modelling. An important focus for the chapter will be on the opportunity for proactive development of lifelong resilience through adolescence. First we will discuss the nature of resilience and vulnerability and the notion of protective factors. We consider that by actively targeting those aspects of experience that characterise adolescence, teachers, parents and schools can create an environment that promotes healthy resilience characteristics. We will link the action options to the theoretical perspectives introduced and will give examples of positive action in schools.

176   The Millennial Adolescent

Social development Moving from childhood to adulthood involves a change in social interactions, relationships and social responsibility. One of these changes is the relationship we have with our family. As adults we have a different relationship with our parents than we did as children. We are not so reliant on them for decision making, direction or inspiration. In fact at some point we long for independence from controlling influences that may have been reassuring when we were children. This contrasts directly with childhood where significant others generally comprise the inner family circle. Adults generally seek to partner themselves with a peer who becomes their significant other. Moving from one state of family/peer orientation to the next involves a reconsideration of peer relationships. For many, this reorientation phase emerges as almost peer obsession. Peers develop shared understandings of appropriate behaviour, values and social interaction, and enforce these as law in the membership group. They become a sort of subculture in their own right. Ignorance of the rules is punished by exclusion from the group. This is a major process influencing social development.

Theoretical foundations Social development has been conceptualised in two fundamental ways by theorists; social cognitive theory and constructivist theory. First, social cognitive theory, considers that: People are neither driven by internal forces nor automatically shaped and controlled by external stimuli. Rather, human functioning is explained in terms of a model of triadic reciprocality in which behaviour, cognitive and other personal factors, and environmental events all operate as determinants of each other. (Bandura, 1986, p. 18)

In social cognitive theory, key influences for social development are role models, triadic reciprocality, observational learning, and perceived consequences (Bandura, 1986). Triadic reciprocality is a sophisticated way of describing some simple concepts. In effect it describes the way social behaviour is influenced by vicarious experience. When we observe the way others behave socially we tend to note the consequences of behavioural options and use this to inform our own social actions. When we observe others, there are five different effects (Bandura, 1986): 1 2 3 4 5

Inhibitory effects Disinhibitory effects Response facilitation effects Environmental enhancement effects, and Arousal effects.

Social beings   177

Inhibitory effects are when we decide from observing others the ways we shouldn’t behave. We might see someone punished socially for behaving in a particular way and make a mental note that we wouldn’t like the same sort of consequences for ourself. Conversely, disinhibitory effects are when we decide that we shouldn’t feel restricted in our behaviour. We might see someone ‘get away with’ something and this may lay the foundation for us assuming that the behaviour won’t reap negative effects. An example here might be if we see a mate benefit from shop stealing. Any prior notion that there would be automatic punishment might be diminished by their success. Of course social and moral facilitation for behaviour operate together—a strong set of values can prevent people from behaving immorally even if they do see that there might be no direct negative social outcome. Response facilitation effects are when we see that behaving in certain ways brings particular social rewards. This might encourage us to copy the behaviours so that we can experience the same positive social responses. Environmental enhancement effects are when we see that behaviours make circumstances better for everyone. We may decide to transpose behaviours we have seen in different contexts to our own circumstances to try and facilitate the same types of social conditions we have observed. Situation comedy and soap operas on television can be windows to other lives and can encourage young people to behave in order to facilitate particular social environmental conditions. In my day I was informed by ‘The Brady Bunch’. The life of ‘The Brady Bunch’ was a very sanitised presentation of family life but nevertheless made quite an impact on me. Of course television isn’t the only way we can be encouraged to behave for environmental enhancement effects. Visiting the homes of friends, reading, the wider media, and school curriculum can also play a part. Arousal effects are when we see a particular behaviour as causing exciting social outcomes. We might strive for the same types of excitement and so begin to incorporate the behaviours in our social repertoire. These five effects don’t necessarily work independently, and rely on our ability to learn through observation. In social cognitive theory it is proposed that people learn through observation via: • • • •

attention processes retention processes production processes, and motivational processes.

That is, we develop our social behaviour by noticing events, by remembering aspects about the way the event established and proceeded, then by identifying behaviours that seem feasible for us to pursue (aligning with our values system and

178   The Millennial Adolescent

beliefs regarding consequences), attempting to behave in certain ways to bring about desired social outcomes and satisfy our underlying motivations for the behaviours. A young girl might notice that her friend attracts attention from the boys in their class and might start to make a mental note of her behaviour. The girl might focus on particular things that her friend is doing as the key behaviours that seem to draw the desired response (attention process). These behaviours may be recalled when a situation arises when the young girl might like to gain the attention of a boy (retention processes). The girl might try to copy her friend’s behaviour with the idea of attracting the same positive social outcomes (production processes). The whole scenario would be held together by notions of facilitating desired consequences (motivational processes). Human beings have a wonderful way of thinking themselves into situations. We can visualise and imagine likely outcomes for ourselves. The five human capabilities that have a potent impact on setting our social framework are our: 1 2 3 4 5

Symbolising capability Forethought capability Vicarious capability Self-regulatory capability, and Self-reflective capability (Bandura, 1977).

That is, the way we can see links between rather obscure circumstances with situations we find ourselves in (symbolising capability). We can see through to the likely outcome of a set of behaviours by imagining the suite of responses that our actions may elicit (forethought capability). We can watch the ways others behave and draw lessons for ourself (vicarious capability). We can regulate our own behaviours to elicit desired outcomes (self-regulatory capability). We can critically examine the outcomes of our actions, adjusting our understanding of the link between action and outcome (self-reflective capability). All of the processes discussed above have derived from social cognitive theory. Constructivist theory, by comparison, considers predominantly the social learning that a person derives from their direct experience. Trial and error are key processes. Each time a person interacts socially they are supposed to develop a knowledge structure that will form the data bank for referral in future similar situations.

Social identity The ways we behave socially also reflect our sense of social identity. Our vicarious experiences and learning are made more potent if we can see the types of behaviours observed working well with our own sense of who we are. For example we might imagine ourselves to be an athletic jock. The way we interact with others will reflect

Social beings   179

the stereotypes we’d like to emulate to consolidate the jock image. We will look to others who appear to have established themselves with our desired identity and we might model our behaviour on the things we’ve seen them do in social situations. We will adopt mannerisms, dress style, and communication styles that enhance our desired image in an effort to align our social relationships with our developing social identity. Social identity can be more obscure, and can align more to personality characteristics than to stereotyped personas. For example, someone who feels that they are shy will only adopt behaviours that they feel are feasible within the limitations of their social anxiety. The media has a substantial cultural impact on the social identity and behaviour of adolescents. By endorsement of particular values and by allowing adolescents to vicariously experience various social behaviours and associated outcomes, the media overtly and tacitly moulds and positions adolescence in their social relationships and in the development of their social self-conceptions. Adolescents are provided with directions for social action, that is, models for cool/expected social behaviours, using time and money, and important ideas versus unimportant ones. The media suggests how teens should present themselves and what comprises the usual or expected behaviours and attitudes. For relationship development the media provides direction regarding who teens develop close relationships with and what should be the bounds or defining features of these relationships.

Values Values are the glue that holds social development together. Every act and omission reflects our values that are culturally inscribed. Values education in Australia is a key current theme of public discourse. It has been suggested that our adolescents lack a mature set of values, and hence by implication their social development is stunted (The Age, Monday, 9 February 2004). The Federal Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) developed a Values Education Program in response to Brendan Nelson’s vision (Federal Minister for Education, Science and Training) (Australian Government, 2005). The Nelson vision was that ‘comprehensive explicit values education will be as central to schooling as is transferring a thirst for learning. We all love talent, but in the end it is character that counts’ (Minister’s Foreword to Values education in action, 2005). The program was designed using a communitybased approach to identifying, articulating and implementing a values education program. Some of the barriers to quick development were that there was limited information about how schools approached values education; that it was difficult to establish a core set of values; and that it wasn’t clear if mature values were taught or caught. The program settled on articulating nine core values for Australia that would be developed and taught in all schools. They are listed on page 180.

180   The Millennial Adolescent

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Care and Compassion Doing Your Best Fair Go Freedom Honesty and Trustworthiness Integrity Respect Responsibility, and Understanding, Tolerance and Inclusion (Australian Government, Department of Education, Science and Training, 2005).

The community was heavily involved in vetting and developing the values to be included in the Values Education Program. A focus group of nine teachers from Brisbane raised some concerns. There was concern that the stated value set promotes simple tolerance rather than an embracing of difference. They also argued that recognition of difference and diversity of belief are fundamental to any school community, and that schools will need to promote the healthy development of a more than simply tolerant student population. They also felt that the value system espoused was primarily a behaviour management framework. This program has now rolled out in schools, and will form a framework for school attention to social development. Our values are, of course, tied to our culture.

Culture For many adolescents, if not all, a most potent influence is their own sense of culture as defined by their family and community affiliations, values and beliefs. Culture is defined as a commonly accepted way of life. Cultural identity is another potent force in social development. Our lived culture, that is our day-to-day routines, habits and actions, derive from home environments and our place within the home environment. Then there is the broader culture of the domestic society to which each of us aligns to some degree, and then there is the cultural heritage which may be different from domestic society (such as Bosnian Australians). Identification with cultural heritage can be to a greater or lesser degree depending on a range of factors including your exposure, familiarity with traditions and values, and the extent of immersion in a social or family group that identifies and maintains the traditions, values and beliefs of that culture. Finally, there is the culture of the adolescent. That is, the general cultural milieu that contemporary society offers the developing adolescent. Adolescence itself has been described as a kind of subculture, defined by Rice as ‘values and a way of life that are contrary to those found in adult society’ (1999, p. 237). Adolescent subculture can be considered in terms of adolescent societies and sub-systems, as well as deviant subcultures—these all exist in Australia.

Social beings   181

Subcultures are cultures within cultures that have distinct characteristics, ways of thinking and acting. Adolescents who identify with a subculture have shared perspectives and behaviour. According to Downes (1966) subcultures can be formed outside the dominant context (such as the minority culture) or within the context of majority culture and they can be positive or negative. A positive subculture can emerge as a response to the social/cultural structure, for example, age-group subcultures. Negative subcultures deny compliance with the dominant social and cultural norms. The media often provide currency to subcultures through circulation of the subcultural themes. For example, surf culture has been portrayed in soaps like ‘Home and Away’, and deviant culture and Hip-Hop culture through endorsement and marketing of cliques, names, clothing and initiations. Adolescent subcultures can be many and varied. Some common youth group typologies are: Youth movements (e.g. punk); Youth groups (e.g. mallies); Wannabe groups (territorial groups); Criminal groups (short term); Street gangs (longer term).

Gangs Gangs are particular types of youth subculture. It would appear that young people who are a part of a gang seek the membership and sense of identity that the group offers. The social development of adolescents is nurtured by engagement with their gang peers. To some extent then, gangs can be viewed as an extension of the pursuit of an individual’s social identity. The sense of belonging felt through gang membership can serve to counteract the effects of dysfunctional families, identity conflict, academic difficulties and/or stress. The direction, emotional strength and support gained by a youth through gang or cult membership can be a positive personal experience, especially where the gang/cult leader (if there is one) takes on a paternal role with members. However, violence, public destruction and other illegal activity are common to gangs (as opposed to ‘groups’ of youth). The shelter that a gang provides for members and their shared sense of belonging acts as a base for engagement in a variety of behaviours, many negative. Some adolescents are attracted to violence, or commit violent acts out of a personal representation of social facilitation that includes violence. These representations can be developed through media constructions, family and significant other modelling. Through their search for identity and belonging some adolescents turn to cult membership instead of gangs. There are common antecedents for gang formation and effective prevention strategies and community responses to gangs. For the most part, the attributes of a gang or the reason for membership are the same as any other clique of young people. Important in these are the pursuit of similar interests, similar appearance, and need for social belonging. Gang membership, though, includes involvement in

182   The Millennial Adolescent

gang-related behaviour that is often criminal and directed at illegal activity and money making. Through engagement in these activities young people can gain social status with peers and a street reputation. This can be built on the gang’s shared sense of honour, personal integrity and territory. The gang provides an avenue for retreat, with young people finding withdrawal from mainstream society or simply their family. Unfortunately all these orientations can also lead to an involvement in substance abuse of various types (drugs, alcohol). Gang membership often adopts a kind of street culture favouring certain music preferences, ways of speaking, graffiti, and body ornamentation. The overt nature of this culture provides a readily recognisable sense of identity, which satisfies a central need for young people. Although there are commonalities between gangs, it is also true that gangs are diverse, gangs change over time in membership, orientation and identifying elements. As a result, reactions to gangs vary and effective responses are diverse. As professionals working with young people it is quite instructive to note the type of needs that gang membership provides for, and to consider the nature of social development being developed.

Family There are several key issues with regard to the place of family generally in the lives of young people, and specifically with regard to influence on social development. Even aside from the cultural stamp that a family gives, the nature of the interactions, the structure, the management of daily concerns and so forth all have a substantial impact on young people. Family considerations are very complex. There is no standard or regular structure for a family. Australian adolescents are parts of an extensive range of family organisations, but whatever the structure, the complex interrelationships between each individual in a family have potent bearing on adolescent development. They influence their goals, motivations, learning styles and social development. Many adolescents have a complex set of responsibilities and pressures with respect to their family roles. These can have important influences on their schooling and life expectations and can align to the family structure and the adolescent’s place in that structure. For example the eldest child may be relied upon for emotional support, for household management responsibilities, and/or for child care of younger children. In single parent families, there may be an offset to the balance of adult responsibilities with the child assuming greater influence in household decision making than they might otherwise. There are too many variations to consider here. Rice (2006) considers adolescents within their families. The relationship that parents have with their children is especially important as the children go through adolescence. The tension that exists between moving from child to adult at different rates, depending on the context and the young person’s sense of identity, can throw

Social beings   183

the parent/child relationship into turmoil. Rice discusses the conflicts that may occur during this time under five headings: social life and customs, responsibility, school, family relationships and values and morals. Examples include: the adolescent’s view of appropriate social activity may be at odds with their parents’; they might try to escape being included in family social customs to make a case for their independence; they may react to expectations for acceptance of responsibilities that they had avoided as children; and they may see the purpose of schooling in a different light to their parents. These types of conflict are normal and common and are worked through according to the established and developing family relationships and values and morals. The way a family resolves these conflicts provides the fundamental models for social engagement in intimate relationships through adulthood. An important transition that is experienced by many adolescents is divorce or separation of their parents. Many adolescents survive these situations well. It is the quality of the relationships within the home that are important in riding through the confronting challenges. However, divorce or any family upheaval can unsettle young people, impacting on their learning and motivation at school. If academic performance falls behind and/or the young person begins to develop a need to belong and be valued, then there are potential negative outcomes in both the short and long terms on many aspects of their life, particularly their social development. It is quite clear that it is not the structure of a family or the fact that there have been dramatic family transitions (divorce, death of a parent and so on), but the quality of interaction among members of an adolescent’s family that has the clearest influence on school success, social development and the development of identity (Benard, 2004). High achieving kids describe their parents as sharing, understanding, approving, trusting, affectionate, and encouraging (not pressuring), not overly restrictive or severe in discipline. There is some evidence that family size can impact on development, with smaller families having particular advantages due to the availability of parents for attention and care and access to more resources (Rice & Dolgin, 2005). Even so, the most important issue is that children of the family were planned and wanted and that the life stage of parents permits active involvement and resourcing for the family. Current issues in the literature focus on the impacts of grandparents raising kids (Yi, Pan, Chang & Chan, 2006); stepfamilies (Schmeeckle, Giarrusso, Feng & Bengtson, 2006); female headed households; father absent homes; birth order; family responsibilities and pressures (Rhodes & Hoey, 1994); and latch key kids on the social development of young people. To date there is no clear template for a singular path to positive social development with regard to family influences. It remains that young people seem to flourish and develop social maturity in environments where they are loved and where there is open and responsive communication. These influences also feature in the development of resilience in adolescence.

184   The Millennial Adolescent

Resilience characteristics Resilience has been defined as the ability to bounce back when things go wrong (Fuller, 2004), or as the competence displayed by individuals, despite exposure to stressful life circumstances. The latter description seems the most compelling. The conception of resilience as a competence seems like a useful perspective. A competence is something that can be actively developed, that can be taught, practised, demonstrated and deployed. If resilience is considered a competence then the implication is that we can impact on young people’s lives beyond adolescence by providing the right configuration of experiences and learning events. On the other hand, if resilience is considered a trait, an inborn attribute, then we may as well sit back and watch kids and adults sink or swim in the face of adversity as they play out their genetic cards. The trait-based version of resilience is not useful. We are going to make the bold assumption that we can impact on the development of resilience for young people, and there are a number of sound arguments to support this stance. The strongest argument is that the characteristics of a resilient individual appear to include perspectives that are developed through adolescence and that appear to respond to intervention and focused attempts for development. Another argument for considering that resilience is something that can be developed is that it is the most compassionate approach. If we assume otherwise and do nothing to actively promote attributes we know improve resilience, then we are dooming people to suffer the nastiest consequences of adversity. It seems a callous approach to refuse to actively attempt to develop resilience attributes because it is assumed to be an immutable trait. A recurrent question is ‘How do you know if someone will be resilient?’ We can test them against common or shared characteristics of people who have demonstrated resilience in the past, but this is not straightforward. The following examples are some of the suggested common markers for resilient people that are touted from time to time in the literature.

High self-esteem It has been suggested that people with high self-esteem have a good chance of bouncing back after a knock. This is not easy to establish. Self-esteem can fluctuate, sometimes even over a single day.

Resilience In some research, it has been shown that people who have demonstrated resilience are generally more resilient than others at another time. Again this is not easy to establish and it would hardly be ethical to subject young people to adversity simply to test if they were likely to be resilient.

Social beings   185

Strong identity People with strong identities are also considered to be more resilient. Like selfesteem though, this is a moveable feast, and becomes a particularly complicated issue when we consider that people hold multiple identities. It is possible for the same person to be less resilient for some events than others because of the way the events resonate with their various identities.

Sense of belonging People who feel as though they belong are stronger. While this is very likely, it is also very hard to test. It is extremely common for someone to appear overtly to align with a group and yet hold themselves privately apart from the group. They may indeed feel desperately alone and lonely in the crowd. This may be impossible to see.

Happiness Happiness is like self-esteem and also belonging. Even if we could be sure we are observing happiness, it is quite easy to feign, it is a transient and variable state. The observation that happy people are more resilient is not very useful.

It would appear that we cannot reliably identify those young people who are likely to be resilient. Indeed it is often very surprising to see which young people succumb to pressures. Suicide of high achieving young people happens relatively frequently and comes as a complete surprise to many who have admired them for their achievements, attitude and disposition. It is therefore safest to assume that all young people, regardless of whether they seem vulnerable or not, could benefit from a focused attempt to develop resilience attributes.

Vulnerability It is a little easier to identify vulnerability. Vulnerability is a term that refers to an individual’s susceptibility to negative developmental outcomes when exposed to risk conditions. There are two broad foundations to vulnerability: additive and multiplicative. Additive foundations to vulnerability are enacted when risk factors accumulate, correlating with the likely negative outcome. For example, a young student may come to class without a pen, a rather minor failing. When queried, the reaction may seem way out of proportion with the trigger. There may be tears, angry outbursts, nasty comments and so forth that seem out of character for the child, and certainly out of left field with respect to the incident at hand. This may be the observable result of additive development of vulnerability. You might not be aware for example

186   The Millennial Adolescent

that the student already today had experienced a relentless series of minor upsets with this one being the last straw. They may have slept in, missed the bus, forgotten their lunch, lost excursion money, torn their trousers, fallen over, upset a mate unintentionally and so on, each minor crisis adding to the others and building the student up one by one to a heightened level of stress and vulnerability. Multiplicative aspects to vulnerability are when some risk factors may enhance others. That is, a young person may be at heightened vulnerability because there is something in their life that tends to magnify the effects of other negative events. For example, a young student may have poor communication skills and this may exacerbate the fact that they feel alone, and may make every small incident, even the forgotten pen seem a crushing blow. But what does it mean to say someone is vulnerable? The literature is not very helpful on this point. Vulnerable to what? Let us contend that vulnerability is not just about having a bad day, but refers more broadly to a young person’s chances of not enjoying a satisfying and fulfilled adulthood, later social maladjustment, injury, harm or death. There are times in all our lives when pressures mount, disappointment or failures accumulate, support means seem remote and so forth. We are all vulnerable. It is perhaps more helpful to examine what the contributing factors to vulnerability are than to examine the markers for resilience. Perhaps by identifying vulnerabilities we can at least try and build up the characteristics that counteract it. There are three sources of being vulnerable—events, personal attributes, and social attributes.

Events Events feature as a trigger for many negative emotive and stress responses by people. A series of personally upsetting or traumatic events can overload an individual’s ability to cope over time and can outweigh an individual’s conception of their abilities. So they are not able to cope. The key here is the individual’s conceptions. It is often astonishing to see the types of responses some people have to the most alarming sets of circumstances. I’m reminded of the Monty Python Black Knight scene from the movie ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ (c.1975). In that scene the Black Knight is determined to stop the progress of his opponents. During the battle that ensues he is progressively cut down, losing his legs, and his arms one by one leaving him lying as just a trunk with a head on the ground, declaring ‘It’s only a flesh wound!’ An extreme picture, but we all know of young people who have doggedly maintained a positive outlook despite being subject to dramatic negative health and personal events. Unfortunately there is not much we can do to prevent people experiencing negative life events. The key to resilience for people who get through these situations is their conception of their ability. They believe they can cope, and so they do. I know of an elderly lady who recently experienced car trouble that resulted in a breakdown

Social beings   187

at a busy intersection. She had a mobile phone with her, but didn’t know who to call, she didn’t know what was wrong with the car, and didn’t know how to move it out of the intersection. Instead of trying to do anything, she sat and cried. This lady had been through a lot in her life and managed well, but in this circumstance she just didn’t feel she had the capacity to solve the problem. It would seem logical that if we could help people consider themselves competent to act in any adverse situation, we might have a greater chance of resilience. This personal conception of capability relies on their personal attributes.

Personal attributes The personal attributes that someone brings to a set of debilitating events can definitely make the difference between surviving or succumbing. The types of things that are important here are shown below.

Problem-solving strategies A person with a capacity to apply a suite of highly developed problem-solving strategies for the resolution of difficulties will be well placed for any emergent problem. If someone has only one strategy then they might have trouble if they are unable to use it. If you rely on your mobile phone to call for help and the battery is flat, then you’re in trouble. The same goes for more complex issues. Thankfully it is possible to teach people a variety of strategies through explicit lesson design that allow people to work through staged problems from a number of different angles. It is also very useful to talk through the ways others have solved problems, when appropriate, as this can feed learning from a vicarious perspective.

Broad outlook A person with a broad outlook on life will try to place any event or series of events into the larger picture. This can help them to ride through disruptions more easily. Total immersion in the elements of a single problem can make it seem like there is no way out and that options for action are constrained. This may amplify the direct effects of a state of affairs. For example, a young person who feels that their life depends on success in a particular exam can be utterly devastated if they don’t go as well as they’d hoped. Again, a broad outlook can be actively developed by alerting people to wider issues and options as well as orienting them towards the larger picture.

Self-esteem Although we have argued that self-esteem is not a reliable, stable indicator for resilience, we do know that low self-esteem can be dangerous. People who

188   The Millennial Adolescent

feel they are worthless, with little agency or skill and so forth generally don’t feel empowered to resolve problems for themselves. It is possible to build someone’s general baseline self-esteem by developing their strengths. By alerting individuals to their strengths and the types of things that they can lever for change, it can impact on their orientation to self-reliance in problem situations and to consideration of wider issues beyond dwelling on their own failings.

Self-schema This is what we know about ourselves. Someone who reasonably knows their limits and strengths will be able to consider more capably their competence to resolve or impact on difficult circumstances.

Emotion awareness Many people are not in tune with their emotions. They may not realise that they are gradually feeling more and more anxious; they may not notice that they have been irritable, or even that they have been basically happy. This can mean that they allow their emotions to escalate to a point where they are making circumstances worse by their involvement. Alternatively, it may mean that they elect to give something up to resolve a problem when actually they will be losing the thing that really makes them happy. This can make them vulnerable in the future. It is possible to alert people to their emotions and to help them to develop ways to manage them.

Repertoire of learnt behaviours People refer to their own experiences for insight to appropriate ways to respond in any given situation. If their experiences have been negative, perhaps their parents have drunk themselves into a stupor when they have been upset, or reacted violently and aggressively, then young people may do the same simply because they have no other concept for how to behave. This makes them particularly vulnerable since they inevitably choose actions that exacerbate their situation. It is possible to present young people with a range of alternatives through role playing, critical examination of incidents on film and so forth. In this way we can expand their learnt repertoire so they can choose more positive approaches when they have to respond to difficulties.

Biology In our chapter on physical development through adolescence we noted the hormonal and brain changes that occur. These can destabilise young people and make it even more difficult for them to think clearly about their ways through difficulties. In fact the morphing experience can itself present difficulties for them. Coping with

Social beings   189

these changes can be assisted by reassurance and information. People who are well prepared for changes are better able to maintain a broad outlook.

Psychopathology It is also true that many lifelong struggles with mental health conditions often start during adolescence. These people are particularly vulnerable. Although most of us have little expertise in alleviating these problems for the sufferer, we can be alert to the possibility that specialised professional help and intervention may be needed. By being aware of the young people at risk and instigating a professional response, these young people can be better assisted to a happy and healthy life.

Dependence People who are highly dependent on others are vulnerable, particularly if those supports are not available. It is helpful to develop self-reliance by providing experiences where adolescents are encouraged to test themselves. These experiences can be organised so that they are progressively more demanding; this can demonstrate to the individual their competencies for managing. For young people it is tempting to provide a great deal of guidance. It is important that instead of managing all their personal administration for them, we provide some guidance and then progressively step back so they assume control of their own activities. This will set them up well for developing a less dependent outlook.

Locus of control People with an external locus of control are more vulnerable than people with an internal locus of control. An external locus of control exists where someone believes that events, outcomes and even their own scope for action is determined by others or by factors external to them. With this perspective it is presumed that an individual’s actions are unlikely to make any impact on the possible outcomes. Taken to extremes, the people just wait for doom (or Nirvana) to arrive. The alternative orientation, the internal locus of control, presumes much more agency for the individual. People with this perspective believe that they are the agents of their own destiny and that they need to plan and act to resolve any difficulties. A healthy balance is the best position, as exemplified by the Serenity Prayer that goes something like: ‘Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference’ (Reinhold Niebuhr in Walton, 2003). We can help young people by providing them with real agency in their lives, and for the big issues that impact upon their lives. By developing a sense of activism in young people we can position them to be less vulnerable when nasty things happen.

190   The Millennial Adolescent

For each of these personal attributes it is possible to make a difference to reduce the likely vulnerability of individuals.

Social attributes The third element that creates vulnerability is the individual’s social attributes. Key components here are the support network; interpersonal skills; experience of rejection or neglect; family relationships and poverty (financial and social). The support network is only relevant to someone if it is available, approachable, and interested. It can seem to an onlooker that a young person has a very effective support network. They may have a compassionate family that quite clearly cares for them and provides for them. However, the young person may feel that they don’t have the necessary support network if any of the three elements of availability, approachability or interest is missing from what most concerns them. For example, a boy may fancy a girl that for some reason his parents don’t like. They may simply prefer him not to have any girlfriend and to focus his attention on study. If the boy develops a close relationship with the girl then the family may be unhappy. In time, if the girl in question breaks up the relationship, the family may be relieved and say that they are pleased it is over. The boy, although distressed, may feel as though he has no functional support network because his family may not show empathy for his feelings of rejection, that is they are not as interested as he would like them to be. Similar feelings of isolation from a support network can develop if the family become too busy to have important conversations with young people—they may seem unavailable or unapproachable. Interpersonal skills such as communication, listening, anger management are also featured in the social elements of vulnerability. Not having the ‘words’ to talk to others about problems is something experienced by young people to a greater or lesser degree. Not having communication outlets of a more abstract kind (such as music, visual art, poetry or prose) can also hamper young people trying to cope with adversity. As professionals working with young people we can help develop their confidence across a variety of communication avenues. Sharing and expressing concerns can help relieve young people of some anxiety associated with negative events.

Communication skills and vulnerability I recall the terribly sad story of a 22 year old man who attended a school in Brisbane in the same class as Year 9 students (13 year olds). That wasn’t the sad part though. This man had arrived in Australia as the latest chapter in what had been a life of mobility. Since early childhood he had spent no longer than three years in any location around the world. As an orphan from a war-torn zone, he had been shifted from one relative to the next, from one country or city to the next, and continued 

Social beings   191

most problematically, from one language to the next, or to another dialect at every relocation. The result had been that he had developed little more than functional language in any tongue. He was able to talk about basic concepts to about the level of an articulate four year old in the variety of languages of his background, but he had not developed language sufficiently to describe his feelings, his deepseated concerns, or indeed to even think about them to understand them. He was deeply alone, and instead of having the language communication skills of the typical adolescent, able to raise and discuss his emotional experiences, he was relegated to experiencing very functional and purely pragmatic relationships with others. His lack of communication skills made it even more difficult for him to respond positively to any negative events in his life. (Nan Bahr) • •

How common do you imagine this type of difficulty to be? What would be your response to the needs of this man and the rest of his class?

Other social attributes that shape vulnerability are experiences of rejection, neglect or poverty. Rejection and neglect can of course be quite potent, but they can also be influenced significantly by a person’s perspective. A young person may imagine they have been rejected by their teacher, for example, if the busy teacher rushed past them without stopping to respond fully to the young person’s greeting. Young people are inclined to see themselves as the centre of the universe, and may not appreciate the busyness and distraction of the teacher. In this situation they may, unreasonably, feel rejected. Poverty can be financial, resource-based or social. Social poverty can arise in communities where there is no culture for young people to engage with or if their neighbourhoods provide few activities for them to enjoy. This can happen in remote and rural regions, but can also be a feature of suburban neighbourhoods. The corridor from Ipswich through to the western suburbs of Brisbane is an area that historically has not had extensive opportunities or facilities for young people to enjoy recreationally. This is currently being addressed by community action groups, but not before there had been problems in the area for many young people who were at a loose end day after day. It would appear then that vulnerability arises from a complex and convoluted set of characteristics and circumstances. There are many ways we can help to equip young people for adversity and it helps to look carefully at the type of things that make them vulnerable and try to counteract their impact by actively targeting the development of skills.

192   The Millennial Adolescent

Protective factors Another way of looking at the development of resilience is from examining the characteristics of those people that seem to cope best in rotten circumstances—the ‘protective factors’ (Benard, 1991, 2004). Bonnie Benard suggested an organising framework for considering the types of protective factors that emerge. Although her work is a little old now, there has recently been a resurgence of interest in it as professionals are beginning to rediscover useful insights. Benard described protective factors in five dimensions: 1 2 3 4 5

Social competence—responsiveness, flexibility, caring and empathy, communi­ cation skills and a sense of humour Problem-solving skills—the ability to plan, to be resourceful seeking help from others, to think creatively, critically and reflectively Critical consciousness—a reflective awareness of the structures of oppression Autonomy—identity sense, ability to act independently and exert control over environment, task mastery sense, internal locus of control, self-efficacy Sense of purpose—optimism, goal direction, bright future, educational aspirations, achievement motivation, persistence, hopefulness, spiritual connectedness (Benard, 2004).

Most of these are self-explanatory, but worthy of special note is the potence of a sense of humour and spirituality. A person that can maintain a sense of humour is more likely to cope when things go wrong. Anecdotally, this has been a key attribute for the selection of elite soldiers for Special Forces, or for officer training in the Australian Defence Force. The presence of spirituality, or otherness in one’s concept of the world and events, gives people strength and comfort, and often a supportive community to help through adversity. It doesn’t matter what the religion is, it’s the sense of otherness in one’s life that is the key. Many of the attributes for vulnerability and the protective factors for resilience are likely to fluctuate in time. Neither vulnerability nor resilience are fixed constructs. This means it is impossible to identify those people who are most likely to succumb when things go wrong. It can be the most ordinary child who demonstrates incredible strength when things suddenly go haywire in their life. In the same way, young people who commit or attempt suicide are often seemingly the most unlikely victims. We all know of young people who were strong academics, appeared to be well liked by others, may even have been in the Student Council of their school and who have committed suicide. The lesson here is that it is not advisable to target for development only those young people who appear most at risk. In fact we are all at risk. We never know when things will start to go wrong in our lives. Each of us experiences times when pressures mount and we feel really challenged.

Social beings   193

Proactive development of lifelong resilience through adolescence We need to assume that all of us need resilience development. Adolescence is a perfect time to lay the foundations for lifelong resilience. We should target adolescence to develop attributes because this is the very time that individuals are focusing their development on the type of things that have been shown to make a difference. As discussed in my earlier work, this is when adolescents are developing their identity, sense of belonging, skills for personal organisation, interpersonal relationships, and their responsibility for themselves (Bahr, 2005).

Things that work We can help adolescents to develop a sense of personal academic achievement, by focusing our values on overall goals rather than performance goals. Schools that encourage students to recognise their own improvements and mastery will help them to consider their fortune in terms of their own efforts. This goes a long way to establishing an internal locus of control. We can help every adolescent to feel a sense of positive self-concept, by providing a broad range of experiences where they can discover which things come easily and which ones they can excel in, as well as the things that are more difficult for them. A breadth of experience that includes exposing personal weaknesses can help them to appreciate their strengths and not feel undermined if they fail at something one day. We can provide directly for the development of an internal locus of control by actually giving adolescents some real choice in their lives. By providing them with opportunities to devise plans to address issues and then put these into operation, we can show them how they can make an impact through their own actions. It is important in this exercise that they are not provided with an overt safety net to avoid things going wrong. We can provide the experience of supported and shared failure in an environment where the elements can be discussed and deconstructed. This can be very beneficial. Failure without shame is an important part of empowering people to solve their own problems. The suggestion is not that we should set people up to fail, but rather that we should focus on support when it happens rather than overt intervention, if the stakes are not too high. Communication and self-help skills can also be actively developed. We can introduce adolescents to new ways of communicating by teaching ways of playing music or practising oral communication through debating teams or drama, or by demonstrating new forms of visual art. We can use scenarios that explore strategies for solving problems that can expose adolescents to the types of support networks that are available to them in their neighbourhood, school, broader community, or even the Internet. This can provide them with avenues for self-help when and if they need them.

194   The Millennial Adolescent

It is important to encourage a high activity level for young people. They need to be engaged in a variety of different groups and activities. At the same time, it is important to maintain quiet time in their lives. People who don’t learn to manage their own leisure time often suffer if they become unemployed or if they find themselves alone. We can explicitly teach cognitive skills, strategies for thinking through problems and metacognitive skills for checking progress in the direction of our intent. We teach young people to cyclically ask themselves the following questions. • • • •

What am I hoping to achieve? What would be my best course of action? What is the first thing I need to do? Is this getting me any closer to the desired outcome?

Some lucky people happen onto a good solution the first time they need to solve something. This can make them feel confident and the strategy/ies may work in most situations. However, if one day that same strategy is not appropriate they can be left confused and paralysed. Some people are unlucky, the first time they try to solve something for themselves, they get it wrong and exacerbate the situation. This can cause them to lose confidence and assume that they can have little impact on outcomes. Both these scenarios are quite common. By actively teaching problem-solving strategies and working through a variety of solutions to the same problems, as well as deliberately selecting scenarios that have more than one possible effective solution, we can help people to act more productively in unknown future situations. Coping strategies can also be taught. We can show people how to manage their time, how to work through conflict, how to prioritise, goal set, identify strengths and so on. There are very many resources available to help us attend to these programmatically in schools and community groups. We can link people with social and support networks and we can encourage the development of a personal relationship with a positive role model. People who have had a strong connection with a positive role model during adolescence are much more resilient throughout their life. We can help young people to connect with a role model. It is not as easy as simply saying, ‘Hey John, meet Alex.’ People choose their own role models, but it is helpful to know the types of things that may strengthen the influence of a model and then it is possible to try and facilitate opportunities for the relationship to develop. The influence of a potential role model is increased when, in the eyes of the young person, they fulfil the following criteria: • • • •

attractiveness (physical and emotional) social power (over reward and punishment) status (perceived importance of the model) competence (specifically in an area of shared interest)

Social beings   195

• • •

nurturance (perceived concern for the observer) interaction level with observer (degree of contact, energy of contact), and similarity (characteristics in common, or expected due to similar life circumstances or genetic heritage).

All of these things work to a greater or lesser degree. We can build resilience by giving and expecting responsibility, giving creditable choice, allowing people to experience natural consequences of their actions, celebrating mastery and openly discussing failure, recognising that everyone experiences some degree of success, and encouraging and facilitating relationships with positive role models. We can explicitly teach and demonstrate a range of life strategies (such as problem solving, behaviour modelling), using authentic experience as prompts. The complexity of the types of development that help young people toward resilience indicate any approach needs to be proactive, holistic, and part of an ongoing ethos rather than a ‘program’ for implementation. It is impossible to tell who is actually going to be tested so we have to assume all of us are. Of course it would be irresponsible not to recognise that some young people are at greater risk than others. Low academic achievement has been identified as a prominent foundation for many at-risk adolescents. Some adolescents have particular behaviours or limits (physical, circumstantial etc.) that place them at risk (such as eating disorders). The term ‘at risk’ is used in contemporary literature and research for those people who through their behaviours and attitudes are at risk of experiencing unfulfilled and unhappy lives, perhaps even placing their own lives at risk through the adoption of specific risky behaviours (Merrell, 1999). At risk then encompasses a broad range of activities from delinquent behaviour to eating disorders. Although not true of eating disorders, academic under-achievement is a common precursor and is beginning to be considered as an antecedent for most atrisk behaviour.

Bullying The experience of bullying is one of the negative things that pervades adolescence. Almost 80 per cent of adults I have asked in the last few weeks (N=25) have told me that they were bullied during their adolescence. Bullying can be low through to high level and its impact relies greatly on those resilience characteristics we discussed earlier. Verbal bullying such as name-calling or putdowns, threats, teasing, including sexual harassment and innuendo (this form of abuse might also be extended to a written form through e-mail or SMS) are perhaps the most common types. Physical bullying, being punched, tripped or kicked, or having your belongings stolen or damaged, and—at the extreme end—sexual abuse, are the next common category. Social bullying, being left out, ignored or having rumours spread about you is a type that young adolescent girls favour. This has a particularly potent impact on

196   The Millennial Adolescent

adolescents who tend to be sensitive about their social acceptance. Psychological bullying is the final type. This occurs when people are given dirty looks or stalked. Psychological bullying is often less obvious or direct than other forms of bullying, making people feel intimidated or manipulated.

Quiet and poisonous bullying I remember I was teaching a pair of boys the tuba at a music camp. As the lesson progressed the youngest of the pair, who was also quite a lot younger than the other boy, disintegrated into tears and declared that he never wanted to play the tuba again. I was very distressed since he seemed to be going fine and his reaction seemed out of proportion to any difficulties he was having. His mum came to see me to ask why he had reacted so strongly, especially since he had been so keen up to that lesson. She clearly thought I was a dragon who had berated her son. I was mystified, and later on asked the boy in more depth why he felt so distressed. He told me that the other boy, who was in my eyes just an observer of the whole issue, had told him before I’d arrived and while they were setting up that the younger boy was a terrible player and that he would never be any good. The young boy had ignored him at that stage, but through the lesson, the older boy whispered under his breath ‘See … .’ every time the young boy made a mistake. By the end of the lesson the young boy was convinced he was an awful player and was devastated. And so the effects of psychological bullying were shown very clearly to me. (Nan Bahr) • •

Have you ever experienced psychological bullying? Do you believe it is essentially more or less damaging than physical bullying? Most schools have an anti-bullying policy. What would you include in a policy designed to eradicate bullying?

There is extensive literature on bullying. The bottom line is that anyone can be a bully; there is no clear stereotype. People bully others for a number of reasons, such as: • • • •

low self-esteem or a victim of violence themselves may use bullying as a way of making themselves feel more powerful bullying can become a way of dealing with their own problems, or bullies can be motivated by jealousy, lack of knowledge, fear or misunderstanding.

There are a few helpful tips to communicate to those being bullied or who may be bullied in the future (which is pretty well all adolescents):

Social beings   197

• • • • • •

where possible, ignore the bully (including mobile phone or e-mail bullying) build a mental wall around yourself stay positive hang around other people be confident, and keep out of the bully’s way.

Basically the idea is to convince young people that they do not need to internalise and suffer what the bully says about them. They will also need self-help strategies to ensure they can get appropriate support to extinguish the bullying. This is one area where adolescents can really reduce their problems by developing resilience through proactive strategies.

Summary In this chapter we have had a tour of some key theories regarding the nature of social development, and we have explored the concept of resilience, vulnerability and the proactive development of protective factors. Social and resilience development are absolutely tied to adolescence. This is the time when people develop identity, independence, sense of agency, and social skills. It is the time of our lives when life skill development has the most potent and long-term impact.

Key points 1




People are fundamentally social beings, and during adolescence the focus is on consciously developing those aspects of ourselves which help us to feel as though we belong, and as though we have a sense of coherent identity. Social interactions, relationships and expectations change dramatically during adolescence. Young people are not so reliant on family for decision making, and forge independence from childhood-controlling influences. Orientation often turns toward peer relationships and influences, emerging for some as a peer obsession. Fear of exclusion from the group at this time of heightened need for belonging can drive young people to behave so as to attract peer approval through conforming in various ways (dress codes, language, general behaviour/demeanour). Social cognitive theory describes triadic reciprocality as a key process in social development. Basically the idea is that we learn to behave socially through observing the behaviour, and the effects of that behaviour, of others.

198   The Millennial Adolescent



7 8

Human beings have particular social capabilities that enhance their social development and reliance on social frameworks. The five human capabilities are symbolising, forethought, self-regulation, selfreflecting, and vicarious capabilities. Resilience is the ability to bounce back when things go wrong. People can develop characteristics that make them more resilient in the face of diversity. The types of characteristics that help people to be resilient are learnt and developed during adolescence, and then are nurtured and honed throughout life. Vulnerability is a term used to describe susceptibility to negative outcomes when a person is exposed to risk conditions. Protective factors have been organised in a framework by Bonnie Benard (2004). The framework has five dimensions: social competence, problem-solving skills, critical consciousness, autonomy, and sense of purpose.

Further thinking 1 2 3 4

In what ways can an individual teacher assist adolescents to develop resilience? In what ways could an adolescent with a fatalistic outlook be challenged to develop a more empowered perspective? How might an adolescent be helped to develop a greater sense of purpose? How might families negatively impact on the development of resilience? What can be done to help?

References Australian Government, Department of Education, Science and Training (2005). National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools. [online] Retrieved January 4, 2007, from version_for_the_web.pdf Bahr, N. (2005). Chapter 3: The middle years learner. In D. Pendergast & N. Bahr (Eds.), Teaching middle years: Rethinking curriculum, pedagogy and assessment (pp. 48–64). Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin. Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Oxford: Prentice Hall. Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Social beings   199

Benard, B. (1991). Fostering resiliency in kids: Protective factors in the family, school, and community. San Francisco: Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development. Benard, B. (2004). Resiliency: What we have learned. San Francisco, CA: WestEd. Downes, D. M. (1966). The delinquent solution. British Journal of Sociology, 17(4), 453–454. Fuller, A. (2004). Background Paper on Resilience. [online] Retrieved January 4, 2007, from Heaven, P. C. L. (1994). Contemporary adolescence: A social psychological approach, Melbourne, Macmillan Education. Merrell, K. W. (1999). Behavioral, social, and emotional assessment of children and adolescents. Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates. Nelson, B. (2005). Values education in action. [online] Retrieved September 28, 2006, from Rhodes, W. A., & Hoey, K. (1994). Overcoming childhood misfortune: Children who beat the odds. Westport, CT, US: Praeger Publishers/Greenwood Publishing Group. Rice, F. P. (1999). The adolescent: Development, relationships, and culture (9th ed). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Rice, F. P., & Dolgin, K. G. (2005). The adolescent: Development, relationships, and culture (11th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Schmeeckle, M., Giarrusso, R., Feng, D., & Bengtson, V. (2006). What makes someone family? Adult children’s perceptions of current and former stepparents. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68(3), 595–610. Simeonsson, R. J. (1994). Risk resilience and prevention: Promoting the well-being of all children. Baltimore: Brookes. The Age (2004). Putting a price on values, Monday February 9 [online] Retrieved January 4, 2007, from section=students&intsectionid=0 Walton, C. (2003). Philocrites: Religion, Liberalism and Culture. [online] Retrieved January 4, 2007, from Yi, C., Pan, E., Chang, Y., & Chan, C. (2006). Grandparents, adolescents, and parents: Intergenerational relations of Taiwanese youth. Journal of Family Issues, 27(8), 1042–1067.



What can you expect?

Introduction Donna Pendergast

The chapters in this section focus on several important initiatives that are changing the face of schools and schooling around Australia, and hence the experiences of adolescents in school. These initiatives are driven by a range of agendas and priorities, including the need to reform the fundamental principles of schooling for contemporary society. The first of these initiatives to be explored is the emergence of middle schooling as an important focus area for the specialist teaching of early adolescence. Issues of adolescent alienation and disengagement from school, and how middle schooling addresses this, will be presented. We will investigate the current state of play of middle years and middle schooling adoption and implementation around Australia, and on the school reform practices and their success. In Chapter 9 the later adolescent years of schooling will become the focus. In this chapter we will discuss a range of work–life issues that are relevant to adolescence. New economies, new careers and career preparation and work/career decision making will be considered as well as part-time work, school and family balancing issues. We will examine the available Australian data on who gets jobs, and discuss in some detail the Education and Training Reforms and the anticipated impact on adolescent experience. Chapter 10 shows that the move to lifelong learning must be an educational priority. Rapidly changing circumstances and opportunities in contemporary work, social and recreational environments, demand the continuing acquisition of new knowledge, new skills and new abilities—and their efficient application. This demand can be met satisfactorily only through a process of continual learning. This chapter explores the idea of lifelong learning, uncovering important research that is building a deeper base of knowledge and understanding of this critical aspect of contemporary learning.



Middle years schooling Donna Pendergast

Chapter summary •

• • • • • • •

What is middle schooling? — Middle schooling in Australia at a glance — Australian Capital Territory (ACT) — New South Wales — Northern Territory — Queensland — South Australia — Tasmania — Victoria — Western Australia — National overview Why middle schooling? How is middle schooling implemented? Key information for middle schooling reform Summary Key points Further thinking References

As young people in Australia make the transition from childhood to adolescence, through the stage now commonly known as ‘early adolescence’, it is likely they will experience schooling in a different way from those making the journey a couple of years ago. Ideally they will be involved in innovative practices in pedagogy, curriculum and assessment, grounded in an ideology that aims to make school relevant and engaging for young adolescents. This innovation can be captured by the progressive reform initiative known as ‘middle schooling’ or middle years reform. While each state and 204

Middle years schooling   205

territory is at different stages in the middle schooling journey—some guided by specific policy, others operating from a grassroots approach—they have all acknowledged the need for middle years renewal. Some have embraced the ideals of middle schooling, taking on board various aspects of its philosophy, principles and signifying practices that characterise this fresh approach to the education of young adolescents. This chapter will place the spotlight on middle schooling, investigating the how, what and why of middle schooling in present-day Australia.

What is middle schooling? Middle schooling reform has swept across the nation in recent years with good reason. As Hill, Mackay, Russell and Zbar (2001, n.p.) note, ‘until recently, the middle years of schooling have not been a high priority of education systems’. Efforts have instead focused on the early years, particularly related to foundational literacy and numeracy; and the senior years, with a focus on post-compulsory and vocational education. This is partly because ‘early adolescence’ has only emerged as a category delineated from childhood and adolescence in the last 15 years. This lack of focus on early adolescent education has been to the detriment of teaching and learning effectiveness and innovation in the middle years. The motivation for reform in the middle years is driven by an abundance of evidence that alienation and disengagement are common among young adolescents. This is due to learning that lacks relevance, relies on inappropriate pedagogies and poor assessment strategies. The inevitable flow-on effect of disengagement from learning is underachievement, ultimately leading to dips in educational attainment and sometimes declines in levels of prior learning; as well as lack of interest in school, the increased chance of developing inappropriate behaviour and other undesirable social changes. The culmination of such effects is an increased probability that individual and collective potential is not reached. This ultimately affects the potential for young people to become active and contributing members of the knowledge economy and human capital of our society. There are many terms that have been used interchangeably to describe recent initiatives in the education of young adolescents including: middle school, middle years, middle schooling, middle schooling practices, middle phase of learning. These terms are in fact not synonymous, and have specific meanings, so for the purposes of their use in this chapter, a brief explanation of each follows. Middle schools are structures allocated for specialist use by students in the middle years—middle schooling practices may or may not be pursued in these middle schools. Middle years (of schooling) is an umbrella term that applies to early adolescence (even though ‘adolescence’ itself as a category is highly contested, see for example Bahr and Pendergast, 2006), generally students between the ages of 10–15. However, the ages and hence school year levels vary around Australia and the world. For

206   The Millennial Adolescent

instance, in the Australian Capital Territory the middle years are defined as Years 5 to 8. In the Northern Territory, middle years are defined as Years 7 to 9. Middle schooling is a philosophical approach to teaching and learning that meets the unique developmental and educational imperatives of middle years students within the context of contemporary society. Middle schooling practices are those teaching and learning practices, typically incorporating curriculum pedagogy and assessment approaches that address the specific needs of the young adolescent population. Middle phase (of learning) is a broad band of schooling used in the Education Queensland three-tier approach to school reform, which is comprised of the Early Phase; Middle Phase; and Later Phase. The Middle Phase has two distinct stages, the first typically Years 4–5; the second Years 6–9. The Later Phase has adopted the philosophical perspectives of middle schooling. Middle years have become a specialist site for educational work, including teacher pre-service and in-service provision and research. The implementation of middle schooling relies on the effective utilisation of middle schooling practices. Chadbourne (2001, pp. 2–3) prepared a statement for the Australian Education Union that defined middle schooling in the following way: Middle schooling refers to formal education that is responsive and appropriate to the developmental needs of young adolescents. This education is characterised by a philosophy, curriculum and pedagogy based on constructivism. In practice, this involves elements such as: •

Higher order thinking, holistic learning, critical thinking, problem solving and lifelong learning;

Students taking charge of their own learning and constructing their own learnings;

Integrated and disciplinary curricula that are negotiated, relevant and challenging;

Cooperative learning and collaborative teaching;

Authentic, reflective and outcomes based assessment;

Heterogeneous and flexible student groupings;

Success for every student;

Small learning communities that provide students with sustained individual attention in a safe, healthy school environment;

Emphasis on strong teacher-student relationships through extended contact with a small number of teachers and a consistent student cohort;

Democratic governance and shared leadership;

Parental and community involvement in student learning. (Chadbourne, 2001, pp. 2–3)

This definition captures the intent of middle schooling in the Australian context and is built on much national and international research in this new educational field. It is important to point out that middle schooling is not an original Australian idea, but we have had the benefit of building on considerable experience from around

Middle years schooling   207

the world, accumulated over decades. The impetus in other countries, however, has been quite different to the Australian scenario, often driven by structural and organisational imperatives, rather than philosophical concerns that have early adolescence and contemporary society at the core. In the United States, for example, issues such as population growth, racial segregation and curriculum imperatives led to the introduction of middle schools as a tier of schooling in an already threetiered model. In the United Kingdom, middle schools were introduced in the 1960s as a result of educational changes that increased school retention. The traditional two-tier model meant that school sizes could not cope with increasing numbers, so a third tier was introduced. Middle schools, as opposed to middle schooling, evolved. In the last couple of years, a return to the two-tier model has seen a dismantling of the segregated schools. These middle school models have been driven first by the establishment of middle school structures and organisation, and second by the overlaying of middle schooling ideologies and practices. In Australia, the reform is not about rearranging traditional structures and there is no particular motivation to establish middle schools (although this has and will occur in some regions), but there is strong motivation to introduce middle schooling. As Chadbourne (2001, p. iii) notes, ‘middle schooling refers more to a particular type of pedagogy and curriculum than a particular type of school structure’. This direction comes from the extensive body of evidence that establishes links between student alienation and disengagement leading to underachievement. Consistent with this understanding of middle schooling, Cumming (1998) explains that there are three important goals of middle schooling: engaged, focused and achieving adolescents; effective curriculum, teaching and organisational practices; genuine partnerships and long-term support. There is a growing body of literature that has impacted on the direction of middle schooling development in Australia. Some of the more influential of these and their key messages are presented in Table 8.1.

Table 8.1  A selection of publications influencing middle schooling in Australia Year and title

Key contribution to middle schooling

1989 Turning points: Preparing American youth for the 21st century

Eight interrelated elements that, when taken as a whole, provide a vision for middle schooling: 1 Creating a community for learning 2 Teaching a core of common knowledge 3 Ensuring success for all students 4 Empowering teachers and administrators 5 Preparing teachers for the middle grades 6 Improving academic performance through better health and fitness 7 Reengaging families in the education of adolescents 8 Connecting schools with communities (Carnegie Council, 1989).

208   The Millennial Adolescent Table 8.1  (continued) 1996 From alienation to engagement: Opportunities for reform in the middle years of schooling (Vol. 1, 2 & 3)

The reports include key findings and recommendations, a review of literature on alienation, and a professional development document for teachers (ACSA, 1996).

1998 Shaping middle schooling in Australia: A report on the national middle schooling project

1 Needs of young adolescents: identity, relationships, purpose, empowerment, success, rigour, safety 2 Middle schooling practices should be: learner centred, collaboratively organised, outcome based, flexibly constructed, ethically aware, community oriented, adequately resourced, strategically linked 3 Three key strategies to meet the needs of young adolescents: powerful knowledge, integrated curriculum, authentic assessment (Barratt, 1998).

1999 Systemic, whole school reform of the middle years of schooling

Commonly agreed design principles for middle schooling: 1 based on characteristics and needs of young adolescents 2 holistic integrated approach to change 3 a sound philosophical base 4 partnerships with students 5 close relationships with teachers and students 6 collaborative teaching 7 flexible use of time and space 8 outcomes based approach 9 continuity between three phases of learning 10 involvement of parents and community 11 fair and adequate share of resources, theories of change (Hill & Russell, 1999).

2000 Jackson & Davis Turning points 2000: Educating adolescents in the 21st century

Seven recommendations for middle schooling: 1 Curriculum: learner centred; integrated; exploratory (students’ needs, interests, and aptitudes) 2 Pedagogy: interdisciplinary/collaborative teams; productive pedagogies applied; variety of activities and delivery techniques; alignment of pedagogy and assessment that is authentic assessment embedded in work; higher order skills in critical thinking and problem solving 3 Staff: knowledge of curriculum areas; knowledge of development and diversity of middle school students; a genuine commitment to teach middle school students; knowledge and expertise in middle school concepts such as advisoradvisee programs, interdisciplinary teaming, and positive school climates 4 Relationships: strong student–teacher relationships; collaborative partnerships with colleagues, parents, and other community members; pastoral care; small learning communities

Middle years schooling   209

2000 Jackson & Davis Turning points 2000: Educating adolescents in the 21st century (continued)

5 Democratic government: those who know the students best are responsible for planning curriculum and school organisation (that is, the school is responsive to local needs) 6 Safe environment: a safe and healthy environment where students feel comfortable taking risks; students work at own pace and experience success as part of improving academic performance; diversity is acknowledged and valued 7 Community partnerships: family and community partnerships to promote greater support for middle school students (Jackson & Davis, 2000).

2001 Middle schooling in the middle years

Principles of middle schooling: 1 Higher order thinking, holistic learning, critical thinking, problemsolving and lifelong learning 2 Students taking charge of their own learning and constructing their own meanings 3 Integrated and disciplinary curricula that are negotiated, relevant and challenging 4 Cooperative learning and collaborative teaching 5 Authentic, reflective, and outcomes-based assessment 6 Heterogeneous and flexible student groupings 7 Success to every student 8 Small learning communities that provide students with sustained individual attention in a safe, healthy school environment 9 Emphasis on strong teacher–student and student–student relationships through extended contact with a small number of teachers and a consistent student cohort 10 Democratic governance and shared leadership 11 Parental and community involvement in student learning (Chadbourne, 2001).

2002 Beyond the middle: A report about literacy and numeracy development of target group students in the middle years of schooling, Vol 1 & 2

Report contains: 1 An extensive review of middle school literature both in Australia and internationally 1990–2000 2 Mapping of systemic literacy and numeracy strategies including systemic site visits 3 Analysis of the effectiveness of key literacy and numeracy teaching and learning strategies including school visits and classroom rating using the Productive Pedagogies framework 4 Outcomes suggest a need for a new generation of middle years theorising, research, development and practice, with a stronger focus on engagement and demand (Luke et al., 2002).

2002 Middle years research and development project

Strategies and practices which contribute to improvement in the middle years: 1 Primary–secondary cluster cooperation 2 Whole-school commitment 3 Three-year action planning 4 Targeted ongoing professional learning 5 Data driven evidence-based evaluation 6 Provision of resources and specialist support

210   The Millennial Adolescent Table 8.1  (continued) 2002 Middle years research and development project (continued)

Recommends practices and strategies in three key areas: 1 Teaching and learning practices in the classroom 2 Curriculum and assessment 3 School organisation for learning (MYPRAD, 2002).

2003 This we believe: Successful schools for young adolescents

Eight characteristics of successful schools for young adolescents: 1 Educators who value working with this age group and are prepared to do so 2 Courageous and collaborative leadership 3 A shared vision that guides decisions 4 An inviting, supportive and safe environment 5 High expectations for every member of the learning community 6 Students and teachers engaged in active learning 7 An adult advocate for every student 8 School initiated family and community partnerships Six program elements: 1 Curriculum that is relevant, challenging, integrative and exploratory 2 Multiple learning approaches that respond to their diversity 3 Assessment and evaluation programs that promote quality learning 4 Organisational structures that support meaningful relationships and learning 5 School-wide efforts and policies that foster health, wellness and safety 6 Multifaceted guidance and support services (NMSA, 2003).

2005 Developing lifelong learners in the middle phase of learning

Practices, processes, strategies and structures that best promote lifelong learning in the middle phase of schooling: 1 social learning engendered in working collaboratively and cooperatively with other students 2 outcomes from specific curricular and co-curricular programs 3 as required to complete specific tasks determined for school assessment 4 most importantly, as a result of the role models provided by individual teachers Factors to be aligned and sustained for middle schooling reform: 1 team membership across several years 2 congenial, philosophically-aligned dynamics among team members 3 sensitive and sustained leadership 4 early adoption and shared risk-taking among members who challenge each other to extend themselves; 5 a strong emphasis on team problem posing and problem solving 6 effective use of research in evidence-based planning (Pendergast et al., 2005).

What is evident from this literature is the growing momentum and willingness to invest in middle schooling as a promising solution to disengagement and underachievement issues of young adolescents. This means that Australian education systems

Middle years schooling   211

are ‘creating a new space’ for reforming these years of schooling. Carrington warns that this space for middle schooling ‘is as much a political issue as it is an educational one’ (Carrington, 2006, p. 86). This message is reinforced by taking a region by region look at what is regarded to be middle years renewal in Australia.

Middle schooling in Australia at a glance

Western Australia Not explicit Schools adopting principles and practices

Western Australia

Northern Territory Middle years students are 11–14 years old Focused on improving engagement, retention and outcomes Secondary education includes Middle Years—Years 7–9 Dedicated middle years schools from 2008

Northern Territory

South Australia South Australia Middle Years 6–9 Focus on literacy numeracy engagement

Queensland Middle Phase: Years 4–5 and 6–9 Key Action Areas include: focus and accountability achievement (particularly literacy and numeracy) transition teachers


New South Wales

Australian Capital Territory Middle School: Years 6 to 8 (ages 11–15) Changing nature of adolescence Making school relevant and engaging Transition between primary and high school Team teaching


Victoria Learner centred Collaboratively organised Outcome based Middle years defined as Years 5–9 Strong literacy and numeracy plans

New South Wales Middle years: Years 5–6 and 7–8 Transition between primary and high school Revised syllabuses for Years 7–10 Statewide testing for literacy and numeracy

Tasmania Middle Years is not explicit Tier 2 is Years 7–10—secondary school

Figure 8.1  Middle schooling in Australian states and territories

It is quite difficult to identify the characteristics of middle schooling reform around the states and territories, and potentially across sectors (see Figure 8.1). This is because of inconsistent approaches to addressing early adolescent educational needs and differing ways of articulating the innovations in train. The following is an attempt to pull together some of the trends that are presently under way in the Australian government sector. It must be emphasised that this information is prone to change at short notice.

Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Key characteristics of the government sector initiatives in middle schooling in the ACT:

212   The Millennial Adolescent

• •

• • •

The Australian Capital Territory Department of Education and Training (DET) in 2005 published Teaching and learning in the middle years in the ACT: A study to support schools to meet the learning needs of adolescent students (DET, 2005); Acknowledges that middle schooling has been occurring in some schools in the ACT for a decade; This paper contains a middle years framework (see Figure 8.2) that is ‘designed to assist schools and their communities in designing appropriate structures and practices to support good teaching and learning for students in the middle years of schooling’ (DET, 2005, p. 12); Middle schooling in the ACT incorporates Years 6 to 8 (ages 11–15); Based on educational research around the changing nature of adolescence and how to make school relevant and engaging for young adolescents; Makes particular reference to: transition between primary and high school; small team of teachers providing sustained individual attention over a two-year period; timetabling longer blocks of class time to allow extended time for learning.

Good teaching and learning

Students in the middle years

Characteristics and needs of adolescent learners

Figure 8.2  Middle years framework for the ACT

New South Wales Key characteristics of the government sector initiatives for the middle years (as opposed to middle schooling) in New South Wales selected from the NSW Department of Education and Training website (NSW DET, 2006): • •

The middle years include students in Years 5 and 6 in primary school and Years 7 and 8 in secondary school; Schools have developed a range of programs to help students moving from Year 6 to Year 7;

Middle years schooling   213

• • •

The Board of Studies has revised the syllabuses for Years 7–10 taking into account the needs of students in the middle years; Student achievement in literacy and numeracy in the middle years is assessed as part of lessons as well as through statewide testing programs in Years 5, 7 and 8; There has been an increasing awareness by schools of the importance of addressing the needs of students in the middle years; many schools design special programs that help personalise learning to meet the needs of these students; The discussion paper, Quality teaching in NSW public schools (NSW DET, 2003) is creating a renewed focus on appropriate teaching, particularly in the early years of secondary school.

Northern Territory The Northern Territory government has announced a three-year plan (2006–08) to implement middle years in government schools across the Territory. It is being directed by The framework for the principles and policies for the middle years in the Northern Territory (DEET, 2006). It is considered to be ‘one of the most significant educational reforms undertaken in the Territory’ (DEET, 2006). Key characteristics of the government sector initiatives for the middle years in the Northern Territory, adapted from the Northern Territory Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET) website: • • • •

Middle years students are 11–14 years of age; Middle years reform is an element of reform in secondary education; There is a focus on improving the engagement, retention and outcomes of Northern Territory students; Secondary education will be made up of: — The Middle Years—Years 7–9 — The Senior Years—Years 10–12; From 2008, students in Years 7–9 will be grouped together in dedicated middle years schools or sub schools, delivering tailored middle years programs designed to meet their learning and developmental needs. Infrastructure needs will be accommodated, possibly with new facilities. The rationale for dedicated middle schools is around three points: 1 It makes it easier for students and teachers to work together 2 Students in these years have similar interests and needs 3 It will give students more opportunities to learn specialist subjects and access specialist facilities (DEET, 2006).

Queensland The Queensland government launched the See the future: The middle phase of learning state school Action Plan in 2003 in response to the Ministerial Advisory Committee for

214   The Millennial Adolescent

Educational Reform (MACER) report The middle phase of learning (Queensland Government, 2003). The Action Plan sets the direction, clarifies expectations and accountabilities, and commits systemic support for reforms in every Queensland state school. It requires the alignment of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment to bring greater consistency and rigour to middle years classrooms. Key characteristics of the initiative: • •

It incorporates two stages: Years 4–5, and Years 6–9; Key Action Areas are organised around five domains: 1 focus and accountability—legitimising the middle phase as an organisational principle and embedding it in planning and reporting frameworks; 2 curriculum, teaching and assessment—improving and connecting the curriculum for deeper understanding and higher levels of engagement; 3 achievement—increasing flexibility and targeted achievement particularly for literacy and numeracy; 4 transition—providing seamless education across the traditional transitions; 5 teachers—support, learning and development and recognition; Explicitly supports the view that ‘effective programs in the middle phase of learning do not result specifically from structural change’ hence middle schooling will occur in the full range of school settings (Queensland Government, 2003, p. 4).

South Australia The South Australian Department of Education and Children’s Affairs (DECA) stipulates four learning bands for children in government schools. These are: • • • •

Early Years: R–2 Primary Years: 3–5 Middle Years: 6–9 Senior Years: 10–12.

A range of strategies and initiatives exist around the middle years, particularly those focusing on literacy, numeracy and engagement (DECA, 2006). South Australia has a ‘strong reputation in Australia for middle schooling reform’ (Education and Training, 2005, p. 86) and an active network of educators teaching and researching the middle years and the principles of middle schooling are evident within this context. This early connection with middle years reform came out of the Junior secondary review: The education of young adolescents (Eyers, 1992), which was integral to the exploration of middle schooling philosophies and practices.

Tasmania The Tasmanian Department of Education has a three-tier model of schooling. Tier 1 is Primary School, with Kindergarten to Year 6. Tier 2 is secondary (or high) school, catering for Years 7–10. Tier 3 is secondary colleges, which are Years 11 and 12. There

Middle years schooling   215

are also many Kindergarten to Year 10 District high (or combined) schools. There is no explicit mention of middle schooling as an approach to schooling (Department of Education (TAS), 2006).

Victoria The Victorian region across all sectors has been actively implementing middle years and middle schooling innovations with a strong research culture and evidence-based reform since the late 1990s. The Middle Years Pedagogy Research and Development (MYPRAD) Project was instrumental in this approach. MYPRAD is a strategy for planning and implementing change in the middle years of schooling. During 2003, materials were developed and trialled to support teachers to reflect on their classroom practice, develop their professional learning teams and promote whole school change. Following the successful trial of MYPRAD materials in nine clusters during 2003, MYPRAD was made available to all Schools for Innovation and Excellence clusters from 2004. It provides a means by which schools and clusters can examine their teaching practices and identify key areas for improvement, develop a plan to initiate improvement and monitor change. It is based on an explicit framework describing middle years pedagogy, and a change model that reflects contemporary understandings of teacher development and school improvement. It is designed to be implemented over a three-year period. Other key aspects: •

• •

Based around a commitment to advance the learning capacity of all students in the middle years. Student engagement and wellbeing are identified as vital elements for middle years reform. The following guiding principles are applied: 1 Learner centred 2 Collaboratively organised 3 Outcome based 4 Flexibly constructed 5 Ethically aware 6 Community oriented The middle years of schooling are defined as Years 5–9 Is supported by strong literacy and numeracy plans in the middle years, including intervention programs (State of Victoria, 2006).

Western Australia There is a strong movement towards middle schooling in Western Australia (Education and Training, 2005, p. 89) although this is not currently explicit in policy and direction statements. The curriculum framework (Curriculum Council, 1998), sets out learning outcomes across kindergarten to Year 12. A strong grassroots movement is evident in Western Australia, with many schools and clusters adopting middle schooling principles and practices.

216   The Millennial Adolescent

National overview What is evident from this overview is that some parts of the public education sector in Australia—Queensland, Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, Victoria—have fully endorsed the idea of early adolescence as a specialist site in school education. This has aligned with the implementation of middle schooling, with flow-on effects to sectoral reform in areas including leadership, teaching and learning practices, school organisation and teacher development. It is estimated that around 40 per cent of the middle years student population attend schools in these areas. The remainder of the government school sectors in the states and territories have invested in the middle years in a range of ways. South Australia and Western Australia have demonstrated a commitment to renewal of the middle years principally through a grassroots approach, with evidence of innovation in schools connecting to broader overlaying frameworks. Both of these sites have strong middle schooling teacher professional groups, and are recognised nationally as innovators in middle schooling for the middle years. It is estimated that about 16 per cent of the middle years student population attend schools in these areas. New South Wales, where around a third of middle years students are enrolled, makes explicit recognition of the middle years as a specialist site, and one requiring constant consideration. Priority appears to be on transition and curriculum reform, contextualised in an acceptance of the middle years having unique educational requirements. Finally, Tasmania has a somewhat different school model that incorporates a fixed grouping of middle years (Years 7–10) clearly privileging this group, although a sectoral commitment to middle schooling does not appear to be evident. An important point is that there is wide variation of the features of middle years and of middle schooling reform around the nation. The ages and year levels of students differ considerably, as do the base models of school that pre-existed the renewed spotlight on middle years education, making comparisons difficult. Noteworthy in this analysis, however, is the consistency of one key theme—middle years learners are recognised as having unique developmental attributes. They therefore require a purposeful approach to schooling to ensure their education experience keeps them engaged, which will facilitate achievement and appropriate preparation for the contemporary world.

Why middle schooling? The previous discussion goes part way to respond to the ‘why middle schooling’ question. Bald statistics on student performance provide one avenue to consider why

This estimate is based on data presented in Chapter 3.

Middle years schooling   217

middle schooling reform is important. Data of this nature are abundant, including for example: • •

• •

statistics revealing a decline in students’ enjoyment of learning with an associated decline in levels of engagement in learning, particularly for boys signs of alienation from schooling, such as dislike of teachers, anger, failure to complete work, peer conflict, bullying, disruptive behaviour, behaviour management incidents and so on decline in achievement levels, evident through state-wide and national benchmark testing and individual performance early school leaving, leading to a greater chance of reduced employment and postschool outcomes.

A study conducted in 1999 of 11 150 Year 9 students to examine their engagement with school, and in particular the relationship between engagement and student and school-level factors, had some sobering findings. The report states clearly that ‘it does matter which school a student attends’ (Fullarton, 2002, p. vii), and the major findings are shown below. •

Females had higher levels of engagement levels than males. This was apparent in all school sectors and at all achievement levels.

Students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds and those with professional parents had the highest levels of engagement with school.

Students from independent schools had higher levels of engagement than those in Catholic schools, who in turn were more engaged than those in government schools.

Students who plan on enrolling in tertiary study were more highly engaged than those who planned to leave school and go to work.

Students at single sex schools were more highly engaged than those at co-educational schools.

Levels of engagement were found to be higher where students believed that their school had a good school climate; that is one where they have high quality teachers, effective discipline, high levels of student learning and a positive school spirit.

Students who were generally happy with school and with learning were more engaged than those who were not.

Students who were intrinsically motivated were found to be more engaged than those who were not so intrinsically motivated. (Fullarton, 2002, p. vi)

At the same time as we are better understanding the downturn in student outcomes in the middle years, there is a growing body of literature about the 

See for example data presented in Chapter 3 of this book.

218   The Millennial Adolescent

unique developmental aspects of early adolescence and hence the need for specialist education for this group. Evidence of this includes: •

Acceptance of early adolescence as a specialist stage between childhood and adolescence (Bahr, 2005; Carrington, 2006; Chadbourne & Pendergast, 2005; Hill, Mackay, Russell & Zbar, 2001) Increased awareness of the characteristics of early adolescence and recognition of the need to develop forms of schooling that are embedded in and responsive to these needs (Bahr, 2005; Bahr & Pendergast, 2006; Barratt, 1998; Carrington, 2006; Chadbourne, 2001; Chadbourne & Pendergast, 2005; Hill, Mackay, Russell & Zbar, 2001).

The question that must be answered is this—Are the patterns reported for each of the indicators explained by the developmental events of early adolescence or do the educational experiences during this time of transition play a part in producing these patterns? If the latter is the case, then there is a strong argument for the reform of schooling approaches for the middle years. Added to this rationale is the clear agenda in education and schooling to better equip students with capacities and abilities for the contemporary world. Evidence of this includes the growing recognition of the importance of education in developing students’ capabilities as lifelong learners and contributors in the new knowledge economy (details of this imperative can be found in Chapter 10). Middle schooling advocates support the view that developmental events alone do not account for the patterns presented. Proponents argue that improvements in the educational experiences and outcomes of middle years students can be achieved through adopting middle schooling approaches. Evidence of improvement when middle schooling is in place is slowly being gathered around the nation, but the position at this time is much as stated in the recent study released by the Australian Capital Territory Department of Education and Training: … there is insufficient comparable data to establish whether student academic outcomes have been enhanced as a result of middle schooling practices, since many localities and countries have not pursued consistent methods in collecting, analysing and interpreting data. Middle schools … are a comparatively new phenomenon in most areas of Australia and thus there is little or no, longitudinal research evidence available. (DET, 2005, p. 38)

Still, anecdotal indicators of positive effects are constantly shared in Australian staffrooms and universities. At about the same time the ACT study was released, a national study into the connection between middle schooling and the development of lifelong learning attributes was finalised by Pendergast et al. (2005). They found that lifelong learning attributes are enhanced in contexts where middle schooling is in place.

Middle years schooling   219

How is middle schooling implemented? Much of the literature referred to in Table 8.1 provides insights into the what, why and how of middle schooling. A combination of practices associated with middle schooling creates a learning environment better suited to the needs of young adolescents. Barratt (1998) details principles that are essential components of middle schooling—learner centred, collaboratively organised, outcome based, flexibly constructed, ethically aware, community oriented, adequately resourced and strategically linked. Others have also identified signifying practices, one of the most recent being Carrington (2006, p. 103), who suggests the following: • • • • • • •

higher order thinking, holistic thinking, critical thinking, problem solving and lifelong learning learner centred constructivist integrated and negotiated curriculum cooperative and collaborative learning authentic, reflective and outcomes based assessment; and heterogeneous and flexible student groupings.

Teaching and learning in the middle years in the ACT: A study to support schools to meet the learning needs of adolescent students (DET, 2005) provides a comprehensive analysis of much of the literature cited earlier, along with details of a major investigation into middle schooling for the local context. This document identifies practices for middle schooling effectiveness compiled from the recommendations of others. These are presented in the box below.

Twenty-two practices for middle schooling 1 2

3 4

Management is less bureaucratic, more concerned with creating a community of learners Curricula that include: critical literacies; information literacy; community building; diversity; real-life research and futures study; cultural, ethical and environmental heritages; understandings of youth culture and connectedness to the students’ world Technological infrastructure incorporating Information Technology into good pedagogical practice Integrated curriculum taught by highly trained and motivated teachers with expertise in at least two faculty areas and particular training in the qualities and needs of students in the middle years

220   The Millennial Adolescent

5 Small teams or learning communities providing sustained individual attention and sharing responsibility for about 70–80 students whom they teach for at least two years 6 Collaborative teaching within and between disciplines 7 Uninterrupted, larger blocks of time to allow learning and close relationships between students and team teachers 8 Ongoing high standard professional development and support 9 An expectation that all students meet a high standard. High status, intensive academies to enable identified groups to concentrate on academic and/or vocational learning so that every child succeeds 10 A manageable core of knowledge emphasising teaching for understanding and higher order thinking across subjects 11 Inclusive pedagogy that meets the needs of all students including those with different cultural backgrounds, disability groups, race, class and gender 12 Constructivist, student-focused teaching incorporating student choices and empowering them to become enthusiastic, autonomous learners 13 Cooperative learning including cross-age tutoring 14 Recognition of multiple intelligences and that students learn and demonstrate their learning in different ways 15 Authentic assessment and mapping of improvement in learning outcomes 16 Action research to guide and record improvements in practice and outcomes 17 Community based learning and support that incorporates a vocational dimension 18 Close links created with home and school for support and involvement 19 Timetabled staff collaboration and planning 20 Seamless transition between primary and secondary schooling 21 Rich information technology recourses for all staff and students 22 A positive and enjoyable school environment that is both physically and psychologically safe. (Source: DET, 2005, pp. 50–51)

The ACT report made some important points, possibly the most significant being that ‘middle schooling practices are interdependent. In other words, practices depend upon one another for success’ (DET, 2005, p. 50). I also argue that, ‘it is increasingly recognised that for reform to have any cogency and impact on the educational experience of students and the workplace conditions of teachers, it requires the articulation of all key aspects rather than isolated change’ (Pendergast,

Middle years schooling   221

2005). A useful summary is presented in ‘The philosophy of middle schooling’, a chapter in the first Australian-made reference book aimed at middle schooling teacher education (Chadbourne & Pendergast, 2005). Their recommendations for best practice in middle school classrooms are presented in Table 8.2 below. Table 8.2  Ingredients for best practice in middle school classrooms Middle school classrooms need LESS

Middle school classrooms need MORE

• Whole-class, teacher-directed instruction (such as lecturing) • Student passivity: sitting, listening, receiving and absorbing information • Presentational, one-way transmission of information from teacher to student • Prizing and rewarding of silence in the classroom • Classroom time devoted to fill-in-theblank worksheets, dittos, workbooks, and other ‘seatwork’ • Student time spent reading textbooks and basal readers • Attempts by teachers to thinly ‘cover’ large amount of material in every subject area • Rote memorisation of facts and details • Emphasis on the competition and grades in school • ‘Tracking or levelling’ students into ‘ability groups’ • Use of pull-out special programs • Use of and reliance on standardised tests

• Experience, inductive, hands-on learning • Active learning in the classroom, with all the attendant noise and movement of students doing, talking and collaborating • Diverse roles for teachers, including coaching, demonstrating and modelling • Emphasis on higher-order thinking; learning a field’s key concepts and principles • Deep study of a smaller number of topics, so that students internalise the field’s way of inquiry • Reading of real texts: whole books, primary sources and nonfiction materials • Responsibility transferred to students for their work: goal setting, record keeping, monitoring, sharing, exhibiting and evaluating • Choice for students (such as choosing their own books, writing topics, team partners and research projects) • Enacting and modelling the principles of democracy • Cooperative, collaborative activity; developing the classroom as an interdependent community • Heterogeneous grouping where individual needs are met through inherently individualised activities, not segregation of bodies • Delivery of special help to students in regular classrooms • Varied and cooperative roles for teachers, parents and administrators • Reliance on teachers’ descriptive evaluations of student growth, including observational /anecdotal records, conference notes, and performance assessment rubrics Source: Chadbourne & Pendergast, 2005, p. 37

222   The Millennial Adolescent

It is not ideal to simply identify practices that are associated with middle schooling and to reform these aspects of learning in isolation from other significant practices. Rather, it is the overall benefits derived from the comprehensive implementation of these practices that constitutes middle schooling and makes middle schooling effective. Having a philosophy of middle schooling based on the significant practices is paramount (Chadbourne & Pendergast, 2005).

Key information for middle schooling reform We have concentrated on developing understandings about the what, why and how of middle schooling. This final section considers the challenges for teachers, school leaders, schools and their communities, policy makers and schooling sectors, of undertaking comprehensive middle schooling reform. A national project funded by the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) set out to explore the practices, processes, strategies and structures that best promote ‘lifelong learning’ and the development of ‘lifelong learners’ in the middle years of schooling (Pendergast et al., 2005). The study successfully achieved this research task (see Chapter 10 for details) but an inadvertent outcome in the form of a three-phase model for effective and sustainable middle years reform is possibly of more value, as it adds to the relative dearth of knowledge about effective reform processes for this specialist area. The model was developed from the extensive analysis of 25 innovative schools around the nation and provides a unique insight into the desirable sequences and time spent achieving reforms, along with typical pitfalls that lead to a regression in the reform process. The phased model indicates that programs of reform were established in three phases, gradually introducing particular core component changes, and spanning a total of about eight to 17 years, depending on circumstances (see Figure 8.3). The model serves as a useful guide for schools at any stage of middle schooling reform. The study also reported that it was typical for schools to experience a ‘dip’ in the reform process. The dip was often the result of predictable events, such as the loss of middle schooling ‘champions’, changes to leadership, teacher team breakdown, and failure to establish protocols for determining the efficacy of the reform process. Importantly, the reform process can usually be achieved most expeditiously when the key factors shown below are aligned and sustained. • • • • • •

Team membership across several years Congenial, philosophically aligned dynamics among team members Sensitive and sustained leadership Early adoption and shared risk-taking among members who challenge each other to extend themselves A strong emphasis on team problem posing and problem solving; and Effective use of research in evidence-based planning (Pendergast et al., 2005).

Middle years schooling   223

Phase 1—Initiation The first phase lasted 1 to 2 years and typically included the following core change variables: • • • • •

school vision and visioning processes; student transitions and transitioning procedures; connectedness of student learning to the world outside the school; teacher teaming; and innovative leadership.

Phase 2—Development The second phase lasted an extra 2 to 5 years and showed attention to: • • • • • •

improved alignment of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment systems; enhanced pedagogies, especially the provision of greater intellectual challenge; sustainable innovation; linking school culture change with innovative structures; professional learning communities, with teachers as learners; and evidence-based policy development processes.

Phase 3—Consolidation The final stage required a further 5 to 10 years and achieved the introduction of changes to address: • • • •

changing social and economic conditions demanding a broader skill set; learner- and learning-focused programs; student engagement in learning; meeting greater diversity in adolescent needs and capacities.

Figure 8.3  Three-phase model for middle schooling reform Source: Developed from Pendergast et al., 2005

This provides for what has been described in the report as optimal or ‘fast track’ conditions implementation. Possible inhibitors of reform, as noted earlier and elaborated upon in the report are listed below. • • • •

Weak or inconsistent leadership Insufficient dispersal of leadership Poorly conceived or poorly expressed vision statement Uncooperative or non-supportive staff, inadequately trained staff

224   The Millennial Adolescent

• • • • • • • • •

Discontinuity of staff Rigid traditionalism among staff majority Failure to provide an appropriate support structure Failure to redirect and redefine the school culture Insufficient funding to provide essential equipment or to finance innovations Failure to align CPA (curriculum, pedagogy and assessment) Resistance from the community Dramatic upward or downward trends in student population Impatience and loss of enthusiasm resulting from slow progress in the process of renewal (Pendergast et al., 2005).

This model has been developed from real school-based reform grounded in the school reform, middle schooling and lifelong learning literature. While the model is not intended to be a formula, it has the potential to serve as a guide and comparative base for schools undertaking reform and seeking direction. It is particularly helpful with regard to key components, potential inhibitors and enablers, and the timelines involved. It is important to note that while there is no single, ‘right’ way to undertake reform in the middle years, there is typically progression through three phases that involve the systematic linking of many components of a school’s operation.

Summary In 2005 I identified ten major challenges for middle schooling that will influence the course of the reforms over coming years. They remain pertinent and timely (Pendergast, 2005, pp. 18–19). 1 2 3 4 5


As a concept, middle schooling is annoyingly nebulous—it is a slippery concept. There is no single definition, no template, no formula for middle schooling. There appear to be some commonly agreed middle school practices, but these are not exclusive to middle schooling. Middle schooling reform does not exist in isolation, making it difficult to implement, explore and determine outcomes and efficacy. Middle schooling is consistently constructed as being about rethinking education that meets the needs of young people in a changing world. While middle schooling has achieved debutante status in terms of acceptance as a reform platform—the implementation and evaluation policies and positions are very much in their infancy—many educators are working on anecdotal evidence, gut feeling and good faith. Middle schooling reform will affect later phase learning if it achieves its goals. Greater intellectual awakening, enhanced social connections and positive experiences and attitudes should potentially impact on the later phase with improvements across literacy, numeracy and intellectual engagement.

Middle years schooling   225

7 Middle schooling is not about implementing a three-tier school structure. It is

about a unique philosophy, with concomitant changes in pedagogy, curriculum and assessment. These changes are not about repackaging, but about a new way of doing. 8 Middle schooling means change for teachers. 9 Middle schooling is complex, site specific and requires sustained, systemic reform. There is enormous work to be done at all levels—in the classroom, in schools, in clusters, in sectors, in systems, in government—to develop appropriate frameworks/guidelines, including supporting research, professional development and reform processes. 10 Middle schooling is here to stay—there is widespread evidence that middle schooling is a legitimate space in our education system. Regardless of this, however, champions of middle schooling are required in schools, systems, and especially in universities where academic, research-based evidence is required. At the heart of middle schooling are middle years students. The recent emergence of ‘early adolescence’ as a specialist field in education has driven the middle schooling agenda—this is not an economic rationalist reshuffle of educational priorities. In due course the true value of middle schooling reform will be known. The importance of research facilitating evidence-based development remains a priority for the burgeoning field of middle schooling.

Key points 1



Middle years (of schooling) is an umbrella term that applies to early adolescence, generally students between the ages of 10–15. Middle schooling is a philosophical approach to the teaching and learning which meets the unique developmental and educational imperatives of middle years aged students within the context of contemporary society. The implementation of middle schooling relies on the effective utilisation of middle schooling practices—teaching and learning practices typically incorporating curriculum, pedagogy and assessment approaches that address the specific needs of the young adolescent population. The motivation for reform in the middle years is driven by an abundance of evidence pointing to the alienation and disengagement of young adolescents from learning that documents a lack of relevance, inappropriate pedagogies and poor assessment strategies. Some parts of the public education sector in Australia have fully endorsed the idea of early adolescence as a specialist site in school education,

226   The Millennial Adolescent



and this has aligned with the implementation of middle schooling, with flow-on effects to sectoral reform in areas including leadership, teaching and learning practices, school organisation and teacher development. The remainder of the government school sectors in the states and territories have invested in the middle years in a range of ways. Practices associated with middle schooling are a combination of practices taken together that create a learning environment better suited to the needs of adolescents. The recent emergence of ‘early adolescence’ as a specialist field in education has driven the middle schooling agenda and continued research remains a priority in this field.

Further thinking 1

2 3

Compare characteristics of childhood, early adolescence and later adolescence. Make a list of the schooling practices that facilitate learning for each of these stages of human development. From this base, construct an audit tool for reviewing practices in the classroom context. Predict the development of middle schooling in Australia over the next decade. Justify your predictions. The point of departure for this chapter was the message that research is required so that evidence-based middle years development can occur. Map out the gaps in educational research, identifying how these gaps might be filled.

References Australian Curriculum Studies Association (1996). From alienation to engagement: Opportunities for reform in the middle years of schooling. (Vols 1, 2 & 3). Belconnen, ACT: Author. Bahr, N. (2006). The middle years learner. In D. Pendergast & N. Bahr (Eds.) Teaching middle years: Rethinking curriculum, pedagogy and assessment (pp. 48–64). Sydney: Allen & Unwin. Bahr, N., & Pendergast, D. (2006). Adolescence: A useful concept for this millennium. Curriculum Perspectives, 26(1), 67–73. Barratt, R. (1998). Shaping middle schooling in Australia: A report of the National Middle Schooling Project. Canberra: Australian Curriculum Studies Association. Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development. (1989). Turning points: Preparing American youth for the 21st century: The report of the Task Force on Education of Young Adolescents. New York: Carnegie Corporation.

Middle years schooling   227

Carrington, V. (2006). Rethinking middle years: Early adolescents, schooling and digital culture. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. Chadbourne, R. (2001). Middle schooling for the middle years: What might the jury be considering? Victoria: Australian Education Union. Chadbourne, R., & Pendergast, D. (2005). The philosophy of middle schooling. In D. Pendergast & N. Bahr (Eds.) Teaching middle years: Rethinking curriculum, pedagogy and assessment (pp. 21–47). Sydney: Allen & Unwin. Cumming, J. (Ed.) (1998). Extending reform in the middle years of schooling: Challenges and responses. Canberra: Australian Curriculum Studies Association. Curriculum Council. (1998). The Curriculum Framework. Retrieved July 20, 2006 from Department of Education (DET – Tasmania). (2006). Tasmanian Education System Retrieved July 30, 2006, from Department of Education and Children’s Affairs (DECA – South Australia). (2006). About the department. Retrieved July 30, 2006, from Department of Education and Training (DET – ACT). (2005). Teaching and Learning in the Middle Years in the ACT: A study to support schools to meet the learning needs of adolescent students. Author: Canberra. Department of Education and Training (DET – NSW). (2003). Quality teaching in New South Wales public schools. Retrieved July 30, 2006, from media/downloads/languagesupport/qualteach_nswps/quali_teach_en.pdf Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET). (2006). Middle Years – Northern Territory. Retrieved July 27, 2006, from Eyers, V. (1992). Report on the junior secondary review: The education of young adolescents. Adelaide: Department of Children’s Services. Fullarton, S. (2002). Student engagement with school: Individual and school-level influences. Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth. Australian Council for Educational Research: Victoria. Hill, P., Mackay, A., Russell, J., & Zbar, V. (2001). The Middle Years. In Department of Education, Science and Training (Ed.). School innovation: Pathway to the knowledge society. Author: Canberra. Hill, P., & Russell, V. (1999). Systemic, whole-school reform of the middle-years of schooling. In R. J. Bosker, B. P. M. Creemers & S. Stringfield (Eds.), Enhancing educational excellence, equity and efficiency: Evidence from evaluations of systems and schools in change (pp. 167-196). Dortrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Training. (2002). Boys: Getting it right. Report on the inquiry into the education of boys. Canberra: The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. Jackson, A. W., & Davis, G. A. (2000). Turning points 2000: Educating adolescents in the 21st century. Columbus, OH: National Middle Schools Association.

228   The Millennial Adolescent

Luke, A., Elkins, J., Weir, K., Land, R., Carrington, V., Dole, S., Pendergast, D., Kapitzke, C., van Kraayenoord, C., Moni, K., McIntosh, A., Mayer, D., Bahr, M., Hunter, L., Chadbourne, R., Bean, T., Alverman, D., & Stevens, L. (2002). Beyond the middle: A report about literacy and numeracy development of target group students in the middle years of schooling. Volumes 1 and 2. Brisbane: J.S. McMillan Printing Group. National Middle School Association (2003). This we believe: Successful schools for young adolescents. Westerville, OH: National Middle School Association. New South Wales Department of Education and Training. (2006). Middle years. Retrieved July 30, 2006, from stdnt_middle.htm Pendergast, D. (2005). The emergence of middle schooling. In Pendergast, D. & Bahr, N. (Eds.) Teaching middle years: Rethinking curriculum, pedagogy and assessment (pp. 3–20). Sydney: Allen & Unwin. Pendergast, D., Flanagan, R., Land, R., Bahr, M., Mitchell, J., Weir, K., Noblett, G., Cain, M., Misich, T., Carrington, V., & Smith, J. (2005) Developing lifelong learners in the middle years of schooling. Brisbane: The University of Queensland. Queensland Government (2003). See the future: The middle phase of learning state school action plan. Brisbane: Queensland Government. State of Victoria, Department of Education (2006). Middle Years of Schooling. Retrieved June 27, 2006, from


The later years Nan Bahr

Chapter summary •

• • • •

The adolescent and work — Advantages of part-time work — Disadvantages of part-time work — Theory/literature re vocational issues — Influences on vocational choice — How do we prepare young people for thinking about work? The Education and Training Reforms for the Future (ETRF) in Australia: Learning or earning — What these changes mean for young people — VET (Vocational Education and Training) Summary Key points Further thinking References

Who we are, our self-concept and self-esteem, for many people is tied closely to what we do. Our profession, our employment and our ambitions define us in many ways. In our society we have not yet separated completely the notion of personal worth from social contribution and status. At Australian BBQs, a pretty staple question to ask is ‘So, what do you do?’ when meeting someone new. We are pretty tolerant with a range of responses to that question, but the bottom line is the notion that there ought to be a coherent answer. Adolescents know this, and as they try to define their identity/identities and launch into adulthood they are confronted with the great unknown, the world of work.


230   The Millennial Adolescent

Work issues impact on adolescents in a variety of ways. Young people are very aware that they are required to decide on and align themselves for employment, for lifelong learning, for work–life balance and for leisure. However, new economies and new careers have changed the face of the future for them. Many are trying to position themselves for life beyond school and a career in the absence of any clear idea of what opportunities and contexts there may be for them. There is no certainty in career preparation and work/career decision making in this framework of uncertainty. Gone are the days where a teacher could confidently design a set of learning experiences in the full knowledge that the skills and attitudes gained will be useful to the future work and life prospects of the students. Work ethic philosophies that declare people must work hard to reap rewards are being challenged by those who demonstrate you need to work smart, not hard. Our young people are heady with the prospect of joining the adult community and many start work from around the age of fourteen and a half in unskilled jobs that provide part-time entry to work. Part-time work, and the resultant school and family balancing issues become central to successfully negotiating the transition from adolescence to adulthood. In Australia there has been a concerted effort by policy writers to better position our young people for entry to the workforce. National policy initiatives such as Education and Training Reforms for the Future (ETRF) (Queensland Government, 2002) provide a foundation for revitalising and renovating school experience. This direction is having a significant impact on the nature of Australian (specifically Queensland) adolescent experience. In this chapter we examine the key issues and influences underpinning the experiences of adolescent workers. We will consider career choice, life balance and the roles of schools in vocational preparedness.

The adolescent and work Adolescents are prepared for career decisions in many ways; it may be through formal programs or through their relationships with others who exemplify career options. Their career paths are set in stages from very early in an individual’s life. Increasingly vocational education has become a key development area in secondary schools. It has attracted policy revision and innovation, media attention, and of course has engaged our young people in increasingly different ways over the past two decades. With many young people staying at school longer, and with employers generally wishing to employ only those who have at least completed secondary schooling, schools have had to change their options for adolescents. Instead of providing only academic, university preparatory programs in senior years, schools need to prepare young people for work. The Education and Training Reforms for the Future (ETRF) program links schools with technical and trade colleges and provides opportunities

The later years   231

Family expectations for part-time work during adolescence When I was an adolescent in the 1980s I did work experience (for one week where I injected oranges for practice at the local hospital since I thought I wanted to be a doctor, since that’s what my mother thought I wanted), and I studied a basic academic curriculum at school ‘to keep my options open’. In Year 12 at the age of 15/16 I worked the fitting room at Target (I didn’t have the right stuff for the pressure of the checkout), worked for one day as a sandwich maker (I couldn’t get the change right and made terrible sandwiches), and then rolled into part-time work at a geriatric hospital. My path through part-time positions was in direct response to parental pressure for me to contribute to the household, which I never really managed to do, unless you count leaving home for student accommodation a type of home help. Most of my mates left school before Year 12. I think my Year 12 class was about half of my cohort from Year 10. Kids had left mainly to pursue apprenticeships. Some had just left without any real direction in mind, but that was pretty well OK; school was seen as an option in my end of town in Adelaide, as opposed to an imperative. Even my sister, who was a straight A student in Year 11 decided to leave school for theatrical pursuits. I suspect I was only the second in my extended family to finish high school without a break. I was definitely the first into Uni. Part-time work was sort of expected of me to make up for the fact that I wasn’t a part of legitimate full-time employment. Being a student was considered a bit soft. Well it wasn’t work … (Nan Bahr) •

What vocational/study options are generally supported by families today? Has there been a change in perceptions in recent times?

for credentials across both the secondary and Technical and Further Education sectors (TAFE). It provides for flexibility in attendance (for example part-time schooling options, parenting-friendly schooling), provides more seamless entry to university with students studying university courses (depending on qualifications of teaching staff) delivered at their local school for advanced credit when they arrive at university. New age apprenticeships assist entry to a broad range of employments from traditional trade apprenticeships to office clerk, paraprofessional and information technology apprenticeships. Schools continue to play a central role in the preparation of students for life after school, and work is an important component. Schools have not always

232   The Millennial Adolescent

positioned themselves in the vocational preparation role and have tended to focus on developing and promoting academic attainment. However, present-day schools have all taken on some vocational preparation role. Through enabling students to elect accredited vocational courses through partnerships with TAFE, or designing school-based subjects with a vocational preparation emphasis, or integrating vocational issues within traditional academic programs, there has been an upheaval for teachers. Some have been asked to gain additional formal accreditation so that they could teach some of these new programs in school. Employers have also changed their position somewhat. In their recruitment advertisements, companies often highlight the training they offer. A part-time job at the local food mart may provide valuable training programs in marketing, point of sale management, customer relations, stock management and so on. Some chains actually suggest to their new recruits that they have entered a type of ‘coalface university’ that will prepare them well for their future careers, at the same time as providing spending money. In short, the framework has changed. It would seem that the vast majority of adolescents will be juggling work and study pressures as they negotiate senior schooling and maybe even during middle schooling. In Australia, a part-time working life can begin at the local McDonald’s restaurant when a student reaches the age of fourteen and a half. Most of the adolescents who decide to work to supplement their schooling experience a range of pressures and advantages that both complement and interfere with their schooling and learning. The adolescent worker has less time to study and experiences conflicting demands. There is an ongoing pressure to prioritise and to negotiate these priorities with supervisors at school, work and home. Robinson (1999) suggests that this part-time work is actually beneficial in a number of ways which we will explore later. Many teachers would agree that part-time work can be a benefit, but there seems to be a ceiling at around 15 hours per week, beyond which the commitments to after-school employment can begin to interfere with study (Robinson, 1999). However, even today some young Australians are still leaving school entirely without completing their secondary education. In comparison with adolescents late last century, there are very few of them. Leaving school is a particularly monumental decision for an individual today, but it is one that most adolescents consider at certain key transition points. Policy writers and youth workers have pondered carefully on the key influences that make a student stay or leave school. Rice and Dolgin (2005) suggest a dynamic interaction between individuals and their environment as influences on the adolescent’s decision about their vocational quests. This contrasts with Ginzberg’s (1988) view of vocational choice as a developmental process based on a sequence of choices arising from comparisons

The later years   233

of the ideal with reality. It also contrasts with Holland’s (1985) view of vocational choice as primarily consistent with personality type. Both Ginzberg and Holland have been influential writers on vocational choice, but clearly have substantively different positions on the nature of vocational orientation. A more contemporary view would suggest that careers are things of the past. Perhaps we need to consider the prospect that today’s adolescents are unlikely to experience ‘careers’ as they once existed; rather they are likely to face several vocational shifts during their working lives. From this arise some important implications for schools and teaching.

Advantages of part-time work Working part-time while still at school brings a range of advantages to young people, depending on the nature of the work. That is, part-time work can be a foot in the door to ongoing full-time work and career with a particular employer or within an employment sector. Students can gain some generic benefits from engagement in any part-time work. In most circumstances, work brings young people into contact with a range of people older than themselves, and certainly with people who have differing responsibilities in the working context. Instead of spending their day interacting predominantly with people who are within a year of their same age or who have a service responsibility toward them (such as their teachers), they are immersed in an environment where they are not the focus of their supervisors and where they contribute to a diverse team. These contextual features alone can broaden a young person’s perspective and bring them to a more mature understanding of themselves and adulthood. Part-time work also brings money. For most young people their pay packet will enable some discretionary spending and some financial independence and responsibility. Working for pay can bring a more grounded understanding of the value of money and may enable young people to develop productive lifelong money management habits. The minimal wage treadmill though can make young people actually feel less emancipated from their parents as they begin to realise the gap between their capacity to earn and the costs of living independently.

Disadvantages of part-time work Part-time work can, however, be a burden for young people. It may significantly impact on their capacity to perform academically, may interfere with their opportunity to interact with peers outside of school, and may curtail leisure pursuits, hobbies or community engagement. The distraction, the time commitment, the organisational demands can be too much for some adolescents and this may result in a downturn in academic performance, frustration, lowered self-esteem, anxiety, and even depression. The negative impacts of part-time work are associated with the hours spent per week

234   The Millennial Adolescent

and the type of work. Some young people manage around 30 hours of part-time work in their week. It’s hard to imagine how this is possible but a few hours of work directly after and/or before school each day can add up to 15 hours pretty quickly and then some time over the weekend can make up the balance. These young people may well be exhausted emotionally and physically during their school hours. Their thinking skills can be impaired, and of course their opportunity to consolidate concepts through private study is hampered. Even if the adolescent isn’t working long hours each week, the nature of their work can be problematic. Maybe a physically demanding job will tire them, or maybe their work colleagues overtly ridicule academic pursuits. The type of work and the collegial context frame the whole adolescent experience and may undermine their concentration on schooling. Young people who are working during schooling have a special opportunity to establish a healthy work and life balance. Almost all contemporary workers are required to juggle study, work, family, community and leisure. Schools and youth workers can really assist by acknowledging and supporting young people as they attempt to fit part-time work into their commitments. In the past, part-time work has been something that has been largely ignored by schools with young people being left to sink or swim. Striking that healthy and productive balance is a lifelong skill that can be developed carefully with targeted initiatives in curriculum. The ETRF provides some dramatically positive possibilities for exactly this.

Theory/literature re vocational issues A common theme in the literature is that aspiration is fundamental to positive selfesteem (Rice & Dolgin, 2005). Adolescents who have determined career goals for themselves appear to have higher self-esteem than others. This is related to self-image which in turn is related to educational attainment of parents. Vocational issues and influences are for this reason complex and interactional. Key and classic writers in the field of vocational development include Ginzberg (1988), and Holland (1985). These two researchers have provided foundation for much more contemporary work in vocational development and choice (see Armstrong & Crombie, 2000; Gottfredson, 1996). Ginzberg proposed a compromise with reality theory, which delineated a sequence of subdecisions in line with emerging opportunities and achievements as individuals move through childhood to adolescence. Three phases or stages were identified: fantasy; tentative; and realistic. The first stage, the fantasy stage, emerges in childhood. In this stage the individual imagines work regardless of needs, abilities, or training. My son is five years old and as I wrote this section I asked him the traditional ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ question. He said, ‘I’d like to be a police officer like Uncle Chris, Papa Ben and Constable Plod.’ I thought he was showing Ginzberg up, that he was clearly relying on his experience to select a path for himself and wasn’t at

The later years   235

all fanciful in his selection of an option. And then he said ‘Or a dragonfly.’ Maybe Ginzberg was right. The second phase, the tentative, was suggested by Ginzberg to emerge in young adolescence and considers interest, capacities, and values. The young adolescent has a more grounded view of vocation, but may still hold some incomplete conceptions and may not have yet tested fully their capacities to pursue their preferred path. The tentative selection is very much based on their experiences and familiarity with the world of work which may present a fairly restricted set of options. Certainly it is likely that the type and range of options available to our young people today are going to be substantively different to the careers of their parents. It is unlikely then that they will be completely familiar with the choices that will confront them. The third phase, the realistic, emerges in senior adolescence and is characterised by the processes of exploration, crystallisation, and specification. That is, the adolescent will endeavour to gather as much personal and anecdotal information as possible about the career choices they are focused upon, and based on this information will home in on one or two clear choices. As they learn more about their choice they will specialise or specify their place within the vocation. Ginzberg has provided a useful framework for considering vocational development, but has been criticised for the rigidity of the model and its focus on upper classes in its development. Poverty curtails vocational options for many young people. Holland’s work (1985) preceded Ginzberg and had a different focus. Holland proposed an Occupational Environment Theory—people tend to choose occupations that provide environments that align with their personality type. As a starting point the theory relied on a clear identification and classification of personality. Six basic personality types were identified; realistic, investigative, enterprising, conventional, intellectual, and artistic. Holland did not, however, consider preferred work environment. Gati (1998; Gati et al., 1995) proposed that a variety of characteristics influence vocational choice and that career alignment had more to do with decision making based on a person’s assessment of the benefits of that employment. Gati’s work enabled a closer consideration of the influences of work contexts in conjunction with work type in vocational decision making. What researchers are interested in is what has the most influence on young people when they are choosing a vocation.

Influences on vocational choice Parents, naturally, feature prominently as a key influence. Young people are provided with a potent window into the lifestyle created by their parents’ vocational choices. Indeed as they have grown up they have enjoyed the specific job perks that their parents’ careers have provided. They understand the working contexts of their

236   The Millennial Adolescent

parents, have seen the downsides, and have developed insight into the continuing motivations that attract and sustain their parents. They are likely to share core values with their parents, and so may well feel they could fit into the work environments of their parents’ occupations. This exposure cannot be understated as a potent influence on career choice. Parents may influence their children in other ways— there may be a direct inheritance scenario where young people are expected to enter and build the family business. Even if this isn’t the case, there may be overt encouragement and support for ‘correct’ choices and discouragement of other choices. Parents might introduce and foster role model relationships with successful adults in the preferred field. Finally, parents may simply demand their child take up specific employments. I know some young people who have been told they can choose their own path as long as they get a trade first. This strategy inducts young people into a way of life and work that may be difficult to leave later on. Interestingly, although potent influences, research has shown that about one-third of us do not choose employment in our parents’ employment or status category (Rice & Dolgin, 2005). There are somewhat contradictory findings regarding the influence of peers on vocational choice (Rice & Dolgin, 2005). Most people select occupations that accord with the general preferences of their parents and friends, but it is unclear how this actually comes to pass. By selecting schools, supporting activities, encouraging and discouraging, parents set their kids up to interact with a particular peer group. Adolescents also tend to choose friends that fit with their parental approval. Ambition or disillusion can be shared within that group. It appears that those with high aspirations are generally encouraged to be so by their peers and parents, and that those with low aspirations tend not to be encouraged by their peers and parents. Do teachers influence students in vocational choice? It would appear that they do. A study in Maine (Rice & Dolgin, 2005) found that 39 per cent of university students reported that a high school teacher influenced them the most. This was actually higher than any other alternative—peers, family friends, relatives, parents, media and so forth. With some credibility, teachers can highlight to a student their relative strengths and can alert them to opportunities, can provide them with relevant information as well as link students with people who can facilitate entry to a career. Another potent key influence is the influence of gender on vocational choice. Sex stereotyping has had a grip on vocational options for centuries. The type and extent of the expectation is peculiar to culture. Cultural expectations and barriers can provide young people with a restricted menu of options. The restrictions are quite diverse. Even in a group of adolescents with ostensibly similar cultural orientation from inner Brisbane, there is likely to be diversity amongst their peer group. The nature of the subtle yet strong coercion impacting upon each of them from cultural influences can vary widely. These influences set values for the right and wrong vocational paths according to gender. Many young people, almost unconsciously, align their motivations along the path of least resistance.

The later years   237

The final suggested influence on vocation selection and success is intelligence. Actually neither high nor low intelligence (assuming no intellectual impairment) are directly predictive of success. Other attributes such as interest, motivation, personality traits, special aptitudes, persistence appear to have the greatest influence (Rice & Dolgin, 2005).

How do we prepare young people for thinking about work? In the spirit of the ETRF initiatives, it is vital that those working with young people take their role seriously in adequately preparing them for the world of work. A number of characteristics are actively developed in national and state curriculums; these include a vital set of skills in personal management: • • • • • •

personal organisation teamwork cross-age relationships understanding hierarchies leadership and responsibility development time management.

The understandings and skills are often assumed, and yet failure in any one of them can set the circumstances for premature failure in work. Personal organisation, for example, is something we tend to see as the natural consequence of necessity. The busier and more diverse our activities, then naturally the more organised we become. This is just impossible for many people. Instead of devising positive systems they succumb to anxiety, start to make damaging mistakes and generally develop ineptitude. Our system of preparing people for self-organisation is simply to remove the training wheels. Up to adolescence we remind, support, cajole, provide, plan and generally organise for each young person. We all help out—mum, dad, friends’ mums, and teachers. Indeed if any reasonable adult sees that a youngster is struggling to get themselves organised for something, then they are quite likely to step up and assist. We do not have the same compassion for adolescents. We simply implore them to ‘get with the program’ and to sort out their responsibilities. I don’t advocate doing everything for young people but I certainly think we tend not to adequately prepare, explicitly teach and support kids in developing the skills for personal management. This is also true of time management. Understanding hierarchies and working in multi-age contexts is something special about work contexts that is not well replicated in school environments. The hierarchical structure of schools from a kid’s perspective is two-tiered and relatively flat in each tier. There are teachers, and there are students. Although there is some sort of hierarchy between younger and older students, the type of responsibilities and accountabilities that underpin workplace hierarchies do not feature. Perhaps it is here that part-time work has the most potent potential benefit.

238   The Millennial Adolescent

Financial management skills form the other skill set required for workplace success. Again, some of these skills can be taught explicitly through the curriculum, through commercial development and innovation projects for the school. It is heartening to see many schools encouraging teams of adolescents to establish ‘companies’, develop products and then attend to the financial management of the project. Something that schools seem to do quite well is create awareness of career options. This is an essential element of career orientation. Careers fairs hosted by schools, school clusters, employer groups, tertiary providers and so on are a prominent feature on the calendar of most senior schools. These external events combined with information regarding legitimate subject choices, job descriptions and lifestyles, and processes to better understand personal strengths and values are essential elements in a cohesive career development program. In light of students’ declared aspirations, schools and youth professionals can work with young people to establish shortterm and long-term goal plans, decision points, performance indicators and so forth. These initiatives should not be an adjunct to school and community responsibilities, they should be core. If young people have a sense of direction they are much healthier in every other aspect of their emotional and personal relationship profile.

The Education and Training Reforms for the Future (ETRF) in Australia: Learning or earning Providing for work orientation as a core to schooling activities is the real strength of the ETRF initiatives.

What these changes mean for young people ETRF has declared that young people are to be engaged in education and training in a range of settings until they achieve at least a Senior Certificate or a Certificate III vocational qualification. The framework provides for much greater flexibility to achieve these qualifications. Specifically there has been an increase in the range of choices so that when students begin the Senior Phase of Learning, they will have a choice about: • • • • • • • •

senior subjects at school only (as they have in the past) senior subjects in school, TAFE, or alternative settings vocational education and training in schools, TAFE institutes, agricultural colleges or other training providers an apprenticeship or traineeship a combination of education or training with part-time employment virtual study, or on-line schooling or vocational education and training international programs of learning (such as Baccalaureate), or university subjects while they are at school.

The later years   239

Students may also choose to: • •

participate in an employment program that prepares them for work, or participate in training programs that are tailored to their needs, such as literacy and numeracy programs.

The age of compulsory schooling is in the process of being raised so that it is reasonable to expect most young people will be obliged to remain at school or in training, as outlined in the ETRF, well into senior adolescence. They will be learning or earning, with no possibility of opting out and collecting unemployment benefits. The training options that have been made more accessible for young people, by not making them choose between academic preparation or trade preparation programs or work, have amplified the role of the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector in Australia.

VET (Vocational Education and Training) VET is a national system designed to skill workers to work in particular industries (such as plumbing, retail). The nature of the skills focus has broadened considerably in recent times to include such diverse fields as design, multimedia production, and some entry level tertiary programs. VET is underpinned by a National Training Framework which comprises two components: • •

National Training Packages Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF).

The Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF) provides the basis for Australia’s nationally consistent, high quality vocational education and training system. The standards provide the common foundation for ensuring the quality and integrity of training and assessment services of registered training organisations (RTOs). VET works on a nationwide level, covering four levels of Certificate, Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas within the Australian Qualifications Framework. Traditionally VET programs have been delivered in TAFE (Technical and Further Education) Colleges; however, the ETRF has responded to significant changes in that arrangement. VET courses and programs can now be offered in schools by appropriately qualified instructors, who are usually teachers in the school. These are not just industry-oriented school courses. These programs are nationally accredited within the AQTF in terms of their quality assurance, maintenance of standards of instruction, assessment and recording of competencies attained by students. They also comply with the strict curriculum of the designated National Training Package for the program. In this way the community at large can be assured that consistent standards and content exist across the many training providers (which can also

240   The Millennial Adolescent

include commercial providers). That is, a person who holds a Certificate IV in Workplace Assessment and Training will be able to display exactly the same range and level of competencies of any other person with the same qualification, regardless of the training provider. So, VET in Schools is a new challenge for teachers.

What are VET in Schools programs? The clearest definition of VET in Schools is provided by the Ministerial Committee for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) Taskforce on Transition from School (2005). In their report they state: MCEETYA considers a VET program to be a VET in Schools program if: •

It is undertaken as part of a senior secondary certificate; and

its completion by the student provides credit towards a recognised qualification within the Australian Qualifications Framework. (MCEETYA, 2005, p. 4)

As such, the VET in Schools programs are based on national industry or enterprise competency standards according to the AQTF. It is recommended that the programs interface with structured work placement for each student. Students may exit the course with a full qualification or a statement of attainment. In 2005 the MCEETYA Taskforce reported that in 2004 a total of 211 885 students were enrolled in VET in Schools programs, which represented approximately 49 per cent of all senior secondary students at that time. The types of programs students were studying were quite varied but the most popular were Tourism and Hospitality, Business and Clerical, and Computing. These areas alone made up nearly 48 per cent of the total (MCEETYA, 2005). Table 9.1 shows the figures from 1996 through to 2004. It is extraordinary to note the magnitude of the increase in involvement in VET in Schools for government school students across that time

Table 9.1  Students enrolled in VET in schools 1996–2004 1996











52 258

66 366

83 367

97 982

109 900

119 442

133 404

138 664



12 165

17 825

22 202

25 778

28 925

31 335

32 995

33 279



5 043

8 300

11 035

14 252

15 721

17 752

18 143

20 091

TAFE & Adult


23 600

24 500

22 803

15 604

15 263

16 991

18 393

19 851

60 000

93 066

116 991

139 407

153 616

169 809

185 520

202 935

211 885


Source: MCEETYA Taskforce, 2005

The later years   241 211,885



200,000 169,809

180,000 153,616

No. students



140,000 116,991

120,000 94,066

100,000 80,000



60,000 40,000 20,000 0 1996









Years Figure 9.1  Students enrolled in VET in schools 1996–2004 Source: MCEETYA Taskforce, 2005

span. Figure 9.1 shows this effect dramatically; however, this figure consolidates figures from the Catholic sector schools where the development has been strong but not as patent as the Government sector.

Summary Vocational education is an essential part of an adolescent’s life. We can help young people by supporting their work orientation through part-time employment, work development training programs and through informative and targeted curriculum that supports the development of the knowledge and skills to engage in the workforce. If we can assist young people to aspire to attainable and exciting vocations, then we greatly assist the transition into adulthood. Schools are currently making dramatic adjustments to provide an extensive opportunity for students to engage in specific work preparation programs. Traditional schooling in this context is dead. Our senior adolescents are balancing work, training, education, family and community responsibilities. They are attending school with individual and flexible schedules. Their experience is designed to better assist them through adolescence into adulthood and have an impact throughout their schooling. Therefore we must better address the preparedness of adolescents for this new type of senior adolescent experience from the middle years schooling settings.

242   The Millennial Adolescent

Key points 1




Many adolescents begin experiencing paid work as an adjunct to their schooling. There are both advantages and disadvantages to working at the same time as completing formal schooling. Our working persona is a large part of our sense of self, and the ETRF policy initiatives have worked to provide a better context to position young people for entry to the workforce. Parents are a prominent influence on career choice for young people. Indeed many adolescents at least initially intend to work in careers and contexts allied to their parents or close relatives. This is not only due to parental suggestion and active encouragement but also due to the induction young people receive through experiencing life on the fringes of these careers. ETRF initiatives have made a significant impact on the options available for senior school students. This has in turn influenced the type of school experiences relevant to middle schooling.

Further thinking 1

2 3 4

What is/should be the role of teachers in vocational education, and how are you likely to be involved if you are a member of staff of a contemporary secondary school? What might be the pressures and advantages experienced by adolescents who decide to work to supplement their schooling experience? What type of things influence adolescents as they prepare for career decisions? What are the key influences that direct a student to stay or leave school?

References Armstrong, P. I., & Crombie, G. (2000). Compromises in adolescents’ occupational aspirations and expectations from grades 8 to 10. Journal of Vocational Behaviour, 56, 82–98. Gati, I. (1998). Using career related aspects to elicit preference and characterize occupations for a better person-environment fit. Journal of Vocational Behaviour, 2, 341–356. Gati, I., Fassa, N., & Houminer, D. (1995). Applying decision theory to career counselling practice: The sequential elimination approach. Career Development Quarterly, 43, 211–220.

The later years   243

Ginzberg, E. (1988). Toward a theory of occupational choice. Career Development Quarterly, 36, 358–363. Gottfredson, L. S. (1996). Gottfredson’s theory of circumscription and compromise. In D. Brown and L. Brooks (Eds.), Career choice and development (3rd ed., pp. 179–232). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Holland, J. L. (1985). Making vocational choices: A theory of vocational personalities and work environments (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. MCEETYA Taskforce on Transition from School (2005). National data on participation in VET in Schools programs & School-Based New Apprenticeships for the 2004 school year: Compiled from the data provided by States and Territories. Canberra, ACT: Australian Government Publishing Service. Queensland State Government (2002). Education and Training Reforms for the Future: Queensland the Smart State. Brisbane: Queensland Government. Rice, F. P., & Dolgin, K. G. (2005). The adolescent: Development, relationships, and culture (11th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Robinson, L. (1999). School students benefit from part-time work. Research Developments, Newsletter of the Australian Council for Educational Research, 1, 2–3.


Lifelong learning Donna Pendergast and Jeff Wilks

Chapter summary • • • •

• • • •

Lifelong learning Why is lifelong learning on the agenda? Lifelong learners—What do they look like and how do we create them? Surf Life Saving Australia — Learning to do — Learning to be — Learning to know — Learning to live together Key characteristics of lifelong learning schools Key points Further thinking References

Rapidly changing circumstances and opportunities in contemporary work, social and recreational environments, demand the continuing acquisition of new knowledge, new skills and new abilities—and their efficient application. This demand can be met satisfactorily only through a process of continual learning: learning how to do; how to know; how to be; and how to live together. For young people in particular, there is an urgent need to develop the confidence and the know-how required to deal with the uncertainties and complex conundrums which many of them face now in adolescence and which all will face as adults.


Pendergast et al. (2005)

Lifelong learning   245

This chapter will explore lifelong learning. This concept is examined in depth as it applies to a community-based organisation, Surf Life Saving Australia—a wellknown Australian icon that relies on volunteerism to provide important community services. We have focused on this organisation because it highlights the idea of informal learning which can take place both beyond the formal years of schooling and/or concurrently with the formal years but outside the school boundaries. It contributes to our understanding of the characteristics of lifelong learning within a learning society (Watson, 2003).

Lifelong learning International and Australian education systems have embraced the ideals of lifelong learning in the last decade, as mentioned in previous chapters of this book. It is rapidly becoming a generic term connected with the desirable characteristics of members of society, during and after their formal schooling years. This is evidenced by government reports and policy documents since the 1980s which have embraced this concept as a key component. The focus on lifelong learning has been prompted by the emergence of knowledge economies and information societies whose key features are globalisation and increasing trade liberalism; changing nature of work and employment opportunities; increased mobility; increasing impact of new and future ICTs; and a shift away from manufacturing towards knowledge and service economies. Lifelong learning focuses on the need for continual learning and on the sets of generic skills and capacities that will equip individuals and societies for the challenges of living and working in the new work order. As the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA, 2005, p. 5) notes in its position paper Contemporary learning: Learning in an online world, ‘continuous learning with clear purpose and connection to the real-world is critical to developing the capabilities, dispositions and literacies required to participate in society and to deal with the complexity of issues and change’. One of the effects has been to refocus on engaging young people more effectively. What lifelong learning principles espouse is that it is no longer useful to teach a set of skills or processes or knowledge, because they will become of limited applicability within a short period due to the rapid progress and development of society. It means teaching students to think like an ‘expert novice’ (Gee, Hull & Lankshear, 1996), that is, someone who is expert at continually learning anew and in depth. Students no longer need to become an expert at any one thing. The tools our students need are those that give access to communication and technical processes, and which equip them to be lifelong learners. This creates enormous challenges for education systems everywhere as they have to justify the shift from what has been traditionally valued knowledge, processes and skills, to those needed for our contemporary world. The following case study highlights this dilemma.

246   The Millennial Adolescent

Schools fail the 3Rs test: Students unprepared for jobs ‘… an overwhelming majority of survey respondents believe schools are failing the basics.’ Sunday Mail, 11 September, 2005, p. 6

The 3Rs—reading, writing and arithmetic—have traditionally been used as measures of the success of an education system, with graduates expected to demonstrate high levels of proficiency in these three areas, with appropriate curriculum and, importantly, valued work readiness skills. However, it is increasingly argued that the 3Rs should no longer be used as a measure of work readiness, or indeed of a sound education system. Indeed, in response to the low levels of confidence in the survey referred to above, it was argued that ‘… we are preparing students for work. While it’s important that children can spell and add up, the reality is that they have things like spellcheck …’ •

Consider this situation. What might the ‘new basics’ of schooling for twentyfirst century adolescents comprise in order to create learners with lifelong learning attributes?

Why is lifelong learning on the agenda? The fundamental nature of society has changed, and will continue to change. This is a product of the constant evolution of technologies, globalisation, changing work and familial patterns, along with a range of complex economic, political and scientific evolutions, innovations and directions. Australia is clearly reconfiguring itself as a knowledge-based economy, via: • • • •

changed occupational structure—growth in service sector employment and decline in trades, manufacturing and rural sector employment high investment in ICT high uptake of computer and internet usage; and increasing percentage of workers employed in global, rather than locally focused markets (Pendergast et al., 2005).

The global knowledge economy is profoundly altering demands on labour markets and citizens worldwide. If we consider the question raised above about work readiness, we can begin to understand the need for a focus on lifelong learning attributes rather than basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills, which served as a basis for workplaces that were constructed around the industrial model of the twentieth century.

Lifelong learning   247

According to a key report by the OECD (2000), What works in education. Motivating students for lifelong learning: Education and skills, lifelong learning is about preparing young people for a working life that will include several career changes and the capacity to perform effectively in future jobs that in many instances don’t yet exist. This shift from the ‘old work order’, with the traditional, assemblyline approach typical of mass production (including education) featured replication, standardisation and inflexibility. With the ‘new work order’, the approach is towards forms of production that employ new ways of making goods and commodities, and serve more differentiated markets or niches through segmented retailing strategies. This means that progress and change are fundamental to the twenty-first century, so the capacity to constantly modify also will be essential. The challenge, therefore, is to instil a ‘zest for learning’ that young people will need to maintain throughout their lives if they are to survive and thrive in twenty-first century post-industrial societies (p. 11). Another way of explaining the shift to a post-industrial society that requires an increasing range of skills and knowledge of its individuals is articulated by Kegan (1994), who encapsulates this change as one from an ‘automatic’ to a ‘stick-shift’ society. In an ‘automatic’ society, many of an individual’s life decisions about where and how to live and work are pre-ordained whereas in a ‘stick-shift’ society the individual must assume responsibility for and accept the consequences of direct choice and must, as a result, become highly adaptable to change. This stick-shift view of contemporary society points to the need for a rethinking about education which historically operated with the underpinning principle that a sound basic education for all could be acquired during the compulsory years of schooling. Thus, the ‘front-loading’ view of learning linked to a narrow band of school years has been rapidly overtaken by a view of lifelong learning that encompasses ‘individual and social development of all kinds and in all settings—formally in schools and vocational, tertiary and adult education institutions; and informally, at home, at work and in the community’ (OECD, 1996, n.p.). Implicit in this rationale is the acknowledgement that in a knowledge economy—whether in the developed or the developing world—the range of knowledge and skills required outstrips the capacities of formal education alone. The notion of lifelong learning focuses attention on the need for continual learning and sets of generic skills and capacities that will equip individuals and societies for the challenges of living and working in knowledge economies (Pendergast et al., 2005). Reflecting international economic and political trends, lifelong learning has tended to have an economic focus that revolves around enabling continued individual employability, and a social-democratic focus on community engagement, enhanced citizenship and quality of life (Pendergast et al., 2005). The OECD and UNESCO agree that lifelong learning is an essential element of social and economic wellbeing for all global inhabitants. In supporting this position, Selby Smith & Ferrier (2002)

248   The Millennial Adolescent

in their report conducted for the OECD have identified four key pillars for lifelong learning in contemporary societies. • • • •

Systemic view of learning—that learning, formal and informal, is linked to the full life cycle rather than ‘front-loaded’ into the compulsory years of schooling Centrality of the learner—recognition of diversity of learners and a shift in priority towards an increased client focus Motivation to learn—attention to self-directed and individualised learning; and Multiple objectives of educational policies—economic, social, personal.

Watson (2003) explains that international and Australian lifelong learning agendas are built around the imperative of maintaining and renewing skills in the new economy. International evidence points to the continued exclusion from social access and economic prosperity of those individuals and groups who are not well educated and who have fewer well-developed skills. Because of this relationship, lifelong learning is regarded as a panacea for social disadvantage. Watson (2003) identifies four common themes running through the international and national lifelong learning research. They are: informal learning—describing a shift from the former focus on formal qualifications to informal learning; self-motivated learning— where individuals are expected to take responsibility for their own learning and cannot rely on others to ‘teach’ them; self-funded learning—an expectation that lifelong learners will take responsibility for the expenses attached to learning; and universal participation—recognition that universal participation in the goals and activities of lifelong learning are requisite for nations to meet the demands of the new economic structures and assist in the development of social cohesion in times of rapid change. Watson (2003, pp. 6–7) identified four characteristics of lifelong learners that could set the parameters of a learning society: 1 2 3 4

learning to do (acquiring and applying skills, including life skills) learning to be (promoting creativity and personal fulfilment) learning to know (an approach to learning that is flexible, critical and capable); and learning to live together (exercising tolerance, understanding and mutual respect).

In the Australian context, there is growing evidence that the challenge of rethinking education around the concept of lifelong learning is being privileged, yet it is not regarded to be an easy process. As noted by Pendergast et al. (2005, p. 13): … this repositioning around the foci of lifelong learning poses quite significant challenges for all sectors of education … This has promoted increasing attention to the range of learning outcomes and attributes associated with becoming a lifelong learner and the importance of successful transitions in and out of various learning contexts.

Lifelong learning   249

Lifelong learners—What do they look like and how do we create them? A range of key characteristics of lifelong learners is emerging. Istance (2003, pp. 95–97) has identified a set of key competencies and abilities considered fundamental to effective participation in contemporary life: 1



Acting autonomously a Ability to defend and assert one’s rights, interests, responsibilities, limits and needs b Ability to form and conduct life plans and personal projects; and c Ability to act within the larger context. Using tools interactively a Ability to use language, symbols and texts interactively b Ability to use knowledge and information interactively; and c Ability to use technology interactively. Functioning in socially heterogeneous groups a Ability to relate well to others b Ability to cooperate; and c Ability to manage and resolve conflict.

The Queensland Studies Authority (QSA), the statutory body responsible for the provision of a range of services and materials relating to syllabuses, testing, assessment, moderation, certification, accreditation, vocational education, tertiary entrance and research, is explicit in its connection with and understandings of lifelong learning. Each syllabus contains the following statement: The Queensland school curriculum is designed to assist students to become lifelong learners. The overall learning outcomes of the curriculum contain elements common to all key learning areas and collectively describe the valued attributes of a lifelong learner. A lifelong learner is: •

A knowledgeable person with deep understanding

A complex thinker

A creative person

An active investigator

An effective communicator

A participant in an interdependent world, and

A reflective and self-directed learner. (State of Queensland, 2000)

The role of schools in developing lifelong learning capacities is becoming clear as key research and strategic directions develop (Pendergast et al., 2005). And this is critical because, as the OECD notes, before leaving the formal education system,

250   The Millennial Adolescent

children must have ‘learned how to learn under self-motivated and self-managed conditions’ (2000, p. 22). According to the OECD (2000, p. 22), the core learning processes that lay the foundations for lifelong learning are identified as: learning and thinking techniques; ways of organising knowledge; forms of expression; and interpersonal social relations. Indeed, there is considerable convergence around what researchers and theorists in the field regard as the skills and competencies that provide a strong framework for developing lifelong learners, these being: problem solving; critical thinking; communication; democratic values; understanding of political processes; and self-perception and self-confidence. Taking this further, a study of 24 school-based innovations in eight countries, presented in the OECD (2000) report What works in innovation in education. Motivating students for lifelong learning: Education and skills, emphasises that student motivation to participate in learning is drawn from a number of factors that include, but are not limited to their experiences in classrooms. Other factors include: individual psychological aspects and parental, cultural and national attitudes to education. Importantly, the report notes that national schooling systems are all quite distinct, responding historically to different social, cultural and economic evolution and as a consequence, it is not possible to identify and mandate a one-size-fits-all approach to the development of lifelong learners. However, there are some transnational observations regarding possible facilitators for the development of lifelong learning attributes. These are summarised in the following table. Table 10.1  Possible facilitators for enhancing lifelong learning attributes Feature

Brief explanation

Individuality and diversity

A shift to student-centred learning such as teacher strategies and classroom organisation. Greater diversity such as the provision of expanded educational pathways, greater choice of institution and course, and expanded modes of assessment and learning.

Curriculum reform

Reconceptualising the curriculum to take account of changed employment and social conditions. A shift to curriculum integration and cross-disciplinary learning plays a key role.

Active learning

Learning by doing is a core component of motivation for students and is extended to include the notion of community participation and work experience.

Role models

Teachers are identified as important and effective modellers of lifelong learning.

New technologies

The utilisation of new technologies and the effect on the changing role of teachers is central to this concept. Teachers may not have the advanced capabilities of some students, so there is a need to collaborate with their students and be learners themselves.

Lifelong learning   251


Aligned with student-centred learning and teaching. In the context of lifelong learning, end-point and other standardised assessment should be seen as only one component of student achievement. Other curricular and extracurricular achievements should contribute to an assessment of student achievement. Additional means of assessment might include portfolios, progress files, training logs and individual log books.

Guidance and counselling services

The increased provision of these services is linked to increasing diversity of students, expanded choice and learning pathways, and recognition of the importance of transitions in lifelong learning.

Infrastructure improvement

Adequate provision of financing, in-service training for teachers and other educational staff, financial support for students in need; along with increased attention to relationships between schools and local communities, including parents.

Appropriate environments

Layout and design of classrooms was identified as a factor of note in student motivation towards lifelong learning. New technologies and new clientele, along with the requirements for delivery of new curriculum via new pedagogies, means that school design needs to be rethought. Innovative responses to these contextual changes included cybercafes, provision of conference rooms for staff. Source: Developed from OECD, 2000

A resource of great interest connecting schools and lifelong learning is affectionately known as ELLI—Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory, developed in the United Kingdom ( This is a diagnostic tool in the form of a questionnaire that is administered to determine individual and group patterns around seven predetermined lifelong learning dimensions: changing and learning; meaning making; curiosity; creativity; learning relationships; strategic awareness; and resilience. These dimensions were developed from an initial research project involving around 2000 learners from the age of seven to young adult that set out to identify the characteristics and qualities of effective lifelong learners and to develop tools and strategies for tracking, evaluating and recording people’s growth as effective real-life learners. ELLI has two elements: one concerned with identifying the components of learning power; the other concerned with exploring how those dimensions of learning power might be useful in teaching and learning in the classroom. According to ELLI, learning power is defined as: A complex mix of dispositions, lived experiences, social relations, values, attitudes and beliefs that coalesce to shape the nature of an individual’s engagement with any particular learning opportunity.

In terms of using the dimensions to improve the learning power, a range of interventions for the teaching and learning process was devised. The key themes

252   The Millennial Adolescent

underpinning the learning interventions were: teacher professional vision and values; the creation of positive interpersonal relationships that involved trust; affirmation and challenge; quality of dialogue; use of learning language; modelling and imitation; and teacher professional judgment. There are two very important findings from the ELLI project, one startling one was that: [W]hat was clear from this data was that over time, and through the course of formal schooling students actually become weaker on ALL learning dimensions, but especially creativity. At the same time they actually become MORE dependent and fragile as learners. (ELLI Website)

In addition, the research underpinning the development of ELLI found that ‘the critical factor is the professional vision of the teacher and the school climate’. Highlighting the important contribution teachers make to the development of lifelong learning attributes is a topic that was further investigated by Donnison (2005), who conducted a study of 70 (14 male, 56 female) Millennial Generation pre-service primary school teachers and their understanding of lifelong learning. She was interested to determine whether these aspiring teachers see themselves as lifelong learners, and how they anticipate developing these attributes in their students. She found that ‘the respondents in this study have a very limited understanding of their responsibility for lifelong learning’ (2005, n.p.). She notes that this is incongruous with their own personal past and life futures, yet, the pre-service teachers ‘do not associate lifelong learning with their future careers’. Instead, the respondents provided a picture consistent with historical teaching practices and educational models, where lifelong learning was not privileged. Donnison claims that: Teacher education programs are partially responsible for pre-service teachers’ lack of futures visions and their disinclination to frame themselves as lifelong learners and that measures such as introducing Futures Studies courses and a stronger emphasis on lifelong learning for all would go some way to redressing these inadequacies. (Donnison, 2005, n.p.)

The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) has funded several projects that seek to determine the role schools can play in engaging young people in their lifelong learning skills. The first of these, The era of lifelong learning: Implications for secondary schools (Bryce et al., 2000), sets out to contextualise the challenges and issues around lifelong learning in Australia. Australia is characterised as having an emphasis on lifelong learning’s contributions: through skills training; through retraining for continued employability; and with regard to economic considerations (Bryce et al., 2000). The authors note that what we understand as essential learning skills, or basic skills, must expand in response to our move towards learning society status and that students and young people must be helped to develop a positive orientation to the skills and characteristics of lifelong learning. This report

Lifelong learning   253

suggests that schools could assist in this process by bringing different elements of learning together more effectively so that skills and knowledge are reinforced and continually developed. While acknowledging that most secondary schools address the elements of lifelong learning, a more effective integration and reinforcement of these elements is needed. The paper identifies a set of key areas for school action: • • • • • •

the importance of becoming ‘information literate’ the need to question, reason about, evaluate and justify the relevance of, information the values, dispositions and attitudes associated with lifelong learning generic skills that promote lifelong learning the way that a strong personal self-concept assists learning, and ways this can be developed; and ways of helping people learn how to learn (Bryce et al., 2000, p. 9).

Like the previous reports in this chapter, there is a focus on the role of the teacher. In fact, Bryce et al. (2000, p. 20) postulate that the role of teachers as ‘mentors and models is central to the development of young people as lifelong learners’. Effective lifelong learning requires that teachers move away from didactic models towards the roles of mentors and facilitators in learner-centred classrooms; that they become, in effect, lifelong learners and part of a robust learning community. Central to this shift is a view of classrooms as learning communities with explicit goals and expectations, active learning, a focus on relationships and cooperation, and diverse tasks and learning activities. It is also noted that lifelong learning in schools requires a commitment to long-term planning. Lifelong learning cannot be ‘transplanted’ (Bryce et al., 2000, p. 30) but must be developed over time and sustained by shared commitment. Finally, the report recommends a key change for schools is to ‘immerse their students, to a greater degree than ever before, in the world outside the school’ (Bryce et al., 2000, p. 1).

Surf Life Saving Australia Australian youth have a wide variety of learning experiences outside the school environment, especially through sport and community groups. As the country’s peak water safety authority, Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) is an excellent example of applied lifelong learning opportunities encompassing both sport and community service. This section describes these opportunities using Watson’s (2003) four characteristics of lifelong learners. By way of background, SLSA is the largest volunteer organisation of its kind in the country, with a mission ‘to provide a safe beach and aquatic environment throughout Australia’. Of the 113 336 members more than half are aged 18 years or younger (Surf Life Saving Australia, 2005). Widely recognised by their distinctive red and yellow uniforms, this ‘army of lifesavers’ contributes 1.4 million voluntary hours

254   The Millennial Adolescent

annually to patrol the nation’s beaches. SLSA also provides more than 500 salaried lifeguards to local government and other land managers around the country. Table 10.2 provides a snapshot of the lifesaving actions undertaken by SLSA members during the 2004–2005 season. Table 10.2  SLSA lifesaving actions during the 2004–2005 season* Lives saved (Rescues) Resuscitations

14 601 220

First aid treatments

37 649


25 455

Suspected spinal injuries Preventative actions

147 544 789

* Includes both lifesavers and lifeguards

Training to become a lifesaver begins at an early age and SLSA believes this is a lifelong learning process. In order to work effectively as part of a lifesaving team, each member must be physically fit, knowledgeable about water safety and beach conditions, highly skilled in the delivery of first aid and emergency care, and committed to the ideal of community service (Wilks, Pendergast & De Nardi, 2006).

Learning to do Applying Watson’s (2003) first characteristic of lifelong learners, SLSA places considerable emphasis on ‘learning to do’—in the case of lifesaving, acquiring and applying skills that protect beach visitors and provide members with valuable personal life skills. Table 10.3 presents the SLSA Development and Retention framework that guides this process, highlighting how skills and knowledge are built incrementally (National Youth Development Committee, 2005). At the top of the list for each age cohort is the importance of enjoyment and fun, recognising that this is a key issue for long-term engagement and retention of members in voluntary activities. SLSA structures its educational and training activities along three broad youth bands. Young people aged 7–12 years are called ‘nippers’; those 13–14 are ‘cadets’; and the 15–18 year group are referred to as ‘juniors’. Beginning at the age of seven, the Surf Education Program ‘learning to do’ process provides young members with developmental lessons on surf awareness and surf safety that build over time to the award of the Surf Rescue Certificate (SRC). The SRC is the introductory award for a patrolling surf lifesaver (13–15 years of age) allowing them to guard the beaches under supervision from older and more experienced club members.

Lifelong learning   255 Table 10.3  SLSA development and retention framework Guiding principles


Retention is a lifecycle concept

Safety and support Fun and friendship

Developmental pathways provide ongoing opportunities and challenges

Teamwork and trust Caring and camaraderie Learning and leadership

Diversity is a strength and a reality

Excitement and enjoyment Respect and responsibility

Outcomes can be delivered through a range of programs

Challenge and achievement

Age groups


Program options

5–10 years

Enjoyment and fun

SLSA Age Managers Program


Surf education

Skill development

Restricted competition

Group interaction and participation

Restricted competition rules

Lifesaving Passbook 11–14 years

Enjoyment and fun

SLSA Age Managers Program

Personal development

Surf education

Increased self confidence

Restricted competition

Improving skills

Lifesaving Passbook

Demonstration of skills Awareness of responsibilities

TROYS (Targeted Retention of Youth Scheme)

Social interactions

Development Camps TOAD (Teamwork Opportunity and Development) Camp YIPS (Youth Involvement Program Scheme) CAPS (Challenge Achievement Pathways in Sport)

15–17 years

Enjoyment and fun


Peer interactions and teamwork

Lifesaving Passbook

Improving performance

Duke of Edinburgh

Improving personal development

Youth Committees/Panel

Leadership skills

Youth Leadership Camps

Health and lifestyle awareness

Personal development

Organisational awareness


Life skills

Future Leaders Program

256   The Millennial Adolescent

Skills and knowledge acquisition continues for junior lifesavers (15–18 years) with completion of the Bronze Medallion, which is the core operational award of Surf Life Saving Australia. The Bronze is available to all teenagers over the age of 15 and is the minimum requirement to actively patrol Australia’s beaches (Surf Life Saving Australia, 2003). In addition to a highly physical component, it includes valuable and transferable skills such as first aid and resuscitation (CPR), rescue techniques, radio communications and teamwork. The Bronze Medallion is recognised by the International Life Saving Federation ( education_equivalency.htm) and is one of a number of SLSA awards that meet the Australian Public Safety Industry’s Units of Competency and Qualifications (Public Safety Industry Training Advisory Body, 2003). The public safety industry is comprised of the police, fire brigade, State and Territory emergency services, emergency management sectors and Surf Life Saving Australia. Table 10.4 outlines the units of competency required for the Certificate II in Public Safety (Aquatic Rescue) and their mapping to the Bronze Medallion, highlighting the emphasis placed on the provision of emergency care (De Nardi, Wilks & Agnew, 2005).

Table 10.4 SLSA Bronze Medallion and units of competency in the Certificate II in Public Safety (Aquatic Rescue) Unit of Competency

SLSA Manual Module

Follow defined occupational health and safety policies and procedures (PUA OHS 001B)

Unit 1 – Safety and wellbeing

Apply surf survival and self survival skills (PUA SAR 012A)

Unit 2 – Surf awareness skills

Provide emergency care (PUA EME 001A)

Unit 3 – Anatomy and physiology Unit 4 – Basic first aid Unit 5 – First aid Unit 6 – Basic resuscitation Unit 7 – Resuscitation (CPR)

Communicate in the workplace (PUA COM 001B)

Unit 8 – Communication

Operate communications systems and equipment (PUA OPE 002A)

Unit 9 – Radio communications

Participate in an aquatic rescue operation (PUA SAR 009A)

Unit 10 – Rescue techniques Unit 11 – Carries and support

Work in a team (PUA TEA 001A)

Unit 12 – Patrols

Work effectively in a public safety organisation (PUA TEA 004B)

On-the-job training

Lifelong learning   257

In order to maintain their skills surf lifesavers must undertake proficiency tests and re-accredit each year. This lifelong learning and quality assurance process is further enhanced by opportunities to participate in Surf Sports. These competitions, carnivals and championships are designed to improve members’ lifesaving skills, as well as challenging them mentally and physically. Surf Sports provides opportunities for competitors in a broad range of activities, such as: • • • • • • • • • • • •

Beach events Surf swimming Board riding Board paddling Ironperson events Rescue and resuscitation March past First aid competition Patrol competition Champion lifesaver Marathons, multi-disciplines and endurance events Still water competition (pool).

Competition is available to lifesavers of all ages, with Masters Carnivals and competitions specifically targeting members 30 years of age and over. Competitions provide additional lifelong learning opportunities for members to become accredited training officers, coaches, judges and officials. On the operational side, continuous learning is offered through a range of certificates and awards, such as the Rescue Water Craft (RWC) Operator’s Certificate, Jet Rescue Boat (JRB) Driver’s Certificate, Defibrillation training and accreditation, Silver Medallion Radio Controller’s Certificate and the Gold Medallion (Advanced Lifesaving). The Gold Medallion is the core qualification for working as a professional lifeguard in Australia, so this lifelong learning process is designed to provide young people with both life skills and vocational opportunities (Wilks, De Nardi & Pendergast, 2006).

Learning to be Watson’s (2003) second characteristic—‘learning to be’ (promoting creativity and personal fulfilment)—is central to SLSA activities at each developmental level. As noted in Table 10.2, enjoyment and fun is top of the list for each age cohort. Building on fun and new friendships with the nipper group, SLSA incrementally introduces opportunities to develop teamwork, self-confidence and leadership. A good example is SLSA’s participation in the CAPS (Challenge, Achievement and Pathways in Sport) Leadership Development Program (see Sport and Recreation Queensland The interesting

258   The Millennial Adolescent

thing about CAPS is that a young person does not necessarily have to play the sport nominated, but can qualify by participation in any four or more of the following activity areas: Administration, Event/Team Management, Sports Health, Coaching, Refereeing/Judging/Umpiring, Sports Participation and Active School Leaders. Having completed the three mandatory steps for the State level certificate (70 hours over a minimum of nine months) candidates may then advance to the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) Sport Leader Award where an extra 30 hours of supervised service will earn them a nationally recognised award. CAPS effectively mirrors the many and diverse learning and participation opportunities SLSA offers its members through the national network of 304 surf clubs, branch and state organisational bodies and links with affiliated groups. Not everyone wants to be a patrolling lifesaver year after year, so lifelong learning recognises the importance of tailoring experiences to meet the needs and interests of individual SLSA members.

Learning to know Watson’s (2003) third characteristic—‘learning to know’ (adopting an approach to learning that is flexible, critical and capable)—is perhaps best demonstrated by SLSA’s developmental approach to the integration of activities. Skills, for example, are assessed on a competency model (pass or fail, retry) that encourages members to achieve certain standards, even if it requires several attempts. This learning is conducted in a supportive and encouraging environment. Many of the tasks offer flexibility in the approach adopted, as illustrated in the following two assessment items for Surf Smart 2: Under 13s: • •

Perform a simple rescue in a controlled aquatic environment using some form of rescue aid; and Design a lifesaving plan, specifically investigating and justifying the type of equipment, type of service, recognition of hazards, recognition of safe swimming areas and other preventative measures (Surf Life Saving Queensland, 2005).

The same competency-based model is employed for awards and activities at the senior levels, and is a philosophical approach adopted across SLSA since the core purpose of the education and training is to adequately equip members with lifesaving knowledge and skills. Learning to know also comes from discussions, debates and general interaction with all age group members in a community-based organisation like surf lifesaving. From the age of 14 years onwards SLSA encourages members to participate in development camps, committees and forums at state and national level. In this way they have an effective voice within the organisation (see au/pdfs/factSheets/leadershipPrograms.pdf).

Lifelong learning   259

For example, the State Youth Development Program has been running since 1997 in Queensland. The program is open to members aged between 14 and 17 years (cadets/juniors) and provides participants with the opportunity and tools to become more involved and effective as leaders, in addition to learning more about each other and themselves. Topics covered during the program include: leadership, personal development, lifesaving and surf sport skills, retention programs, meeting procedures, basic patrol captain skills and teamwork skills. Approximately 50 members state-wide are selected to attend the camp held in December each year. Similar forums are available for members aged 18–25 at state and national level, while older members are encouraged to participate in a variety of elected leadership positions within the organisation.

Learning to live together Watson’s (2003) last characteristic—‘learning to live together’ (tolerance, understanding and mutual respect)—is most obvious in the SLSA club system. There are 304 surf clubs across Australia and they form the community base of the organisation. From these clubs, members patrol their local beaches in teams, compete together in surf sports, train and work together. There is a high level of dependence on the skills and ability of each team member so lifelong learning processes are critical to maintain and develop the required competencies. Conscious of its member diversity, SLSA has developed a detailed Member Safety and Wellbeing Policy that commits all levels of the organisation to protecting Table 10.5  SLSA Member Rights and Responsibilities Rights


Members have the right to: i be safe ii be listened to iii be respected iv privacy v a protective environment in which inherent surf lifesaving risks are taken vi an inclusive environment vii be referred to professional help if needed viii be protected from abuse, discrimination or harassment by other members or outside sources.

Members are responsible for: • showing respect to other members • keeping themselves safe • complying with all other requirements of this policy • making themselves aware of the policy and complying with the standards of conduct outlined in this policy • consenting to a national police check if the individual holds or applies for a role that involves working with people under the age of 18 years • cooperating in providing a discrimination-, child abuse- and harassment-free SLSA environment • understanding the possible consequences of breaching this policy.

260   The Millennial Adolescent

the health, safety and wellbeing of all its members and is dedicated to providing a safe environment for participating in surf lifesaving activities (see www.slsa. under Administration and Resources). Harassment and discrimination are not tolerated within SLSA and specific measures are in place to guard against infringement. Codes of Conduct provide detailed direction for coaches, officials, leaders and management personnel. Youth members learn about their rights and responsibilities at an early stage (see Table 10.5 on page 259) and, as older leaders of the organisation, are then in a position to ensure that the next generation is afforded the same consideration. While these formal policies are very important, learning to live together is a natural process and outcome for the type of community service provided by Australia’s surf lifesavers. The core business of preventing injury and saving lives binds lifesavers of all ages, background ethnicity and occupation together. The continuous development of knowledge and skills is for a primary purpose (to guard the beaches), though fun and enjoyment, personal development, leadership and life skills all flow from this purpose.

Key characteristics of lifelong learning schools Returning to the formal school context, Bryce and Withers (2003) have focused on identifying the key characteristics of lifelong learning schools. The authors propose that lifelong learning in schools is more effectively thought of as a ‘journey’ rather than something that can be imposed onto a school community, such that lifelong learning becomes an orientation to relationships and learning that pervades the entire community. The report identifies key ingredients to becoming a secondary school oriented to lifelong learning, these being: • • • • •

having a learning centre that becomes the hub of learning in the school having programs that develop students’ self esteem having a strong focus on development of students’ metacognitive skills having VET programs or other programs that link work with school above all having someone in the school (often the Principal) whose enthusiasm for lifelong learning is inspirational (Bryce & Withers, 2003, n.p.).

Considerable alignment in key findings from this work are evident in the outcomes of research conducted by Pendergast and her colleagues (Pendergast et al., 2005), who undertook a MCEETYA funded study to investigate what practices, processes, strategies and structures best promote lifelong learning and the development of lifelong learners in the middle years of schooling context. Their study of 25 schools around the nation that were recognised for their innovative work in middle schooling and lifelong learning revealed that students tended to acquire knowledge, skills and attitudes associated with lifelong learning in four main ways:

Lifelong learning   261

• • • •

as a result of the social learning engendered in working collaboratively and cooperatively with other students as outcomes from specific curricular and co-curricular programs as required to complete specific tasks determined for school assessment; and most importantly, as a result of the role models provided by individual teachers—both as learners themselves and as illuminators of specific attitudes regarding the importance of learning in our lives. Even in a school where reforms may be failing, such teachers exist and continue to be role models (Pendergast et al., 2005, p. 8).

There is a consistent theme in the research findings that lifelong learner role models are the critical element to achieve a positive attitude towards lifelong learning in students. Bryce and Withers (2003) note the importance of this factor ‘above all’, while Pendergast et al. (2005) use the phrase ‘most importantly’ to highlight the critical role played by role models. Teachers and Principals are particularly singled out as being these role models. This is a message of great importance for all educators. There is no doubt that the shift towards a culture of lifelong learning is a massive challenge, impacting upon not only the formal schooling sector, but other stakeholders responsible for engaging individuals in learning beyond schooling, both in the sense of informal concurrent learning, and in the sense of post-compulsory education. I would argue that the school sector has a key responsibility to develop lifelong learning capabilities and instil motivation to participate as lifelong learners. This is the key role of the formal schooling sector.

Key points 1



The international and Australian education systems have embraced the ideals of lifelong learning in the last decade. It is rapidly becoming a generic term that encapsulates the desirable characteristics of members of society, both during and after their formal schooling years. Lifelong learning focuses attention on the need for continual learning and on the sets of generic skills and capacities that will equip individuals and societies to embrace this expanded notion of learning and the challenges of living and working in knowledge economies and the new work order. The role of schools in developing lifelong learning capacities is becoming clearer as key research and strategic directions have been developed. Many schools address the elements of lifelong learning; however, a more effective integration and reinforcement of these elements is needed. Key areas for school action are now identified.

262   The Millennial Adolescent



There is a consistent theme in the research that lifelong learner role models—particularly teachers—are the critical element to achieve an attitude of lifelong learning in students. Importantly, however, Millennial Generation pre-service primary school teachers do not associate lifelong learning with their future careers. Community organisations provide an important pathway to the development of individual lifelong learning and developing the parameters of a learning society.

Further thinking 1

2 3


Develop a range of strategies teachers can incorporate into their repertoire of practices that spotlight them performing as lifelong learners in a way that will serve as effective role modelling for adolescents. What can be done in pre-service and in-service teacher education to magnify the role of teachers as role models of lifelong learning? Critically reflect on your own skills as a lifelong learner. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Develop strategies to work on areas of weakness. Conduct a web search to locate some of the tools available to measure students’ lifelong learning attributes. How might these tools be used in formal and informal learning situations to better understand lifelong learning traits?

References Bryce, J., Frigo, T., McKenzie, P., & Withers, G. (2000). The era of lifelong learning: Implications for secondary schools. Camberwell, Victoria: ACER. Bryce, J., & Withers, G. (2003). Engaging secondary school students in lifelong learning. Camberwell, Victoria: ACER. De Nardi, M., Wilks, J., & Agnew, P. (2005). Developing an effective emergency management partnership: Surf Life Saving Australia and ambulance services. Australian Journal of Emergency Management, 20(4), 8–16. Donnison, S. (2005, July). Learning on hold: South-East Queensland preservice teachers and their understanding of lifelong learning. Paper presented at the 35th Annual Conference of the Standing Conference on University Teaching and Research in the Education on Adults, Brighton, England. Gee, J., Hull, G., & Lankshear, C. (1996). The new work order: Behind the language of the new capitalism. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.

Lifelong learning   263

Istance, D. (2003). Schooling and lifelong learning: insights from OECD analyses. European Journal of Education, 38(1), 85–98. Kegan, R. (1994). In over our heads. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA). (2005). Contemporary learning: Learning in an online world. Melbourne: Curriculum Corporation. National Youth Development Committee. (2005). SLSA development and retention framework. Sydney: Surf Life Saving Australia. OECD. (1996). Lifelong learning for all. Paris: OECD. OECD. (2000). What works in innovation in education. Motivating students for lifelong learning: Education and skills. Paris: OECD. Pendergast, D., Flanagan, R., Land, R., Bahr, M., Mitchell, J., Weir, K., Noblett, G., Cain, M., Misich, T., Carrington, V., & Smith, J. (2005). Developing lifelong learners in the middle years of schooling. Brisbane: University of Queensland. Public Safety Industry Training Advisory Body. (2003). Public safety training package: Police, state and territory emergency service and emergency management sectors. Melbourne: Australian National Training Authority. Selby Smith, C., & Ferrier, F. (2002). Lifelong learning and the world of work: CEET’s survey for the OECD. Monash University—ACER, Centre for the Economics of Education and Training, 6th National Conference August 2002, Ascot Vale, Victoria, Australia. State of Queensland. (2000). Studies of society and environment: Years 1–10 Syllabus. Brisbane: Office of the Queensland School Curriculum Council. Surf Life Saving Australia. (2003). Surf lifesaving training manual (32nd ed.). Sydney: Mosby. Surf Life Saving Australia. (2005). Valuing an icon. Surf Life Saving Australia annual report. Sydney: Author. Surf Life Saving Queensland. (2005). Junior activities information booklet for the 2005/2006 season. Brisbane: Author. Watson, L. (2003). Lifelong learning in Australia. Commonwealth of Australia: Department of Education, Science and Training. Wilks, J., De Nardi, M., & Pendergast, D. (2006, June). The next generation of surf lifesavers: Sustaining a community resource—An Australian case study. Paper presented at the 5th International Household and Family Research Conference, Savonlinna, Finland. Wilks, J., Pendergast, D., & De Nardi, M. (2006). Engaging millennium youth: Surf Life Saving Australia. Australian Journal of Middle Schooling, 6(2), 3–8. Wyn, J., & White, R. (1997). Rethinking youth. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin.



So you want to teach these people?

Introduction Donna Pendergast

This final section comes to the heart of the book. From the outset, we have spoken of the two underpinning attributes teachers require in order to be effective educators. These are to understand their students, and to be able to engage with and be mentors and lifelong learning guides for these adolescents in the twenty-first century. The preceding chapters have covered contemporary society; learning theory; and educational attainment, initiatives and challenges. Now, the focus is on the MilGen, as defined by socio-cultural generational theory. Chapter 11 brings together many of the loose threads that lay unwoven from the earlier chapters. It unpacks the core traits of MilGen adolescents, provides examples of connections with educational strategies and priorities, and provides clear directions for teachers, education systems, and teacher educators. It describes the professional attributes required of educators of MilGen students as well as the individual, personal skills that are also required. Teaching Australia—the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership—suggests a good teacher should: • • • • •

enjoy working with children/teenagers be creative and have good organisational skills be patient in dealing with people of differing abilities be able to communicate simply and clearly accept the rights and needs of others (Teaching Australia, 2006).

There is no doubt the challenge of teaching the MilGen is upon the profession.

Reference Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2006). Teaching Australia. Retrieved June 27, 2006, from website



The MilGen and school education Donna Pendergast

Chapter summary •

• •

• • •

Key differences for millennial adolescents — Choice — Values — Teamwork and collaborative learning — Standards Teachers of the Millennial Generation Seven core traits of the MilGen for educational contexts — Special — Sheltered — Confident — Team oriented — Conventional — Pressured — Achieving — Summary Creating the educational landscape of the future — The teaching profession — Teacher practitioners — Pre- and in-service teacher education programs Key points Further thinking References

If we concede that generational traits are in fact useful as a tool for understanding young adolescents in formal education settings today and well into the future, then


The MilGen and school education   269

we can begin to consider the effectiveness of the way we go about educating young people. To meet the needs of this generation we have to examine the systems and structures that support this education, and the teaching practices—specifically what we teach, how we teach it, and how we assess it. This is a huge challenge. Prensky (2005/6, p. 8) captures the conundrum well when he asserts that ‘schools are stuck in the 20th century. Students have rushed into the 21st. How can schools catch up and provide students with relevant education?’ This chapter sets out to tackle these issues, being structured around generally accepted generational traits and providing non-representational voice to the young people themselves through the inclusion of their own quotes and comments, serving as a sounding-board for the various propositions presented. MilGen voices will also use pseudonym cyber names, not their real names.

Key differences for millennial adolescents According to Howe and Strauss (2000), the key differences in the fundamental basis of education for the Millennials can be organised into four main areas: choice; values; teamwork and collaborative learning; and standards. Privileging these four, from the enormous range of possible factors playing a part in education, highlights that the MilGens are radically dissimilar to previous generations. There is evidence 

Ume2—16 year old female student, private school, urban; Babe42—17 year old female student, private school, urban; Strangerjo—13 year old female, public school, urban; Gordyguts—15 year old male student, public school, urban; String—15 year old female student, private school, urban; Waterluva—16 year old male student, public school, rural; Cusoon—17 year old male student, public school, rural; Notton—13 year old male, private school, urban; Wet2—14 year old male student, public school, rural.

270   The Millennial Adolescent

that these four factors are being placed at the forefront of educational policy and development; we will look at each in turn.

Choice Millennials and their parents have choice in ways that previous generations did not. To take an important example, there are many decisions that can be made about education, such as the option of which school students attend and a choice in the development of areas of individual student strength. This is increasingly the pattern in Australian schools, where private and independent schooling now offer a greater diversity and focus than ever before. The historically dominant pattern of attending the local state public school is being replaced at an unprecedented rate by parents choosing schools most suitable for their individual children. The broad curriculum on offer, including the opportunity for credentialling and certification in vocational education that was not available to previous generations, is another form of choice.

Values Education for MilGens increasingly provides opportunities for the development of character education, and specifically the development of values. There is a general sense that there has been a lack of attention and direction to values development, and this has led to some of the problems in society. Educational institutions, in particular schools, have been charged with the responsibility of developing appropriate values so that young people will become active, informed and contributing members of society. This is best demonstrated by the federal government’s National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools, which is a strategy for all Australian schools to provide values education in a planned and systematic way. There are nine values for Australian schooling: care and compassion; doing your best; fair go; freedom; honesty and trustworthiness; integrity; respect; responsibility; and understanding, tolerance and inclusion (Commonwealth of Australia, 2005). Such a formal and systematic approach to values education with federal government funding is unprecedented, and demonstrates the prominence this aspect of schooling has for MilGens.

Teamwork and collaborative learning One of the core traits of the MilGen is their team orientation (described more fully in the section on the ‘Seven core traits’ beginning on p. 275). Where it is most evident is in the MilGens’ connectivity with other young people using technology. This flows into their educational experiences, where teamwork and collaborative learning is increasingly evident in current reforms in the schooling sector. Middle schooling

The MilGen and school education   271

philosophy has as one of its underpinning signifying practices a commitment to collaborative and cooperative teaching and learning. The idea of working in teams and collaborating is about achieving greater outcomes than an individual can achieve alone. This way of thinking is the antithesis of schooling practices for previous generations, which actively discouraged such strategies, focusing instead on individual performance and capability as the predominant pedagogical approach. It is also contrary to the next key difference in the Millennials’ education experiences, and that is the focus on standards, which are typically individually measured—a quandary for educators and for students.

Standards Standards, such as the measurement and benchmarking of students—and of teachers— are increasingly being incorporated into the schooling sector in new ways. The drive to set benchmarks for comparison and to determine effectiveness, often but not always for economic rationalist agendas, are typical of this millennial era. Examples include the introduction of national benchmarking of literacy and numeracy; of scientific literacy; information and communications technology literacy; civics and citizenship. These all impact on MilGen students’ educational experiences and each is the result of an agreement adopted by all Australian Education Ministers in an effort to ‘improve educational outcomes of all Australian children by measuring student learning’ (Department of Education, Science and Training, DEST, 2006). Literacy and numeracy benchmarks are currently determined by national testing regimes in Years 3, 5 and 7. Standards in education are also about the effectiveness of teachers, and this is evident in, for example, the development of A National Framework for Professional Standards for Teaching (Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, 2003a). Many other sets of standards developed by state and territory education authorities, subject area teacher groups, and certifying bodies (such as the Queensland College of Teachers) make teachers’ work complex and more closely scrutinised than ever before. The National Framework for Professional Standards for Teaching has designing and managing student learning at the core, with professional elements and career dimensions as the interconnected components of the standards which are aimed at defining and promoting quality teaching (MCEETYA, 2003a, p. 2). The Framework describes four career dimensions for teachers: graduation; competence; accomplishment; and leadership. The professional elements are the common and recognised elements of engagement as a teacher: professional knowledge; professional practice; professional values; and professional relationships. The focus on standards such as the above, many of which are in the early stages of their implementation and refinement, demonstrate the extent to which the school experience has changed in the course of this generation.

272   The Millennial Adolescent

Teachers of the Millennial Generation The four defining features of education for the MilGen (choice, standards, teamwork and collaborative learning, and standards) can indeed be witnessed as current developments in education systems. What this means for educators and for students experiencing their schooling at this time is a marked change to the how, what and why of schooling. This is particularly pertinent to the teaching workforce, currently dominated by Baby Boomers and Generation Xers, the latter of whom have a habit of leaving the profession prematurely. The teacher workforce has the highest proportion of people aged in their middle to late forties and is an older profile than the professional workforce in general (MCEETYA, 2003b), a pattern that is repeated around the world. Millennial students first started inhabiting classrooms in around 1988 and the last-born of the generation will leave classrooms around 2020. From around 2008–10, Millennials will share schools with the oldest of the next generation, tentatively named Generation Z, who will bring their own generational trends and characteristics. This will also mark the commencement of large numbers of retiring Baby Boomer teachers. The challenge for the teacher workforce now is to make it appealing to retain the Xgeners (Mayer, 2006) and to attract the first wave of Millennials as they launch into the workforce (see case study). This is a daunting undertaking given that teaching has been portrayed as a ‘somewhat static conception of career’ which does not align with the portfolio career orientation of Millennials and to some degree Generation X (Mayer, 2006, p. 61). In response to this dilemma, Skilbeck and Connell (2003) suggest that a teaching career must be positioned within the context of a more flexible working life.

Millennial teachers Are teachers born in the Millennial Generation better equipped to deal with the changing contemporary and educational landscape and serve as effective teachers for millennial students in school? A multi-methods study of 70 millennial young people (14 males, 56 females, mean age 18.5 years) enrolled in or planning to enrol in teacher training was conducted by Sharn Donnison (2004). The purpose was to gain insights into how the group understand technological aspects of contemporary society, and how this aligns with educational change and their future roles as education professionals. The findings could be expected to be useful to determine if the next wave of teachers will offer some renewed approaches to education, based on their own lived experience of technology. Donnison found that all the aspiring teachers were technologically literate and incorporated computers and the Internet into their ‘lifeworld’. In fact, they incorporated technologies to such an extent that ‘ICTs are part of their lived experiences and integral to their understandings and practices’ and they ‘will

The MilGen and school education   273

continue to depend on technologies’ (Donnison, 2004, p. 24). Yet, these people were regarded by Donnison to be a ‘paradox’, because while they were active users of technology, they also distrust technology and those who master and control technologies. Ironically, the ‘respondents’ negative and positive reactions to technologies have produced a situation where the majority perceived technology as a negative force; yet incorporated it unquestionably into their lives’. Even more interesting was the finding that they are ‘reticent’ to incorporate their proficiency with technology into their predictions for the future of education, and their constructions of themselves as teaching professionals. Donnison (2004, p. 28) summarises the predictions this sample of pre-service teachers had of education and teaching in the following way: [T]heirs is one that does not predict new work practices or require new skills or new knowledges. Their future workplace is based on the replication of historical educational models. Homework this week Exercises 1 -13 Typed, not handwritten

This is not surprising given new teachers model their own teaching style on what they themselves experienced in school. Donnison (2004, p. 28) is blatant about the implications of this situation: ‘these future teachers maintain a narrative of teaching that no longer has currency for the future teaching professional’ and digital generation teachers ‘will be no more inclined towards incorporating technological newness and novelty into their teaching than their currently practising peers’. And so, potentially, the repetition of inappropriate practice continues, as the next generation experiences an ICT barren experience, which they also take into their future careers as educators. •

So, how can the cycle be broken?

274   The Millennial Adolescent

The pertinent question that arises from this circumstance is: Does it matter what generation teachers belong to in order for them to be effective educators of the MilGen? Given the four key differences in education for the MilGen outlined previously, there is no doubt the current teacher workforce has been constantly transformed to accommodate these significant changes. One of the key messages of generational theory is that formative experiences help shape the values, attitudes, work ethics, beliefs and generic skill base of a generation, and this travels with that generational member throughout life. This does not exclude the effects from lifelong learning attitudes and professional development initiatives, but is about foundational frameworks of operation. Many teachers are now having to operate from a very different platform than those they are educating. This presents significant challenges to the profession. What teachers must do to overcome these generational differences is to understand the nature of the new generation and to transform their pedagogical practices within their framework of knowing. Mayer concurs with this assessment: Many of these people are struggling to reinvent themselves and many are seeking different work practices such as part-time work and/or better work–life balance. The challenge for the whole profession is not only how to attract and retain new teachers (both younger people and older career changers) but also how to provide professional learning opportunities for more experienced teachers which build on their professional experience and expertise and also help them build/rebuild their professional selves. (Mayer, 2006, p. 69)

But is this expecting too much? As noted in earlier chapters of this book, the literacy paradigm shift from which the MilGen has emerged is part of a radical societal shift. Coupled with the enormity of the transformation required, Donnison (2004, p. 26) confirms the oft held view that teaching is a ‘conservative occupation and tends to attract a similar sort of individual into its ranks. It attracts people who approve and support existing practices in education rather than are critical of it.’ The truth is that we are not in a position to question whether Baby Boomers and Generation X members are capable of making the necessary transformations to facilitate optimum educational experiences for millennial learners—they simply must. Given the basic premise that the teaching profession designed for the twentieth century is still dominating the modus operandi in most classrooms of the twentyfirst century, and many of the educators were products of and reproduced this methodology, there is a need to develop an understanding of the new generation, the new society and the new potentials for radically transforming this educational environment. The next section provides an interpretation of seven core traits of the MilGen and is essential reading for all educators, both pre-service and in-service.

The MilGen and school education   275

Seven core traits of the MilGen for educational contexts As noted in Chapter 3 introducing the MilGen, Howe (2006) has identified seven core traits that mark the cohort as unique from preceding generations. The traits are: that generational members consider themselves to be special; they are sheltered; confident; team oriented; conventional; pressured; and achieving. Each of these traits will be explored, with interpretations and examples relevant to school education. Also included are millennial voices, providing personal insights from young adolescent members of the generation as a kind of sounding-board to the ideas presented. These voices are not intended to serve as generalisations or representations of the MilGen, but to provide personal insights into the individual thoughts of young people on the issues under consideration. Also in this section are strategies educators can utilise to address each particular characteristic with respect to educational reform and school curriculum, as proposed by Howe (2006).

Special Members of the MilGen are regarded as special in a number of ways. The first way is as a ‘hero’ generation. According to Howe and Strauss’s (2000) theory, generations follow a repeating cycle, with four generational types typically following in the order of prophet; nomad; hero; and artist. In this cycle, the MilGen is a hero generation and if Howe and Strauss (2000) are accurate in their cyclic prediction, the full social attention and potential of the generation will start to have an effect from around 2010, as the first of the MilGen find their way into positions of influence. Huntley (2006, p. 188), less convinced of the positive outcomes, nevertheless notes that there is ‘… potential in this generation for both radical transformation and terrible conformism … the world according to Y has not yet arrived … but it is coming’. The MilGen is also regarded as special, particularly by members of the cohort, because they are born into the digital world. According to Prensky they are digital natives. He explains this concept and its importance educationally in the following statement: They are native speakers of technology, fluent in the digital language of computers, video games, and the Internet. I refer to those of us who were not born into the digital world as digital immigrants. We have adopted many aspects of the technology, but just like those who learn another language later in life, we retain an ‘accent’ because we still have one

276   The Millennial Adolescent foot in the past. … Our accent from the predigital world often makes it difficult for us to effectively communicate with our students. (Prensky, 2005/6, p. 8)

Being born into the digital world and being exposed to it from a young age means that MilGens have adapted to continuous multitasking and can switch from one activity to another quickly and with minimal adjustment time. They are accustomed to fast food, fast communications, and have no tolerance for time delays (McMahon & Pospisil, 2005). This applies to their education as well. Do Millennials regard themselves as ‘special’?

MilGen voices—on being special Strangerjo confirms the reason for being special is based around technology into which she was born: I suppose we are special. There is a musician who describes my generation as the iGeneration, because of the Internet. That’s something that we’ve had that no other generation has had their entire life. Strangerjo, 13

Ume2, aged 17, agrees with this: I think that the people within my generation do believe they are special, for the simple reason that they know so much more about things that other generations have no idea about. The best example of this is through technology, the knowledge we have about this is so much more advanced than any other generation—therefore are ‘special’. Ume2, 17

Babe42 goes much further, characterising the generation as somewhat privileged compared to previous generations, while concurring that technology plays a substantial part of the uniqueness of the generation: I think my generation is special because we’re growing up much more well-off than the other generations because we haven’t had to experience a World War, we have our own rights and get a say in what we believe, we’ve been brought up with a more broader knowledge of the world and what’s happening in it,

The MilGen and school education   277

we’ve been brought up in the highest technology known to man so far and we just have everything laid out so easy for us in our future whether it be going to school, university or TAFE. Babe42, 17

But not all of the MilGen sounding-board regarded their generation as special: I don’t think we are special in that many ways. I think all generations are pretty much the same except for the introduction of technology. Waterluva, 16

And I wouldn’t say we’re special. But I think we are more aware about what’s going on in the world—politics, our rights—which could be a bad thing. Gordyguts, 16

And I disagree—I think our generation gets too swept up with being technologically advanced and then doesn’t listen to our parents or grandparents when really we have so much to learn from them. String, 15

Howe (2006) has identified two key strategies educators must employ to ensure they address the core trait of this generation being regarded as ‘special’. These are: • •

to encourage parental involvement to seek media and public support.

Connecting with parents provides a link with key people in the lives of MilGen members. Parents know the unique traits of the generation and are allies in enhancing educational opportunities. The media are also well aware of the currently shifting ground of education territories, and can highlight the importance of differing approaches to teaching and learning. On the other hand, media can have damaging effects. Public debates about falling literacy and numeracy levels compared to previous generations and the need to refocus on the traditional 3Rs are typical diversions from the attempts by education reformers to emphasise different areas such as the development of multi-literacy and lifelong learning attributes.

278   The Millennial Adolescent

Sheltered It is not surprising that a recent study of teen-aged Millennials (13–17 year olds in 2006) conducted by the New Politics Institute (2006, n.p.) revealed that these young people are ‘particularly concerned with security issues such as crime and terrorism’ and they seem to be ‘strikingly shaped’ by experiencing their formative years in a time that is often regarded as the Age of Terrorism. As noted earlier, while time will tell what key events are shaping Millennials during their formative years, particularly those born in the latter years of the generation, it is likely to include the influence of safety and security concerns, such as war, school violence, and terrorism, including specific terrorist events, such as the Bali bombings in 2002 and the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001. Evidence of a shift in security is apparent in ways that have not previously existed, and in some cases, this is a direct result of new technologies with their various capabilities. For example, mobile phone bullying has emerged as an issue in this decade, necessitating the development and inclusion of policies related to mobile phone usage and inappropriate use of photographic equipment on mobiles during school times. More extreme events have heralded greater security measures, such as the massacre which took place in 1999 at Columbine High School in the United States. The installation of metal detectors and locked down schools in some parts of the world are the result of such incidents. Familial care which has been assumed in previous generations is no longer taken for granted, with teachers and the education system being the front line in dealing with suspected child abuse and potential security threats, resulting in policies such as the need for all visitors to register their presence on school grounds. This is highlighted by the recent introduction in Queensland of the Working with Children Check under the auspices of the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian. People working in a voluntary or paid capacity or carrying out business in a child-regulated area must hold a Blue Card. This means they have applied for and successfully met the requirements of the check, which is a detailed investigation of the applicant’s criminal history, including charges or convictions and disciplinary information by some professional organisations, including teacher bodies, along with police investigation information (Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian, 2006). From May 2006 the net for those required to hold the card was thrown wider, reinforcing the safety and security imperative. The compulsory wearing of seatbelts and of child safety seats and restraints, and pool fencing regulations to prevent childhood drowning, are typical indicators of mandated attempts to provide safe environments. Nevertheless, a range of disturbing safety and security incidents has impacted on the MilGen during their formative years. The powerful effect of these incidents is felt through their parents, policy makers and the community in general by cocooning this generation in ways that previously were unimaginable. The simple act of walking

The MilGen and school education   279

to school alone is no longer a viable option for many. But even with such an eye to security, the unexpected remains the most frustrating in a society keen to minimise risk. Everyday activities such as shopping in the local shopping mall, walking home after dinner, and visiting a tourist site have proven to be potentially risky events. Each of these locations has been sites that have played host to massacres that target no one in particular, adding to the complexity of the security dilemma. (Specific cases are the Hoddle Street massacre which occurred in 1987. A youth walking along a main road in Melbourne randomly shot at passers-by. He killed seven people and wounded 19 others. The victims were people walking or driving home that evening. The Strathfield Mall shopping centre shooting in 1991 was the site of another gun massacre, seven people being shot while shopping. The third example is the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996 which left 35 people dead and 37 wounded.) On a global level, the events impacting on the generation are defined as terrorist incidents. As participants of a global community, members of the MilGen have, during their formative years, been exposed to a chain of terrorist incidents, to the extent that the early part of this millennium has been tagged the ‘Age of Terrorism’. A terrorist act is: An act or threat, intended to advance a political, ideological or religious cause by coercing or intimidating an Australian or foreign government or the public, by causing serious harm to people or property, creating a serious risk to the health and safety of the public, or seriously disturbing trade, critical infrastructure or electronic systems. Source: National Counter-Terrorism Committee, 2005, p. 4

In creating fear, terrorist events are often of a nightmarish, incredible nature, such as the indiscriminate and random targeting of civilians, including children, in public places. This reinforces the difficulty of avoiding terrorist incidents, as one can simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In 2001, the September 11 attack using hijacked civilian aircraft to crash into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and

280   The Millennial Adolescent

the Pentagon in Washington resulted in over 2800 deaths. This was followed the next year by the terrorist attacks in the tourist resort area of Bali where a suicide bomber walked into a popular nightclub, detonating a bomb in a backpack. As victims fled from the burning site, a car bomb detonated outside. In all 202 people were killed and a further 209 were injured. Many of the victims were Australian. Both events and others of a similar nature, though less extensive in their effect, raise concerns for Australian citizens due to the political alignment and cultural and social similarities that we share with countries such as the United States of America. Events such as these have resulted in a strong safety net being thrown around the MilGen. With this sheltered background, the management and policing of the ‘risk’ society (Beck, 1992) is a prevailing characteristic of the generation. Carrington (2006, p. 15) concurs with this assessment, noting that ‘as individuals and citizens, we are told we are all at individual risk of harm from terrorists as well as from home-grown crime and violence’. The National Safe Schools Framework (NSSF) is a collaborative effort by the Commonwealth, state and territory government and non-government school authorities, and other key stakeholders to achieve a shared vision of physical and emotional safety and wellbeing for all students in all Australian schools, where bullying, harassment and violence are minimised and students receive support on issues related to child abuse and neglect. The NSSF is underpinned by a set of guiding principles and related key elements/approaches for schools to provide a safe and supportive learning environment (Student Learning and Support Services Taskforce, 2002). Hence, Millennials are sheltered and ‘watched over’, and they have come to expect this. Howe (2006) has identified two key strategies educators must employ to ensure they address the core trait of this generation being regarded as ‘sheltered’. These are: • •

to emphasise school safety and accountability to consider class sizes—smaller is perceived as better; learning communities are favoured.

What do Millennials say about feeling safe at school?

MilGen voices—on being sheltered Do you feel safe at school? I think it is important to feel safe. It’s a basic human need. Am I safe at school? Well it depends how you mean safe, I am physically safe, from any harm or danger. But mentally safe is a completely different concept and idea. I feel

The MilGen and school education   281

physically safe, but mentally, I feel rather unprotected and vulnerable. Strangerjo, 13

I think it is important to feel safe but there are different types of ways to feel safe and some are harder than others. For example at school I feel very safe surrounded by my peers and teachers that I have grown up knowing but I don’t feel safe at school when I feel that there are people judging me, making me feel very insecure at times, due to lack of selfconfidence. Babe42, 17

Both of these voices confirm that the school environment provides a feeling of physical safely, but both also recognise that emotionally/mentally they are extremely vulnerable and insecure, or at risk. This shows that safety runs deeper than the first strategy noted by Howe (2006), to the second strategy that provides a safe context for learning. When the Millennials were asked if they felt safe enough at school to be themselves, there was an overwhelmingly negative response. The comments from Strangerjo and Babe42 typify this: Honestly, no, I don’t. When I am, I am taking a risk and putting myself on the line to be ridiculed, which is inevitable. Everyone is judging you from the way you think to the way you look and what music you listen to. It’s frightening knowing that you have such high expectations from your peers at my age. Strangerjo, 13

No I do not feel safe to be myself at school, this is mainly because I end up thinking on what other people may think of me if I was myself. Overall the way people judge one another from themselves in a school environment prevents me from being myself. Babe42, 17

282   The Millennial Adolescent

Ume2 agrees that it is sometimes hard to be herself, explaining it in this way: There is a very heavy emphasis on conforming at school, to be a particular way. It happens even if people try and tell you it doesn’t. Ume2, 17

Cusoon, 17, believes that you must take responsibility for your own safety: You have to be safe. But the way the law is in this generation stops teachers for example breaking up a fight so really the only way to feel safe is to be able to look after yourself or have the appearance to be feared. Cusoon, 17

To begin to overcome these concerns, Howe’s building learning communities is a possible strategy (2006). As Pendergast and Renshaw (2005) explain, notions of community and learning underpin much of today’s educational thinking—creating a sense of community is a distinguishing feature of middle schooling. In the twentyfirst century there has been a shift in the emphasis from learning focused on the individual to learning as part of a community, with classrooms as local communities of practice. By extension, the building of supportive communities should foster positive contexts where young people can feel confident and safe to be themselves. In this model, schools might be conceived as learning communities with nodes and networks that extend into the immediate neighbourhood as well as nationally and internationally via the web to create virtual communities that extend across the borders of time and space.

Confident Generational theorists consistently frame the MilGen as optimistic and confident, despite being sheltered from their birth. It is perhaps surprising they are regarded as optimistic, given the world in which they live. … in one generation we have seen a shift from pessimism to optimism. This is intriguing if we consider that many of the problems facing our society in 1980—environmental degradation, violence and war, family breakdowns, employment insecurity, third-world poverty and so on—still exist in this millennium. (Huntley, 2006, p. 9)

Perhaps this can be explained because Millennials are natives of this kind of society. Rather than holding expectations of a peaceful and positive world, they

The MilGen and school education   283

are born into a society where there is no denial of the existence of global evils, as perhaps was the case for previous generations. Martin and Tulgan (2001) have a different slant on this core trait, arguing that because of generally growing global economies, Millennials are confident of a relatively strong economic future. They suggest these young people are empowered due to their facility with technology and the breakdown of barriers such as time and space that typically impacted on access to knowledge, in ways unknown to previous generations. Hence, they have called this generation the ‘self-esteem’ generation. One of the absolute givens of this generation is the certainty of uncertainty. While this creates anxiety and stress for previous generations, including Generation X and Baby Boomers who currently dominate many of the power positions and certainly the teaching roles in schools, this is in fact a comforting reality for Millennials. As Huntley explains, the Millennial, with their ‘unfailing optimism, have incorporated uncertainty and insecurity into its world view and [have] refashioned these negatives into a positive’ (2006, p. 16). Being certain of change repositions this generation as one where the question of futures studies is well accommodated. Donnison (2004, p. 29) explains that young people are the ‘vanguard of the future and have a responsibility to ensure preferable and sustainable futures’. Being confident and engaged with change is a potentially powerful trait of this generation, yet it must be harnessed and groomed by education if the potential is to be realised. A recent study conducted by ACER of more than 1300 disadvantaged Year 11 and 12 students receiving support from the Smith Family’s ‘Learning for Life Program’ found that the young people are choosing careers based on their interests and abilities, not on expected income. Furthermore, the study revealed that ‘there was little evidence of overly ambitious parents pushing their children in inappropriate directions’ (Smith Family, 2006, p. vi). What this perhaps suggests is that millennial students have an understanding of their abilities and interests, and the confidence to pursue these in determining their future careers, rather than be dominated by those concerned about financial security and other agendas. Howe (2006) has identified three key strategies educators must employ to ensure they address the core trait of this generation being regarded as ‘confident’. Teachers must: • • •

stress positive outcomes for everyone use contextual and project-based environments craft personal progress plans to guide students’ learning and growth.

Each of these strategies works at the level of focusing on the individual interests and needs of the young person, optimising the capacity to engage them in relevant learning that connects with their interests and abilities. When asked to comment on the degree to which they regard their generation to be confident, the sounding-board

284   The Millennial Adolescent

MilGen voices—on being confident Do you feel confident? I’m confident in almost everything I do because I have realised that there is no point in having shame. I can speak well publicly and almost in everything I’ve done. I suppose the only time I’m not confident is when I’m around a boy I like. Strangerjo, 13

I feel confident only at times when I know what task I am trying to complete and how to do it, or when my group of friends surrounds me. Babe42, 17

I feel confident when I know what I’m doing—if I’m not sure I’ll ask to be sure that I don’t stuff things up. Cusoon, 17

I feel confident whenever I’m with friends and don’t feel confident when someone’s annoyed at me. Waterluva, 16

Notton, 13, explains that generational confidence is part of the ‘style’ of the generation: We might be regarded as the confident generation because when we go about things we seem to do it in a laid-back sort of style and not being too serious. Notton, 13

This aligns with generational theorists such as Sheahan (2005) who use the word ‘informal’ to capture this concept. Certainly, being laid-back and informal contributes to an aura of confidence.

The MilGen and school education   285

provided some interesting personal insights, most indicating high confidence levels, but also recognising times when they are unsure.

Team oriented Howe (2006) states that Millennials’ team orientation may be their most ‘notable’ trait. Martin and Tulgan (2001) concur, explaining that the trait is multifaceted. It seems that experiences in their early years are more likely to predispose this generation to team activities when compared to other generations. Examples include organised sports, opportunities for volunteerism, experiencing formal childcare and the like. Notton, aged 13, supports this view, suggesting that he learnt team skills ‘from my soccer and cricket over the years and I just seemed to develop them over time’. Established in a context of ‘sheltered’ protection, these team/group experiences pave the way for friendship relationships beyond the historically dominant family relationships. Access to technologies such as the Internet and e-mails, blogs, message boards, on-line chat rooms, SMS, mobile phones, interactive multiplayer games and the like means that Millennials are better connected and predisposed to developing and reinforcing the kinds of skills required for effective team membership. Huntley agrees that these friendships are privileged in millennial life, and this trend is further reinforced by popular culture. She cites television programs as being examples of how ‘the group has eclipsed the pair as the dominant social unit’ (Huntley, 2006, p. 27). This proposition seems consistent with the popularity of television programs such as ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, ‘Home and Away’ and the like, and the reality television programs such as ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Survivor’, each of which draw keen interest from young viewing members of the community, and each of which is constructed around group dynamics and membership, not pairs or families. And a range of commentators, both academic and popular, point to this trend. For instance, in an exposé of the generation, O’Reilly (2000), a reporter for Fortune Magazine, notes that ‘the most striking thing about millennial teens is the extraordinarily close bonds they have developed with their friends’. This is both a product of and produces team orientation as a dominant pattern. The National Youth Survey 2005, conducted by Mission Australia (2005) with around 11 300 respondents aged between 11 and 24 years of age, confirmed that for each of the subgroups, 11–14, 15–19 and 20–24 year olds, friends were the most important source that young people turn to for advice and support, with 84.7 per cent, 89.5 per cent and 89.2 per cent respectively. For each age group, the next most popular place to turn for advice and support was parents, at 81.7 per cent, 72.5 per cent and 68.9 per cent respectively. What these figures demonstrate is a shift from parents to friends as young people mature, but with friends the preferred source at all ages. The category of ‘Internet’ was also included in the study, with 10.9 per cent of 11–14 year olds and 17.5 per cent of 15–19 year olds turning to it for advice and support.

286   The Millennial Adolescent

Being cool Belonging to a peer group these days often means being ‘cool’. The various forms of media are the driving force behind determining what is ‘cool’. And being cool is a profitable positioning as adolescents strive hard to emulate what’s cool so that they gain a sense of belonging to their peer group. Adolescents themselves understand the relationship between the media and establishing what is cool, as Strangerjo explains: Well, I suppose that if something is cool then it fits in with the latest fads; for example if rap music is in then rap artists are cool. I suppose it gets that way when we see someone with something we like then we use it too. Then it spreads and becomes the new fad therefore it becomes cool. Something also becomes cool if it’s been advertised by the media. If the stars like it we like it. But it also has to have some appeal to us. For example inspiration bands are the latest fashion fad; girls like it because it’s a fashion accessory and it becomes cool if celebrities start to use it as well, causing the fad to spread. Strangerjo, 13

So what’s cool … well, that depends who and when you ask. It was particularly interesting to hear some thoughts from Gordyguts, 15 years old, who regarded himself as the antithesis of cool. In his view, ‘For something to be cool, I have to take an interest in it or like it. I don’t think there are cool clothes because I’m not that kind of person. I hate pop (music) not only because I don’t like the way it sounds but a lot of songs have something to do with sex.’ In contrast, Ume2, aged 16 and Strangerjo, aged 13, considered being cool and hence being accepted by their peers to be important to them. For instance, when asked what her priorities in life were, Strangerjo indicated that along with top marks at school and exercise, ‘I want to stay really close to my friends because we talk about everything.’

Importantly, Prensky (2005/6, p. 9) takes the idea of teamwork to be collaboration, but shifts it to a different dimension by suggesting that not only

The MilGen and school education   287

do students collaborate with each other, but educators and students collaborate together ‘in everything we do in the classroom’. This includes curriculum, pedagogy, school organisation and assessment. Other theorists agree. In fact, the teamoriented nature of Millennials positions middle schooling, and specifically the core signifying practices of collaborative learning and negotiated learning, firmly on the reform agenda (see Chapter 8). Robert (2005) makes the connection between team orientation and community, arguing that these elements go hand in hand. Schools that enable learners to share ideas and collaborate provide opportunities for a sense of community to develop. This sense of community in turn leads to greater collaboration. The difference between collaboration and cooperation in teams is also an important distinction to make for the MilGen. Forte and Schurr (2003, p. 95) explain that ‘collaboration is a relationship between individuals or organisations that enables the participants to accomplish goals more successfully than they could have separately’. This is increasingly important as the world becomes more complex, such that the capacity to achieve the myriad goals requires access to ever-increasing knowledge bases, developments and practices, yet demands on time are increasing. Hence the need for collaborative teams, that ideally include a combination of unique individuals, brought together with a clear sense of purpose. Productivity is dependent upon the effectiveness of the team, beginning with a clear structure that supports the goals or purpose of the team. Team skills, such as identifying collaborative goals, effective communication, good leadership, effective decision making, constructive conflict management, and the positive use of power all work towards making the team effective. Finally, we must highlight the connection between the MilGen’s teamwork and the future workplace of this generation. Team skills and capabilities feature highly as desirable characteristics of future workers. For instance, on its list of the Top 10 skills desired by Fortune 500 companies, teamwork was the most desirable: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Teamwork Problem solving Interpersonal skills Oral communication Listening Personal/career development Creative thinking Leadership Goal setting/motivation Writing.

Howe (2006) has identified three key strategies educators must employ to ensure they address the ‘team oriented’ core trait of this generation. Teachers must:

288   The Millennial Adolescent

• • •

teach team skills build community service into the curriculum provide opportunities for students to help other students.

MilGen voices—on being team oriented The use of ICTs is seen as a facilitator for enhancing the teamwork trait of MilGens because it enables ease of connectivity. When asked what technologies they use to keep in touch with their friends, members on the sounding-board revealed that: I use e-mail, SMS—it’s an easy way to contact friends. Waterluva, 16

All the time, technology is used every day, e-mail and SMS are used by myself every day. These days people remain contactable all the time, myself included and it is important that I remain in contact with people at all times. Ume2, 16

Yes, I use technology, SMS, but mobile service and transport is restricted. Cusoon, 17

Having friends who live all over the city, SMS and MSN definitely make it easier to catch up and find out what’s going on—despite what parents think. String, 15

I use e-mail and MSN more often than not, but mainly MSN. I just type them messages and they reply, it’s as simple as that. Strangerjo, 13

Yes, I always use technology to communicate with my friends. I communicate with them via e-mail, SMS, skype or messenger. I only use SMS when I am communicating to friends that live close by, whether it be what time to meet them, or just a little conversation to fill the time. I use MSN and Yahoo Messenger to chat to all my friends from school, and many other friends I have met from

The MilGen and school education   289

all over the world. My e-mail is only ever used to communicate to those that do not have messenger or to those that I have not been able to communicate to for ages, and the final way I use to communicate is skype. Skype is the best way to communicate to friends all over the world or just in your community for free. In skype all you need to do is have a microphone and you can call anyone you wish that also has a microphone for free, it is just like a telephone call but much more efficient. Babe42, 17

When asked to comment on the place of teamwork in their learning, the young Millennials interviewed for this book had much to say, and their opinions were divergent. Wet2, 14, concisely summarised why he enjoys teamwork in school: Because we can come up with good ideas together. Wet2, 14

Ume2 provided a more extensive explanation: Group work at school can work to a certain extent. If you are in a group of overpowering personalities though, can be a negative impact on people. Being comfortable is the most important thing in group work because you do not want to feel held back or intimidated by anyone in a group situation. There are many groups that work very well, such as team sports and groups that pledge all for the same purpose, for example drama club, but groups during class time that are randomly selected are the most difficult to work in because they are where I feel the most vulnerable, when a wrong answer is very obvious to people that do not see you as often as others. Ume2, 16

Strangerjo, 13, who dislikes teamwork, stating emphatically: NO! never. Not even if they’re my friends. I achieve much better when I’m working alone. When I’ve been given the option to work in a group or by myself, I always choose to be individual. I don’t like the idea of others taking credit for my work, considering I’m the one who usually does all the work. Strangerjo, 13

290   The Millennial Adolescent

And Notton, 13, who likes teamwork, but also makes connections with achievement in a less than desirable way: I do like working in a group situation because I am more relaxed in a group and don’t feel as nervous and annoyed when I get a result that I am not particularly happy with. Notton, 13

It could be argued from these comments that Howe’s first strategy, of teaching team skills, certainly needs greater attention. While the MilGen may be predisposed to teamwork and there is an expectation they will be in workplaces where team skills are highly valued, there is no clear evidence that teamwork has been positively fostered in the education setting and that appropriate skill development and assessment practices have developed.

Conventional MilGens are regarded as having relatively conventional aspirations centred around career, work–life balance and citizenship. According to Howe (2006) this ‘invites a back-to-basics approach’. By that, he means that appropriate foundations must be laid and in combination with other core traits, this will provide the launch pad for the generation to achieve their potential. The emergence of this relatively conventional generation is regarded as a response to the dissatisfactions of the Baby Boomers and Generation X. O’Reilly (2000) concurs with the view that the MilGen has ‘observed the excesses’ of the past couple of decades and do not wish to emulate these patterns for themselves. As Huntley (2006, p. 20) explains: Y’ers know they don’t want many of the hallmarks of their parents’ existence—divorce and marital unhappiness, workaholism, stress-related illness, a life without fun, friends and meaningful relationships. They want marriages that last, quality of life and children (but not too many and not too soon). They want to maintain a safety net of friends around them, even after they establish themselves in families and jobs.

Being conventional also means for many MilGens that they will live at their family home longer than their parents and grandparents did. For this reason they have been nicknamed the ‘helicopter kids’ because they hover about the family home (Salt, 2006). By way of indication, the National Youth Survey of 2005 (Mission Australia, 2005) found that 96.4 per cent of young people aged 11–14 years lived at home, as did 91.5 per cent of 15–19 year olds and 54.7 per cent of 20–24 year olds.

The MilGen and school education   291

In many cases, the older age category comprises young people studying, unemployed, or working with a wage too low to support an independent lifestyle. For many, this creates longer-term co-dependency and hence connection with family, particularly with regard to financial support. While MilGens are regarded as conventional, there is nothing that suggests their work practices are the same as previous generations, which had a focus on developing expertise in a profession, the ethic of a job-for-life, and acceptance of the principle that waiting for opportunities for promotion was par for the course. On the contrary—MilGens expect to be promoted quickly, to change jobs frequently, are motivated by training and education opportunities, respect leadership, expect flexibility and good working relationships. They promptly disengage if they are dissatisfied with their work situation (Salt, 2006). Long-term loyalty to one employer can carry a ‘reverse stigma’ for MilGens, the message being they are out-of-date and lacking in diverse experience (Robert, 2005). Howe (2006) has identified three key strategies educators must employ to ensure they address the core trait of this generation being regarded as ‘conventional’. These are: • • •

to create curricula that every student is expected to master to celebrate progress to continuously monitor, assess and redirect learning.

These strategies use the trait of conventionality to harness positive directions for young people. Schools that provide curriculum that is relevant and appropriately levelled for MilGens’ academic abilities create a positive context for learning. With their conventional values, the MilGens respond well to challenge when it is reasonable.

MilGen voices—on being conventional When asked what they like learning about in school, the MilGens provided a range of responses: Things I can use to my advantage later in life, like learning about law and investing. Waterluva, 16

I’m interested in bio-mechanics—how the body works. String, 15

292   The Millennial Adolescent

I like to learn about mechanical and hands-on stuff so furnishing, engineering and agriculture. Cusoon, 17

I like to learn languages the most, I like to learn different languages and find out the history of that country and their culture and see how much different it is compared to the one I’m brought up with. The thing I like to study after languages is history, I am very intrigued in what life was like before I was born, how people used to survive in different eras, how they used to live, why they kept having endless meaningless wars, the list about history goes on. Therefore obviously my favourite topics in school are any language studies, geography and history. Babe42, 17

I’ve always liked learning about art and though I don’t take music at school, I learn about it on my own accord. I’m currently very interested in humans I suppose, I analyse people a lot, especially human behaviour. I like talking about politics and I suppose I like finding problems with the world. Music is definitely one of my favourite topics and I love to write. Strangerjo, 13

Learning about human interest topics is very appealing. Having debates in class time about current issues is very enjoyable because it gives a perspective of where all the other students are and what they believe of society and how it is functioning. Learning things that I know are going to be useful in later life is important. Knowing that I am learning something that I will most probably not need again is not very appealing. Ume2, 16

In terms of celebrating success and progress, young people indicated this was very much a feature of their schooling: Yes, we do share the success of other students, such as if someone got a high distinction in the University of New South Wales English test we would congratulate them and give them a round of applause. Notton, 13

The MilGen and school education   293

Waterluva suggested that tangible recognitions were part of his school culture: Yes, with days to a reef on a boat at the end of the year. Waterluva, 16

Some of the MilGens pointed out the negatives of celebrating progress and success, noting that some areas are privileged over others: Assembly honours students that have achieved greatly, with lists of people being read every week and the students coming on stage. This is important because it lets classmates see what their peers are achieving and what is out there to achieve in way of honours in front of the schools. Although, there are MANY achievements every week that are never recognised because they go unnoticed. Ume2, 16

Unfortunately the only thing we celebrate is athletic success, what a load of rubbish that is. And occasionally they’ll give a little piece of paper to an academic achiever on parade, though it is short lived. Strangerjo, 13

Pressured MilGens are regarded as being pressured, with formalised activities filling many hours of their days. Many have experienced busy social calendars and school calendars, regardless of their socioeconomic profile. For instance, about 75 per cent of 11–14 year olds and 61 per cent of 15–19 year olds are involved in sports; 48 per cent of 11–14 year olds and 37 per cent of 15–19 year olds are involved in arts and cultural events such as drama, dance and music; 31 per cent of 11–14 year olds and 30 per cent of 15–19 year olds are involved in youth groups; and 17 per cent of 11–14 year olds and 24 per cent of 15–19 year olds are involved as volunteers (Mission Australia, 2005). When compared to the same activities the previous year, there was an increase of around 2–3 per cent for each category, indicating involvement by more young people. Their engagement with technology of various kinds means that this generation has experienced more screen time than fresh air. They have been exposed to 22 000 television advertisements on average every year. They are constantly in contact with their friends. They stay connected by using SMS, mobile phones, blogs, chatrooms

294   The Millennial Adolescent

and e-mail while they simultaneously play computer games and listen to music on their iPods. In a study of millennial students, McMahon and Pospisil (2005b) monitored their use of technology in both education and social settings, characterising them as having: • • •

information connectedness—the need for rapid access to information multitasking—the ability to manage multiple aspects of their lives at once; and a focus on immediacy—an intolerance for delays.

These three characteristics are consistent with the other core traits so far explored, and underline the pressured lifestyle of this generation. Many MilGens work in part-time jobs, while undertaking full-time school or further study. All of this stress and pressure comes at some cost. The National Youth Survey, 2005 (Mission Australia, 2005) sought to identify the issues that concern MilGens, revealing that for those aged 11–14 years and 15–19 years, suicide/self harm was the largest concern, at 43.3 and 41.6 per cent respectively. School or study problems did not rank highly for either age group. Interestingly though, country young people put more emphasis on getting a job and being independent while city-based young people value friendships and school study more highly. Physical/sexual abuse featured highly for both age groups, closely followed by family conflict. This is a concern that connects with another of the Millennial traits—they are conventional. This conventionality is regarded to be at least to a degree a response to unsatisfactory familial situations. Table 11.1 below contains further details from the study. Table 11.1  Issues of importance /concern to young people Issue

11–14 years %

15–19 years %

Suicide/self harm



Physical/sexual abuse



Family conflict



Alcohol and other drug issues






Coping with stress



Bullying/emotional abuse



School or study problems









Source: Adapted from Mission Australia (2005, p. 9)

The MilGen and school education   295

Howe (2006) has identified three key strategies educators must employ to ensure they address the core trait of this generation being regarded as ‘pressured’. These are: • • •

to stress long-term planning to structure learning around goal mastery to reverse-engineer curricula—start with where you want students to be at the end of the year.

These strategies enable young people to develop a long-term understanding of the cause and effect of pressure and to gain a perspective that recognises the time it takes for the achievement of some goals. Because MilGens have a propensity towards impatience and multitasking, unpacking and slowing these capabilities can be a positive step towards relieving some of the pressure these young people experience. Reverse-engineering the curricula is about ‘letting kids in on the secret’ about what, why and how they are learning—an effective tool of engagement. The MilGen sounding-board was asked to comment on several aspects of being pressured and the box below shows some of their responses.

MilGens—on being pressured Do you feel pressured by school? Do you see how school connects with life after school? Responses ranged from feeling no pressure at all, to feeling very pressured. No, I don’t feel pressured at school at all and I do see how life after school connects to the time that you spend in school. Notton, 13

I don’t feel pressured by school and the preparation for university and life after school is very good. String, 15

School is the passage to get to later in life. You have to go through it to have any chance of succeeding. Pressure is given to us at school but

296   The Millennial Adolescent

in a healthy amount. Sometimes assignments and exams pile up but this is because we have left them too long. There is no pressure to achieve a certain amount. Ume2, 17

Yes, I feel very pressured at school. I do, I need school, to get a tertiary education and a job that I like. School is the stepping stone to the other side of the river. I know I need it. Strangerjo, 13

Yes, I do feel pressured but I also do see how it connects with life after school. Waterluva, 16

I feel very pressured by school, I feel pressured about completing and fully understanding the work content from that day, I feel pressure about achieving good results on exams, I feel pressured by most of school at the moment. I can see how school is connecting me with life after school, trying to help me, but sometimes I feel that not everything we learn is specifically directing towards our chosen future. For example, in maths we cover hundreds of different mathematical procedures, yet in the majority of people’s lives they won’t use any of what we are forced to try and understand. Aside from some factors school is definitely preparing everyone for our futures. Babe42, 17

Achieving The MilGen is the most education-minded generation that has lived (Martin & Tulgan, 2001; Salt, 2006; United Nations, 2005). This is a favourable scenario, as, according to the OECD (2006): The share of the population that has attained qualifications at the tertiary level is a key indicator of how well countries are placed to profit from technological and scientific progress. Differences between tertiary attainment of younger and older age groups is a measure of progress in the provision of higher education.

When looking at the trends in Australia compared to other OECD countries, tertiary attainment as a percentage of the population of that age group can be

The MilGen and school education   297

determined and compared, highlighting shifts and patterns over time. Tertiary attainment rates for 55–64 year olds (members of the Baby Boomer generation) in 2003 were around 23 per cent in Australia compared to an OECD average of around 17 per cent. For 25–34 year olds (representing a portion of Generation X), the OECD average rate had leapt to 30 per cent and the Australian rate to 36 per cent (OECD, 2006). While there are no tertiary attainment figures for the MilGen at this stage because the oldest of the generation are just entering this phase, the rate is expected to increase. In 2004 the level of engagement of Australia’s 193 800 young adolescents aged 15–19 years (representing the very first of the MilGens in high school) was: fully engaged 86 per cent, with 69 per cent in full-time education and around 16 per cent in full-time employment. Around 14 per cent were not fully engaged, with 6 per cent of these employed part-time and not studying, 4 per cent unemployed and 4 per cent not in the labour force (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2005). Perhaps facilitating this education mindedness are changes to the traditional school curriculum, with the inclusion of vocational and training possibilities within schooling culture. This trend started in the 1980s, a period of profound change in the nature and purpose of secondary schools in Australia. This was largely the result of declining youth labour markets, combined with changes to student financial support. This is dramatically demonstrated by the national retention rate to Year 12, which rose from 35 per cent in 1980 to 77 per cent by 1992 (Fullarton, 2001). The purpose of senior secondary schooling up until this time had been to prepare students for entry into university. Clearly, with a much larger market than could or perhaps should be accommodated by the tertiary sector, this huge increase in retention rates led to a rethinking of the purpose and role of senior schooling (Pendergast & Cooper, 2001). The MilGen are the first generation where the full effects of this shift will be felt. Combined with the high education engagement, this generation’s connections with ICTs facilitate the trait of being an achieving generation. Donnison (2004, p. 23) pretty much sums it up when she says this generation’s … … propensity towards ICTs is not disputed. They have a particular affinity for the Internet and use it for a multitude of purposes. This generation find it indispensable for entertainment, shopping on line, homework and studies, banking and paying bills, communicating with peers, and developing community. Furthermore, it is employed by members of this generation at a very basic level to craft their personalities.

In fact, Australian 15 year olds are the highest percentage users of computers for more than five years of all OECD countries, superseding even America and Canada, with almost 70 per cent of 15 year olds having five years of computer experience compared to an OECD average of around 37 per cent (OECD, 2006). Howe (2006) has identified four key strategies educators must employ to ensure they address the core trait of this generation being regarded as ‘achieving’. These are:

298   The Millennial Adolescent

• • • •

to build challenging curricula to emphasise achievement over aptitude and effort to incorporate cutting edge computer technology into the curriculum to encourage teachers to set themselves as an example of professional achievement and lifelong learning.

The strategies are strongly biased towards creating high achieving attributes in the MilGen. They are all effective, but fostering a connection with lifelong learning is very important. The strategy recommended here is for teachers to set themselves as examples of professional achievement and lifelong learning. This is consistent with the material presented in Chapter 10 where the teacher as role model has consistently been reported to have more effect than any other strategy in creating lifelong learners. Each of these suggestions was used as triggers for feedback from the MilGens interviewed.

MilGen voices—on being achievers Do MilGens feel challenged by the curricula? Some of the young people who served as sounding-boards agreed that they are experiencing a challenging curriculum. For example: Definitely, in most subjects, but definitely in law and science. Waterluva, 16

Others felt they were not challenged: I don’t get challenged at school at all except for Physical Education because I had just joined it recently. I find P.E. challenging because I am constantly trying to learn and perfect the skills I have been taught for the sport we are learning at the time. At times when it is too challenging I get frustrated and annoyed but after 2 minutes rest I’m back trying to get it right. Babe42, 17

When the MilGen were asked to comment on various aspects of being achievers, their responses differed considerably. Strangerjo, 13, for example, indicated she had high expectations of herself:

The MilGen and school education   299

Yes I have very high expectations of myself, such as not being sucked into media infatuated ideals or not being a generic mirror of the person next to me. Strangerjo, 13

On the other hand, Babe42, 17, suggested that expectations emanated more from her parents: I don’t have high expectations of myself; I just achieve the best I can, whenever I can. It’s my parents that have high expectations of me to be the top student in everything I do, which is really stressful and depressing at times. Babe42, 17

Waterluva, 16, similarly felt the force of parental expectation: I don’t have that much expectation of myself but my parents do, my expectations of myself are to do the best I can for myself. Waterluva, 16

In response to questions about whether their education provides opportunities to use ‘cutting edge technology’ at school that pushes boundaries, Babe42 responded in the following way: I’m not sure about cutting edge technology, but I do not find them pushing my boundaries because anything computer-wise I pick up too quickly and learn about the whole topic in a few days and master the programming that is needed to be done, or the hacking that had to be done. Technology-wise my boundaries have not been pushed, but my skills that I have in technology are quite great so I don’t think it’s necessary to try push boundaries because I am happy with my broad knowledge of technology as it is. Babe42, 17

Similarly, Notton, 13, felt challenged by opportunities to use the latest technology: Yes, they do use these things to make us strive for excellence in a way that challenges us. Notton, 13

300   The Millennial Adolescent

Others indicated they used technology at school, but it couldn’t be regarded as ‘cutting edge’, for example: We use computers, but nothing really cutting edge. Waterluva, 16

and Sometimes, we use computers, but they aren’t exactly cutting edge. Apparently dad could teach me to hack their system. Strangerjo, 13

With respect to seeing their teachers as lifelong learners, the MilGens mostly indicated they had seen their teachers demonstrate learning, such as: I don’t usually see a teacher as a learner but it has happened before, mainly in Japanese classes. The teacher would not know the word to translate to and therefore asks me for help. Some may see this as funny, but I don’t. When I see this happen it makes me remember that teachers aren’t perfect either and they need help at times, and that sometimes children have a broader knowledge in certain areas compared to them. In life you always learn new things so why not include teachers in that category of learning as well. Babe42, 17

and Yes, I don’t expect teachers to be adapted to every single class. They need to feed off the students’ responses. Strangerjo, 13

and Yes, I do see teachers as learners, they are learning things as I am, they will even say so if they are. Notton, 13

The MilGen and school education   301

And finally: Yes, in particular my history teacher. First day she told us that she expected to learn from us. String, 15

Summary Table 11.2 below is a collation of Howe’s (2006) specific strategies recommended for educators to adopt to enhance their practices, based around the seven core traits of the MilGen. Table 11.2  Howe’s seven core traits of the MilGen and strategies for educators Seven core traits

Strategies for school reform and school curriculum


Encourage parental involvement Seek media and public support


Emphasise school safety and accountability Consider class sizes—smaller is perceived as better; learning communities are favoured


Stress positive outcomes for everyone Use contextual and project-based environments Craft personal progress plans to guide students’ learning and growth

Team oriented

Teach team skills Build community service into the curriculum Provide opportunities for students to help other students

Hold conventional hopes and dreams

Create curricula that every student is expected to master Celebrate progress Continuously monitor, assess and redirect learning


Stress long-term planning Structure learning around goal mastery Reverse engineer curricula—start with where you want students to be at the end of the year


Build challenging curricula Emphasise achievement over aptitude and effort Incorporate cutting edge computer technology into the curriculum Encourage teachers to set themselves as an example of professional achievement and lifelong learning Source: Developed from Howe (2006)

302   The Millennial Adolescent

Creating the educational landscape of the future There is a clear message from analysing the core traits of the MilGen that this generation must be the focal point of what Prensky (2005/6) calls the ‘new landscape’ of education in the twenty-first century. This new landscape requires transformation at all levels—from the complex systems that govern and manage the policies and processes around education, to the individual teacher performing their role as a twenty-first-century educator. Prensky provides some clues—for him, this landscape has nine key features which the profession and professionals must grapple with as a matter of urgency. Table 11.3 is a summary of his thinking on the future of education and the implications for the teaching profession. Table 11.3  Prensky’s twenty-first century landscape Feature


Implications for educators

Digital natives

Students as fluent users of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet. They are born into the digital world. Baby Boomers and Generation X are digital immigrants, adapting to technology. The speed of technological change means traditional professional development will not keep teachers up to date.

Alternative approaches might be to incorporate the emerging technology, such as games into pedagogies.

Educators learning to take cues from their students and abandoning predigital instincts and comfort zones.

Teachers learn from Millennials, particularly digital technological skills.

Shifting gears

Teachers should have strengths in guidance abilities, not subject matter.

Students have the opportunity to negotiate around what and how learning should take place. Student engagement

Departing from the tradition of privileging content, to focus first on engaging students by building relevance.

This is best achieved electronically, through what is called ‘gameplay’. This uses the skills of establishing goals, working strategies, solving problems in a way that students are familiar with through electronic game play.

Collaborating with students

The need to decide with students—to collaborate—around education fundamentals.

Develop collaborative skills. Negotiate with students around the curriculum, pedagogies, discipline, assessment, organisation.

The MilGen and school education   303

Flexible organisation

‘Herding’ that is, allocating students to classes based on arbitrary features such as age or ability level.

Focus on one-to-one personalised instruction, possibly using technologies. Facilitate self-selecting virtual learning groups—which might go beyond the traditional boundaries of the classroom.

Digital tools

Recognise student mastery of digital tools and use these for effective learning.

Make better use of widely available technologies. At the moment, this means mobile phones.


Programming is argued to be the fundamental key skill necessary for twenty-first century literacy.

Teachers must focus on developing programming skills and encourage students to use these abilities.

Legacy versus future learning

Curriculums of the past that still dominate schools and cut into ‘future’ curriculum.

Replace twentieth-century curriculum with futures curriculum e.g. nanotechnology, bioethics, genetic medicine, neuroscience.

School versus after school

Formal school is becoming increasingly irrelevant as a learning place. Much learning takes place after school.

Must connect in school and after school so that learning is continuous.

Student voice

Provide students with meaningful voices in their education. In the past parents have served as proxies, but they also lack the generational know-how.

Use creative, technological ways to listen in order to give students a voice.

Source: Developed from Prensky (2005/6)

Prensky has a strong commitment to renewing education to meet the twentyfirst century landscape, and clearly favours technological solutions for many of his reforms. Others have also made suggestions, Dede (2005) for example has proposed that advances in IT have assisted in reshaping students’ learning styles, calling these the ‘neomillennial learning styles’. The neomillennial learning style is characterised by constructivist and experiential learning that includes: • • • • •

fluency in multiple media utilising each for benefits it can offer learning based on collectively seeking, sieving and synthesising experiences active learning based on experiences including frequent opportunities for reflection expression through non-linear, association webs of representations, such as webs and mindmapping; and co-design of learning experiences personalised to individual needs and preferences.

304   The Millennial Adolescent

There is a growing body of research around what students like and dislike and what best facilitates their learning. A recent study of 7000 students in Years 5–9 from 50 primary schools and 13 secondary schools in Victoria revealed the following: What students dislike: •

Completing worksheets

Writing thoughts in a diary

Giving a talk to the class

Listening to other students give talks to the class

What students love to do: •

Doing investigations or projects of their own choice

Being able to choose how they present things

Doing activities out of the school

Doing hands-on activities

Watching the teacher demonstrate how to do things

Searching for and collecting information

Asking questions about things that interest them. (The Age, 18 July 2005)

Interestingly, students do not explicitly mention that ICTs are incorporated in the pedagogical approaches both liked and disliked, suggesting that perhaps these possibilities are currently not regarded as mainstream in the schooling experiences. When asked when they learn best and learn least, the MilGen sounding-board did make connections with the use of technology, along with other interesting elements.

I learn best … The opportunity to ask members of the MilGen how they learn best resulted in the following collation of responses: I learn best in a group situation because I just feel like I fit in more in a group than when I have to sit down on my own and read a book. Notton, 13

I learn best when the whole class is willing to learn; that way there’s no distractions. I think it largely depends on the teacher too. String, 15

The MilGen and school education   305

When I’m listening to music. Waterluva, 16

I learn best when I have music. I need background noise. Not talking, but something that is clean cut, like music. Strangerjo, 13

When I try best. Wet2, 14

I actually happen to learn best when it is after 9 pm and dead silent. I don’t know why this is my preferred time to learn but that just works best for me, and if I study and learn around this time, I remember everything. Babe42, 17

I learn least … I don’t learn very well in extreme weather, it could be very cold or extremely hot, the weather seems to preoccupy my mind. Notton, 13

I don’t learn very well when I am surrounded by idiots that won’t leave me alone, or when people just don’t shut up… Strangerjo, 13

When rushed, and fast-paced learning where there’s no one to help. Waterluva, 17

Teachers who don’t know what they’re doing. String, 16

306   The Millennial Adolescent

I can never learn when I’m actually in class at school, because of all the noise and distractions that occur during the lesson. This makes it harder for me because I spend 7 hours at school and then have to come home and re-learn everything after 9 pm. Babe42, 17

With regard to the Australian educational landscape, a number of explicit reform agendas at the system level have undoubtedly been informed by the characteristics of contemporary society and the unique socio-cultural development of the MilGen. For example, the ‘Queensland State Education 2010: New Basics’ policy document for reform of school level education in public schools identifies the societal context— that is the ‘new times’—that students must be prepared for as being characterised by the following: • • • • • •

New student identities—changing notions of identity, family structures, poverty, social dislocation New economies—with a focus on globalised economies, communication across different media New workplaces—with a focus on the new work order, incorporating a shift to ‘expert novice’; new sectors of employment; employment insecurity New technology—including digital and multimedia communications technologies Diverse communities—increasing stress on the sense of neighbourhood, community and identity Complex cultures—blended cultures and loss of cultural boundaries. (Education Queensland, 2000).

Each one highlights the societal transition in which MilGen adolescents experience their formative years. Emanating from these New Times are the New Basics (what is to be taught); Productive Pedagogies (how it is to be taught); and Rich Tasks (how it is to be assessed). Similarly, the Tasmanian Education Department in 2000 released the framework ‘Learning Together 2020’, that commences with a description of contemporary society as being one of change from the industrial age into the information age, and that this information age ‘… holds the promise of a world vastly different from our current one. It has been likened to a starburst.’ The information age is described as ‘complex, diverse and unpredictable, and of setting up tensions between being both alarming and exciting’; and also of not ‘want[ing] to lose those things that we value in our present age but we also want to improve the world in which we all live’ (Department of Education, Tasmania, 2000). While such frameworks for reform and others dotted around the nation hold incredible promise, the shift in society to a literacy based on ICTs from the book-

The MilGen and school education   307

based culture that has dominated classrooms is far from accomplished. I have argued elsewhere that ‘this model still prevails today, typifying the schooling/ education dilemma for Millennials—they are living in a world that has shifted in many ways (rapid technologies, a breakdown of time and space, globalisation), yet the schooling they are likely to experience has not shifted to the same extent’ (Bahr & Pendergast 2006). The professional educator also requires transformation. Sachs (2003), for example, argues that the teachers of the MilGen should be activist professionals, educational innovators, and pioneers. Yet, as Donnison (2004) has found in her investigation of the first wave of MilGen members preparing to enter the teaching workforce, it appears they are more inclined to maintain the status quo. Indeed she laments that these digital generation teachers ‘will be no more inclined towards incorporating technological newness and novelty into their teaching than their currently practicing peers’ (2004, p. 28). This effect is so powerful that she predicts that educational reforms seem ‘doomed to fail’ given the lack of innovation in the teaching workforce. Yet, there is promise that these very people are the key to reforming the teaching profession. As Donnison (2004, p. 29) reminds us: The digital generation is idealistic, flexible, confident and optimistic. They see themselves as heroes who want to make a difference and change the world. Teacher education institutions would be wise to consider these qualities and use them to their advantage in creating the activist teaching professional of tomorrow.

Knowing the characteristics of the MilGen, and being aware of the unique moment created by the ICT paradigm shift with globalisation; population diversity and mobility; complex environmental and societal issues affecting everyone everywhere, it is no longer possible for educators to remain complicit by retaining outmoded practices. The following list of key imperatives for each of the three key categories identified (the education profession; teacher practitioners; and pre- and in-service teacher education) recommends how education can reposition itself.

The teaching profession 1 2 3 4

The broader education profession must lead and facilitate the reconstruction of school education. The profession must be revamped to enable the adoption of more flexible work pathways for educators. The current teacher workforce requires renewal leading to transformation in professional capabilities. The future teacher workforce requires effective pre-service preparation which develops knowledge, skills and abilities suitable for the traits and learning styles of MilGen, and the subsequent generation, students.

308   The Millennial Adolescent


Traditional notions of ‘classrooms’ must be abandoned. New possibilities, such as mentoring using communities—including global communities—and virtual teaching should be encouraged.

Teacher practitioners 1





Teachers must have, in addition to developmental understandings of their students, a thorough knowledge and understanding of the traits and learning styles of the MilGen and how these impact on the education process. Teachers must develop attributes as reflective practitioners with a futures orientation and the capacity to undertake research in order to achieve broader systemic reform agendas. Teachers must come to terms with the need to shift their pedagogical practices away from those they experienced (and are therefore likely to reproduce) to those that suit the MilGen. Teachers must listen to, collaborate with, and learn from MilGens in order to constantly moderate and develop relevant technologies and abilities to ensure student engagement. Teachers must repack their teacher toolkit. New tools include repertoires of practices such as negotiated learning, the inclusion of ICTs into pedagogical practice, use of teacher and student collaborative teaming as core process, developing programming abilities, futures education, developing learning communities, modelling lifelong learning capacities and displaying the practices associated with being an expert novice.

Pre- and in-service teacher education programs 1



Teacher education programs must be reformed, both pre-service and professional development, to facilitate the development of the desirable characteristics of teachers, including: — developmental understandings of students — socio-cultural understandings of students — understandings of traits and learning styles of the MilGen and how these impact on the education process — capability to perform as reflective practitioners — capability to have a futures orientation — capability to undertake research. Teacher education programs must emphasise the distinction between the experiences teaching aspirants had and are therefore likely to reproduce, to those that suit the MilGen, and equip them to transform their practices. Teacher education programs must develop confidence and abilities in the use of information and communications technologies and associated pedagogies.

The MilGen and school education   309



Teacher education programs must incorporate relevant repertoires of practices including capacities associated with: — negotiated learning — collaborative teaming — futures education — learning communities — lifelong learning. Teacher education programs must provide multiple outcomes such that graduates are not restricted to the single profession of teaching.

The oldest and first-wave of the MilGen are now maturing into young adults. The messages contained in this chapter apply more broadly to the range of life contexts they may experience, including university or other further education; work, whether it be paid, unpaid or voluntary; family establishment and expansion; and so on. This MilGen ‘creep’ effect will revolutionise society, with the early major impact of the generation expected to be felt from around 2010. Because the schooling system and educators are the first major point of interface with the generation, it behoves the profession to have the capacities to optimise the potential of this exceptional generation.

Key points 1




Generational traits are a useful tool for understanding young adolescents in formal education settings today. The key differences in education for the Millennial Generation can be encapsulated into four main concepts: choice; values; teamwork and collaborative learning; and standards. Teachers of the MilGen are more likely to be Baby Boomer and Generation X, so have differing core traits. The most powerful difference and the one creating most effects, is the digital prowess of the generations. Baby Boomers and X-Geners are digital immigrants, while MilGens are digital natives (Prensky, 2005/6). MilGens who are aspiring teachers are technologically literate and incorporate computers and the Internet into their ‘lifeworld’, yet they are ‘reticent’ to incorporate their proficiency with technology into their predictions for the future of education, and their constructions of themselves as teaching professionals (Donnison, 2004). According to Howe (2006), the Millennials have seven core traits that determine their expectations and potential as a generation. These are:

310   The Millennial Adolescent


that generational members consider themselves to be special; they are sheltered; confident; team oriented; conventional; pressured; and, achieving. There are recommended strategies for each of these traits to improve educational experiences of the MilGen. Advances in IT have assisted in reshaping students’ learning styles— Dede’s ‘neomillennial learning styles’ (2005).

Further thinking 1




5 6

Search for a weblog that discusses some of the generational traits of the Millennial Generation and compare the comments from these contributors to those included in this chapter. According to the study conducted by Donnison (2004), aspiring teachers who are also of the Millennial Generation seem likely to reproduce their own experiences in school, rather than incorporating more contemporary pedagogies. What specific strategies can be developed to target and reform this situation? What generation do you belong to? Develop your own checklist of goals for personal transformation as an educator using the following headings: i Features typical of my schooling experience ii Features desirable for millennial students iii Features for personal development. Blogs, message boards and the like allow students to express their ideas to a global audience, and it is often the anonymity of this audience that is appealing. What practices in school can capture this creative component of young people’s experience? How can school best prepare the MilGen and Z Generation for their future digital world? Develop a MilGen audit tool in the form of a rubric for reflecting on teaching practice.

References Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2005). Australian Social Trends (Cat. 4102.0). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. Bahr, N., & Pendergast, D. (2006). Adolescence: A useful concept for this millennium. Curriculum Perspectives, 26(1), 67–73.

The MilGen and school education   311

Beck, U. (1992). Risk society: Towards a new modernity. London: Sage. Carrington, V. (2006). Rethinking middle years: Early adolescents, schooling and digital culture. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian. (2006). What is a Blue Card? Retrieved July 6, 2006, from bluecard/general_info.html Commonwealth of Australia. (2005). National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools. Canberra: Author. Dede, C. (2005). Planning for neomillennial learning styles. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 1, 7–12. Department of Education (DET – Tasmania). (2000). Learning together 2020. Retrieved July 7, 2006, from Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST). (2006). National literacy and numeracy benchmarks. Retrieved December 2, 2006 from sectors/school_education/policy_initiatives_reviews/key_issues/literacy_numeracy/ national_literacy_and_numeracy_benchmarks.htm Donnison, S. (2004). The digital generation, technology and educational change: An uncommon vision. In Brendan Bartlett (Ed.), Education: Weaving research into practice: Vol. 2. (pp. 22–31). Nathan, Queensland: Griffith University, School of Cognition, Language and Special Education. Education Queensland. (2000). New basics project technical paper—draft. Retrieved July 6, 2006, from Forte F., & Schurr, S. (2003). The definitive middle years guide: A handbook for success. Victoria, Hawker Brownlow Education. Fullarton, S. (2001). VET in schools: Participation and pathways. Camberwell, Victoria: Australian Council for Educational Research. Gee, J., Hull, G., & Lankshear, C. (1996). The new work order: Behind the language of the new capitalism. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. Hargreaves, A. (2002). Teaching in the knowledge society. Technology Colleges Trust, Vision 2020, Second International Online Conference. Retrieved July 12, 2006, from www. Howe, N. (2006, April). A generation to define a century. Paper presented to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Annual Conference, Worldwide Issues, Chicago, April 1–3, 2006. Retrieved June 29, 2006, from annualconference/2006/04/a_generation_to.html Howe, N., & Strauss, W. (2000). Millennials rising: The next great generation. New York: Vintage Books. Huntley, R. (2006). The world according to Y: Inside the new adult generation. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. Istance, D. (2003). Schooling and lifelong learning: Insights from OECD analyses. European Journal of Education, 38(1), 85–98.

312   The Millennial Adolescent

Martin, C., & Tulgan, C. (2001). Managing Generation Y. Massachusetts: HRD Press. Mayer, D. (2006). The changing face of the Australian teaching profession: New generations and new ways of working and learning. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education 34(1), 57–71. McMahon, M., & Pospisil, R. (2005a). Laptops for a digital lifestyle: Millennial students and wireless mobile technologies. Conference Proceedings Ascilite 2005: Balance, fidelity, mobility: maintaining the momentum, 421–431. McMahon, M. & Pospisil, R. (2005b). Laptops for a digital lifestyle: The role of ubiquitous mobile technology in supporting the needs of millennial students. Paper presented at EDUCAUSE Australiasia 2005: The next wave of collaboration, Auckland. Milburn, C. (2005) What students hate to do. [Electronic version] The Age, July 18. Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs. (2003a). A national framework for professional standards for teaching. Canberra: Author. Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs. (2003b). Demand and supply of primary and secondary school teachers in Australia. Melbourne: Author. Mission Australia. (2005). National youth survey 2005. Dandenong: Author. National Counter-Terrorism Committee. (2005). National counter-terrorism plan (2nd ed.). Canberra: Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. New Politics Institute. (2006). The politics of the millennial generation: A survey comparing political attitudes between generations. Miami: New Politics Institute. OECD. (1996). Lifelong learning for all. Paris: OECD. OECD. (2006). OECD Factbook 2006: Economic, environmental and social statistics. Retrieved July 16, 2006, from rpsv/factbook/08-01-02.htm O’Reilly, B. (2000, July). Meet the future, it’s your kids. The millennial generation has grown up with prosperity, the Internet, divorce and Columbine. They already know they don’t want to live or work the way we do. Fortune. July 24, 2000. Retrieved July 12, 2006 from 656/index.htm Pendergast, D. & Cooper, C. (2001). Tourism and hospitality education: A new model for a new millennium. In C. Gatchalian, V. Heung, & R. Cruz (Eds.). 7th Asia Pacific Tourism Association Conference Proceedings: Mix, Match and Move: Shaping the Future of Tourism (pp.178–181). Manila: Asia Pacific Tourism Association. Pendergast, D., & Renshaw, P. (2005). Community and middle schooling. In D. Pendergast & N. Bahr (Eds.), Teaching middle years: Rethinking curriculum, pedagogy and assessment (pp. 256–268). Sydney: Allen & Unwin. Prensky, M. (2005/6). Listen to the natives. Educational Leadership, 63(4), 8–13. Robert, S. (2005). Millennial learning: On demand strategies for Generation X and beyond. Retrieved April 11, 2006, from articleDetails.jsp?id=262368

The MilGen and school education   313

Sachs, J. (2003). The activist teaching professional. Philadelphia: Open University Press. Salt, B. (2006). The big picture. Sydney: Hardie Grant. Sheahan, P. (2005). Are you ready for the Y Generation? Retrieved September 2, 2005. http:// Skilbeck, M., & Connell, H. (2003). Attracting, developing and retaining effective workers: Australian country background report for the OECD activity ‘Attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers’. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Smith Family. (2006). On track? Students choosing a career. An investigation of educational and vocational plans of Learning for Life students. Sydney: Author. Student Learning and Support Services Taskforce. (2002). National safe schools. Retrieved July 28, 2006, from students/inclusion/supportive/nssf.htmlFramework United Nations. (2005). World Youth Report 2005: Young people today, and in 2015. ST/ ESA/301


Aboriginal a person who is a descendant of an Indigenous inhabitant of Australia, identifies as an Aboriginal and is recognised as Aboriginal by members of the community in which they live abstract thinking thinking about an issue or concept without concrete material support accommodation a process of adaptation from Piagetian theory, where an individual adjusts his knowledge structure so that it can incorporate new experience/knowledge acne an inflammatory condition of the skin. Most commonly appears on the face, shoulders or back adaptation processes of accommodation and assimilation from Piagetian theory, where an individual’s knowledge structure is prepared to enable to networking of new information additive foundations when risk factors accumulate correlating with the likely negative outcome for an individual facing adverse circumstances adrenal gland ductless glands that are near the kidneys, and which secrete androgens, oestrogen and adrenaline advanced organisers from Ausubel’s reception theory, where providing people with an overview of an entire field/subject/topic is argued to help them understand new information amygdala the part of the brain that handles emotional responses


316    Glossary

androgens masculine sex hormones produced in the testes and the adrenal glands androsterone hormone present in both males and females. Involved in the stimulation of body hair growth and general physcial growth anorexia nervosa a debilitating eating disorder that involves active limitation of calorie intake by starvation, strict diet and exercise regimens applied behavioural analysis a process of evaluating the behaviours a person exhibits with a view to identifying the elements of reinforcement arousal effects when we see a particular behaviour as potentially causing exciting social outcomes assimilation a process of adaptation from Piagetian theory, where an individual adds new experience/knowledge to the existing knowledge structure attention focusing of cognitive processes on specific aspects of a stimulus autonomous morality a type of morality identified by Piaget that involves a shift toward perspective taking, consideration of intent, various impact and fairness autonomy ability to act independently and exert control over environment basic emotions fundamental emotions such as happy or sad, angry, crying, laughing, being fearful, and frowning apparent from infancy behaviourism a theoretical paradigm that describes learning in terms of overt behaviour bisexual a person who is sexually attracted to both males and females blackheads pimples that have a dark or black focal point bulimia nervosa a debilitating eating disorder that involves bingeing and purging cycles bullying physically or mentally belittling or harming someone; harassment

Glossary    317

cerebellum the part of the brain that manages muscular coordination chunking a mental process of grouping elements to be remembered together as single items for recall class inclusion recognising that some piece of information is part of a set classical conditioning learning that arises from the interaction between two stimuli presented together classification sorting information into groups and sets cognition the mental acts of perceiving, receiving, coding, storing and retrieving information cognitive development the development of thinking and mental processes capabilities across the life span cognitive load strain on cognitive resources inherent in attending to a task cognitive style an individual’s unique perceptual and thinking processes collective a sense of identity developed in some cultural groups where the individual is an inextricable part of the whole community. The individual’s goals are community ones, and achievements are only understood and valued in terms of gains for the group complexity theory a theoretical perspective of knowledge that describes increasing knowledge in terms of increasing complexity of networking of knowledge structures concrete examples real life, authentic, tangible articles Concrete Operational a stage of Piagetian structuralist theory to describe the mental capacities and performance of children aged 7–12 years conditioning behaviourists’ word for learning conditioning relationship a relationship between stimulus, response and reward/punishment that results in a conditioned response

318    Glossary

conditioning stimulus a stimulus that provokes a conditioned response constructivism the theoretical perspective that describes knowledge as actively structured by each individual according to their experiences constructivist theory the theoretical position that all knowledge is structured and networked according to experience; considers the social learning that a person derives from their direct experience conventional morality Level 2 of Kohlberg’s stages of moral development where morality revolves around doing the right thing, to be good according to society’s rules corpus callosum a bundle of nerves that connects various parts of the brain, including the cortical hemispheres corpus luteum a yellow mass that grows from an erupted follicle of an ovary and secretes progesterone crime an act that breaks the criminal code which is created by society though written law critical consciousness a protective factor for resilience that entails a reflective awareness of the structures of oppression declarative knowledge knowledge that can be stated deep knowledge well-connected and networked knowledge within a domain deep processing an analytical and evaluative approach to processing new information delinquency a legal term for criminal behaviour carried out by a juvenile and is often the result of escalating problematic behaviour depression a debilitating mental state of extreme and prolonged sadness often accompanied with feelings of hopelessness

Glossary    319

disequilibrium the state described by Piaget, where an individual has not yet adapted knowledge structures to incorporate/ link new information they have encountered disinhibitory effects we might see someone ‘get away with’ something and this may lay the foundation for us assuming that the behaviour won’t reap negative effects if we too engage in it domains knowledge themes; knowledge of a specific topic or subject that is networked together dysmenorrhoea painful cramps during menstrual periods ectomorph tall and lean body type ejaculation emission of semen during sexual excitation encoding strategies processes that can be applied to new information to facilitate their effective storage and recall from long-term memory endomorph short, heavy body type environmental enhancement when we see that certain behaviours make circumstances better for everyone epididymis ducts from the testes to the vas deferens where sperm develop, mature and are stored episodic memory memory of events equilibrium the state described by Piaget, where an individual has fully adapted their knowledge structures to incorporate/ link new information they have encountered expert novice a person who is good at learning new concepts and approaches expert–novice theory a theoretical perspective that supposes that differences in mental processing are related to familiarity and expertise rather than age and stage of cognitive development expertise high-level ability and knowledge within a domain external memory a strategy for assisting recall of information (e.g. notes)

320    Glossary

fallopian tube tubes that link the ovary to the uterus for ova to travel through follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) a hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates the development and maturation of follicles and ova in the ovaries, and sperm in the testes follicular phase phase of the menstrual cycle where follicles are developed around an ovum foreclosure an identity status described by Marcia where instead of resolving identity conflicts for themselves, the individual adopts the goals and ideologies of significant others forethought capability imagining the suite of responses that our actions may elicit Formal Operational a stage of Piagetian structuralist theory to describe the mental capacities and performance of adolescents aged 12–15 years free floating anxiety stress and a state of anxiousness that is not tied to any particular identifiable event or circumstance frontal cortex the part of the brain that functions as executive officer, coordinating and controlling the functions and responses of the other components of the brain; it is attributed with the management of logical thought gangs are particular types of youth subculture. Generally groups of young people that identify with each other, join together for entertainment and activity. Gangs can form a support structure for negative and criminal activity gay homosexual male or female, but usually refers to a male gender the psychological and sociological constructs of masculinity and femininity generational theory socio-cultural approach to understanding trends within a defined group, usually with shared birth years ranging across 20–22 year period genitalia sexual organs glans the head of the penis

Glossary    321

globalisation both a process that is happening and an awareness that it is happening. It refers to an intensified, more global distribution of a particular economic system based on capital, as well as technology and technological processes, migrants, refugees, travellers, ideas and cultural movements gynecomastia swelling and budding of breasts sometimes experienced by males during puberty heteronomous morality a type of morality identified by Piaget that referred primarily to authority. Right or wrong is judged with regard to the likely consequences, the rules broken and the punishment hetero-normativity the notion that heterosexuality and stereotyped expressions of masculinity and femininity are the expected and endorsed norms for a society heterosexual people who are sexually attracted exclusively to those of the opposite sex homelessness involves the absence of secure, adequate and satisfactory shelter as perceived by the young person homophobia fear of those who are not heterosexual, or who appear not to reflect endorsed heterosexual stereotyped behaviour hormones biochemical substances that are secreted into the blood system by the endocrine glands hypothalamus a part of the brain that has a regulatory role for things like appetite, thirst, menstrual cycles and sexual response; the hypothalamus is also involved in responses like pain, emotion and pleasure ICT(s) information and communication technology/ies identity statuses states of identity resolution proposed by Marcia identity-achieved an identity status described by Marcia where the individual has successfully negotiated identity conflicts and feels comfortable with who they are and their aspirations

322    Glossary

identity-diffused an identity status described by Marcia where there is a lack of a direction or a clear idea of who an individual is and what goals they should set. They may feel confused about who they are Indigenous refers to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples individualistic a sense of identity developed in some cultural groups where the individual is accountable for their own actions, and is personally liable to ensure the needs are met of other individuals for whom they are responsible information processing theory a theoretical perspective that considers learning to arise from the treatment nformation is given through the reception and storage processes through to long-term memory inhibition extinction of a behavioural response inhibitory effects when we decide from observing others the ways we shouldn’t behave intercourse sexual union/penetration juvenile delinquency a term that refers to children (as opposed to adolescents) who behave delinquently knowledge domains see domains larynx the voicebox; the part of a person’s neck where air is directed over muscular cords that vibrate and produce sound law of effect any action that results in a positive reward of some kind is likely to be repeated lesbian a female who is same sex attracted lifelong learning continual learning, the sets of generic skills and capacities that will equip individuals and societies to embrace this expanded notion of learning and the challenges of living and working in knowledge economies and the new work order

Glossary    323

loneliness an unwanted feeling of social isolation; a feeling of intense longing for reciprocal positive engagement with other people long-term memory (LTM) part of the information processing system where there is a virtually permanent store of information luteinising hormone (LH) a hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates the development of the ovum, oestrogen and progesterone for females, and testosterone and sperm for males Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) a medical imaging tool that highlights brain activity masturbation manual manipulation of sexual organs for sexual pleasure menarche a female’s first menstrual period menstrual period (menstruation or period) time in the menstrual cycle when blood and uterine material is released through the vagina mesomorph muscular, athletic body type metacognition active monitoring of thought Middle phase (of learning) broad band of schooling used in the Education Queensland three tier approach to school reform, which is comprised of the Early Phase; Middle Phase and Later Phase. The Middle Phase has two distinct stages, the first typically Years 4–5; the second Years 6–9. The latter of the stages within the phase has in particular adopted the philosophical perspectives of Middle Schooling middle schooling philosophical approach to teaching and learning which meets the unique developmental and educational imperatives of middle years’ aged students within the context of contemporary society. The implementation of middle schooling relies on the effective utilisation of middle schooling practices middle schooling practices teaching and learning practices, typically incorporating curriculum pedagogy and assessment approaches that address the specific needs of the young adolescent population

324    Glossary

middle schools structures allocated for specialist use by students in the middle years; middle schooling practices may or may not be pursued in these middle schools middle years (of schooling) umbrella term that applies to early adolescence, generally students between the ages of 10–15 MilGen(s) hybrid term from Millennial and Generation following the generation’s tendency to abbreviate, emanating from SMS literacy modelling demonstrating moral development developing a sense of ‘fairness’, understanding the world in terms of rights/ freedoms and developing a sense of reasonable consequences and responsibilities, that is, justice moratorium an identity status described by Marcia where people experiment with different identities and roles without committing to any. Decision on their identity is deferred for later multiplicative (foundations) when some risk factors for vulnerability enhance others negative reinforcers negative outcomes that arise due to an action neopiagetians theoreticians that have accepted some aspect of Piaget’s work for further development and consideration networked connected neurones cells of the brain neutral stimulus a stimulus that is not related to any outcome resulting from a response novices individuals who have had limited experience with a specific task obesity above a healthy weight for body type and height

Glossary    325

observational learning learning how to behave from watching others oestradiol hormone secreted from a mature follicle in the female ovary. It triggers the release of luteinising hormone which matures the ovum oestrogen female hormones produced in the ovaries and the adrenal glands operant conditioning work focused on learning as a function arising from the relationship between stimulus and reward ova/ovum large cell (egg) produced in the ovaries of females that contain half the genetic information for new life ovarian cysts cysts that develop in the ovaries over-accommodating when a person creates too many categories in their knowledge structure for the information they are trying to code, hence making retrieval of specific detail difficult over-assimilating when a person creates too few categories in their knowledge structure for the information they are trying to code, hence making retrieval of specific detail difficult ovulation release of an ovum from the ovary into the fallopian tube pituitary gland located at the base of the brain, this is the master endocrine gland for the body post-conventional morality Level 3 of Kohlberg’s stages of moral development where people focus on what’s best for society. Maybe even breaking some laws to ensure justice is achieved postvention after action activities that serve to prevent the reccurrence of some incident precociousness early maturation pre-conventional morality Level 1 of Kohlberg’s stages of moral development where morality is understood in terms of rules set by adults

326    Glossary

primary sexual characteristics those characteristics that are directly involved with the physical capacity to reproduce procedural knowledge knowledge about how to do a task procedural memory memory associated with the practical/procedural completion of a task progesterone a female sex hormone produced by the corpus luteum proliferative endometrium developing wall of the uterus in preparation for pregnancy protective factors the characteristics of those people that seem to cope best in adversity psycho-social development development of cognition and social behaviour in response to social cues and engagement with society over time puberty development of the capacity to reproduce pubic hair hair that grows around and near genitals reception learning an approach to learning described by Ausubel where the learner is prepared prior to exposure to new information. Use of prior knowledge and advance organisers are important elements in this receptors nerve cells that receive stimuli from the environment rehearsal repetition, drill and rote memory strategies reinforcement strengthening the likelihood of specific response to a stimulus by selectively rewarding resilience the ability to bounce back when things go wrong response facilitation when we see that behaving in certain ways brings particular social rewards reward something pleasurable that occurs as a result of an individual’s actions

Glossary    327

rules for operations identification of rules that generally explain the relationship between pieces of information runaways young people who leave their parent/guardian’s home running from young people who leave their parent/guardian’s home to escape circumstances apparent in their home environment running to young people who leave their parent/guardian’s home to pursue some goal or set of circumstances that they see as desirable same sex attracted people who are sexually attracted by others of the same sex scaffolding a process described by Vygotsky and refers to the support given to a learner to enable them to reach higher levels of achievement schema a knowledge structure schema theory a theoretical perspective that considers the structure of a person’s knowledge and their mental capacities to be aligned to their experiences and their drive to ‘understand’ schemata plural for schema scheme term coined by Piaget, later referred to as schema scrotum skin pouch containing the testes sebaceous glands oil-producing skin glands secondary sexual characteristics those characteristics that develop alongside primary sexual characteristics but which are not directly involved with the physical capacity to reproduce (facial hair for males, pubic and armpit hair, stature development etc.) selective attention applying attentional processes to selective elements from environmental stimuli

328    Glossary

self-concept the knowledge we have of ourselves. It includes things like ideas, attitudes and beliefs that we have about ourselves self-conscious emotions higher order emotions that involve complex cognitive development. Self-conscious emotions involve reflection on ourselves and link experiences with core values self-efficacy relates to someone’s feelings of competence and ability. Self-efficacy is a person’s confidence in their likely ability to successfully complete a task self-esteem refers to how a person feels about themselves and can be described positively or negatively self-monitoring a metacognitive strategy whereby an individual checks and monitors their understanding and recall self-reflective capability the capacity to critically examine the outcomes of our actions, adjusting understanding of the link between action and outcome self-regulated learning model learning that relies on metacognitive processes self-regulation a metacognitive activity that involves controlling your own cognitive processing self-regulatory capability the capacity to regulate behaviours to elicit desired outcomes semantic memory memory for words sensory buffers neuronal duplicate of sensory information serialisation placing things in an order or sequence seriation mentally arranging things in some sort of order sexual orientation describes the orientation of someone’s sexual attraction: same sex, opposite sex, or both shallow processing focus on the surface features of a problem for mental processing

Glossary    329

shaped behaviour that has been deliberately changed through manipulation of stimulus and reward shim a person who does not readily identify with either male or female gender stereotypes short-term (working) memory (STM) a temporary memory storage facility that has a very limited capacity social cognitive theory a theory that describes the reciprocal relationships between behaviour, cognition, personal factors, and environmental events social competence social responsiveness social emotions related to public and private emotional display parameters; these are strongly culturally socialised social learning theory see socio-cultural theory socio-constructivist learning that is constructed by the individual but which occurs inextricably in a social context and with meaning tied to that social context socio-cultural theory the belief that learning can only be understood with reference to the social and cultural context in which it operates somatotype body type sperm cells produced in the testes of males that contain half the genetic information for new life spermarche the first ejaculation of semen a boy experiences stimulus something that elicits a response structuralism the theoretical perspective that considers human development in terms of intractable stages structuralist theory see structuralism

330    Glossary

subcultures cultures within cultures that have distinct characteristics, ways of thinking and acting substitution identification of circumstances where some knowledge can stand in the place of other knowledge surface knowledge knowledge about superficial elements symbolising capability the way we can see links between rather obscure circumstances with situations we find ourselves in symmetrical identifying how some information balances with other information testes male sexual organs that produce sperm and testosterone testosterone male hormone produced by the testes and the adrenal glands theories a best fit model explaining how phenomena work together and impact on each other theory a best guess at how a phenomenon can be explained or modelled transsexual a person who presents himself or herself as their opposite gender triadic reciprocality a way of describing the way social behaviour is influenced by vicarious experience uterine lining lining of the uterus designed to accommodate a developing foetus vagina channel between the uterus and the outside of a woman’s body vicarious capability the capability to watch the ways others behave and draw lessons for ourself voice ‘breaks’ the changes to a person’s voice as the larynx matures and grows during puberty vulnerability an individual’s susceptibility to negative developmental outcomes when exposed to risk conditions

Glossary    331

wet dreams night emissions, or emissions of semen during sleep working memory (WM) see short-term memory Y Generation a generation with birth years ranging around 1982–2002, also known as digitals, Millennials, MilGen yellow heads pustular pimples Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) the gap between someone’s current level of capability and the competence they can achieve under skilled guidance


Aboriginal  30, 48, 49, 50, 51, 53, 57, 58, 60, 88, 98, 99, 100, 102, 114, 137, 170, 173 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander alcohol   100 asthma   99 oral health—infections of  99 abstract thinking  111 accommodation  112, 117 acne  84, 85, 102 adaptation  112, 113, 117 additive foundations  185 adolescent/ce age of  8, 18 biological views of  3, 5, 16, 17, 92, 136, 160 deficit view  7, 12, 13 definition of  47, 137 ideology of  13 psycho-social views of—Inventionist view  8 adrenal gland  84 adultescents  12 adulthood  5–9, 12–17, 27, 50, 95, 111, 112, 124, 134, 156–158, 169, 176, 183, 186, 229, 230, 233, 241 advanced organisers 120 age/stage models  16, 161 Alberto  110 alienation  88, 132, 139, 140, 141, 143, 144, 148, 203, 205, 207, 208, 217 Allison  14  amygdala  125   Anderson  32, 127

androgens  84, 85 androsterone  84 anorexia nervosa  94, 95, 97 antisocial behaviour 59, 60, 140 Aristotle  7, 108 Armstrong  234 arousal  77 arousal effects  176, 177 Arraj  103 assimilation  112 attention  118–121, 140, 177, 178 Australian Bureau of Statistics  29, 47, 48, 59, 60, 64, 98, 163–165, 297 Ausubel  15, 120 autonomous morality  161 autonomy  135, 192 Baby Boomers  24–28, 37, 272, 274, 283, 302 Bahr  4, 6, 8, 13, 14, 15, 16, 76, 109, 115, 121, 136, 157, 175, 191, 193, 196, 205, 218, 231, 307 Bandura  61, 110, 139, 176, 178 basic emotions  133 Beale Spencer  8 Beane  13 Beck  280 behavioural analysis 110 behaviourism  108 belonging  158, 159, 181, 185, 193, 286 Benard  183, 192 Bessant  15, 158 Biggs  113 Biro  103


334    Index birth order  139, 159, 174, 183 bisexual  91, 163 blackheads  85 Blair  99, 100 Blokland  14 Boas  9 boys  8, 52–57, 73, 76, 77, 83, 86–89, 91–97, 100, 165, 217 boys vs girls debate  100 brain development  16, 107, 124, 125 Brewer  117 Brooks-Gunn  8 Bryce  252, 253, 260, 261 bulimia nervosa  96, 97 bullying  32, 58, 92, 155, 174, 195–197, 217, 278, 280, 294 Burdekin Report  145, 146 Callender  80 Calvert   31 Cameron  12 Carrington  211, 218, 219, 280 Carroll  59, 69 Case  111, 113 Ceci  116, 117, 122 Cellerier  112 cerebellum  125 Chadbourne  206, 207, 209, 218, 221, 222 Chan  183 Chandler  121 Chang  183 Chi  116 childhood  5–9, 14, 16, 27, 31, 37, 58, 77, 78, 93, 97, 133, 135, 141, 156, 157, 176, 190, 204, 205, 218, 234, 278 Christensen  136 chunking  118, 119, 123 Claessens  103 class inclusion  111 classical conditioning  108 classification  9, 89, 111, 123, 235 cognition  8, 13, 45, 110, 113, 114, 180, 214 cognitive development  107, 109, 110–117, 119, 121, 123, 125, 133, 147, 161 cognitive load  121 cognitive style  123 collective  34, 37, 93, 137, 205 Collins  55

Collis  113 Columbine  32, 278 complexity theory  120 concrete examples  111 Concrete Operational  111, 112 conditioning  108, 109 conditioning relationship  109 conditioning stimulus  108 Conger  14 Connell  272 constructivism  112, 113, 206 constructivist theory  112, 176, 178 conventional morality  162 cool  24, 35, 179, 286 Cooper  297 corpus callosum  125 corpus luteum  81, 82 Côté  12 Cotterell  158 Craik  120 crime  47, 59, 60, 147, 148, 151, 153–155, 278, 280 critical consciousness  192 Crombie  234 cyberchondria  32 Davidson  29, 30 Davies  103 de Kemp  14 De Nardi  254, 256, 257 declarative knowledge  115 Dede  303 deep knowledge  115 deep processing  120 delinquency  41, 43, 45, 54, 58, 60, 61, 66, 143, 153–158 depression  80, 88, 92, 95, 98, 142, 143, 166, 167, 233, 294 Derry  117 Descartes  108 digital natives  26, 275, 302 digitals  28 Dill  32 disequilibrium  112, 136 disinhibitory effects  176, 177 Dolgin  15, 78, 83, 85, 148, 149, 150, 152, 157, 183, 232, 234, 236, 237 domains  115, 116, 117

Index    335 domestic violence  145, 146, 151 Donnison  33, 252, 272, 273, 274, 283, 297, 307 Downes  181 Dryfoos  132 dysmenorrhoea  104 early adolescence  14, 19, 124, 203, 204, 205, 207, 216, 218, 225 eating disorders  74, 93–97, 195 e-bullying  32 ectomorph  89, 90 Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI)  251, 252 ejaculation  83, 84 Elia  92, 93 emotions  9, 16, 77, 84, 112, 133, 134, 149, 168, 188 encoding strategies  119 endomorph  89, 90 Engels  14 Engler  103 environmental enhancement  176, 177 epididymis  83, 84 episodic memory  118 equilibrium  112, 113 Erikson  134, 135, 136, 137, 158 estradiol  80, 81, 82 Evans  14, 93 expert novice  245, 306, 308 expertise  121, 122 external memory  119 fallopian tube  81 family  8, 10–13, 16, 28, 31, 35, 36, 46, 47, 49, 50, 60, 61, 65, 93–99, 135, 141, 145, 146, 147, 149–151, 154–159, 167, 168, 174–177, 180–183, 190, 203, 209, 210, 230, 231, 234, 241, 282, 285, 290, 291, 294, 306, 309 family pressures  174, 182, 183 family responsibilities  183 Farrington  60 father absence  56 female-headed households  47 Ferrari  123 Ferrell  123 Flavell  113, 115

Floyd  91 follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)  80, 82, 83 follicular phase  80, 82 foreclosure  158 forethought capability  178 formal operational  111, 112 Frank  14 Frankenberger  14 free floating anxiety  88, 143 Freeman  10 Freud  136 frontal cortex  125 Fuller  184 G8 nations  30 Gagne  117 gambling  147 Gameboy  31 gangs  181, 182 Garcia  114 Garofalo  92 Gati  235 gay  36, 86, 91, 163 Geidd  8, 16, 124, 125 gender  52, 53, 55, 91, 92, 93, 100, 101, 143, 159, 162, 163, 165, 210, 236, 261 Generation Why  24 Generation X  24–28, 37, 272, 283, 297, 302 Generation Z  2, 25, 272 generational theory  23, 267, 274 genitalia  83, 85, 163 G.I. Generation  28 Giles  30 Gilligan  161, 162 Ginzberg  232–235 glans  83, 85 global population  42, 43 globalisation  25–29, 33–34, 37, 43–44, 66, 245 goal setting  62, 137, 140, 221, 287 Gottfredson  234 Graber  8 Grabowski  123 grandparents  183, 277, 290 Gregory  32 gynecomastia  83

336    Index Haeckel  9 Hagan  14 Halford  113, 120 Hall  6–12 Halpern  17 Hamburg  16 Harbeck  99 Hargreaves  311 Harley  32 Harrison  91 Heaven  159 heteronomous morality  161 hetero-normativity  93 heterosexual  93 Heyerdahl  14 Hickling-Hudson  33 higher order thinking  206, 209, 219, 221 Hillen  79 HIV/AIDS  43–47 Hoey  183 Hoffnung  15 Holland  233–235 Holloway  31 homelessness  144–150 homesickness  140–142 homophobia  93 hormones  77, 79, 82, 84, 94 Howe  24–27, 31, 37, 275, 277, 280–285, 287, 290, 291, 295, 297, 301, 309 Howell  61 Huntley  35, 275, 282, 283, 285, 290 hypothalamus  78, 79, 82, 125 ICT  28–33, 44, 58, 64, 65, 245, 246, 249, 273, 288, 297, 304, 306, 308 identity  4, 8, 16, 28, 30–33, 60, 76, 77, 87, 93, 112, 134–138, 151, 157–160, 163, 178–185, 192, 193, 197, 208, 229, 306 identity statuses  158 identity-achieved  158 identity-diffused  158 iGeneration  24, 276 in betweeners  9, 12 Indigenous  see Aboriginal individualistic  137 infancy  7, 135, 224 information processing theory  117, 118, 120, 121, 123

Inhelder  112 inhibition  109 inhibitory effects  176, 177 intercourse  83 isolation  31, 99, 100, 135, 139, 143, 146, 149, 159, 167, 190, 222 Istance  249 Jonassen  123 juvenile delinquency  43, 45, 153 Keefe  123 Kerr  14 kidults  12 Kiesner  14 Kimmel  15, 141 knowledge domains  115, 116 Kohlberg  16, 132, 161, 162 Krause  110, 135, 161, 162 Kuther  14 Kvernmo  14   Lankshear  245 larynx  86 Lasser  91 latch key kids  183 Law of Effect  109 Lawrence  57 leadership  57, 58, 64, 65, 160, 206, 209, 210, 216, 222, 223, 237, 255, 257–260, 267, 287, 291 Lee  93 Lefrancois  15 Lerner  9 lesbian  91 Lien  104 lifelong learning  139, 203, 206, 209, 210, 218, 219, 222, 224, 230, 244–262, 267, 274, 277, 298, 300, 301, 308, 309 listening  32, 33, 190, 221, 287, 304, 305 Lockhart  120 Loeber  59 loneliness  88, 132, 139–144 long term memory (LTM)  117–119 Lorion  59 luteinising hormone (LH)  80-84 Lyotard  33

Index    337 McCabe  14, 94–96 McDonald  14 McDonaldisation  34, 232 McInerny  15 McLean  33 McMahon  276, 294 McMillan  14 Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)  124 Marcia  8, 136, 158 marijuana  100 Marsh  138, 139 Marshall  115, 117 Martin  24, 36, 283, 285, 296 masturbation  83 Matthews  14 maturation  8, 13–17, 77, 78, 83, 87, 124, 126, 132, 133, 152, 163, 169 Mayer  25, 272, 274 Mead  9, 10 menarche  12, 78, 80, 87 Menon  134 menstrual period  78, 79 Merrell  166, 195 mesomorph  89, 90 metacognition  121–123 Meyers  14 Middle phase (of learning)  205, 206, 213, 214 middle schooling  56, 203–226, 260, 270, 282, 287 middle schooling implementation  52, 203, 206, 216, 222, 223, 224 middle schools  205, 207, 213, 218 middle years (of schooling)  203, 204–226, 241, 260 MilGen  23–51, 267–310 Miller  14 Mills  100 Mindfields  59-64 Minsky  117 Mitrou  57 modelling  56, 110, 123, 140, 159, 175, 181, 195, 221, 252, 306 Moffitt  59, 60 moral development  73, 126, 132, 161–162, 168 moral reasoning  161 moratorium  156

motivation  16, 56, 61, 63, 82, 86, 87, 137, 140, 152, 157, 177, 178, 182, 183, 192, 205, 207, 236, 237, 248, 250, 251, 261, 287 Muller  32 multiplicative foundations (of vulnerability)  185, 186 Nagel  124, 125 negative reinforcers  110 Neopiagetians  113 networked  115 Neufeld  105 neurones  124 neutral stimulus  108 novices  121–123 obesity  74, 97 observational learning  176 oestrogen  79–82 operant conditioning  109 O’Reilly  285, 290 ova or ovum  79 ovarian cysts  81 over-accommodating  113 over-assimilating  113 ovulation  81, 82 Oyserman  59 Pan  183 parenthood  91, 101 part-time work advantages  12, 231, 232, 233, 237, 274 part-time work disadvantages  231, 232, 233, 234, 274 Paschall  61 Patterson  91 Pavlov  108 peers  10, 11, 35, 56, 60, 80, 83, 87, 88, 90, 93, 94, 99, 100, 134, 138, 139, 144, 152, 155–160, 163, 168, 175, 176, 181, 182, 233, 236, 273, 281, 286, 293, 297, 307 Pendergast  4, 13, 36, 205, 210, 218, 220–224, 244, 246–249, 254, 257, 260, 261, 297, 307 Petersen  8, 15 physical exercise  100

338    Index Piaget  16, 111–113, 115, 136, 161 Pianta  132 Pinquart  14, 28 pituitary gland  78, 83, 84 Plato  7, 108 Polesel  54 popularity  141, 285 Pospisil  276, 294 post-conventional morality  162 postvention  168 poverty  43, 44, 66, 146, 190, 191, 235, 282, 306 precociousness  86–87 pre-conventional morality  162 Prensky   26, 269, 275, 276, 286, 302, 303 primary sexual characteristics  86–87 procedural knowledge  115 procedural memory  118 progesterone  81, 82 proliferative endometrium  81 prostitution  143, 147, 148 protective factors  61, 175, 192, 197 psychopathology  61, 150, 152, 189 psycho-social development  60, 135 puberty  15, 77, 78, 83, 84, 86, 87, 88, 93, 94, 95, 100, 101, 152 pubic hair  78, 83, 85 Rayner  109, 123 reality television  24, 36, 285 reception learning  120 receptors  117 rehearsal  118 reinforcement  109, 110, 253 Rembeck  87 Renshaw  282 resilience  61, 132, 137, 165, 175, 183, 184–197, 251 response facilitation  176, 177 reward  17, 92, 109, 119, 154, 159, 160, 162, 177, 194, 221, 230 Rhodes  183 Ricciardelli  14, 94–96 Rice  12, 15, 78, 83, 85, 148, 149, 150, 152, 157, 180, 182, 183, 232, 234, 236, 237 Richter  77, 88 Riding  123 rite of passage  136

Rittle-Johnson  115 Robert  287, 291 Roberts  148 role modelling  140 Rousseau  7 rules for operations  111 Rumelhart  117 runaways  148–149, 150, 151 running from  148, 149 running to  148, 149 Saarni  133 Sachs  307 Salt  25, 37, 59, 290, 291, 296 same sex attracted  91, 93 Santrock  8, 9, 15 Savin-Williams  92 scaffolding  114 Schaffer  8, 15 Schank  115 schema  115, 117 schema theory  114, 115, 117 schemata  115, 117 scheme  113, 115 Schettini Evans  14 Schloss  110 Schmeeckle  183 Schneider  91 Scholte  14 Schultz  14 Schwabenspiegel  8 scrotum  83 sebaceous glands  84 secondary sexual characteristics  16, 77, 86, 87, 88 Seifert  15 selective attention  119 self  10, 63, 75, 77, 137, 157, 158 self-concept  137, 138, 139, 158, 179, 193, 229, 253 self-conscious emotions  133, 134 self-efficacy  137, 139, 158, 192 self-monitoring  122 self-reflective capability  178 self-regulation  60, 61, 122 self-regulatory capability  178 Selman  8 semantic memory  118

Index    339 sensory buffers  117 sequelae  99 Sercombe  15, 158 serialisation  111 seriation  111 Sewell  168 sexual orientation  91, 93 sexuality  91–93, 143, 294 shallow processing  120 shame  96, 117, 134, 135, 142, 151, 193, 284 shaped  109, 176 Sheahan  26, 36, 284 Sheldon  89, 90 shim  91 short term (working) memory (STM)  118 Silbereisen  14, 28 Simeonsson  105 Skilbeck  272 Skinner  109 Slyper  78 Smith  14, 110, 146, 247, 283 smoking  10, 88, 99 SMS  23, 24, 25, 31, 32, 37, 78, 179, 195, 285, 288, 293 Snipe  37 social attributes  186, 190–191 social cognitive theory  110, 176, 177, 178 social competence  192 social development  16, 134, 136, 161, 174, 175, 176, 179, 180–183, 197, 247 social emotions  133, 134 social identity  158, 178–179, 181, 224 social learning theory  110 socio-constructivist  107 socio-cultural  4, 9, 113, 267, 306, 308 socio-cultural theory  113, 114 Socrates  7 somatotype  89 sperm  81, 83 spermarche  84 Stahl  59 Stattin  14 Steinberg  9, 15 stepfamilies  49, 183 Sternberg  123 Stewart  61, 156 stimulus  26, 27, 108, 109, 118 store mannequins  97

storm and stress  9, 16 Strauss  24, 25, 26, 27, 269, 275 street gangs  181 structuralism  111, 112 structuralist theory  111, 122 subcultures  134, 180, 181 substitution  111 suicide  92, 100, 147–148, 155, 163–168, 185, 192, 294 suicide prevention  168 Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA)  253–260 surface knowledge  115 Swanson  8 Sweller  120, 121 symbolising capability  178 symmetrical  111 Szalacha  3 Taga  87, 88 teacher education  221, 252, 307–309 team orientation   27, 285, 287 teen drinking  110 testes  83, 84 testosterone  84 theories  7, 13, 15, 16, 17, 73, 74, 107–110, 111, 113, 114, 117, 119, 121, 124, 136, 174, 197, 208 theory  9, 23, 61, 73, 74, 92, 107, 108, 110–115, 117, 120–123, 126, 132, 134, 136, 137, 161–163, 176–178, 234, 235, 267, 274, 275 Thorndike  109 Tichawangana  30 transsexual  91, 163 triadic reciprocality  176 Tulgan  24, 36, 283, 285, 296 unemployment  34, 44, 145, 146, 239 United Nations  43, 45, 46, 47, 50, 65, 296 United States Census Bureau  42, 43 uterine lining  78, 79, 81 vagina  78, 81 Valentine  31 values  10, 11, 21, 24, 34, 55, 60, 65, 66, 77, 90, 110, 112, 114, 132, 133, 134, 136, 137, 152, 158, 160, 161, 162, 176–198, 235–238, 251–255, 269–271, 274, 291

340    Index values education  55 Vermeer  49 vicarious capability  110, 134, 176, 178, 179, 187 vision  99 Vitaro  14 voice ‘breaks’  86 vulnerability  132, 175, 185–186, 190–192, 197 Vygotsky  113, 114 Walsh  132 wannabe groups  181 Watson  109, 245, 248, 253, 254, 257, 258, 259 Watts  15, 158 Weiner  15, 122, 141 wet dreams  83

White  16, 81 Wilks  254, 256, 257 Withers  260, 261 working memory (WM)  118, 119 Xbox  31 Y Generation  26, 31, 36 yellow heads  85 Yi  183 Yekovich  117  youth groups  181, 293 youth movements  181 Zevenbergen  37 Zimmerman  61, 110, 122 Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)  114

Also from ACER Press Ever ybody’s Different A positive approach to teaching about health, puber ty, body image, nutrition, self-esteem and obesity prevention Dr Jenny O’Dea ACER Press 2007 Overweight and body image concerns in children and adolescents are increasing. Overall body dissatisfaction in young people has increased dramatically in the last few decades, with a heightened prevalence of dieting, eating disorders, obsessive exercise and steroid abuse. Everybody’s Different details how to apply a proven self-esteem approach in schools, community settings and clinical situations to improve body image conceptions, prevent eating disorders and obesity, and foster health, nutrition and physical activity in young people. An ideal reference and resource book for anyone working with young people—particularly primary and secondary school teachers and university students—this book can also be applied in clinical and community settings. Adopting a whole-school approach and based on 16 years of research and teacher training, this book contains:

N Case studies N Research outcomes N Classroom activities N Work sheets, games and word puzzles N Teacher training N Community links N Lesson plans for interactive puberty websites N Complete, up-to-date reference lists Everybody’s Different allows teachers to apply a planned approach to issues in an informed, positive and effective manner for body-sensitive young people.

The structure of this book makes it easy to read, with thorough summaries and referencing at the end of each chapter. Furthermore, it includes recommended websites for teachers and students to visit for more information. About the Author Dr Jenny O’Dea is a dietitian, health and nutrition education researcher and Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney, Australia. She is an Associate Editor for Health Education Research, has written three books on child nutrition and health, and is conducting two large longitudinal Australian Research Council studies about food habits, physical activity, sport, growth, pubertal development, body image and weight issues among children and adolescents. Dr O’Dea has a PhD in Medicine from Sydney University, in which she focused on the prevention of body image problems and eating disorders among children and adolescents using a school-based, self-esteem approach. She has authored more than 50 scientific research publications in well-known international journals ISBN: 978-0-86431-773-5


Also from ACER Press Coat of Many Pockets Managing classroom interactions Jenny Mackay ACER Press 2006 Coat of Many Pockets: Managing classroom interactions is intended for beginning and returning teachers as well as educators wanting to enhance their behaviour management skills. Based on a synthesis of major behaviour management thinkers, the book is a handbook for understanding the aims and developing the practical techniques involved in managing individuals and groups in the classroom. Coat of Many Pockets shows teachers how to replace their customary reactions to difficult behaviour with skilled responses that contain the behaviour while engaging the student. The reader will learn practical social, emotional and cognitive responses to any challenging or confronting behaviour. Engagement, containment and consequences replace ‘discipline’ in this book. Its underlying ethos is that students should be allowed to develop within boundaries that enhance their individuation. This book helps teachers:

n be proactive through planning for behaviour rather than reacting to situations as they arise in the classroom n understand the skills to manage student behaviour n work from a positive mind-set, and apply an approach that is constructive and which enables students to take responsibility for their own behaviour n see their role in managing behaviour in the classroom as an extension of their teaching rather than one of controlling and policing students n realise the impact an effective behaviour manager/ teacher has on a student’s ability to learn and achieve in class.

‘All I do is slip on my “coat”. It keeps me safe, it gives me that extra confidence. When I face a situation in class - students playing up - I just slip out a skill from one of the many pockets in my coat and I deal with it. I manage the situation, the behaviour and everyone can get on with their work.’ Ian Butler, Teacher from St. Francis Xavier Regional Catholic College, Beaconsfield, Victoria. About the Author Jenny Mackay has a B.A. from the University of Western Australia. She has taught at primary, secondary and tertiary levels as well as in parent training. She is a behaviour management and discipline skills specialist and has taught exclusively in this field since 1993 in the U.S.A., Great Britain, South Africa and Australia. In addition to running her own consultancy, Jenny lectures part-time at Deakin University in the Faculty of Education’s Consultancy and Development Unit for teacher accreditation and professional development. 978-0-86431-469-7


ISBN 978-0-86431-693-6


780864 316936

millennial ad cover art_final.in1 1

19/2/07 11:59:48 AM