The Mparntwe Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians identified that enhancing middle years development as a key area for action ' The middle years are an important period of individual growth and learning when a balanced set of cognitive, social and emotional skills are developed. Students are finding a sense of self and require investment in their emotional wellbeing and a voice in and influence over their learning. This is also a time when they are at the greatest risk of disengagement from learning.’ (Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, 2019 p.13).
The student at this stage of development is undergoing a period of transition. They seek greater independence as they try to branch out yet require structure and modelling and set expectations to achieve this over time. Research confirms that interventions provide a strong opportunity for improving transitions and addressing disengagement. Pendergast and Bahr (2010) have identified 6 key principles:
Developmental responsiveness is vital to ensuring success for every middle year student.
Middle school student behaviour needs to be understood from an ecological perspective.
Learning and health (physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and spiritual) is the core business of schools and enhances appropriate student behaviour.
Establishing social relationships for middle school students, in which we celebrate diversity.
A student-centred philosophy that places the students at the centre of the learning process and focuses on the whole student (personal, social and academic).
Developing positive relationships is fundamental to maximising appropriate behaviour and achieving learning outcomes.
At Sophia College, the middle years of education are characterised by a philosophy, curriculum and pedagogy based on constructivism, which views the student as a capable learner who constructs their understandings and brings diverse experiences to the classroom. The key elements include an integrated and negotiated curriculum that is engaging and relevant to students, cooperative learning and collaborative teaching, higher-order thinking, authentic assessment, strong teacher-student and student-student relationships, parental and community involvement. Building an engaging school community is not just seen as a strategy to improve educational outcomes but is essential to education itself. At Sophia College, we believe our responsibility is to ensure the engagement of all learners during these critical middle years of schooling.