Professional Development for Middle School Teachers: The Power of Academic Choice in the Classroom to Improve Stage-Environment Fit for Early Adolescents
Phillips, Kelli M.
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This study investigates the nature of stage-environment fit for early adolescents in the middle school setting. A review of the literature indicates that despite a long history of reconfigurations and reforms, middle schools are not yet designed to match the unique developmental stage of early adolescence. This mismatch contributes to persistent and predictable declines in achievement when students transition from elementary to middle school. This is an urgent situation, as more than 1.5 million American students are enrolled attend middle schools each year. Research suggests that middle school students need more opportunity and guidance to develop and analyze their own metacognition and exert more autonomy in the classroom to continue prior positive achievement trajectories from elementary school. However, 75% of middle school teachers have not had professional development to address their students’ developmental needs (Clark & Clark, 2004). This paper explores how professional development focused on creating more opportunities for student to make academic choices and reflect on those choices within the classroom setting can alter teacher practices to improve stage-environment fit. Based on a case study at one suburban middle school in Maryland, it is expected that this research will have training and practice implications for educators who seek to eliminate the drop in achievement when students transition to middle school.