Based on your observations to this point, what are the students’ needs with regard to: 1) Cognitive Development, 2) Physical Development, 3) Identity Development, and 4) Moral Reasoning? For each of these areas, write a robust paragraph analyzing the students’ needs and how you plan to meet those needs when you teach your lesson. Use and underline vocabulary from the theories as you complete your analysis and to justify your plan.
Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development
Mrs. G.’s students are in the concrete operational and formal operational stages. They are mature enough to think abstractly about complex concepts, but, like most adults, still benefit from concrete examples like images and hands-on experiences and object lessons.
These students are quick to resolve their disequilibrium either through assimilation or accommodation. Mrs. G. is quick also to give examples of things they already know—activating schema that they already have—to give them a frame of reference. Students then quickly assimilate the new information into their existing schema, or they modify their schema slightly to make room for the new concept.
I have observed the students many times quickly move from a known concept—an existing schema—through a brief disequilibrium, and back to equilibrium. They are practiced at both assimilation and accommodation, especially when the teacher activates their existing schema at the beginning of the lesson.
I can meet their needs here by providing concrete examples—visualizations, images, examples, or object lessons—when we’re discussing abstract ideas. Literary themes often involve complex, abstract themes: themes of identity, bravery, family, freedom, or civil rights. When teaching, I can provide specific examples or images to help students connect these abstract ideas to a physical object or experience. This can help meet their cognitive development needs because I can provide instruction first in the concrete operational stage before moving into the formal operational stage. I can also follow Mrs. G.’s example and activate their existing schema when I introduce an idea or concept that causes disequilibrium. I can help them restore equilibrium more quickly by helping them connect the new knowledge to things they are already familiar with, helping them to both assimilate and accommodate the new information and restore equilibrium.
Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory
With regards to Vygotsky’s theory, the students in Mrs. G.’s classes are very smart, and their Zones of Proximal Development are high on the grade level. I can meet their cognitive development needs here by keeping my teaching in their Zones of Proximal Development, and especially focusing on not teaching to low. A lot of my previous teaching experience has been with younger children, so when teaching Mrs. G.’s students, I need to remember that their ZPD’s are higher, and keep my instruction right in that sweet spot for her students.
To accompany this, I need to make sure that I provide More Knowledgeable Others—whether that’s me, or peers, or a text—to help students navigate the subject that’s just outside what they can do alone. I also need to make sure I have proper scaffolding to help students reach the new knowledge. I can frontload vocabulary before reading a text to help students understand it correctly. I can ask students to summarize or talk in groups about what they’ve read to increase comprehension. Group work also gives them a chance to act as MKO’s for each other. I can also anticipate words they may be unfamiliar with, and provide definitions, again to aid comprehension.
Many of Mrs. G.’s students are on the tail end of puberty. Many of her students are taller than I am, and some have reached their adult height. Their voices sound like adults in some cases, and in other cases they are still maturing physically. Mrs. G.’s students need a lot of sleep, and from my observations so far, many of them do not get enough, as students seem tired a lot of the time.
It’s important to remember that even though Mrs. G.’s students may look like adults physically, there are many words they do not know and many tasks they cannot do yet. I can meet students’ physical development needs when I teach by providing chances for them to get up and walk around during the lesson, defining words they may not yet know, and keeping the lesson engaging to help them stay awake.
Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological Model
Mrs. G.’s students are very heavily influenced by the microsystems they inhabit. They’re still teens, and so their friends, parents, church, and school still have the greatest influence over them. They are also influenced by the chronosystem they inhabit. These teens are digital natives, and are comfortable with Google, texting, the internet, and computers in general. Most of Mrs. G.’s students have cell phones—she had her students take a Google survey, and all but two students had a device to use.
I can meet the students’ developmental needs here by helping to form their mesosystems—making connections between the various microsystems in their lives. I can help them make connections from home to school, from their friends to the content area. I can also draw on the macrosystems that surround them to help them connect with the content. I can help them make connections to pop culture and politics to help them see how English is applicable in the wider world. With regards to their chronosystem, I can incorporate timely references into my lesson and use technology to my advantage when I teach.
Erikson’s Theory of Social Development
As I said in my post about Erikson, many of Mrs. G.’s students are right in the middle of the Identity v. Confusion psychosocial crisis. They’re figuring out who they are, what they want to be, and what they want to do. Many of Mrs. G.’s older students are more sure of their identity, and are starting to think about relationships—entering the main Intimacy v. Isolation crisis. Some of Mrs. G.’s students are also working through the Industry v. Inferiority crisis, as they learn how to be industrious academically and are still developing a sense of competence about themselves.
For students mainly in the Identity v. Confusion crisis, I can meet their needs by helping them apply the content directly to themselves. This can help them think about the content in context of themselves and what they believe, giving them more information about their own identities.
For students starting to think about the Intimacy v. Isolation crisis, I can model positive communication styles and help students practice agreeing and disagreeing with each other in a positive way. This can help them prepare for the communication necessary to establish and maintain healthy emotional relationships.
For students grappling with the Industry v. Inferiority crisis, I can provide scaffolding to help them complete complex tasks, and I can provide positive feedback. Scaffolding can help students accomplish difficult assignments, and then providing feedback can help them see that they’re becoming competent in the subject area.
Marcia’s Identity States
Mrs. G.’s students run the gamut in their identity states as defined by James Marcia. A couple of weeks ago, I observed a school counselor talk briefly to the students—first the juniors, then the sophomores—about registration and future career goals. Especially in the sophomore class, there were many students in a state of identity diffusion: they don’t know what they want to do for a career, and right now they’re not really interested in thinking about it.
However, there were also many students who were in a state of identity moratorium: they were actively thinking about their future career, and though they hadn’t made a decision yet, they wanted to take a wide range of classes to experience a lot of different careers. They were actively exploring the career aspect of their identity.
Other of Mrs. G.’s students seem to be in a state of identity foreclosure or identity achievement. These states are difficult for me to tell apart just by observing students, since both states are characterized by being committed to an identity, but foreclosure has come without any identity moratorium first. Some of the students were very sure of their career identity—“I’m going into medicine,” one student said. This could have been identity foreclosure—committing to an identity without an exploration—or it could have been achievement—maybe that student had researched different careers, done internships or shadowed doctors, and then decided to become a doctor, thus reaching a state of identity achievement.
Of course, Mrs. G.’s students have other aspects of their identity—their religious beliefs, their gender, their race, their culture, their academics, and many others.
I believe I can best meet students’ needs regard identity by providing them with information and helping them make connections. For students in an identity moratorium, information could help them, or lead them to other helpful information in their identity seeking. For students in an identity diffusion, making connections can help them see that, even though they don’t care about their future, the content area is at least interesting, or has some relevance to their present life. For students in a state of identity foreclosure or achievement, making connections can also help them see how the content area will help them in their achieved/foreclosed identity. I believe that English is a versatile content area, and that no matter what your identity is, there is a connection to be made from the content to that identity. If I can help students see those connections, they’ll be able to better understand both the content area and their own identity.
Most of Mrs. G.’s students are operating in the conventional level of Kohlberg’s theory of moral reasoning. They’re in the 3rd and 4th stages—Good boy/Nice girl orientation and Law and Order orientation. Based on my observations, the students see the world in terms of themselves and their relationships to others. They accept the reality and authority of laws, as evidenced by a discussion about In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Students readily accepted the fact that the characters had broken the law, and that the law was just. However, this discussion, which centered on two characters who were executed after murdering innocents, also verged into the post-conventional level. Students were getting ready to move into the Social Contract orientation, talking about how since the characters had murdered, they had violated the rights of their victims, and thus deserved to be executed. They also talked about the graphic nature of the execution—was it OK that the characters twitched and struggled against the noose? Even though they were murderers, was their execution ethical? These issues reflect a post-conventional level of moral reasoning.
I can meet students’ moral reasoning needs at both of these levels when I teach. I can ask questions about the reasons why characters do certain things, and we can talk about what authority figures do; this can help students reason at a conventional level. I can also ask questions about how events or characters are influenced by society around them, and how the society of the characters determines what they do or do not do. This can help students reason at the post-conventional level. We can even talk in broader terms of ethics to begin to think, at least somewhat, in the universal ethical principle orientation.
Mrs. G.’s students have diverse needs in terms of their physical, social, and psychological development. It’s challenging to meet all of their needs simultaneously, but many of the things I can do to meet their needs are things I should be doing anyway. I should already try to help students make connections and to think in a big picture. I should already provide concrete examples, images, or object lessons. I should already provide scaffolding to help students achieve their very best. With planning and careful coordination, I can meet Mrs. G.’s students’ needs, and my future students’ needs, with regards to their cognitive, physical, identity, and moral reasoning development.