Middle Level Students are Unique

(from “Schools in the Middle” – March 2000)

Middle level students, the 11 to 14-year-olds who attend grades 5-8, experience unique physical, psychological, social, intellectual, moral, and ethical developmental characteristics. These include:

Physical Development

  • Accelerated physical development marked by increases in weight, height, heart size, lung capacity, and muscular strength
  • Maturation at varying rates of speed
  • Faster bone growth than muscle development
  • Wide range of differences in prepubertal and pubertal stages of development, with boys lagging behind girls
  • Biological development five years sooner than adolescents of the last century
  • Responsibility for sexual behavior before emotional and social maturity have occurred
  • Changes in bodily features
  • Anxiety about physical changes
  • Ravenous appetites

Psychological Development

  • Erratic and inconsistent behavior
  • Chemical and hormonal imbalances
  • Easily offended and sensitive to criticism
  • Tend to exaggerate and believe that personal problems, experiences, feelings are unique to themselves
  • Moody, restless, self-conscious, introspective
  • Searching for adult identity and acceptance
  • Searching to form a conscious sense of individual uniqueness
  • Optimistic and hopeful

Social Development

  • Face traumatic conflicts due to conflicting loyalties to peer groups and family
  • May be rebellious toward parents but still strongly dependent upon parental values
  • Affected by high level of mobility in society
  • Often confused by new settings
  • Act out unusual behavior at times – aggressive, daring, boisterous, argumentative
  • Fiercely loyal to peer group values
  • Need frequent affirmation from adults
  • Establish positive social relationships with members of same and opposite sex
  • Challenge authority figures; test limits

Intellectual Development

  • Intensely curious
  • Prefer active to passive learning experiences and interaction with peers during learning activities
  • Enjoy using skills to solve real-life problems
  • Egocentric, argue to convince others; exhibit independent, critical though
  • Consider academic goals as secondary to personal and social concerns
  • Experience metacognition-the ability to know what one knows and does not know
  • Display a wide range of individual intellectual development while making the transition from the concrete-manipulatory stage to the capacity for abstract thought

Moral and Ethical Development

  • Essential idealistic with strong sense of fairness in human relationships
  • Ask large, unanswerable questions about the meaning of life
  • Reflective, analytical, and introspective about thoughts and feelings
  • Confront hard moral and ethical questions for which they are unprepared to cope