"I am smart and I am not joking": Aiming high in the middle years of schooling

Year: 2008

Author: Prosser, Brenton, McCallum, Faye, Milroy, Philippa, Comber, Barbara, Nixon, Helen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper, we draw on accounts from students to inform a Middle Schooling movement that has been variously described as "arrested", "unfinished" and "exhausted". We propose that if the Middle Schooling movement is to understand the changing worlds of students and develop new approaches in the middle years of schooling, then it is important to draw on the insights that individual students can provide by conducting research with "students-as-informants". The early adolescent informants to this paper report high hopes for their futures (despite their lower socio-economic surroundings), which reinforces the importance of supporting successful learner identities and highlights the role of schooling in the decline of adolescent student aspirations. However, their insights did not stop at the individual learner, with students also identifying cultural and structural constraints to reform. As such, we argue that students may be both an important resource for inquiry into individual school reform and for the Middle Schooling movement internationally.

Keywords: Middle Schooling; school reform; students as research informants; social justice and education, economic and educational disadvantage.