Middle Grades Organization and Pedagogy

Vermont Middle Grades Summer Institute at Castleton State College

June 24 – June 28, 2013

Fall Conference at Davis Center, University of Vermont

January 11, 2014


“At its heart, the middle grades movement is a movement in the service of social justice. In their hearts, middle grades educators are determined that the dream of high achievement for every young adolescent will become a reality.”

Jackson & Davis, Turning Points 2000



Dr. Kathleen Brinegar                                    Meg O’Donnell

                              Assistant Professor                                        Classroom Teacher, Alpha Team

                         Johnson State College                                   Shelburne Community School

        kathleen.brinegar@jsc.edu                              modonnell@cssu.org


Course Description

 Middle schools have evolved from the traditional “junior” version of high school into institutions dedicated to providing developmentally responsive pedagogy for early adolescents. As such, these schools have specific structures that directly address the unique physical, cognitive, emotional and social needs of students ages 10-14. Participants in this course will explore the design of these structures, including interdisciplinary and partner team development, teacher advisory and teacher-based guidance, transitions, community service learning, grouping, scheduling, and family involvement.


Course Standards


The course is based on the following National Middle School Association Standards:

 Standard 2.  Middle Level Philosophy and School Organization

Middle level teacher candidates understand the major concepts, principles, theories, and research underlying the philosophical foundations of developmentally responsive middle level programs and schools, and they work successfully within these organizational components.


Standard 3. Middle Level Curriculum and Assessment

Middle level teacher candidates understand the major concepts, principles, theories, standards, and research related to middle level curriculum and assessment, and they use this knowledge in their practice.


Standard 6. Family and Community Involvement

Middle level teacher candidates understand the major concepts, principles, theories, and research related to working collaboratively with family and community members, and they use that knowledge to maximize the learning of all young adolescents.



Course Objectives and Principles for Vermont Educators

As a result of successful participation in this strand, students will demonstrate mastery of the following standards, which are based on Vermont’s standards for middle level endorsement:


·     Knowledge of specialized professional techniques associated with the middle school concept, including interdisciplinary and partner team organization, teacher-based guidance and teacher advisory, grouping strategies, scheduling options, and community service learning.


·      Growing skill in functioning effectively as a member of an interdisciplinary team and as an advocate for young adolescents.


·      Knowledge of how to establish and maintain positive and productive relationships with families and the community.


·     Understanding of the techniques required to create an environment that encourages each student to become aware of himself /herself, to develop ability to express, understand and control her/his feelings; develop sense of trust and independence.



Performance Tasks and Evaluation

Strand Readings

·      Evidence of completion through; references during class discussions, inclusion in team simulation project, and integration into action research proposal.



·      Daily attendance, active involvement in team simulation project, and willing contributor to class discussions and activities.


Teaming Simulation Project and Reflection

·     You will work with a simulated team to create a Team Website or Wiki, which will present your team’s approach to the middle grades organizational areas presented throughout the week. Focus on this project is on the process of collaborative decision-making and application of readings- not a final product.


Action Research Proposal

·     What is your vision for teaching and learning in the middle years? The Middle Level Action Research Project is a proposal leading to implementation of change in your middle level practice. It should reflect current middle level practices that are developmentally responsive to the nature and needs of young adolescents.


January Presentation

·     January showcase of the ins and outs of participants’ Action Research Projects. It is a day of peer learning and a celebration of the work you have done to implement your Action Research Projects.


Assessment Breakdown

Demonstration of Readings: 25%

Participation: 25%

Team Simulation Self-Assessment: 25%

Action Research Proposal: 25%