A Middle Schooling Pathway

By Anthony Doornbos | Posted: Friday October 7, 2016

Providing purpose built, integrative curriculums that meet the specific developmental needs of emerging adolescents

A Middle schooling pathway potentially optimises the learning opportunities of young people in the middle years of schooling. Such a pathway enhances their potential to live and work successfully in contemporary society, today and in the future. Middle schooling features the adoption of independent and aligned practices across the domains of pedagogy, pastoral care, assessment and curriculum; and through significant organisational changes in their learning places.


Generally New Zealand 10-year-olds tend to be in their final year of primary school; year six. Fourteen year-olds tend to be in year 10, the secondary school year preceding national examinations. The use of this middle schooling age-range (10-14 years of age) therefore implies the schooling years 7 to 10 in the New Zealand context, and crosses the exiting divide between primary and secondary schooling pedagogies.


New Zealand currently has some twenty-three different schooling structures catering for students in these middle years of schooling. Whether originally generated by definite choice, by evolution or by chance, the value of what has been provided through intermediate school education, needs to be carefully considered before eliminating what it now offers or making changes to it based upon a re-look at middle schooling pathways. Hewitt (1995) suggested that, “the best type of school to meet the needs of emerging adolescents is one which responds to identified needs. The alarming suggestion is that there are some schools which seem to fail in this regard, especially in relation to school culture.”3 That speaks of the individuality of school difference and school type. Clearly there are some that are more successful than others and the name and label given to a school type does not guarantee its efficacy. However, the effectiveness embedded within the school type can be “jewels” that should not easily be lost.


Every student during these middle years of schooling therefore, should have the opportunity to experience an age appropriate pedagogy which consists of:

  • authentic, life based experiences which are integrative and purposefully leads them to become active citizens of our democracy (Beeby 1938, Beane, 1990)
  • intellectually challenging learning, of a consistency and academic rigour that ensures that what is taught and how it is assessed informs future learning pathways (Watson, 1964).
  • personalised learning appropriate to the learner at their own individual level of readiness, specifically accounting for the diversity of previous achievement which is characteristic of this age-group.
  • opportunities that lead all students to experience success in all four aspects of middle years schooling; academic, cultural, sporting and social, while recognising and being responsive to their cultural heritage
  • collaboration across all year levels and schooling structures that enable the learning and specific developmental characteristics and needs of emerging adolescents to be effectively met.


A middle schooling pathway offers the opportunity to provide a purpose built integrative curriculum that meets the specific developmental needs of emerging adolescents. An integrative curriculum cuts across subject-matter lines. It brings together various aspects of the curriculum into meaningful association through a focus on broad student selected themes of study. It reflects the interdependent nature of the real world and engages the learner in real life experiences, in a more holistic manner. Integrative learning experiences provide the learner with the opportunity to study in greater depth and to develop greater understandings than that which could be obtained through the study of the separate subject parts.


This approach encourages greater student involvement, and therefore engagement, in the learning process. Rather than artificially dividing knowledge into separate subject areas, and using pedagogies such as textbooks and “seat” learning, this approach immerses students in the richness and complexity of life. Inviting students to help in this process, to bring their prior experiences to the situation, and be actively involved in problem solving activities gives them opportunities to develop critical thinking skills. It demonstrates to them that their ideas are valued, and to see that education is a serious concern of our society.