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stack mining

January 11, 2014

P1010005

Last Monday’s visit to UWA library included a background resource search for our first semester unit Childhood and Adolescent Developmental Psychopathology (haul stacked abovealong with holiday-centric photography and a picnic lunch. Unit handbook details are here, or you might like to consider the course structure.

I am undertaking compressed study in the final week of summer holidays from January 20-24. My purpose in this post is to mine the stack.

Reader positioning being what it is, I need to give fair warning that the unit title fails to scintillate. I am not quite off-side, but there’s none of the excitement attached to engagement with Leading Curriculum Innovation, for example. Measured neutrality, then, is my opening gambit.

First reaction?

These texts smell. Not in a Ralph Wiggum whiny way, either – I am serious.

Since many are reprints, too (seventh, eighth editions), the smell is not so much triggering fond associations of well-tended classics but alarming memories of commencing Biology class with Mr Farrell in year 11 and being instructed to turn to chapter 3 to complete questions 1-18 in order to settle us down. Leigh Russell is still alive in this scenario, and few of my peers are particularly interested in the content of what we are studying.

Context shift gives me hope of a more optimistic outcome, but thumbing the texts reveals dry end of chapter summaries as well as Questions for Thought. Ominous.

I resolve to set aside these fears and persist with reading.

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Positive thoughts

  • Vignettes galvanise. Snippets they may be (oh so tantalisingly brief), but I feel compelled to sympathise with the people who relate these narratives along with those they describe. So many unresolved issues remain at the periphery of what is called “The Cases”, and I am reassured that the “…’Questions for Reflection’ do not necessarily have one right answer” (Hallahan & Kauffman, 1997, p.3). Cautionary tales indeed of Juanita, Patrick, Desmond, Kelly, William, Richard, Pete and Brian. Why so many boys? In contrast, only one male teacher, and his case is relayed from third person point of view. Oddly displaced emotions emerge; how did he feel about this experience with a student in extreme power struggle? Wonder if he stayed with teaching.
  • My second favourite reading experience was published more recently, creaks like a freshly-printed never-read text, and, coincidentally, was co-authored by our unit’s coordinator, Stephen Houghton. Here I discovered

A number of factors, including child maltreatment, interparental violence, family disruption, maternal depression, poverty, life stress, temperament, neuropsychological deficits, pregnancy complications, parental educational status, and occupational status negatively impact on children’s development. In particular, the cumulative nature of these factors and their timing affect the pathways to adaptation or maladaptation (Carroll, Houghton, Durkin & Hattie, 1997, p. 56).

Sheds light on the behaviours exhibited by Juanita, Patrick, Desmond, Kelly, William, Richard, Pete and Brian.

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Also reminds me of Angela Lee Duckworth’s admissions essay quoted in Flourish:

The problem, I think, is not only the schools but also the students themselves. Here’s why: learning is hard. True, learning is fun, exhilarating, and gratifying – but it is also often daunting, exhausting, and sometimes discouraging. By and large, students who no longer want to learn, and who don’t think they can learn, and who don’t see any point in learning simply won’t – no matter how wonderful the school or teacher… (Seligman, 2011, p. 103).

Perhaps what the maladapted cases studied in these texts reveal is that disengaged learners adjust their goals according to life experiences and circumstance. Away from traditionally conformist, academic paths and towards reputation-enhancing goals. Not so surprising. Doesn’t mean they lack grit or determination. What they successfully learn may be defined by observers as anti-social, however

the goal-setting patterns of high-achieving students were associated with knowledge and study skills and were congruent with the goals held by their educational institutions. It may be that at-risk adolescents are in a state of transitory disaffection with school and organized school activities because of the lack of importance they attach to educational goals (Carroll, Houghton, Durkin & Hattie, 1997, p. 85).

And here’s gold dust.

Who needs that

Selected references

Carroll, A., Houghton, S., Durkin, K. & Hattie, J.A. (1997). Adolescent reputations and risk: Developmental trajectories to delinquency. New York: Springer.

Groening, M. & Simon, S. (1991). The simpsons: The way we was. Second season, episode 12.

Hannah, D.P. & Kauffman, J.M. (1997). Teaching exceptional children: Cases for reflection and analysis for exceptional learners (7th edition). Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon.

Seligman, M. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Australia: William Heinemann.

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