A contributing factor to the poor performance of Jr. High students is an emphasis on the teaching of content, rather than the direct and overt teaching of process. After a certain amount of mental development has taken place, teaching emphasis should shift more to skills such as:
In other words, THINKING PROCESSES. These are global skills. They are applicable no matter what is being studied!
If the emphasis does not shift to process, then as tasks become more complex and challenging, additional content is only marginally useful. The mental tools have not been developed to be able to handle the more complex tasks. In fact, without good global thinking process skills, as the content gets larger and more complicated, the student is likely to find himself floundering, lose heart, and give up.
It is true that some students seem to have developed a good process tool kit, either on their own or with the aid of family or teachers. The writers experience in teaching Computer Literacy is that far too many students do not have good processing skills.
At the author's school there is a beginning of a shift in emphasis. The student skills class instituted in September 2001 for all 6th graders is helpful. It is too short (even the kids said that!) and much too limited in scope to fully correct the problems I saw in Computer Literacy class. Some aspects could be taught earlier.
The writers attempt to improve the processes used by his students has also been encouraging. However, it has not been sufficient to reach children who are the most bereft of processing skills. (He had them only 40 minutes per week.)
It is certainly true that:
I am certain that very significant improvements in Jr. High performance can be gained by the overt teaching of thinking process skills. Ideally, this teaching can begin at ages much younger than 6th grade (probably 3rd grade). Ask these questions of your school.
I suspect the answers (too often) are No.
In the writers opinion, great improvement can be achieved by mounting campaigns for improving thinking process skills, personhood development, and improving intrinsic motivation (a subject of other essays).