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013985 Understanding and Engaging Adolescent Learners

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2020 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Education: Initial Teacher Education
Credit points: 6 cp

Subject level:


Result type: Grade, no marks


This subject is directed towards assisting pre-service teachers to understand and engage effectively with adolescent learners in contemporary Australian schools. The subject focuses on psychological perspectives of learning and motivation while incorporating sociological perspectives of young people. Students develop skills to analyse complex and diverse learning environments through the integration of authentic scenarios that reflect the lives of secondary students, so that they are able to evaluate and apply diverse theories to inform engaging and responsive classroom-based teaching practices. The implications of these theories are considered in cases drawn from school, family and community contexts. Students are given opportunities to draw on their professional experience placements and their personal philosophy of education to contribute to the content focus of the subject. In so doing, students develop the holistic and constructive approach needed for respectfully supporting their future school students to engage with and be successful in high school education.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

a. Analyse how students learn and change, and how student motivation develops (GTS 1.1, 1.2) (PA 2.2, 5.1)
b. Analyse complex learning scenarios (GTS 1.2) (PA 2.2)
c. Develop theoretically sound strategies for creating supportive teaching and learning environments in diverse and complex contexts (GTS 3.3, 3.4, 4.1, 4.3) (PA 2.1, 2.4, 2.5, 2.8)
d. Describe and scrutinise challenging issues facing young Australians and their teachers in schools, drawing on relevant theoretical concepts, research and policy (GTS 1.3, 4.5) (PA 2.3, 2.5, 2.10, 3.1, 3.2, 3.9, 3.14)
e. Develop strategies for dealing with authentic challenging scenarios (GTS 2.2, 3.3, 3.5, 4.3) (PA 2.7, 6.3)
f. Critically appraise the involvement of ‘significant others’ in such strategies, such as parents/carers and various external and community agencies (GTS 3.7, 5.5, 7.3) (PA 2.9, 6.4, 6.10)
g. Describe how they will draw on their understanding to support the students they will teach in schools (GTS 3.1, 3.2) (PA 5.1, 5.4, 6.5)

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

This subject addresses the following Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences' Graduate Attributes and Master of Teaching in Secondary Education Course Intended Learning Outcomes (CILOs):

1. Professional readiness

1.1) Know students and how they learn, with an advanced ability to critically evaluate the physical, social and emotional dimensions of learners

1.3) Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning with an advanced knowledge of educational practice, pedagogy, policy, curriculum and systems

1.4) Create and maintain supportive, well-managed and safe learning environments

2. Critical and creative inquiry

2.1) Enquire into and research practice to improve educational experiences and outcomes

2.2) Critically analyse and reflect on and synthesise complex theories of learning and teaching

3. International and intercultural engagement

3.1) Demonstrate extensive knowledge and respect for diverse societies, cultures and an ability to inform inclusive practices

5. Active citizenship

5.1) Engage professionally with colleagues, parents/carers and the community with a high level of personal autonomy

5.2) Are professionals with a profound ethical foundation and sense of social responsibility and a commitment to social justice

6. Effective communication

6.2) Possess literacy and numeracy skills across a broad range of communication modes and technologies

6.3) Are effective communicators, highly skilled in new literacies, able to justify and interpret professional decisions to specialist and non-specialist audiences

6.4) Are able to make well-informed contributions to contemporary debates pertinent to education

Teaching and learning strategies

A range of face-to-face and online activities will be used to support learning, including lecturer input, case studies, videos, discussion of readings, short presentations, postings on UTS Online, interest-based investigations and collaborative writing. The subject will be characterised by student group work in relation to authentic case-based scenarios. Group work will be complemented by independent student reading and research, along with participation in online discussion.

The subject will be structured in lectures and tutorials (workshops). Lectures will focus on key theories and research drawn from psychology and sociology of education, while tutorials will use a case-based or authentic scenario approach, to place emphasis on the practical evaluation and application of relevant theories. Emphasis will be placed throughout the subject on fostering cross-disciplinary thinking, analysis and synthesis.

Content (topics)

  • Theoretical frameworks – behaviourism, information processing approaches, constructivism/social constructivism, sociocultural theories (key ideas, key theorists/researchers)
  • Theories of learning and cognition (including conceptual change, theories of intelligence, self- and co-regulation)
  • Theories of motivation and emotion (including goal theory, interest, self-concept)
  • Theories in practice (notions of engagement, creativity, classroom- and community-based scenarios)
  • Key concepts from research on adolescent development (the adolescent brain, mental health, lifespan development & puberty, moral developmental stages) (PA 2.2, 5.1)
  • Key concepts from sociological theory and research (youth studies - transition to adulthood , normal and choice biographies, globalisation, agency & structure, youth culture & identity, disadvantage) (PA 6.3)
  • Case studies of challenging issues facing adolescents and their teachers in Australian schools, which may include:
    • Cyber bullying and cyber safety
    • School uniform
    • High/low engagement with learning
    • Expectations of respect
    • Withdrawal / absenteeism
    • Sexuality
    • Alcohol and drugs
    • Cultural differences
    • Disengagement of students after age 15 (PA 2.2-2.5)
  • Strategies for the engagement and success of adolescents in schools
    • Based on the theory, research and policy above, plus:
    • Involvement of parents/carers-effective dialogue
    • Collaboration with community and external agencies (PA 2.7, 2.9-10, 5.4, 6.4, 6.5)


Assessment task 1: Writing a case story scenario


a, b, d, f and g

Weight: 20%

A 400 to 600 word written narrative with a 200 to 400 word interpretive statement (Note that the total length of your assignment should not exceed 800 words)


A video narrative (no longer than 3 minutes) with a 200 to 400 word interpretive statement

You should bring along FOUR hard copies of your written narrative and interpretive statement to the class workshop in week 4:

(1) a copy for your tutor, with a signed assessment task cover sheet AND an originality report printed from Turn-it-in.

(2) 2 copies that have your student number at the top of each page BUT NOT YOUR NAME - these are the copies for peer assessment.

(3) one copy with your student number and name at the top of each page - this copy is for your self-assessment.

If you choose to create a video narrative, you need to bring along 4 copies of your interpretive statement as detailed above. You should upload your video to YouTube (or a similar video sharing platform), and bring along headphones and your laptop/tablet to class so that your peer assessors can view your video during the workshop.

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Clear narrative structure (orientation, complication, resolution) in the scenario 25 d 1.1
Narrative raises one or more issues that provide a relevant focus for the case 25 a, d, f 6.4
Suitability of theories and/or concepts selected in the interpretive statement 25 a, b 2.2
Written expression (word choice, grammar, spelling) and accurate referencing 25 d, g 6.2
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 2: Case scenario: Group presentation (Group of 4)


a, b, c, d, e, f and g

Weight: 30%

10 minute presentation + handout for peers of 1000 words shared through UTSOnline at the end of Week 6, summarising and analysing the case and recommended strategies

(NB Your group must provide a hard copy of your handout to your lecturer, with a completed assessment task cover sheet and a copy of the Turn-it-in originality report, at the beginning of the workshop in which your group is presenting.)

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Relevance of theories, concepts and policies selected 20 d 2.2
Thoughtfulness of the analysis of implications of concepts and policy for the scenario 20 a, b 2.1
Use of appropriate sources to support arguments 10 b, c, d 2.2
The role of parents/carers and relevant external/community organisations in relation to resolving the scenario is thoughtfully addressed 15 e, f, g 5.1
Suggests useful strategies for action by the teacher that flow logically from the analysis 15 d, e, g 1.4
Effective oral and visual communication 10 d, g 6.3
Written expression (word choice, grammar, spelling) and appropriate referencing 10 d, g 6.2
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 3: Reflective statement


a, b, c, d, e, f and g

Weight: 50%

2,000 words

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Clear explanation and justification of the importance of each insight 15 a, b 1.3
Thoughtful analysis of the effect on your own assumptions 15 a, b, d 2.1
Clear and thoughtful explanation of how each insight supports an understanding of the complex lives of adolescents 15 a, b, c, d, g 3.1
Outlines specific educational strategies you will use in your classroom practice 20 c, e, f, g 5.2
Use of appropriate sources from psychology and sociology to support arguments 20 a, b, d 2.2
Written expression (word choice, grammar, spelling) & appropriate referencing 15 d, g 6.2
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Minimum requirements

Attendance at classes is important in this subject because it is based on a collaborative approach which involves essential workshops and interchange of ideas with other students and the lecturer. An attendance roll will be taken at each class. Where possible, students should advise the lecturer in a timely manner if they are unable to attend. Students who fail to attend 80% of classes may be refused in having their final assessment marked and graded.

Required texts


Recommended texts

Ambrose, S.A., Bridges, M.W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M.C., & Norman, M.K. (2010). How learning works: 7 research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Duchesne, S., & McMaugh, A. (2016). Educational psychology for learning and teaching (5th Ed.). Melbourne: Cengage.

Groundwater-Smith, S., Brennan, M., McFadden, M., Mitchell, J., & Munns, G. (2009). Secondary schooling in a changing world (2nd Ed.). Melbourne: Cengage.


ACARA. (2015). The shape of the Australian curriculum (2.0).

Bagnall N. (2007). Globalisation. In R. Connell, C. Campbell, M. Vickers, A. Welch, D. Foley & N. Bagnall (Eds). Education, change and society (51-69). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Baird, J.R., & Mitchell, I.J. (Eds.)(1987). Improving the quality of teaching and learning: An Australian case study - The Peel project. Clayton, Victoria: Monash University.

Beare, H. (2001). Creating the future school. London: Routledge Falmer.

Brady, L. (2003). Teacher voices: The school experience. Sydney: Pearson Education.

Committee on Increasing High School Students' Engagement and Motivation to Learn, National Research Council (2003). Engaging schools: Fostering high school students’ motivation to learn. Washington: The National Academies Press.

Dai, D. Y., & Sternberg, R.J. (Eds.)(2004). Motivation, emotion and cognition: Integrative perspectives on intellectual functioning and development. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Eisenberg, N., Cumberland, A., Guthrie, I., Murphy, B. & Shepard, S. (2005). Age changes in prosocial responding and moral reasoning in adolescence and early adulthood. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 15(3), 235-260.

Gross, M., MacLeod, B., & Pretorius, M. (1999). Gifted students in secondary schools: Differentiating the curriculum. Sydney: University of NSW.

Marlowe, B.A., & Page, M.L. (1998). Creating and sustaining the constructivist classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press (Sage).

Mclnerney, D.M. & Mclnerney, V. (2002). Educational psychology: Constructing learning (3rd ed.). Frenchs Forest: Pearson. Education

McInerney, D.M., Walker, R.A., & Liem, G.A.D. (Eds.)(2011). Sociocultural theories of learning and motivation: Looking back, looking forward. Charlotte, North Carolina: Information Age Publishing.

Nagel, M. (2007). Cognition, emotion, cognitive commotion: understanding the interplay of emotion, stress and learning in adolescents. Australian Journal of Middle Schooling 7(2) 11-16.

NSW DET. (2011). Bullying: Preventing and responding to student bullying in schools: Guidelines.

NSW DET. (2006). Student discipline in government schools: Support materials.

NSW DET. (n.d.). Vocational education and training inschools: Providing skills and opportunity.

Nuthall, G. (2004). Relating classroom teaching to student learning: A critical analysis of why research has failed to bridge the theory-practice gap. Harvard Educational Review, 74 (3), 273-306.

Sarason, S.B. (2004). And what do YOU mean by learning? Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Schuck, S., Aubusson, P., Buchanan, J., & Russell, T. (2012). Beginning teaching: Stories from the classroom. Dordrecht: Springer.

Snowman, J., & Biehler, J. (2003). Psychology applied to teaching (10th Ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.

Tattam, A. (Ed.)(1998). Tales from the blackboard: True stories by Australian teachers. Sydney: Pan Macmillan.

Urdan, T.C., & Karabenick, S.A. (Eds.)(2010). The decade ahead: Theoretical perspectives on motivation and achievement. Advances in Motivation and Achievement, Vols. 16A & 16B. Bingley, UK: Emerald Books.

Varlow, M. (2010). Stress less: Dealing with adolescent anxiety. ProfessionalEducator, 9(2), 40-43.

Vialle, W, Lysaght, P., & Verenikina, I. (2005). Psychology for educators. Melbourne: Thomson.

Vickers, M. (2007). Youth transition. In R. Connell, C. Campbell, M. Vickers, A. Welch, D. Foley & N. Bagnall (Eds), Education, change and society 51-69. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press

Walker R. (2010). Motivating science undergraduates: Ideas and interventions. International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, 18, 1–13.

Walker, R., & Debus, R. (2002). Educational Psychology: Advances in learning, cognition and motivation. Change: Transformations in Education, 5(1), 1–25.

Wasserman, S. (1993). Getting down to cases: Learning to teach with case studies. NY: Teachers College Press.

Wentzel, K.R., & Wigfield, A. (Eds.)(2009). Handbook of motivation at school. NY: Routledge.

White, R., & Wyn, J. (2004). Youth and society: Exploring the social dynamics of youth experience. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press. [Chapter 4: Rural geographies, 58-78]

White, R., & Wyn, J. (2004). Youth and society: Exploring the social dynamics of youth experience. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press. [Chapter 10: Youth identity and culture, 184-202].