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Issues in Educational Research, 2019, Vol 29(2), 458-484.
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Identifying and supporting young adolescent academic underachievers in Year 7 and 8 classrooms

Penelope Ludicke, Tracey Muir and Karen Swabey
University of Tasmania, Australia

Academic underachievement in young adolescents has been a concern for teachers, schools and systems for some time. In Australian schools, curriculum reforms and middle years programs have been implemented to improve the educational outcomes of young adolescents, and address underachievement, with limited continuity and consistency. This study used a mixed methods approach within a collective case study to investigate characteristics and practices of secondary school teachers when identifying and dealing with academic underachievers in Years 7 and 8. Findings revealed that teachers identified the following as primary indicators of an academic underachiever: literacy and numeracy barriers; absences; family background factors; and, a lack of engagement, participation and confidence in learning. These teachers implemented specific practices to help address student underachievement including attempting to improve pedagogical relationships, collaboration with colleagues, aides and parents, and adjusting and modifying curriculum. The findings showed that these practices were not consistently informed by learner-centred or middle years educational models, but tended to be practical responses provided to assist underachieving students participate in learning activities and assessment and to meet age and stage curriculum standards. Teachers believed their practices were negatively influenced and limited by lack of time, system support and resources. While recognising that academic underachievers had complex needs, the practices teachers employed in the classroom were generally remedial and did not necessarily encourage the development of learner confidence in their students.
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Authors: Dr Penelope Ludicke is currently Leader of Teaching and Learning at Catholic Education, Diocese of Wagga Wagga. She has worked in a range of teaching and leadership positions in schools in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Tasmania and New South Wales. She recently completed her PhD at the University of Tasmania (https://eprints.utas.edu.au/28351/).
Email: ludickep@catholic.edu.au, pj.ludicke@gmail.com
Web: http://www.csnsw.catholic.edu.au

Dr Tracey Muir is Associate Professor in Mathematics Education at the University of Tasmania. Her research interests include student engagement, personalised learning, ICT in mathematics teaching and the promotion of mathematical reasoning. Dr Muir has presented at national and international conferences. She is passionate about enhancing teacher capacity in numeracy practices.
Email: tracey.muir@utas.edu.au
Web: http://www.utas.edu.au/education

Professor Karen Swabey is Dean and Head of School of Education, and Professor in Health and Physical Education Pedagogy at the University of Tasmania. Her areas of research interest are in social and emotional wellbeing, student preparedness for teacher education and the broader field of educational psychology, particularly human development.
Email: karen.swabey@utas.edu.au
Web: http://www.utas.edu.au/education

Please cite as: Ludicke, P., Muir, T. & Swabey. K. (2019). Identifying and supporting young adolescent academic underachievers in Year 7 and 8 classrooms. Issues in Educational Research, 29(2), 458-484. http://www.iier.org.au/iier29/ludicke.pdf

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Created 14 Apr 2019. Last correction: 14 Apr 2019.
Website: Roger Atkinson [rjatkinson@bigpond.com]