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How do we understand and, if possible, interact with this world [of adolescence], even if we cannot participate in it per se? Perhaps we need to approach it as a tourist or foreigner, attempting to learn what we can get access to by those who reside there. We will want a map for that, and maybe a tourist’s guide. But no single map or guide exists, only guidelines and perhaps some local markers. (Nakkula and Toshalis, 2008, p. 45)

Adolescence: A Field Guide Table of Contents

Acting Out and Grouping by Bora Shin


Braiding by Nina Rozes


Capable by Francesca Schaerrer


Choice by Kelly Lautz


Diffusion by Richard Schreiber


Gender by Paul Sloan


Homecoming by Anna Festa


Laaaaaazy by Kimmy Tolbert


Process by Casey Murtaugh


Renovation by Ashley Simone


Acting Out and Grouping

Bora Shin

Margot Waddell (1998) defines ‘acting out’ as “the replacement of thought by action in order to reduce internal conflict” (p.146). According to Waddell, adolescents’ acting out behaviors are a performance in which they express emotions through action, and ultimately seek a round of applause from peers. Similarly, Nakkula, and Toshalis, (2008) say, “Anxiety can come to define this process as adolescents struggle to balance the need to be distinct from family/friends/society with the simultaneous need to establish and maintain meaningful relationships with significant others” (p.21). The adolescent’s feelings of anxiety can result in a search for security and a sense of group belonging. However, internal conflicts are not the exclusive cause of “acting out.” External factors also contribute to the adolescents’ “acting out”. Acting out can be understood as a cry for attention. On the way to school at a bus stop in front of the Kenwood Academy, I usually see a group of high school students talking and laughing loudly and “acting out” in a way that is at times absurd and outrageous. They live in their own world. According to Waddell, “The impulse tends to be to act rather than to think; to move in groups, sometimes gangs” (p.146). When I taught at Shurz high school, I asked a group of students to think about a social concern and reflect it onto an abstract sculpture using found objects. I was surprised when more than half of the students gave gang violence as their response. Whether they were the ones who were in the gang, or knew someone who was involved, certainly, this is an example of how a desire for a sense of belonging could lead the adolescent to seek out the company of a destructive group. My family decided to move to America when I was eighteen. I was not able to communicate at all with “new friends” or find a common ground for quite a long time. It was very painful. In addition, my parents were busy working all the time and also trying to adapt to new ways of living. My life was in chaos and I was lonely, anxious, and angry. When my first boyfriend came along, I immediately poured out emotions to him. He was a substitution for my parents, my brother, my grandmother, and my friends back in Korea. Suddenly, my world consisted of just two of us and I believed that he would forever exist as a comforter. Therefore, when the relationship ended, I was devastated. It would have been different if I met him after I formed a new group of friends in America and built a stable bond with them. I would not have invested all of my emotions in him. My parents disapproved of my boyfriend during those years because he was Catholic, not Protestant, and they constantly encouraged me to end the relationship. I needed to escape and he was the escape. I was desperate for love and security. So in a way, my motivation was no different from adolescents falling into a ‘wrong’ group. Most people define “acting out” as misbehavior. In my experience both as a student and as an educator, acting out is complicated and it involves both internal conflicts and outside factors. Adolescents act out and form a group because they want love and security. Educators need to understand the adolescent’s acting out behavior as a complex process and create a safe space for them; otherwise they may find comfort in a destructive place. Waddell, M. (1998). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of the Personality. New York: Routledge. Nakkula, M. and Toshalis, E. (2008). Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press.



Nina Rozes

Identity has a way of circling back on itself and finding the loose ends. In fact, much of the integrative work of identity development is a matter of figuring out just what to do with the dangling strands of our lived experience (Nakkula and Toshalis, 2008, p. 177)

Adolescents create, develop, and remake their personal identity in a similar form as the uneven and integrative process of braiding. Waddell (1998) remarks that during adolescence, “a regression takes place in the direction of infancy […] and the person lives over again, though on another plane” (p. 143). This ‘other plane’ is characterized by a changing body, having to take more responsibility for the choices adolescents make, and trying on different aspects of identity to find their own. If an adolescent finds that a characteristic of their developing identity is not in tune with ‘who they really are’, that characteristic is pulled out of the developing matrix, left as a loose end, and another characteristic is pulled into the braid and tried on. Nakkula and Toshalis (2008) write, “As adolescents adjust to a changing body, develop abstract thought, acquire more complex interpersonal skills, negotiate new relationships with caretakers and significant others, reformulate a value system, and set goals for future achievement, they are forming an identity. Because so much is in flux in adolescence, the question, “Who am I?” is asked with great passion and urgency” (p.18). In this urgency, adolescents filter through media, pop culture and other sources of information from the world surrounding them to construct their personal style, develop new relationships, find peers that they trust in co-authoring their lives with, and create experiences that they sift through and build on to influence decision-making for the future. These choices and experiences are internalized, gathered, and organized like strands into bundles. These bundles are then braided together to intermingle with one another and develop a strong, durable identity. As adolescents are constantly changing and manipulating their identity and peer groups, and beginning sexual development, parts are constantly added and taken out of their identity construction. According to Nakkula and Toshalis (2008), “In the social jungle of human existence there is no feeling of being alive without a sense of identity” (p. 20). Adolescents experience incredible anxiety as they scramble to gather their experiences, decide what parts they want to keep within their identity, and what parts they choose to eliminate from the developing matrix. Strands from their lives are lifted and pulled out, and some experiences or parts are left out entirely. Nakkula and Toshalis describe identity as a way of circling back and finding loose ends. As the adolescent acquires experiences, relationships, and culture, it becomes their job to organize and internalize what these parts mean to them as well as figuring out what to do with the knots and loose ends. As the density of the braid increases and the loose ends and knots are organized, a durable core begins to form in the developing identity. Adolescence is the time where the process of braiding identity begins, and is the most rigorous. Jones (2000) writes, “At the center of multiple dimensions of identity is a core sense of self. This center, or core identity, is experienced as a personal identity, somewhat protected from view, which incorporates ‘valued personal attributes and characteristics’” (p. 1). Jones, Susan. Journal of College Student Development. 2000. Retrieved from Nakkula, M. and Toshalis, F. (2008). Understanding Youth, Adolescent Development for Educators. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press. Waddell, M. (1998). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of Personality. New York: Routledge.



Francesca Schaerrer

Children, even infants, are capable of sympathy. But only after adolescence are we capable of compassion. --Louise J. Kaplan

The adjective capable is used to define our skills as individuals. Our capableness allows us to adapt to our current external situations. Regardless of our socioeconomic standing, there is a bar that needs to be met for others to see us as a capable individual. According to the Oxford Dictionaries Online (, capable is defined as the aptitude to achieve efficiently whatever one has to do. By definition being capable would seem like a predominantly physical skill, yet when thinking about adolescent development, the word capable can be used to describe the adolescent’s emotional maturity, mental ability, and character flexibility. It is interesting to examine how society as a whole views these aspects of an adolescent juxtaposed with our often limited view of their capabilities at this young age. Adolescents face competition every day, as they test whether “they are capable of keeping up”. What used to be the standard in the educational realm and extra-curricular activities for a capable adolescent is now the bare minimum for even a possible competitive university admissions placement. Waddell (2002) writes, “Conventional success and inner development need not be at odds with one another, but it is important to determine for whom, and for what, the success is sought before welcoming it with any special acclaim” (p.112). At their vulnerable age, it is important for adolescents to explore on their own and understand what their academic goals are; goals need not just be to satisfy their parents. And so, it is important that adolescents understand that their ambitions for their future can be based on self-expectations. An adolescent’s capableness roots from their home and community environment and educational atmosphere; these contexts shape the adolescent’s character flexibility and emotional maturity. Flexibility and emotional maturity are central to adolescent development as they allow for the capability to understand others, learn from mistakes, and accept change. The people surrounding adolescents on a daily basis are very influential in molding their thoughts and behaviors as adolescents adopt the behaviors of those they look up to. Nakkula and Toshalis (2006) note, “the developmental assets movement places the onus of responsibility for youth development at the societal level… within this framework, skill development would be scaffolded on a community infrastructure of care, support, and community resources. The more fully developed that infrastructure, the more likely it is that youth will be able to build the skills needed to live the life they choose” (p.75). The adolescents’ educational experience is important in helping them develop the emotional and social confidence that reflects a capable adolescent. Likewise, In the home environment, caregivers, parents and siblings who promote quality time with one another, the open exchange of ideas, and exploring ones own individuality helps the adolescent develop character flexibility. Learning from the good influence of these individuals promotes the development of maturity. The adolescent who grows up in a supportive environment will be eager to learn and open-minded about all aspects of the world. In conclusion, the fact that our society does not deem adolescents as capable of fully comprehending their actions and motives until 18 years of age is a strong indicator of how much the definition of capable changes in societies’ consciousness—legally, emotionally, socially and cognitively. For an adolescent to see him or herself as capable, self-motivation needs to be fostered. Ultimately self-motivation is what is required to do “efficiently whatever one has to do”. Doing well in school is not the only measure of whether an adolescent is capable. Schools need to nurture the social and emotional development of adolescents and not just their academic aptitude. As today’s young culture is being prepared for success, teachers and educators should define capable more expansively so they see also their students as more than academic minds that need to be molded. Nakkula, M. & Toshalis, E. (2006). Understanding Youth. City: Harvard Educational Pub Group. Waddell, M. (2002). Inside lives : psychoanalysis and the growth of the personality. London and New York: Karnac.



Kelly Lautz

Choice can be described in many ways: first, through the dictionary definition; and second, through explanations that are created from experiences that occur during adolescence. Choice is an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities: the choice between good and evil. Choice is the right or ability to make such a selection: I had to do it. I had no choice. Choice involves a range of possibilities from which one or more options are selected: you can have a sofa made to order in a choice of over forty fabrics. Choice is a course of action, a thing, or a person that is selected or decided upon: this CD drive is the perfect choice for your computer. These definitions address the dictionary meaning of the word choice. They suggest that the choices a person makes have consequences. A consequence is the result of an action. Consequence, in way, implies something bad, as every action a person makes is a choice and those choices lead to particular outcomes. The following story takes place in Ms. Petersen’s fictional classroom, with Antwon, a student who was rude and disrespectful. According to Nakkula and Toshalis (2002), “Ms. Petersen begins to write Antwon off as another one of her students who is choosing to fail, and begins to construct an explanation for his lackluster performance that hinges on Antwon’s apparent preference for misbehavior” (p. 3). Ms. Petersen understands that the choice some students make to not care about their schoolwork may lead to consequences. The students’ behavior and performance suffer. Often, adolescents show little or no regard for the consequences of their actions. Adolescents are faced with many choices. These choices may change the outcome, or consequences, that adolescents live with literally, for the rest of their lives. One thing that can be concluded from the story of Antwon and Ms. Petersen is that the choices we make during adolescence help make us the person we are when we grow up. The best decision is to make the choice to get through the difficulties of adolecence, to continue on. Adolescents can make the choice to be strong. One easy way for adolescents to tell if they are making the right choices is, most of the time, to choose the option that is opposite what they want to do, i.e. do your homework, don’t stay out late, try not to lie about what is really going on in your head and in your life. The last one is probably the most important. Adults can be allies to adolescents if we can remember adolescence as a time in our lives when choices are difficult to make. Nakkula, M. and Toshalis, E. (2002). Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press.



Richard Schreiber

The human mind is much like a cell membrane; both serve two essential functions: a) to limit what is inside from going out, and b) to limit what is outside from coming in. The material that succeeds in passing through either the membrane of a cell or the mind of a human is known as a permeate. A closed mind, like an impermeable membrane, entirely blocks the transference of permeates. An open mind, like a permeable membrane, allows for unrestricted transference of permeates. Diffusion is the term used to describe the rate at which permeates transfer from one side of the membrane/mind to the other. Absolute membrane impermeability would suggest complete stoppage of material from flowing in and out of the cell; this condition would result in the cell’s death. Absolute closemindedness is akin to a static, ‘paranoid schizoid‘ state of mind. According to Waddell (1998), this state of mind is “characterized by an exclusive concern with one’s own interests, by a sense of persecution in the face a pain and emotional distress, and by a focus on self-preservation at all costs” (p. 6). An individual with such a mind would have no sense of the ‘other’ or outside world. In contrast, absolute membrane permeability would suggest complete passage of material to flow in and out of the cell; this condition would make the cell highly susceptible to imbalance. Absolute open-mindedness is similar to a static, ‘depressive’ state of mind, “organized around an experience of the other as separate from the self, as being a whole person, possessing his, or her, own independent life, outside the narrow concerns of immediate personal need” (Waddell, p. 6). An individual with such a state of mind would possess a strong sense of the ‘other’, but would also be susceptible to the emotional fluctuations that could result. Most cells are contained by semi-permeable membranes; they allow for the transference of select material. Most human minds are semi-open and allow for shifts in an individual’s state of mind between the egoistic state of the paranoid schizoid (associated with low rates of diffusion) to the altruistic state of the depressive (high rates of diffusion). During adolescent development an interesting phenomena occurs: the human mind experiences a sharp spike in diffusion rates. However, this transference of material occurs in only one direction: from outside, in. Foreign material freely transfers inward, while native material remain enclosed. This can result in a human mind so impregnated with both native and foreign material that the adolescent will, “struggle with the emotional impact and sheer energy expenditure” needed to contain it. Because little native material is transferring outside the human mind at this time, the adolescent will exhibit, “little sense of personal integration... and may indulge in ego-escaping experiences through sex, drugs, travel, or blind-adhesion to peerdirected activity” (Nakkula & Toshalis, 2008, p. 32-3). If left unresolved, such behavior can lead to permanent entrapment of native material within the human mind. When an adolescent’s mind is experiencing such high rates of inward diffusion, it is important that educators be aware of what is occurring so as not to exacerbate the issue. By asking questions of the adolescent, and allowing time and space for those questions to be answered, the educator can create channels in the adolescent’s mind that can increase outward diffusion rates in order to facilitate personal integration and relief from extreme emotional states. Nakkula, M. and Toshalis, E. (2008). Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press. Waddell, M. (1998). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of the Personality. New York: Routledge.



Paul Sloan

Gender: the behavioural, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex. -

Gender is typically defined as a way of categorizing individuals based on their biological sex. However, adolescence is a time in human development when gender is being actively constructed based on the adolescent’s experience of identity, stereotypes, individuality, and community. Moreover, during adolescence gender can become fluid in its’ meaning based on the individual’s experiences. A boy can identify with stereotypically ‘female’ experiences, such as fashion, and a girl can identify with typically male experiences, such as competitive sports. According to Nakkula and Toshalis (2006), gender “is very much a matter of social construction…” (p. 99). Given that adolescents move through social microcosms in school, family, and friends, we can begin to understand that gender is a concept in-flux. This definition of gender as a social construction allows for variation in the meaning of gender, not only from the individual’s perspective, but also from the perspectives of their peers. Moreover, this variety of gender-meaning may be a new discovery for any adolescent, while at the same time representing a place of confusion and anxiety with regards to how the adolescent will manage those meanings. Waddell (1998) offers a way to think about how the adult’s response to these adolescent feelings may be interpreted as, “Responsibility for the very survival of a new life [that] may weigh heavily and…be felt as a burden rather than a discovery” (p. 41). Waddell suggests that gender is more than a choice; it has multiple meanings attached to it. The role of educators is to exist within a space of difficulty in order to understand what gender means to the adolescent. No matter how difficult a position this may be, the adolescent’s survival may depend on the adult’s response. For adolescents, defining their gender as a dichotomous choice, by ticking off a box on a document, serves no purpose. The need to choose male or female, one or the other, represents the beginning, middle, and end to any inquiry of gender. It allows for no investigation into what gender might mean for the adolescent at any given time, within any specific location or cultural context. As educators, it is not enough that we see our role as opening the forum for discussions regarding gender; the discussion is already happening amongst adolescents. We must strive to create safe spaces for adolescents to come to terms with the language, imagination, and physicality of gender. Mac An Ghaill & Haywood (2007) argue that such space for imagination could offer adolescents “particular social practices [that could] become a staging ground for the negotiated representation of gender” (p.173). Such a space might offer educators an opportunity to prolong the beginning and middle discussions occurring during the inquiry of gender. This prolonging allows for gender to remain in flux for the adolescent, as a place of wonder and discovery. Waddell, M. (1998). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of the Personality. New York, Routledge. Nakkula, M. & Toshalis, E. (2010). Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development For Educators. Cambridge, Harvard Education Press. Mac An Ghaill, M. & Haywood, C. (2007). Gender, Culture and Society: Contemporary Femininities and Masculinities. Hampshire, Palgrave MacMillan.


Anna Festa

In high school, I remember the first time I kicked a piece about losing my father...and walking off the stage, my whole body shaking, to be greeted by a circle of arms and elbows that embraced and validated everything that I had been through... it was like coming home. -- Amanda Torres, Louder Than a Bomb Alumnus (2012)

The term “homecoming” has its roots in West African rites of passage, and when related to youth spoken word poetry, it offers a new framework to understand adolescent development. Here homecoming is both a state of mind and a process of co-authorship, which takes shape as intense moments of validation imbued with ritual meaning. The notion of homecoming comes up with great frequency among youth spoken word poets. The spoken word Power Writer teacher, Joe, tells his students that, “we clap people in to let them know that they’re home” (Legiardi-Laura, R., Sultan, A., Martinez, E., & Shaffer, D., 2011). Joe is not talking about home in the literal sense but rather, as an imaginary space through which it is possible to see the world. As Maxine Greene (2001) says, “as if things could be otherwise” (p. 121). This is also what Anthony Amsterdam and Jerome Bruner (2000) call noetic space, the landscapes that are “teeming with alternatives to the actual” (p. 237). In these noetic spaces, youth voices are central, and individuals do listen to and connect with each other across apparent differences. Through active listening and meaningful sharing, Joe’s students are able to explore complex, emotional states of mind. According to Waddell (2002), this process is necessary for developmental growth. Malidoma Somé, a teacher of West African rites of passage, states that a rite of passage demands three parts: a separation, an ordeal, and a homecoming. In Western society, the separation and ordeal, he explains, are facilitated by typical experiences of adolescence. However the homecoming is often lost, leaving youth in continuous, extended states of initiation. Somé says, “What people need is someone willing to create a space for them in which they can be seen, honored, and praised for what they have been through. The psyche knows when a homecoming is genuine” (Goodman, 2012). For spoken word poetry, separation occurs as students work alone on their writing. An ordeal takes place in the context of the performance. The homecoming occurs both as the poets perform and after they come off stage and are greeted by their peers and teachers. These moments of intense validation can result in feelings of deep connection, which are vital as adolescents explore the tensions between individuality and belonging. Youth workers are in a unique position to engage young people in the process of finding a home within themselves. Through the process of co-authoring—asking engaging and curious questions that lead to pivotal conversations—teachers can help in the “unfolding drama of crisis and possibility” (Nakkula & Toshalis, 2006 p. 24). Here, the classroom can become a space to host homecomings.

Amsterdam, A. & Bruner, J. (2002). Minding the law. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Goodman, Leslee. (2012). Interview with Malidoma Somé. "The Sun Magazine | Between Two Worlds." The Sun Magazine. July 2010. <>. Greene, M. (2001). Variations on a Blue Guitar: The Lincoln Center lectures on aesthetic education. New York: Teachers College Press. Legiardi-Laura, R. et al. (2011). To Be Heard [Motion Picture]. United States: Dialogue Pictures/ITVS. London, Malcolm.& Festa, Anna (2012). Louder Than a Bomb Nationals [select photos]. Young Chicago Authors. Malcolm London: Homecoming. By Anna Festa. Chicago, IL. Nakkula, M. J., & Toshalis, E. (2006). Understanding youth, adolescent development for educators. Harvard Educational Pub Group. Torres, Amanda. "Louder Than a Bomb Research." Telephone interview. 2 Feb. 2012. Torres recalls her first experience at a poetry festival in 10th grade.



Kimmy Tolbert

“These teenagers are just so lazy, you know”, said the art teacher, casually. I had just taught a small group of her students about abstraction and post-minimalism. At first the students seemed disinterested, but they soon grasped and engaged the concept extremely well. A “lazy” teenager usually makes one think of a slouching, slothful, kid who doesn’t care about anything, especially completing homework. Mirriam-Webster defines lazy as “disinclined to activity or exertion, not energetic or vigorous, encouraging inactivity or indolence”. This label may stick quite securely to teens for many parents and teachers, but teenagers are constantly engaged in activity and exertion, even if not in the ways teachers prefer. Adolescents create their own identities by interpreting themselves and their worlds. Nakkula and Toshalis (2006) call this the construction of adolescence (p.5). The meaning adolescents make of everyday life may be influenced by teachers, but ultimately cannot be created by teachers. Theoretically imagining who they want to be, adolescents experiment in order to get there, and often must try on many personas, interests, friends, and ways of behaving. While teachers might see adolescents as lazily coming to class late, the adolescent might be very active in his or her own developmental work on the inside and the outside. A student who does not participate and doesn’t finish assignments might be involved in sports, enjoy other classes more, fear being labeled “smart”, or be struggling with difficult family or personal relationships. Additionally, adolescent identity formation is a process of testing oneself and others. Resistance to learning as “laziness” should not be interpreted as failure to learn. Students may be testing the system of school or the teacher, and this type of conflict is a learning experience in itself. According to Margot Waddell (2002), during adolescence old conflicts and states of mind are reworked and tested. Adolescents must grow to contain their emotions but at the same time rely on others to contain them, though they might outwardly reject or deny this dependency. Well put. If painful emotions resurface, Waddell explains that there is a “bias towards the expulsion of the pain rather than the containing of it” (p. 131). “Acting out” reduces conflict by literally disposing of negative emotion through action. Adults and educators often see this behavior not as a defensive strategy, but as a lack of motivation or challenge to the teacher’s authority. Laziness is commonly associated with a lack of motivation. In the film Raising Victor Vargas (2003), Victor’s grandmother and guardian has many expectations for his teenage self. Easily frustrated if he skips church, argues with his siblings, or acts out, she sees him as lazy and uncaring toward family. Behind his tougher image, he struggles with figuring out family and romantic relationships, his reputation, and who he wants to be. He does care deeply for his family but is quickly labeled and responds with resentment. Victor is an image of an adolescent who works out the complexities of development daily, who is not given any room for conflict, which is essential for developing the self. Adults and educators should think about adolescent learning through the lens of development because of the tendency to essentialize adolescents into hormone driven, unmotivated, irrational people. Educators frustrated by students’ lack of motivation must respect the often hidden learning that occurs during adolescence that will be immeasurable on an exam. If teachers refuse to stereotype students as “lazy”, adolescents can also retain respect and high expectations in their relationships with adults. It is up to adults and educators to find ways to partner with adolescents to inspire and facilitate motivation, and generously interpret their resistances to learning. Mirriam-Webster. Nakkula, J. M. & Toshalis, E. (2006). Understanding Youth: adolescent development for educators. Cambridge: Routledge. Sollett, P. (Producer & Director) (2003). Raising Victor Vargas. United States: Samuel Goldwyn Films. Waddell, M. (2002) Inside Lives: psychoanalysis and the growth of the personality. Karnac Books Ltd.



Casey Murtaugh

As an adult re-learning what it may mean to get into an adolescent state of mind, I am beginning to associate the word process with the concept of adolescence. The term process is typically defined in American dictionaries as "a series of steps or operations toward a desired result or product” (Webster ’s II, 1996, p. 546). My understanding of the word process, unlike steps that lead to predetermined outcomes, resembles, rather, a series of circular forms in constant motion. Without a linear path to follow, the circles bounce around. From the particular perspective of an artist and future educator, I believe adolescence to be an active process of continually finding and losing one’s sense of self in the world. According to Nakkula and Toshalis (2006), “the core meaning of adolescent development lies fundamentally in the interpretations adolescents make of themselves and their worlds” (p. 5). Constructing an identity through a process of interpreting one’s surroundings is similar to the way I, as an artist, attempt to position myself in the world. In the beginning stages of developing an idea for a project, I begin my research process with questions. What do I see? What could it mean? What materials will I use to represent my ideas? Why is this important to me? The answers endlessly shift, and new questions form along the way. The freedom of not needing to know where or how my project will end up allows room for experimentation and risk. If educators are willing to grant similar flexibility to adolescents in their search for a unique self, a greater potential for enjoyment in the process of finding this self arises. Waddell (1998) says, “adolescence is now regarded as highly important in a person’s development, a crucial period of time during which essential aspects of the personality become shaped, and eventually organized, into a more coherent and stable sense of self” (p. 126). If adolescence plays such a significant role in identity formation, I believe educators have a responsibility to facilitate situations for adolescents to participate in the process of experimenting with as many potential selves as possible. Positioning adolescents as researchers in and out of the classroom is one way to engage in such a process. According to Kincheloe and Steinberg (1998), “students as researchers set the stage for a long running, meta-dialogue with themselves” (p. 15). Through conducting personally relevant research, adolescents continually discover and uncover truths about themselves and their surroundings. Instead of being told how to feel and what to think, adolescents learn, through the process of researching, how to become the sources of their own knowledge. Finding connections between adolescent development and the work of artists and researchers gives educators a foundation for understanding adolescence as a fluid developmental process, capable of bouncing back and forth in time. Freedom to experiment and take risks gives adolescents opportunities to move in non-linear paths toward the construction of their individualized identities. Nakkula, M. and Toshalis, E. (2008). Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press. Steinberg, S. and Kincheloe, J. (1998). Students as Researchers: Creating Classrooms that Matter. New York: Routledge. Waddell, M. (1998). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of the Personality. New York: Routledge. Webster's II New Riverside Dictionary (Revised ed.). (1996). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.



Ashley Simone

Renovation is defined as the act of improving something by renewing and restoring it: to restore to an earlier condition, as by repairing or remodeling. To impact new vigor; to revive ( Adolescence is a stage that is often referred to as a transitional stage in human development. In this transitional stage the adolescent begins to “grow up” by breaking away from home and going out into the world as an individual. New experiences and mindsets make a sort of renovation in the adolescent’s mind. During adolescence, we sort through experiences and characteristics of ourselves like pieces of furniture. Adolescents take characteristics and refine them to improve themselves as human beings. New knowledge is spread around like home accessories adorning every piece of furniture. The furniture represents the many experiences that impact how we act in situations. Each room is like a new personality trait or new characteristic we develop from our knowledge and experience. This concept of renovation suggests that we are constantly under reconstruction; we build up and take down what we learn and experience and renew ourselves to develop our personality. According to Ogena (1989), “In many respects, our identities capture stories of who we are; that is, they represent the core themes around which we construct the meaning of our lives” (p. 4). These stories act as experiences in our renovating process. We renovate old characteristics in order to make them grow into finer, more mature characteristics. However, in our adolescent stage this renovation will only last a short duration of time, until it is time to renovate our personality again into an adult. Adolescents take on tremendous tasks in this transitional, renovation stage. According to Ogena, “Developmental tasks are skills, knowledge, functions or attitudes that individuals must acquire at various stages during their lifetime in order to adjust successfully to the more difficult roles and tasks that lie before them.” (p.4). Adolescence is a time when we can play with adult roles and explore who we want to be in the future. We take our developmental tasks and learn from them so we can understand how to become a part of society. In the short period of adolescence we experience tremendous stress in both physical and mental changes. Nakkula and Toshalis (2004) write, “Even in cases of dangerous or high risk behavior, the impulse to create novel or alternative experiences often is at play” (p.42). This is to say that as adolescence we are constantly under reconstruction playing with roles that will one day turn into personal characteristics. As adolescents we are experiencing everything we have known along with everything we are about to know. It is like walking down a staircase with a light that only shows the next step. According to Waddell (1998), “The distinction is between a thirst for knowledge and understanding, and its converse, the knowledge of curiosity which stems from defensive desires, those which seek control, to triumph, to exercise power or deny littleness etc.” (p. 161-2). Adolescence is a rebirth of self; a better, more improved mature human being getting ready to branch out in society. Renovation means taking our new experiences and knowledge gained in latency and restoring our personalities and identities. Waddell, M. (2002). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of the Personality. Karnac Books. Nakkula, M. and Toshalis, E. (2006). Understanding Youth Harvard Education Press. Ogena, Nimfa B. (1989). A Development Concept of Adolescence: The Case of Adolescents in the Philippines.


Adolescence: a Field Guide was created by undergraduate and graduate students in the Art Education Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), in the context of the course ARTED 4220/5220: Psychological, Sociological and Phenomenological Approaches to Teaching, in Spring 2012. This course is taught by professor Karyn Sandlos To visit the website for Professor Karyn Sandlos, please follow this link: To visit the SAIC Art Education Department website, please follow this link:

Adolescence: A Field Guide  

Adolescence: A Field Guide was created by undergraduate and graduate students in the course, ARTED 4220/5220: Psychological Sociological a...