Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

Aspiring teachers need to develop an understanding of the characteristics of the young people they are teaching. This understanding includes an awareness of the developmental changes of this stage of life, the increasingly complex contexts in which adolescents exist and the sociocultural diversity and unique family, community and societal experiences that young people bring to their learning. This unit develops pre-service teacher’s knowledge and understanding of adolescence as a unique stage of human development characterized by a complex interplay of biological, cognitive and psychosocial changes that influence behaviour, motivation and identity formation. The unit uses an ecological perspective to examine the complexity of adolescent development and facilitates increased awareness of the diversity of young people and the recent social, economic, cultural and technological changes affecting the lives of Australia's young people. A range of theoretical approaches to adolescent development will be explored with particular issues such as mental health, sexuality, disability, risky behaviour, substance use, employment prospects and the variations in young people's experiences being addressed. Pre-service teachers will examine how social agents such as family, peers, and community networks may help young people buffer some of the potential challenges of adolescence.

The overall aim of this unit is to establish a foundation of knowledge and understanding of adolescents. This foundation can help facilitate the development of appropriate rapport with adolescent learners and help justify appropriate pedagogical choices to motivate and engage them.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Consider adolescence as a rapid transitional period for young people and demonstrate some understanding of the salience of this in working with young people (GA1, GA4, GA5; APST 1.1)

LO2 - Demonstrate an understanding of normative development during adolescence and the complex interplay between biological, cognitive and psychosocial domains and how they relate to behaviour and identity formation and learning (GA1, GA4, GA5; APST 1.1)

LO3 - Identify a range of social, economic and cultural factors in contemporary Australia and how these factors may create particular stresses for adolescents (GA1, GA4, GA5; APST 1.1, 3.7, 7.3)

LO4 - Understand a range of potential dilemmas and challenges that young people deal with in transitioning to adulthood (GA1, GA4, GA5; APST 1.1, 3.7, 4.3, 7.3)

LO5 - Understand that adolescents may have varied social, emotional and cognitive backgrounds, experiences and developmental trajectories that may influence their learning (GA1, GA4, GA5; APST 1.1, 1.2)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - Demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA4 - Think critically and reflectively

GA5 - Demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession


On successful completion of this unit, pre-service teachers should be able to:

1.1 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students and how these may affect learning.

1.2 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of research into how students learn and the implications for teaching.

3.7 Describe a broad range of strategies for involving parents/carers in the educative process.

4.3 Demonstrate knowledge of practical approaches to manage challenging behaviour.

7.3 Understand strategies for working effectively, sensitively and confidentially with parents/carers.


Topics will include:

  • Who are adolescents? Boundaries, definitions and theoretical frameworks;
  • Ecological perspectives of adolescent development;
  • Biological, cognitive, social, and emotional transitions during adolescence;
  • Major socialization contexts in which adolescents develop: family, peers, school, community, work and contemporary culture;
  • Social, economic, and cultural circumstances in contemporary Australia and how these may influence adolescent development; 
  • A range of potential challenges and dilemmas that young people deal with in transitioning to adulthood including identity, autonomy, relationships and intimacy, sexuality, mental health, disability, risky behaviour, substance use, achievement, employment prospects etc;
  • Well-being and resilience during adolescence.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit applies a social constructivist approach to develop pre-service teachers’ understanding of the complexities of the teacher’s role. Knowledge of curriculum and teaching strategies and planning skills are introduced and developed through designing learning experiences and lesson plans appropriate for the educational context. The placement enables pre-service teachers to observe and engage with experienced practitioners and to make links between theory and its application to the learning environment.

Unit content will be presented in a variety of teaching-learning modes and active participation in the learning process will be encouraged where possible through self-directed and problem-based learning experiences, as well as guided reflection. Through the adoption of a reflective approach to the teaching-learning process, pre-service teachers will be encouraged to critically analyse their own learning approaches and preferences in relation to the content of the unit.

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the teaching period.

The unit is hosted on a Learning Management System (LMS) site with resources and online links, announcements, and a discussion board to post questions and reflections that promote connection between content and educational experiences.

Mode of delivery: This unit may be offered in different modes to cater to the learning needs and preferences of a range of participants.

On Campus

Most learning activities or classes are delivered at a scheduled time, on campus, to enable in-person interactions. Activities will appear in a student’s timetable.


Learning activities are delivered through a planned mix of online and in-person classes, which may include full-day sessions and/or placements, to enable interaction. Activities that require attendance will appear in a student’s timetable.

Online unscheduled

Learning activities are accessible anytime, anywhere. These units are normally delivered fully online and will not appear in a student’s timetable. 

Online scheduled

All learning activities are held online, at scheduled times, and will require some attendance to enable online interaction. Activities will appear in a student’s timetable.

ACU Online 

In ACU Online mode, this unit is delivered asynchronously, fully online using an active, guided learning approach. Pre-service teachers are encouraged to contribute to asynchronous weekly discussions and receive regular and timely feedback on their learning. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment tasks and their weightings are designed to allow pre-service teachers to progressively demonstrate achievement against the unit learning outcomes. The assessment tasks are sequenced to allow feedback and progressive development.

In Assessment Task 1 pre-service teachers will critically reflect upon their own foundational development during adolescence, analysing the influences that shaped their development, with particular reference to key milestones impacting upon their own behaviour, identity formation and learning.

In Assessment Task 2, pre-service teachers will critique a challenge or dilemma within a major developmental context that may occur during adolescence, with informed discussion about the impact this may have upon transitional processes to adulthood.

Minimum Achievement Standards

The assessment tasks and their weighting for this unit are designed to demonstrate the achievement of each learning outcome. In order to pass this unit, students are required to submit all assessment tasks, meet the learning outcomes of the unit and achieve a minimum overall passing grade of 50%.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1: Reflective profile.

Critically reflect on your own development during adolescence. Identify and discuss key biological, cognitive and social milestones and their interplay and their effect on your behaviour and identity development. Identify and discuss a range of social, economic and cultural factors that influenced your development. Your profile must make links to relevant theoretical approaches and research findings to help explain your developmental journey. Discuss the impact of these key milestones on your learning.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

GA1, GA4, GA5

Assessment Task 2: Scholarly essay.

Choose a challenge or dilemma of adolescence and one of the major developmental contexts (e.g., family, peers, school, work, community etc). Develop a critical, scholarly essay that examines the chosen challenge/dilemma within the chosen context. The essay must draw on relevant theoretical approaches and research findings in relation to understanding the challenge/dilemma in context and include a discussion of ways in which teachers, parents/carers can support adolescents through this challenge/dilemma.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

GA1, GA4, GA5

Representative texts and references

Representative textbook

Steinberg, L. (2020). Adolescence (12th Ed). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Recommended references

Berk, L. E. & Meyers, A. B. (2016). Infants, children, and adolescents (8th ed.). Pearson.

Carr-Gregg, M., & Robinson, E. (2017). The princess bitchface syndrome 2.0. Penguin.

Feldman, R. S. (2019). Development across the life span (9th ed.). Pearson.

Santrock, J.W. (2018). Adolescence (17th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.

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