Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Education Honours


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Paul Newhouse


Early adolescence, classified from 10-14 years, is an important stage of development where thinking, planning and reasoning skills are evolving. Many young adolescents in this age group encounter problems with these skills in the transition from primary school to high school. Middle school is an educational context which focusses on the provision of support for young adolescents in this transitional period. Graphic organizer software is a program designed to help users visualize problems and organize information into logical structures. This study considered the conditions under which the problem solving and organizational skills of middle school students can be enhanced using graphic organizer software. The conceptual framework for the study rests on recent research into early adolescent brain development and outcomes based education, which form a basis for middle schooling. The ethos of middle schooling provides for a relevant, challenging and integrated curriculum grounded in developmental pedagogy. Integrating graphic organizer software into a middle school curriculum is consistent with middle schooling principles, as it provides for a guided approach to developing problem solving and organizational skills and actively engages the students in this learning process. The software chosen for the study was Inspiration which uses colours, pictures and links to create brainstorms, webs, concept maps and visual diagrams. One class of year eight students in a Western Australian metropolitan Catholic coeducational College was selected as the sample. The graphic organizer software, Inspiration, was integrated into the Society and Environment and English curriculum for these students. The research design for this study incorporated the use of a combination of ethnographic and action-research which enabled the researcher to take into account the cultural context and also apply and evaluate therapeutic action. A variety of qualitative and quantitative data were collected and analysed. Results of the data analysis revealed that there were significant differences in the skill development of those students who enjoyed using Inspiration compared to those who did not. Those who enjoyed using the software found it helpful in organizing information and planning for the Society and Environment curriculum. TI1e majority of students found the software easier to use as their experience increased and most students stated that Inspiration helped them in the information problem solving areas of planing, understanding and organizing information. The colours, graphics, links, editing and save features of Inspiration were considered the most valuable by both the students and class teacher. The value of Inspiration as a cognitive support tool also emerged as it allowed the teacher to guide the students through the learning process. Access to computers was an issue during this study as the school structure did not adequately support a flexible curriculum or shared resources. This study found that a middle schooling curriculum that is flexible, relevant, allows for shared resources and has an emphasis on a developmental approach provides suitable conditions for the integration of graphic organizer software. It is then likely, that under these conditions, the use of such software will support the development of students' organizational and problem solving skills.