Understanding Youth

Understanding Youth Adolescent Development for Educators

Michael J. Nakkula and Eric Toshalis
paper, 304 Pages
Pub. Date: November 2006
ISBN-13: 978-1-891792-31-1
Price: $31.00

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Adolescent development research and theory have tremendous potential to inform the work of high school teachers, counselors, and administrators. Understanding Youth bridges the gap between adolescent development theory and practice.


An excellent resource for educators, parents, and any adult who seeks to understand adolescents and the turbulence and confusion that often affects young people during this period of their lives. A poignant, insightful, and practical analysis. — Pedro Noguera, Professor, New York University

Understanding Youth really does understand youth! It is essential reading, especially for those who work with adolescents in challenging circumstances. — Nancy Hoffman Director, Early College High School, Initiative, Jobs for the Future

As a new teacher, I especially appreciate the clarity with which the authors outline the research [on adolescent development] and its implications for my teaching. — Manuel Rustin, Social Science Teacher, John F. Kennedy High School, Sacramento, CA

Nakkula and Toshalis organize what we have learned about the development of young people—some of whom are presented in a series of individual portraits—and chart ways that we can best serve them. — Theodore R. Sizer, Founder, Coalition of Essential Schools

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About the Authors

Michael J. Nakkula is a research associate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), where he has taught courses on counseling, urban education, and adolescent development and helped develop HGSE’s Risk and Prevention Program. Nakkula was named HGSE’s inaugural holder of the Kargman Assistant Professorship in Human Development and Urban Education, an appointment he held from 1998 to 2004. He is the coauthor, with Sharon Ravitch, of Matters of Interpretation: Reciprocal Transformation in Therapeutic and Developmental Relationships with Youth (1998). His current research focuses on the experiences of adolescents as they traverse the challenges of urban educational systems en route to work, college, and careers. Nakkula earned bachelor’s degrees in communications and psychology from Michigan State University, a master’s degree in counseling from the University of Minnesota–Duluth, and his doctorate in counseling and consulting psychology from HGSE.

Eric Toshalis is an instructor in education and advanced doctoral candidate at HGSE. A former middle and high school educator, he has worked with youth and adults in schools as a coach, mentor teacher, community activist, teachers union president, afterschool group leader, and curriculum writer. Since 2003 he has cotaught the course on adolescent development for preservice teachers in Harvard’s teacher education program. As a researcher, Toshalis studies how teachers and students variously resist the tendency of public schools to reproduce social inequality and how such resistance can be promoted in the classroom. He received his bachelor’s degree, teaching credential, and master’s degree in education from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his master of theological studies from Harvard Divinity School.

Additional Praise

More about the Authors

Reviews of Understanding Youth

Harvard Education Letter Interview with the Authors

Table of Contents

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