Human Development: Hypothetical Case Study of Angela Wu
Angela Wu, age sixteen, was referred to the guidance department of the high school after several of her teachers noted that she had seemed unusually “stressed out, even for Angela,” after mid-term exam week. Later, it was noted that her academic performance on her midterms was notably weaker than it had been over the past several semesters at the high school. After mid-term grade reports were sent, Angela’s parents called and expressed concern, asking if it was possible if she could retake several of the tests.
Angela is a junior at the high school, and her parents noted that junior year is particularly crucial in terms of assembling a strong college transcript of grades when considering competitive universities. They said Angela has expressed her intention to apply for a scholarship to the state university and to several Ivy League schools. Angela is active in school, but has few leadership positions. She was referred to guidance for non-academic reasons once before, when a conflict with another girl over the course of a group English product became heated.
A. Cognitive changes in adolescence
Angela appears to be wrestling at the outset with a number of normative cognitive changes appropriate to her age. She expresses concern about her grade point average, but seems genuinely interested in many of her subjects, particularly biology, on a level beyond that of grades. However, much of the discussion had to be prompted from Angela, rather than emerging spontaneously from the young woman.
1. Intellectual abilities of Angela
Angela’s intellectual abilities in terms of IQ have been tested as in the high average range. She has a 3.9 GPA. This is weighted as higher because of the numerous AP and honors courses she has taken over the course of her academic career. She is academically able, and has shown particular strength in the sciences and math. Her teachers do not call her an extraordinary student, but commend her strong performance in terms of grades and class performance in labs, despite her recent spate of academic difficulty a. Attention
Like many adolescents, Angela has had difficulty paying attention and coming to school on time, which has caused numerous ‘tardy’ notices for her early morning classes. Often, her mother has had to drive her to school because she has missed the bus or a ride from her friend. Her mother has explained that Angela frequently stays up all night studying, accounting for her early-morning weariness. Psychiatrists in recent years have noted, however, that adolescent individuals, because they are literally still ‘growing’ during the night have particular difficulty retaining information learned during the earlier hours of the day.
However, Angela’s later periods of study are marked by her conscientiousness and attention to her studies and to her teacher’s lectures. Although she does not ask many questions in class, her performance on tests, quizzes, and prompted queries by teachers are all noted as strong.
Angela has always been prompt when turning in her assignments, and come to all of her guidance appointments on time. She has shown strength as well in the academic ‘quiz bowl’ as one of her activities, a pursuit that requires a strong memory.
c. Academic and everyday Knowledge
Angela’s strong performance in her academics belies an often naive understanding of everyday knowledge. When prompted with questions about current affairs, Angela often appears uninterested, although she states she has to know ‘the basic facts’ for the quiz bowl, if asked about that category. Angela’s extracurricular have often been rather scattered in nature, suggesting an uncertainty of where her passion for hobbies may truly lie.
d. Problem solving
Angela has been criticized at times for her faulty hands-on problem solving skills, not so much in academics but in working in cooperative group projects with others. Solving problems from the point-of-view of emotional rather than intellectual intelligence has come with some difficulty for Angela.
e. Imagination, creativity and language
Angela is not particularly expressive in person in terms of her personal appearance. Although occasionally talkative about subjects and one or two teachers she particularly disliked in her academic past (notably her sophomore year English teacher), her vocabulary tends to be filled with slang. This often causes her to appear less intelligent or younger than her age and grades might suggest. She seems unwilling in her AP English and AP American history classes, teachers have noted, to ‘think outside the box’ when presented with undirected or unconventional assignments, such as writing poetry in the style of Shakespeare or of suggesting an alternative letter to the British rather than the actual Declaration of Independence.
2. Implication for the school counselor a. Common concerns
The greatest concern is to ensure that the next semesters Angela spends in high school are as enriching for her emotional development as they are for her scholastic development. Also, intervention should take place before her grades are further affected, as Angela’s academic success is so important to her family and more importantly, to Angela herself.
Although intervention is not a life-or-death matter, clearly Angela’s potential is not being realized in the classroom because of emotional issues she may or may not be coping with or experiencing at home or in school. More discussion with the girl and her family may prove helpful in tracing the cause and specifying some of the difficulties.
c. Cultural variations
Angela’s parents are immigrants from Mainland China. Her father is a professor of electrical engineering at a local university. Her mother is a homemaker. Her brother won a scholarship to the state university for engineering, where he is currently a freshman. Academic achievement has always been stressed in the girl’s family, and her brother held up as an example to her. However, Angela has often stressed her lack of intelligence in relationship to both her father and her elder brother, albeit jokingly. Concrete measures of intelligence seem to be stressed in this family, to the exclusion of emotional discussions. There is also a division between parents and children because the parents commutate at home in Mandarin, while the children seem most comfortable in English, having been brought up in this nation from birth. Angela calls her brother her best friend, and his recent departure to college may be one of the reasons for her sudden downturn in mood.
B. Social/Emotional changes
1. Areas of development a. Emotional communication
Angela seldom expresses herself in ‘I feel’ statements. When asked about her poor performance, she blamed her teachers in some subjects and her own lack of proper study skills in others, rather than any emotional problems such as her brother’s departure from school. When asked how the poor midterm grades made her feel, she said, ‘bad,’ and latter, ‘dumb.’ When asked to be more expressive about what ‘dumb’ meant, she said she had been over committed to her extracurricular, and should have worked harder in school. She said she had recently begun a part-time job as a waitress at her aunt’s local restaurant that may have caused her to be more ‘stressed out’ than usual. The overall impression given was that Angela needs extensive work on her emotional communication skills, partly because she seems to think them relatively unimportant.
b. Self-understanding and interpersonal skills
When asked for why she had such difficulty with group projects, she admitted fearing failure because her partners would not work hard enough. She did not seem responsive to the question of how she could have motivated her partners to work harder using leadership skills. Angela was asked if she perceived herself as separate from the other girls in her independence and motivation, and she simply shrugged in response. When asked if she saw herself as a perfectionist, she said she did not know, simply that she tried hard and…