Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Nina Greenwald


As a teacher for the past six years in a girls’ school, I have met and had the chance to interact with hundreds of adolescent girls. Over time I have come to realize how much adolescence seems to have changed since I was in their shoes. The media inundates them with messages about what is cool, hip, and acceptable—music videos, fashion, and the internet provide the frame of reference against which today’s young woman compares her own self worth. While girls have always looked to society’s standards to help them develop as individuals, at no time in history have the messages been so many, nor so potentially destructive. Unattainable ideals of beauty, obsession with perfection, overt sexuality— these issues surround young women today, and make it difficult for them to discover who they are before society tells them who they should be. At a time in their lives when relationships and self-acceptance are critical, most young women fall into a cycle of self-deprecating behavior--- dieting to be thinner, sometimes to the point of malnutrition; other forms of body enhancement, like piercings and tattoos, that become permanent scars from a fleeting infatuation or fad; and dangerous sexual behavior that is beyond them physically and emotionally and may result in much deeper scars than those on their flesh. How does this occur, and when do the bright, confident pre-adolescents of the world begin to be drawn into this vortex? Is school culture to blame, or is it simply failing to address the seriousness of these issues? Do girls’ schools provide a safe haven for girls at this critical juncture? The answers to these questions are elusive, yet in this paper I hope to begin to uncover the layers of this problem in an effort to work toward viable solutions. The issues facing young women as they develop through their adolescent years are complex and interrelated, and this is where Problem-Based Learning (PBL) can play a role. Though an exploration the role of girls’ schools in female adolescent development it becomes apparent that many of the answers we seek may not be found easily because the problem we are addressing is not so easy to define. The unique method of inquiry that is PBL takes an ill-defined problem and peels away its complex layers to determine its true nature in hopes of exacting some real solutions. The deconstruction begins with a desire to know more, and that is where we will begin our journey together.


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