(This information is based on material from my book The Power of the Adolescent Brain: Strategies for Teaching Middle and High School Students, published by ASCD).
As late as the 1990’s, it was thought by scientists that brain development was mostly completed by the end of childhood. Over the past twenty years, however, neuroscientists have transformed the way we think about how the brain develops between the ages of twelve and twenty. Here are eight key facts regarding what we’ve learned so far about the radical changes going on inside the teen brain:
This sensitivity of the adolescent brain means that teens are vulnerable to a wide range of risks in the contemporary world including, traffic accidents, suicide, mental illness, substance abuse, violence, sleep difficulties, and sexually transmitted diseases. The bright side of this vulnerability, however, is that teens are primed to be positively influenced by role models, dynamic classroom strategies, schoolwide innovations, and a rich learning environment at home. Here are eight key ‘’adolescent brain friendly’’ interventions that educators and parents can use to develop the teen brain and help adolescents thrive in the world:
Unfortunately, many middle and high schools engage in educational practices that are contrary to the findings of neuroscience concerning the adolescent brain.
The challenge for schools, and parents, is to recognize the tremendous changes that are going on in the brains of our teenagers, and to make substantial reforms in our educational and parenting practices that will allow adolescents to make good choices in life. For example,
As parents and educators, we have to make a choice. We can choose to ignore these scientific findings and keep heaping pressure on our teenagers with high-stakes tests, college requirements, and criticisms of their lifestyle, or we can choose instead to use adolescent brain-friendly strategies that will help teens develop the skills, habits of mind, and passions they’ll need to be successful for the rest of their lives. Adolescent brain-building is a high-stakes enterprise with huge implications for their future and ours.
For more information about these issues, see my book The Power of the Adolescent Brain: Strategies for Teaching Middle and High School Students.
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