Thank you to Holly Macy, John Emerson and Lisa Rogers for forwarding this excellent article on the teenage brain from National Geographic: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/10/teenage-brains/dobbs-text
The article by David Dobbs discusses a new model for analyzing the teenage brain referred to as the adaptive-adolescent model. This model uses brain scans and behavior analysis to show that teenage behavior is actually advantageous from an evolutionary perspective. Young people, according to the study, are wired to try new experiences and expand their network of peers. They understand risk more than we have previously given them credit for, however they also have a higher appreciation for reward when weighing risk versus reward. Their study shows that achieving success in a social environment presents a significant reward; thus explaining why teenagers embrace greater risks in a social setting.
The implications of this study for schools are numerous. Instead of dismissing the teenage brain as undeveloped, we need to explore how we can harness the power of their emerging brains and embrace the subtle and not so subtle differences between the adult and teenage brains. We need to continue to provide venues for them to try new things and meet new people. We need to better understand how electronic networking satisfies their need to expand their peer group and reap social rewards. We need to educate them about risk and give them authentic opportunities for reward. We need to continue to nurture their curiosity and provide outlets for their creative impulses. This is an exciting time to be working with young people and developing curriculum.