By Bill Monahan:
“I would say the concepts that hit home for me at the Boston Learning and the Brain Conference included the idea that adolescence now lasts a very long 15 years, from the ages of 10-25. During that time period the brain is extremely elastic, meaning that a tremendous amount of brain development happens in many regions of the brain.
Powerful personal evidence for this is the fact that most people have very vivid memories from that time period in their lives. The novelty of our experiences combined with the forming of new pathways make this a very memorable time. I found the ideas as appealing as a parent as I did as an educator. Understanding that adolescence should not be viewed as a time to simply “survive” through as a parent, but a time when children need adults to help them lay healthy pathways. Positive adults can help mitigate some of the risk taking behaviors prevalent during this period, not solely by discipline, but by support and education around choices and consequences. Leading the adolescent to discovery instead of dictating their choices for them.
The brain science regarding the slower development of the prefrontal cortex makes a lot of sense for how adolescents see their world and react to situations with less inhibition especially when with other adolescents. There are numerous implications in the classroom and even in the math/science fields. A large measure of success involves personal interaction and a trusted adult guiding adolescents in their learning.
Going forward I believe that some of the conference material and research will impact my personal teaching. I also see great value in sharing some of this information with faculty/parents. There were a number of extremely impactful (locally based) speakers whose talks would be instructive especially to parents of adolescents.