Exploring the Adolescent Brain

Thomas Armstrong (ASCD, 2016) has done an excellent job of summarizing and distilling a lot of intriguing ideas for enhancing the education of teenagers based on neuroscience evidence. Thomas has generated 8 strategies for applying this knowledge to teaching and schooling.

These ideas a worth deeper reflection and discussion. For the next month or two I will post summaries of these suggestions along with Points to Ponder and Share. So buy the book and settle in for a good read and the opportunity to reflect and test out his ideas.

As a preview:   Tip #1 is: Opportunities to choose. “Because the prefrontal cortex of the adolescent brain (the seat of decision making) is gradually maturing throughout the teen years, and adolescents frequently make sub-optimal choices during this time…they need frequent opportunities to make decisions for themselves with regards to what they learn, how they learn, how fast they learn, and other matter connected with the curriculum and school life.” p. 32.

Armstrong lists 10 ways that teachers can give students opportunities to make meaningful choices:

1. Provide homework options

2. Let students pick the books they read

3. Use student polling

4. Allow students to create their own projects

5. Set aside time for passion projects

6. Permit students to learn at their own rate

7. Involve students in decisions about school policy

8. Provide opportunities for independent study

9. Offer more electives

10. Give students more control in how their learning is assessed

Points to Ponder and Discuss:

Rate these suggestions from Best to Worst. Which idea(s) sound the most important or meaningful to you?
Which idea(s) are the most doable or feasible? Which suggestion(s) are unrealistic or impossible to do?
If you had to choose one to do immediately, which one would you do and what would you have to do prepare to get started?

Do you have your own ideas for how more often and more meaningful choices could be incorporated in your subject area? What could help you to accomplish this? Materials needed? Resources?