Understanding the Adolescent Brain: How to Improve Education For Teens
The transition to adolescence in regards to education is a complicated study, because although learning works the same way it does in younger years, there are a number of emotional factors that make the learning process much different in middle and high school years compared to elementary. In order for teachers to adapt to teaching teens, they need to understand the things that are happening to their students internally.
The first changes that occur when adolescence begins, which typically occurs between ages 9 and 13, are emotional changes. Ronald Dahl MD, a Human Development professor at the University of California, Berkley, says, “Teens tend to become more sensitive and need much more encouragement to stay motivated. They also have a desire to be admired by others as they learn to navigate new social situations. It can be a very confusing time.”
For this reason, social distractions may disrupt learning in the classroom, and educators should look for new ways to command attention. One way to do this is to engage their interests. Relate current events and topics of their conversations to lesson plans when appropriate. This will help spark class discussions and keep everyone focused. “Social success is a predictor of overall success,” says Dahl. The point is to not discourage them from being social, but instead teaching them to channel it in the right ways.
Some students may require extra encouragement during this time to increase their confidence. Dahl says, “Challenge them because you believe in them and encourage extracurricular activities. If they can find something they’re good at, they will feel better about themselves in other situations.” It is important to remember that these years are all about character development, and the role of the teacher is to help facilitate that growth and ensure that all students are progressing toward becoming productive, ambitious young adults.
Another hurdle that typically arrives at the start of adolescence is a change in sleeping patterns. Teens have an urge to stay up later and wake up later, making early school mornings a challenge. Dahl says, “There is a perception that in order to have a very busy social life, there is never enough time for a person to get enough sleep. Teachers should try to change this ideal and make sleeping seem ‘cool’, because a well-rested student will have an improved appearance, better social interaction and will be able to absorb more material in the classroom.”
Students may not know that sleeping with their cell phones or tablets can disrupt their sleeping patterns in more ways than one. Not only will they be tempted to respond to incoming messages and alerts from friends, the light from the device will trick the brain into thinking that it’s daytime, preventing it from going to sleep. Explain this to students so that they will be more conscious of why they are not feeling tired late at night.
Finally, it is imperative for teachers to recognize the extreme changes happening to students, such as a more developed facial structure, the beginning of new feelings and an onset of strong emotions. The adolescent years are an adjustment for everyone, but creating an understanding between students and teacher makes the transition an easier feat. For more information about character development, visit Berkeley’s Center for Science of the Greater Good.
What is Blended Learning?
Many schools have begun to incorporate blended learning into their curriculums, but what is it? Blended learning, also known as blended education, flipping the classroom, or hybrid learning, is the integration of online lessons and face-to-face classroom learning to improve the learning process and personalize learning for each student.
Some schools use blended learning as a way for students to review lessons, track their in-class performance and review supporting materials for lessons. Websites like Blackboard and Moodle support these functions. Other blended learning software that incorporates personalized learning includes Knewton And DreamBox. The point is to incorporate more interactive learning materials to increase students’ retention and involvement. Blended learning can also be taught by splitting students into different groups and having them rotate through different methods of learning such as computer activities, written lessons and collaborative work.
“Flipping the Classroom”, a more significant departure from traditional pedagogy, involves changing the roles and schedules of a traditional learning environment. Normally, a teacher would use class time to teach a specific lesson and assign homework, which is to be completed at home on the student’s time. When flipping a classroom, lessons are watched at home, typically online through media presentations, and then reviewed the following day in the classroom with the teacher. Students have the ability to absorb lessons at their own pace, in their own way.
Traditional lectures, usually long and mostly spoken, are replaced with interactive quizzes, videos and more. However, since blended learning changes the roles of teacher and students, the faculty must understand what is expected and willing to adapt to such large changes. However, there is no denying the benefits that are offered by blended learning, such as allowing students to all learn at their own pace and using customized content on computer lessons to cater to each learning style.
In order to incorporate blended learning into schools, faculty must learn about its benefits and different ways to incorporate it into lesson plans. Some teachers are uncomfortable with the idea because they think it reduces their ability to teach and relies on technology to do most of the work. Although the ability to use a Personalized Learning Model is very helpful in teaching many different young minds, teachers are still essential for additional help, follow-through and guidance.
Harvard and MIT have called online learning, “The single biggest change in education since the printing press.” In a world where toddlers are using iPads and mobile phones to interact and learn with parent guidance, the time has surely come to thoughtfully incorporate the methodology that they are already using at home at the school.
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