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Unravelling The Teenage Brain

Did you know during the teenage years, the brain undergoes a period of huge change and development?

It is so important that it is known as a "critical period", and the only time that the brain goes through something similar is during the first three years of life.

In his new book, The Teacher and the Teenage Brain, Dr John Coleman takes an in depth look at the inner workings of the teenage mind. He dives into everything from why teenagers are prone to risk-taking to how their brains develop during these formative years. And what you learn may surprise you!

Our understanding of the teenage brain has only evolved in the last 20 years. (Coleman, 2021)

This book is fascinating for both parents and teachers alike. Remarkedly, our understanding of the teenage brain has only evolved in the last 20 years. It was thought that the brain matured by the end of childhood, but we now know that this is not the case due to advancements in brain scanning technology. The brain undertakes a process called "pruning" during the teenage years, where unused connections used for thinking and processing skills are "pruned away" while others are strengthened. It makes the brain more efficient and provides the capacity for the teenager to learn and develop skills and abilities.

Dr Coleman provides a gentle introduction to neuroscience and then tackles teenage brain development under the lens of important issues, such as learning and memory, risk and reward, teenagers and sleep, stress and mental health and the social brain (understanding other people). Complex topics are explained brilliantly, using simple language, interesting facts and questions to stoke curiosity, and solid research to support findings.

There are more dopamine receptors in the teenage brain than in brains of people in other ages. (Coleman, 2021)

Did you know that the teenage brain has more dopamine receptors than other age groups? Thus, increasing the risk to seek out rewards or pleasurable experiences. Or that teenagers release melatonin, the hormone that makes you feel sleepy, later than adults. Therefore, they will probably want to go to bed later and sleep in longer. Getting enough sleep is very important because when we are asleep, memory consolidation takes place, which lets learning from that day move into long-term memory.

The book also provides an excellent explanation of the executive functions, which are linked to academic performance. It discusses how understanding teenage brains can help teachers support the development of working memory, inhibition, resisting interference and flexibility.

With each chapter, you are left with greater insight into how to better relate to, engage or teach teenagers through this challenging time. Additional reading is provided for those wanting to explore topics further, and free teenage brain workshop plans for students, teachers and parents are available at the end of the book.

An Opportunity for a "Second Chance"

We all know that the teenage years can be tough. But what stands out in this book is an opportunity for a "second chance". During this critical period of brain development, teachers and parents have opportunities to support young people and help them become more confident individuals and better learners despite their starting points.

The Teacher and the Teenage Brain is an excellent resource for anyone interested in understanding the teenage brain. It is clearly written and easy to read, with a comprehensive and balanced review of the research on teenagers backed by Dr John Coleman’s own extensive experience as a clinical psychologist. Whether you are a teacher or parent, The Teacher and the Teenage Brain should be at the top of your reading list!

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