Higher Ed and the Teenage Brain

Every fall, colleges across the United States and the world welcome students back to campus, including a class of new freshmen, many of whom are leaving their homes to live on their own for the first time. Of course, parents across the spectrum share concerns about how their teenage children will behave in this new environment.

In a radio report from Boston’s PBS station WGBH, Frances Johnson of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Neurology discussed the way that the human brain continues to develop through the early to mid-20s. Because teenagers are still in this developmental stage, they are prone to making poor decisions; the emotional areas of the brain are fully developed while frontal lobes controlling higher decision making are still in flux.

How should educators use this information from neuroscience to shape higher education? Howard Gardner comments that while neuroscience is a “hot” field right now, neuroscientific data is only one type of many different bits of information needed in crafting an education. Gardner instead asks listeners to wonder, “What is important, and what do we want students to know?”, making the argument that influencing behavior is all about conditioning, good role models are paramount, and our brains are constantly developing throughout life, even into old age.

Listen to the quick program below, and click here to read the story via WGBH.


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