Teenagers’ brains go through changes that explain their behaviour – we must try and bear this in mind, says Pam Jarvis in this week’s TES


According to the article, research shows that during adolescence the human brain’s prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain which underpins adult social behaviour, develops hugely.
This is expressed in the following behaviours:  

  • Increased self-consciousness;
  • Reduced sensitivity to the feelings of others; 
  • Increased concerns relating to peer evaluation; 
  • Increased tendency towards risky behaviour in the pursuit of peer admiration, which at times may lead to embarrassingly socially inept mistakes. 
  • All of the above come together to create increased social vulnerability 

Five principles that underpin adolescence 

So what are the five points for practice that teachers should consider?

  1. While teenagers may look very adult in body, being a teenager is a developmental stage
  2. Safe and supported spaces and opportunities to ‘play’ with their behaviour are helpful for teenagers
  3. Peer group is key so any kind of exclusion or zero tolerance can have a ‘highly negative impact’. We need to work with young people in a ‘nurturing environment’ and aim to return them to their peer group as soon as possible
  4. Context and role modelling is key. Where are young people finding ‘positive reinforcement for poor behaviour in terms of increased peer approval’? We need to try and understand these influences and societal situations and ‘eliminate them where possible’. 
  5. It is also worth looking at timing of key assessments — are high-stakes, summative assessments at the height of adolescence really a good idea?

Read more at the TES (you may need to register)