The Science of Learning Blog

July 28, 2020

How the Adolescent Brain Learns

BY Amy Takabori

This is the fourth in our five-part series leading up to the launch of Elements I, the newest addition to the Fast ForWord Literacy program. See Part 3 about SEL skills for adolescent learners and be sure to sign up for previews of Elements 1 ahead of its August release.

The adolescent brain is incredible, but also incredibly misunderstood. When secondary educators better understand cognitive development during adolescence, they will discover the answers to these common questions:

  • How should I address disruptive behavior?
  • How do I help my struggling students?
  • How do I engage and inspire teens?
  • How can I help my students be self-motivated?

The last question is especially important in periods of remote learning, which is likely to continue in some form during the 2020-2021 school year.

group of teens standing in front of blue lockers

Self-directed learning requires the cognitive skills of goal-setting, focused attention, and perseverance. These are executive function skills, and the prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain responsible for fostering them.

The prefrontal cortex develops during adolescence and may not fully mature until one’s mid-twenties.

Meanwhile, the amygdala, which is the area of the brain responsible for impulsivity, desire for instant gratification, and reward-seeking, is firing on all cylinders during adolescence. As a result, adolescents’ brains lead them to seek risks in order to secure dopamine-fueled rewards.

Self-motivated learning, then, requires an adolescent to power up their still-forming prefrontal cortex while satiating their hyperactive amygdala. One tool that does both is Elements I.

Elements I, the innovative addition to Fast ForWord Literacy for secondary readers, leverages this knowledge about the adolescent brain by simultaneously strengthening executive functions and providing the rewards and immediate feedback to satisfy the dopamine reward system.

Learn more about how the adolescent brain learns, in addition to answers to all of the other questions above, in the new Adolescent Brain Guide!

What's inside the Adolescent Brain Guide?

  • 5 Little-Known Facts about the Adolescent Brain
  • Dos and Don'ts for Teaching Adolescents
  • FAQs about Secondary Students

Get your free download below!

Download the new Brain-Based Learning Guide, “How the Adolescent Brain Learns” here.

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