Last week I caught this fascinating piece on NPR's Here and Now with Professor Larry Steinberg of Temple University. Steinberg's latest book is titled “Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence”, and it highlights all sorts of new findings coming out of research regarding adolescent brain development. It is also closely aligned with what I wrote about in a blog last month regarding the need for pre-teens to engage in healthy risk taking.
Below are two of my favorite excerpts from Steinberg's interview:
On how education should change in light of his research's findings:
“One thing that we should do in school is to focus more on what experts are referring to as non-cognitive skills and that would include things like perseverance, determination and grit. If you think about the challenge about becoming an adult now, you need to be able to stay in school for a very long time. You need to be able to stay in school through the completion of a four year college degree to get a decent-paying job, and that requires that we help young people develop the capacity to delay gratification and to persevere, even at tasks that they’re maybe not so crazy about.”
On the ‘opportunity’ of adolescents’ malleable brains
“One of the main themes of the book is that we’re discovering that the brain during adolescence is very malleable or very plastic. What that means is that the brain has a heightened capacity to change in response to experience. That cuts both ways: on the one hand it means that the brain is especially susceptible to toxic experiences that can harm it, but on the other hand it means that the brain is also susceptible to positive influences that can promote growth. That’s the kind of opportunity that I think we need to think about in relation to adolescence and it’s an opportunity I think we’re squandering.”