Is de adolescentieperiode een gevoelige periode voor socio-culturele ontwikkeling?

Gevoelige periodes zijn niet het zelfde als kritische periodes. In ons mythe-boek beschrijven we hoe je effectief bijvoorbeeld nog talen kan leren na de gevoelige periode. Het gaat gewoon trager. Een nieuwe review study van Blakemore en Mills suggereert nu op basis van breinonderzoek dat de adolescentieperiode in feite een gevoelige periode is voor de socio-culturele ontwikkeling van de mens. Ze gaan vooral in op het nemen van risico’s en een periode waarin je sterk bent in het opnemen van sociale ‘cues’.

In hun artikel schetsen ze deze evoluties, maar kijken ze ook naar de gevolgen voor onder andere rechtspleging. Ik wil even hen citeren als het gaat over de implicaties voor onderwijs:

“Adolescence represents a period of brain development during which environmental experiences— including teaching—can and do profoundly shape the developing brain. If early childhood is seen as a major opportunity—or a sensitive period—for teaching, so too might adolescence. It is only recently that teenagers have been routinely educated in the West. In many countries a large proportion of teenagers have no access to secondary school education. And yet the adolescent brain is malleable and adaptable—this is an excellent opportunity for learning and creativity. Risk taking in an educational context is a vital skill that enables progress and creativity. Although some adolescents use risk taking to achieve great things, many are worried about taking risks in the context of learning. The heightened risk taking in this age group should be harnessed for learning and creativity. “

“What is sometimes seen as the problem with adolescents—risk taking, poor impulse control, self-consciousness, and so forth—is actually reflective of brain changes that provide an excellent opportunity for education and social development.

Adolescence is a time of opportunity for learning new skills and forging an adult identity. Research on brain development suggests that adolescence might represent a period of relatively high neural plasticity, in particular in brain regions involved in executive function and social cognition. The research on the brain basis of social development in adolescence might have implications for “when to teach what” and could inform both curriculum design and teaching practice with the aim of ensuring that classroom activities exploit periods of neural plasticity that facilitate maximal learning. “

Abstract van de review paper:

Adolescence is a period of formative biological and social transition. Social cognitive processes involved in navigating increasingly complex and intimate relationships continue to develop throughout adolescence. Here, we describe the functional and structural changes occurring in the brain during this period of life and how they relate to navigating the social environment. Areas of the social brain undergo both structural changes and functional reorganization during the second decade of life, possibly reflecting a sensitive period for adapting to one’s social environment. The changes in social environment that occur during adolescence might interact with increasing executive functions and heightened social sensitivity to influence a number of adolescent behaviors. We discuss the importance of considering the social environment and social rewards in research on adolescent cognition and behavior. Finally, we speculate about the potential implications of this research for society.

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