How to bear in mind adolescent brain functioning when designing learning environments for STEM subjects

[Speaker] Schumacher, Ralph:1
[Co-author] Stern, Elsbeth:1
1:ETH Zurich (Switzerland)

A characteristic of adolescents is the discrepancy between rational thought and self-regulation. Youngsters who are already able to solve complex problems and to draw logical conclusions under relaxed conditions quickly get thrown off track under arousal and pressure. Ongoing brain restructuring and pruning processes in the prefrontal context may lead to rash behavior, impulsive strategy use, and diverted attention. This often is incompatible with the ambitious educational goals to be approached at stage of life. For instance, STEM-curricula require the acquisition of abstract concepts which contradict intuitive ideas, a goal that can only be achieved by restructuring one's knowledge by carefully processing instructional material. However, due to deficits in self-regulation many otherwise intelligent young people often do not live up to their teachers' expectations. It will be discussed how learning environments in physics and mathematics should be designed in order to take into consideration adolescents' cognitive and neural profiles.
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