Learning styles are simply how people process information. Some people prefer a quiet room to read, others learn by doing, others learn best in groups. When working with teenagers, it is beneficial to understand how the adolescent brain differs from the adult brain and learning styles that typically work for teens.
Adolescent brains are still developing. Early adolescence is a time of increased production of gray matter in the brain. As the teaching experts at the Sun Protection Outreach Teaching by Students explain, gray matter is responsible for processing information 1. That and other types of brain development are not complete until age 25. Therefore, adolescent brains do not make the same connections as adult brains, and adolescent thinking and learning styles are unique to adolescents.
A study conducted at Mid Sweden University, Sweden, and published in the Institute for Learning Styles Journal in 2011 compared and evaluated the learning styles of adolescents in academic programs, adolescents in vocational training programs, and all of their teachers. While adults sometimes prefer to work in quiet rooms, all of the adolescents in this study preferred some degree of sound in the room while they were working. This may help explain why teens often play music while doing their homework.
Emotion drives motivation and learning in adolescents. The addition of emotion in a presentation or lesson plan sometimes helps teenage students remember. At SPOTS, they are quick to point out that humor is positive but sarcasm is negative, and negative emotion will prevent learning. Positive jokes that do not make the student feel self-conscious or threatened heighten the learning experience.
Time of Day
Another finding in the Swedish study was that while teachers are generally morning people, adolescents seem to pay the most attention and are motivated to do their work in the early afternoon. This afternoon learning style is consistent with the teenage years; younger children and adults work better in the morning than do adolescents.
Adolescents are not the only age group that learns well visually, but according to both the Swedish study and SPOTS, adults are better at learning via listening than teenagers. In general, adolescents learn well when presented with graphics and manipulatives. Seeing and doing are important aspects of adolescent learning styles.
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