Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Creating learning experiences for foster youth

Do you remember being a teen, and those specific experiences that, at the time, seemed like the most important moment in the world?

This very interesting research study demonstrates that: 

1.) Teens are better at learning from "reinforcement learning" than adults are

2.) Teens engage both the hippocampus (memory) and striatum (decision-making) regions of their brains at the same time, while adults tend to alternate between using one or the other

3.) Therefore, the experiences that teens have are rich with opportunities to create memories and educate them on making future decisions

The researchers’ conclusion was that the adolescent period of risk-taking and impulsive decision-making may be especially beneficial because it improves our reinforcement learning.  In simplest terms, reinforcement learning is making a guess, being told whether you’re right or wrong, and using that information to make a better guess next time.

As we work to ‘make memories’ for foster youth, this is a great reminder that teens are particularly sensitive to and responsive to the experience of the moment. 

In our interactions with teens, we have the opportunity to provide learning opportunities that can shape their understanding of the world.