In her Wall Street Journal editorial, What's Wrong With the Teenage Mind?, University of California at Berkeley psychology professor Alison Gopnik highlights two key areas of the brain that dictate adolescent and human development: (1) emotion and motivation and (2) control.
She cites Berkeley pediatrician and developmental psychologist Ronald Dahl who uses the perfect metaphor to describe adolescence: "Today's adolescents develop an accelerator a long time before they can steer and brake."
It's not unlike the concept of "failing forward" that Peter Sims describes in Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries. He writes: "The operating principle for seasoned entrepreneurs who push ideas into the market as quickly as possible [is] to learn from mistakes and failures that will point the way forward."
Teenagers, according to Gopnik, "overestimate rewards [...] and find rewards more rewarding than adults do." She continues: "What teenagers want most of all are social rewards, especially the respect of their peers."
How do we work with students to build in the "control system" that balances the "emotion" system?
According to Gopnik, we help to create and enable experiences. She writes: "You come to make better decisions by making not-so-good decisions and then correcting them. You get to be a good planner by making plans, implementing them and seeing the results again and again. Expertise comes with experience."