The Adolescent Brain: Social and Emotional Learning Explained

This extended briefing paper forms part of a mini-series on the ‘Brain under Construction’. It is intended to be read alongside the other papers in the series (available on the Mentor UK website).

In previous briefing papers, we have looked at the physical and behavioral structure of the brain and its role in collecting, transferring and processing information. We have also discussed, why our brains are geared-up to learn from the day we are born, and the neurobiological reasons why a carer, teacher or youth leader plays a similar role to that of a parent in shaping the child and adolescent brain. This paper looks at the brain as a social organ that needs both physical and social ‘connection’ and stimulation to survive. Research has found that close, supportive relationships stimulate positive emotions, neuroplasticity, and learning. This leads us to consider the critical importance of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). Put simply, SEL is about helping children and young people develop their emotional awareness, thinking and behaviour so they can lead successful lives.

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