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Working with teen parents Linking Life & Learning findings from the neuroscience of emotion.

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Presentation on theme: "Working with teen parents Linking Life & Learning findings from the neuroscience of emotion."— Presentation transcript:

1 Working with teen parents Linking Life & Learning findings from the neuroscience of emotion

2  This workshop (and my current research) is about taking the findings from the Neuroscience of Emotion and linking them to a specialised educational environment - a teen parent unit –  It’s about converting those findings into a set of practical conditions and strategies that optimise neural development – for teen parent and child

3 Shae’s story  As I read Shea’s story please reflect on her experience of life and learning … … reading between the lines… What does she tell us about her life? What does she tell us about her learning experiences – negative and positive? What else does she tell us?

4 Some thoughts….

5 Learners are turned away from learning for many reasons:  poor health, nutrition and sleep deprivation  emotional factors such as experiences of shame and humiliation and fear  Learners arrive in class with an unconscious self-image and attachment blueprints that they then project on to a teacher.

6  In a teen parent environment we have the two most critical periods of neural development going on in one context – the infant brain and the adolescent brain

7 infant brain 250,000 new neurons are developed each hour, through sensory and emotional data scanned from the environment. Relationships – attachment – the single most important factor in brain development during the first year of life

8  neural pathways formed through attachment enable emotional regulation.  Dysfunctional, or inconsistent attachment activates chemical and neurological changes through the mirror neuron system resulting in physiological distress and even atrophy of critical brain areas.  The un-wellness of a primary carer has a negative effect on the well-being of the child.

9 Mirror neurons….

10 Healthy early relationships allow optimum forming of neural networks that enable:  higher self-esteem  emotional regulation  decision making  feelings of wellbeing and security  they support all levels of social, emotional and cognitive development.

11 Neural pathways



14 Adolescent brain  a critical time for the development of the cortex…  rising hormone levels, intense emotions, violent mood swings and feelings of isolation that can lead to depression.  emotion drives attention, learning and memory…  evolutionary brain development expects mating to occur in early teenage years – out of sync with social expectations.

15  Feelings of danger trigger cortisol, the stress response hormone, it activates defensive response; ‘fight, freeze or flight’.  These stress responses do not distinguish between emotional or physical danger  The stress system responds by releasing clotting elements into the blood, elevating cholesterol levels, depressing the immune system, tensing large muscles, increasing the blood pressure— and much more.” (Sylwester, 1994)

16  High levels of cortisol caused by stress can bring about despair, and chronically high levels can ultimately destroy hippocampal neurons associated with learning and memory (Vincent, 1990; Davidson R. J., 2000).

17 Effects of trauma, abuse and neglect on the developing brain This scan shows decreased metabolic activity / function in the temporal lobes of an abused child.

18 In both infant and adolescent… Emotions are generated from context:  internal sensations from the body  external sensations from the world  Relationships – face to face interaction - are of critical importance to both infant & adolescent brain development  Environment – conditions and states

19 So what do our young people need….  those other molecules, the endorphins…

20 Neuroplasticity…  Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change, to restructure, to rebuild  One of the most effective mechanisms to activate change in the brain is secure attachment  How do we create conditions in a classroom setting that can enable secure attachment?

21 Conditions for neuroplasticity in classrooms “Invisible Classroom” (Kirke Olson) “Tribal Classroom” (Louis Cozolino)

22 Invisible classroom  implicit curriculum – materiality  attachment based relationships  culture Underlying principles: safety and security, emotional wellbeing, trust, recognition and acceptance Link to tātaiako concepts of Ako, Tangata Whenuatanga

23 Tribal classroom  Primitive social instincts linked to survival  Fostering bonding, attachment, group cohesion  Democratic leadership Underlying principles:  Connection & belonging  Security  Shared values & responsibilities  Link to Tātaiako concepts, Whanaungatanga, Manaakitanga

24 Linking Tribal & Invisible classroom principles Safety -physical & emotional The neural circuitry that assesses the environment for danger also serves as the infrastructure of attachment. Physical safety, attachment security, and learning are interdependent processes. Plasticity is maximised and students learn best when they feel physically safe.

25 Additionally….  Joyfulness - 3 things that light up the brain for learning: Physical Exercise, Laughter, Singing  Emotional regulation – ability to articulate and acknowledge feelings

26 Secure attachment Safe, stimulating, joyful environment stable and well regulated emotions = conditions for learning in infants and in adolescents, the essential conditions for learning are the same…

27 The goal of attachment-based teaching is to have each infant, child, adolescent move from feeling vulnerable, frightened, and unimportant to feeling protected, cared for and valued - The state of mind that optimizes learning. - Louis Colozino (2013)

28 Principles of Connectivism Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions. Learning combines cognitive and emotional processes Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources. Learning may reside in non-human appliances. Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning. Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill. Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities. Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

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