How the Teenage Brain Responds to Learning

The brain of a teenager is in a period of significant growth and development. By 6 years of age, the brain is about 95% of its maximum size, which it goes on to reach at 11.5 years in girls and 14.5 years in boys. This does not, however, mean maximum maturity! Our brains may carry on developing through our twenties and even until the age of 30.

The brain consists of grey matter, the ‘thinking part’, and white matter, the ‘information highways’. The volume of grey matter peaks in girls at 11 and boys at 13, then starts to decline. It matures by a push-and-pull process of pruning, whereby new pathways can develop, or be pruned back, all shaped enormously by one’s experiences.


This is where education comes in – with grey matter it really is a case of use it or lose it! If you feed your brain with knowledge and diverse experiences during your teenage years it really will grow differently.

However, good educators understand that their role is to feed the brain with this knowledge in the most effective and rewarding way possible. Did you know that the teenage brain can only concentrate on the same thing for relatively short periods of time, primarily due to neurobiology rather than laziness or bad behaviour ?

Dr Iroise Dumontheil of University College London’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience has said:
“It is not always easy for adolescents to pay attention in class without letting their minds wander, or to ignore distractions from their younger sibling when trying to solve a maths problem.”

Moreover, the frontal lobe of the brain is the last area to mature. This is the home of planning, organization, judgment, impulse control and reasoning – which is why adult guidance is so obviously essential!

All these factors are also why a clever teacher will mix up the lesson content and structure revision into bite-sized pieces for maximum efficacy. Furthermore, it is why wise parents will understand the value of dedicated revision classes where the teaching is aimed at providing maximum support for this remarkable age group.

To ensure that your teenager learns in an environment that is exclusively tailored to their needs, please contact us on 0207 112 4832 or email [email protected].