Educational neuroscience presents many opportunities and challenges for educators. Through brain imaging technologies we now know that the brain changes constantly as a result of learning and remains ‘plastic’ throughout life. We’re also beginning to better understand the unique ways in which boys’ and girls’ brains function. This research can help us to understand and raise boys.
This is not to say that the brain development of all boys and all girls is identical, but new functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) research shows that there are some consistent patterns.
Many aspects can impact on a boys’ neurological development that significantly affect how they engage with their schooling. We’ve identified six key aspects here:
- Prefrontal cortex: The area responsible for cognitive processes is the last area of the brain to fully mature, and it occurs later in boys.
- Neurological architecture: The areas associated with language and communication (corpus callosum, Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area) are significantly different in boys.
- Hippocampus: The hippocampus plays a key role in the formation and retrieval of long-term memory. It is significantly smaller in males and has a slower speed of neuron transmission.
- Boys are visual learners: Above all of their other senses, boys tend to rely more on their visual cortex for gathering information.
- Serotonin: Levels of serotonin in boys’ brains are substantially lower and decline temporarily during adolescence. This is compounded by a surge in testosterone around the age of ten which interplays with serotonin.
- Get moving: Movement can act as a neuro-stimulator and a calming mechanism for boys.
It’s important to emphasise that boys and girls have equal opportunities for achieving success in their schooling, but what neuroscience shows us is how they get there can be different.
It is also clear that for both boys and girls, the adolescent brain is far from mature, and undergoes extensive structural changes well past puberty. Adolescence remains an extremely important period in terms of emotional development, partly due to a surge of hormones in the brain, combined with an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex which is responsible for logical and moral reasoning.
At Trinity, we are wholehearted in our belief in the benefits of an all-boys’ education. Our holistic approach to learning recognises the close interdependence of boys’ cognitive, social, emotional, creative, physical and spiritual development, and is well grounded in current neurological research. Trinity aims to nurture the very best learning environment for boys to realise their unique potential, passions and purpose in life.
If you would like to know more about Trinity’s approach to learning, download our prospectus here.
This article acknowledges the research of Associate Professor Michael Nagel and the OECD Centre for Educational Research and Innovation.