Samantha Dockray

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Bookended by puberty and culturally defined adult roles, it is now established that adolescence extends from age 10 to age 24. Funded by the National Forum SATLE2019 scheme, and launched during VIT&L 2021 week, the new Canvas course Brainpower developed by Dr. Eithne Hunt (Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy / Graduate Attributes Programme, UCC); Dr. Samantha Dockray (Applied Psychology, UCC); and Professor Yvonne Nolan (Anatomy & Neuroscience, UCC) with input from students and higher education staff explores the ramifications of this research and gives participants an opportunity to reflect on what this information may mean for them within their work or role in higher education.

The inner workings of the adolescent brain and how these workings develop and are expressed in behaviours and engagement with the external world have been the focus of an explosion of research inquiry. Seated in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, cognitive abilities such as decision-making, planning, self-control, social interaction and self-awareness are only fully developed by the mid-twenties. In addition, the brain regions governing risk-taking and reward are intensely active in adolescence, and so influence behaviour, which is also shaped by context and expectations of others.

To realise student success, higher education (HE) institutions must take into account that the majority of their students are still adolescents, without fully developed cognitive, social, emotional and self-regulatory capacities, living and learning in a socio-cultural environment that offers less external regulation than ever before. The knowledge that many students in higher education are in developmental transition spotlights opportunities to construct academic and campus contexts that supports this transition.

Brainpower is a free, online, self-paced course, focusing on harnessing the power and potential of adolescent brain and behaviour for enhanced learning, wellbeing and student success in higher education. Within each of the six modules (each approximately 60 minutes duration) there is a variety of instructive media, including recorded Panopto lectures, videos and short readings. Supplemental information in the form of suggested reading lists, podcasts, and videos is provided. The Brainpower modules are provided in a predefined sequence with content unlocked step by step. Modules will be unlocked once the previous module is completed.