This edition of NCO Professional Military Education (PME) contains a wealth of knowledge and resources on the neuroscience of adolescent brains. This page Adolescent Learning talks about the significant developmental changes that occur in the brain up until the age of 25. It identifies strategies on how to teach, discipline and communicate with adolescents and will also give you an insight into the inner working of your own brain.

First, read through the article about adolescent learning. Then, at the same link, watch the short video about youth brain development, behaviour and learning. Lastly, also at the same link, listen to the short Cove Clip which contains the key points out of the CoveTalk on adolescent learning COL Brad Kilpatrick, CSC.

Want More?

Listen to the full CoveTalk on adolescent learning by COL Kilpatrick. This provides considerable detail into how the human brain operates and how the function of the adolescent brain is different to that of an adult.

Complete the ‘Understanding Our Younger Workforce’ ADELE online course module contained in the article. This will give you a good understanding on how to work most effectively with adolescents. This is a great course for those working in training establishments and anyone in a leadership position.

Discussion Questions

  1. Considering the majority of our training force are adolescents, do you think our ADF training systems and reward systems account for working with the adolescent brain? Why or why not?
  2. Have you experienced trainees, junior soldiers or officers use the emotional part of their brain in difficult or stressful situations? What was the situation and what was the outcome? What happened once they ‘cooled down’?
  3. Of course we can all fall into the trap of letting the emotional part of our brains take over when under stress. Can you think of a time this has happened to you? What was the situation, what happened, how did you feel and what was the result? How did you feel when you revisited the situation after you had cooled down?
  4. Do you feel that the information in this article and video is correct? Have you found that the way you react and respond to situations are different now compared to when you were an adolescent?
  5. Should we change the segment of the population we recruit from and aim for a slightly older candidate with more life experience, similar to the civil police force?
  6. How much should we tailor the way we train people to the people we are training. Now that we are more aware of the neuroscience of adolescent learning, should we adjust the way we educate them?
  7. Have you ever adjusted the way you have taught someone or dealt with a situation based on the age of the person/people you were dealing with?
  8. Do you think we should change the way we deal with people based on their age? Does this have the potential to lead to problems?
  9. Do you think this study gives adolescents an excuse to behave poorly? How do we avoid this from happening?
  10. Is there anything you have learnt about teaching or dealing with adolescents from this PME? Are there any strategies you may try to use in the future to better communicate messages or better instruct?

Other Activities

If you enjoyed this activity, why not try the other PMEs available on The Cove?

Want more material? For JNCOs to conduct with their soldiers, here is a link to our Quick Military Education resources. For Junior Officers here is a link to our Junior Officer PME sessions.

Concluding Comments

If you have suggestions for improvements – additional readings or reference material, alternative discussion points, new delivery methods – or just wish to provide feedback, please contact The Cove Team via

Here are the Facilitator Notes for this PME.