[semester equivalent = 2.00 credits]



Brenda McKinney



What’s going on in there? This is a question every parent and teacher of a teen has asked. No one expected the answer that the teen brain was keeping secrets-big ones at that. What scientists found took everyone by surprise; indeed, the adolescent brain was undergoing a dynamic transformation getting ready itself for adulthood. Even more shocking was the information that the brain keeps developing into the twenties.
This is your chance to discover that the old culprits: rebellion, exuberance and hormones are not the only answers. In this course you will learn about the teen brain, how to navigate the abrupt shifts in emotion and behavior and still be an effective teacher.
Now is the time to unlock adolescent thinking and behavior by explaining the biological changes happening in the teenage brain. The practical side of this exciting class is to provide strategies for creating a more academically AND emotionally productive classroom. Don’t miss this opportunity to find out the secrets that have eluded teachers since teenagers have been going to school!


LEARNING OUTCOMES: Upon completion of this course, participants will have:

  1. Explored key findings of the adolescent brain.
  2. Gained an understanding of the neurological and behavioral changes in the brain.
  3. Gained an understanding of the impact of drugs and other risk taking behaviors.
  4. Experienced effective teaching strategies to effectively work with teens.
  5. Learned positive ways to communicate and stay grounded with teens.
  6. Learned facts and research that topple assumptions previously held about the teen brain.
  7. Developed strategies you can use immediately.
  8. Discovered ways to transform your classroom to take advantage of those ever changing teen brains.

Completion of all specified assignments is required for issuance of hours or credit.  The Heritage Institute does not award partial credit. 


Completing the basic assignments (Section A. Information Acquisition) for this course automatically earns participant’s their choice of CEUs (Continuing Education Units), or Washington State Clock Hours or Oregon PDUs. The Heritage Institute offers CEUs and is an approved provider of Washington State Clock Hours and Oregon PDUs.



Continuing Education Quarter credits are awarded by Antioch University Seattle (AUS). AUS requires 75% or better for credit at the 400 level and 85% or better to issue credit at the 500 level. These criteria refer both to the amount and quality of work submitted.

  1. Completion of Information Acquisition assignments 30%
  2. Completion of Learning Application assignments 40%
  3. Completion of Integration Paper assignment 30%


CREDIT/NO CREDIT (No Letter Grades or Numeric Equivalents on Transcripts)
Antioch University Seattle (AUS) Continuing Education Quarter credit is offered on a Credit/No Credit basis; neither letter grades nor numeric equivalents are on a transcript. 400 level credit is equal to a "C" or better, 500 level credit is equal to a "B" or better. This information is on the back of the transcript.

AUS Continuing Education quarter credits may or may not be accepted into degree programs. Prior to registering determine with your district personnel, department head or state education office the acceptability of these credits for your purpose.



Feinstein, Cheryl. Secrets of the Teenage Brain.  2009. Corwin Press.  ISBN 1-890460-42-7.

  • Secrets of the Teenage Brain: Research-Based Strategies for Reaching and Teaching Today's Adolescents
    ISBN# 1620878771
    by Feinstein, Sheryl G., Jensen, Eric

    Buy from Amazon


Text, Secrets of the Teenage Brain, is approximately $14 on



Assignment #1: Introduction.

Introduce yourself with a background profile. What led you to choose teaching as your profession? Describe your current professional situation. What brings you the most joy in your work? What led you to choose this class? What outcomes do you hope to achieve through this coursework?
Send to instructor:, Subject line to read ‘Teen #1.’

Assignment #2: A Different Brain.

In the text, Secrets of the Teenage Brain, read and summarize pages 1-48. Respond in a 1-2-page paper. Pay special attention to the teen brain under construction and what that means for you in the classroom. Watch the link at: to learn about the neuroanatomical transformation. What are the structural and development differences in the teen brain? What role do chemicals and hormones play in the differences? What role do emotions play in this process? What areas of the brain are involved in the survival brain, the thinking brain, and the feeling brain? Why is it critical to understand the connection between how teens spend their time and hard wiring the brain? What portions of this reading provided new information for you?  What was the most informational for you?
Send to instructor:, Subject line to read ‘Teen #2.’

Assignment #3: About Emotional Impact.

Read and review the section on the social brain and emotional upheavals of teen behavior pages 49-75. Then respond to the following with a 2-page paper: What did you learn about how emotions impact learning? What did you learn about the conflicting role of needing adult approval but pushing them away? Watch the link at: to understand how typically "teenage" behavior is caused by the growing and developing brain. Why do teens have trouble mastering and controlling impulses? Why is teen behavior driven by pursuit of pleasure? Why are memory and emotions so closely connected and the significance for teens and learning? What are the most significant findings in this section for you?
Send to instructor:, Subject line to read ‘Teen #3.’

Assignment #4: Self Esteem.

Read pages 77-97 to understand the mental upheavals teens experience and how the behavior affects their school performance. Focus on why their self esteem is under attack. Then respond to the following with a 1-2-page paper. Watch the link at: to understand how brain development affects behavior. Why do teens experience emotions that they cannot articulate? Why are teens more vulnerable to stress? Why does the teen brain react emotionally without any logical strategies? Why does the teen brain rely more on the amygdala than the frontal lobes? What adjustments will you need to make to adjust to the highs and lows of the teen brain?
Send to instructor:, Subject line to read ‘Teen #4.’

Assignment #5: Hormones.

Read pages 99-122. Respond to the following with a 1-page paper, graphic organizer, mind map to include the following: What is the role of the brain vs. hormones?Watch the link at: to understand hormones and the brain. What role do hormones play in the erratic behavior of teens?What is the significance of early/late maturation in boys and girls? What is the role of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine? What is the role of food and sleep in learning problems with teens? What can you do specifically within your grade level/teaching assignment to encourage learning?
Send to instructor:, Subject line to read ‘Teen #5.’

Assignment #6: Vulnerable to Addictions.

Read pages 125-145 to learn why teens do sometimes thoughtless things. Respond to the following with a 1-page paper, graphic organizer, mind map: What is a dopamine rush and why is this so significant? Why are teens so vulnerable to addiction and why are teen addictions hard to break? Watch the link at: to observe the effects of alcohol and drugs on the brain. What parts of the brain are involved with this reckless behavior? What would you like to change in your classroom to address the risk taking behaviors?
Send to instructor:, Subject line to read ‘Teen #6.’



In this section you will apply your learning to your professional situation.  This course assumes that most participants are classroom teachers who have access to students.  If you are not teaching in a classroom, please contact the instructor for course modifications.  If you are a classroom teacher and start or need to complete this course during the summer, please try to apply your ideas when possible with youth from your neighborhood, at a local public library or parks department facility,  (they will often be glad to sponsor community-based learning), or with students in another teacher’s summer classroom in session.

Assignment #7: Lesson Development.

Assignment #7-A:
  • Develop an action plan for one aspect of your teaching and teen brains reflecting on what you have learned in this course.
  • Adapt a lesson based on what is most effective for the teen brain.
  • Teach the lesson. 
  • Write a 250-500 word commentary on what worked well and what could be improved.
  • Include any student feedback on your lesson.
  • Share what you’ve learned with other teachers taking our courses by also contributing your Lesson to The Heritage Institute Lesson Library at
  • You may download a copy of THI's lesson plan template at
  • Send your modified lesson and your commentary via email to your instructor.
Send to instructor:, Subject line to read ‘Teen #7-A.’
Assignment #7-B: Use this option if you do not have a classroom available.
  • Adapt a lesson to reflect what you’ve learned in this course. (Do not implement it.)
  • Share what you’ve learned with other teachers taking our courses by contributing your Lesson to The Heritage Institute Lesson Library at
  • You may download a copy of THI's lesson plan template at
  • Write a 500+ word article concerning any noteworthy success you’ve had as a teacher with one or more students.
  • Please refer to the guidelines on our blog What Works: Teaching at its Best prior to writing your article. (
  • When you submit your article to your instructor, please also email a copy to Yvonne Hall, THI blog curator and media specialist.
  • Indicate whether or not you are OK with having your article considered for publishing on our website.  
  • Submit your modified lesson along with your article via email to your instructor.  
Send to instructor:, Subject line to read ‘Teen #7-B.’

Assignment #8: List Changes.

Using the instructional strategies listed throughout the text, choose your favorite strategies and how they will help you walk the walk with the teens in your life/classroom. What are 20 specific changes that you would like to implement in the coming year? If you are taking this in the summer, what changes will you make, what are the expected results? Write a 1-page paper listing the changes.
Send to instructor:, Subject line to read ‘Teen #8.’

Assignment #9: Share Your Learning.

Share with a colleague what you have learned and how you will implement changes. Encourage someone else to adopt and understand the critical components of this learning. Develop a discussion with other teachers at your school. Write a 1-page summary of the context of the discussion.
Send to instructor:, Subject line to read ‘Teen #9.’

Assignment #10: (500 Level ONLY)

In addition to the 400 level assignments, complete one (1) of the following assignment options:
Option A)  Visit a “choice” school in your region and sit in on one or more classes observing teen behaviors. Write a 1-2-page response connecting your observations with your learning on the teen brain.
Send to instructor:, Subject line to read ‘Teen #10-A.’
Option B) Create a PowerPoint presentation for your staff based on this course and focused on perspectives that would be beneficial for your school. Save this as a PDF.
Send to instructor:, Subject line to read ‘Teen #10-B.’
Option C)  Complete a 2-page paper explaining your insight into the mysteries of the teen brain.
Send to instructor:, Subject line to read ‘Teen #10-C.’ 


Assignment #11: (Required for 400 and 500 Level)

(Please do not write this paper until you've completed all of your other assignments)

  1. What did you learn vs. what you expected to learn from this course?
  2. What aspects of the course were most helpful and why?
  3. What further knowledge and skills in this general area do you feel you need?
  4. How, when and where will you use what you have learned?
  5. How and with what other school or community members might you share what you learned?

Send to your instructor at their email address. Subject line to read  "(put course name here) Integration Paper"


Please indicate by email to the instructor if you would like to receive comments on your assignments.


Brenda McKinney, CEO of Vancouver, WA based BrainVolution, is a developer and dynamic facilitator of workshops that teach practical thinking and learning tools for raising student achievement with the brain in mind. She has trained educators throughout the Pacific Northwest and is a popular presenter because of her ability to motivate, make things fun, and teach practical techniques for the classroom that can be used immediately. Brenda continues to read hundreds of books and articles on the subject of neuroscience and searches for the answer to success for every student. Her work with at-risk students and those with reading problems have made her a popular speaker at the state, regional and national level.

Brenda is able to synthesize the new research and continues to address the role of how to use the latest findings to create high achievement classroom. She brings 30+ years of experience at the elementary, middle school, high school and university level as a mentor teacher, consultant, motivational speaker, university instructor, and reading specialist. Brenda has her Master’s in Education from Washington State University and is nationally certified in Brain Based Learning through the renowned  Jensen Corporation, led by Eric Jensen, a noted international spokesperson for neuroscience and education.


Brenda will inspire and motivate you with her energy, enthusiasm and knowledge. Her wisdom, techniques, and brain based approach to education will inspire you and challenge you to meet the demands of this ever changing world.




Feinstein. Cheryl. Secrets of the Teenage Brain. Corwin Press. 2009. Recent advances in neuroscience technology has finally made it possible to peer inside the teen brains. The secrets have been revealed in this wonderful text. The print is user friendly and the text reads almost like a novel. Every middle school and high school teacher will find this a must read. The critical element is that though we cannot change teen behavior we can adapt our teaching to more effectively reach and teach these teen minds. This text provides the science and the practical applications.
Jensen, Eric & Carole Snider. Turnaround Tools for the Teenage Brain: Helping Underperforming Students Become Lifelong Learners. Jossey Bass. 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-118-34305-0. The latest research shows not only that brains can change, but that teachers and other providers have the power to boost students' effort, focus, attitude, and even IQs. In this book bestselling author Eric Jensen and co-author Carole Snider offer teacher-friendly strategies to ensure that all students graduate, become lifelong learners and ultimately be successful in school and life. Drawing on cutting-edge science, this breakthrough book reveals core tools to increase student effort, build attitudes, and improve behaviors.
Jensen, Frances, MD. The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults. Harper Collins. 2016. ISBN: 978-0-06-206785-2.  Dr. Jensen explores adolescent brain functioning and development in the contexts of learning and multitasking, stress and memory, sleep, addiction, and decision-making. The Teenage Brain sheds new light on the brains—and behaviors—of adolescents and young adults, and analyzes this knowledge to share specific ways in which parents, educators, and even the legal system can help them navigate their way more smoothly into adulthood.
Siegel, Daniel, MD. Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain. Penguin Books. 2013. ISBN: 978-1-101-63152-2. Between the ages of twelve and twenty-four, the brain changes in important and, at times, challenging ways. In Brainstorm, Dr. Daniel Siegel busts a number of commonly held myths about adolescence. Drawing on important new research in the field of interpersonal neurobiology, Siegel explores exciting ways in which understanding how the brain functions can improve the lives of adolescents.
Stauch, Barbara. The Primal Teen: What Discoveries about the Teenage Brain Tell Us About Our Kids. Anchor Books, 2003. This book offers cutting edge studies that now tell us the whole story about the teen brain. It is not finished growing. I like this text because it is appropriate for parents or educators. This offers critical information about the wild wacky teen brains. Find out about the blueprint for growth that shows us critical information about what happens during the teen years.
Sylwester, Robert. The Adolescent Brain. Reaching for Autonomy. Corwin Press. 2007. Sylwester always calls it like it is. In this wonderful book, he traces the biological and cultural universals in the teen life. Each chapter offers critical information from drugs to sexual activity, video games to understanding the wiring of the brain.
Walsh, David. Why Do They Act That Way? A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen. Free Press. 2004. This book reveals the latest scientific findings in easy to understand terms. Sample dialogues with parents and teens, examples of behavior contracts and an entire arsenal of strategies for parents, but teachers can benefit as well. It is powerful and practical and answers the question, “Why do they act this way?”