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The neuroscience working on the development of the adolescent brain has existed for some time now and will progress much more in the near future (Steinberg, 2010). It’s a period of an individual’s lifetime, somewhere between childhood and adulthood that includes major changes socially, psychologically, and physically (Ernst, Hardin & Pine, 2006). Some studies show that adolescents should experience a linear development of their way of thinking and an increase in their maturity due to the development of their prefrontal cortex, which assures a steady transition from childhood to adulthood. However, according to the National Centre on Health Statistics, there is a non-linear change in adolescents’ behavior that is far different than that of children and adults. It seems that the prefrontal cortex is not the only component that can determine the growth pattern of an adolescent brain (Casey, Hare & Jones, 2008). Peer pressure may also be a reason for adolescents’ erratic and non-linear behavior and attitude that can lead to either negative or positive (Mostly negative) results.

Peer pressure, also known as social pressure, is when an individual is influenced by a group of people, or peers, to exhibit a different behavior, attitude, or values in order to accommodate the influencing peers. Results may vary; they may fluctuate between the positive and the negative. Usually, individuals are part of a specific clique or party when they’re exposed to peer pressure. However, that may not always be the case. In some cases, individuals are not necessarily members, or even seeking any kind of membership to be affected by social pressure. Although positive effects are present, negative effects cannot be ignored either, especially now in the cyber age, where peer pressure is not confined to face-to-face interactions. With the rise of social media, both adults and adolescents may experience peer pressure every day (Jang, Park & Song, 2016).

Speaking of adolescents, adolescence may be the time when peer pressure is most effective. It’s where peer pressure exerts its influence the most on the malleable adolescent brain (Steinberg & Monahan, 2007). It also has a major impact on adolescents’ susceptibility to consume drugs and alcohol. It was found that peer pressure is associated with increased substance, drug, and marijuana use among adolescents, and evidence was shown that use is correlated to a friend, adult, or older sibling, which can be different when it comes to the use’s magnitude across the growing stages of an adolescent between middle and high school (Schuler, Tucker, Pederson & D’Amico, 2019). Such influence needs to be prevented in middle schools and such prevention needs to be retained all the way throughout high school (Vilanti, Boulay & Juon, 2011); there are many ways to do so, including a technique called “peer influence resistive skills”, which aids a person to comprehend and decline the use of illegal substances while keeping their connections to the peer group they belong to. Another technique is for the teachers themselves to call for intervention and raise awareness amongst students of adolescent age about the dangers and negative health effects of substance abuse (Foxcroft & Tsertsvadze 2012). As mentioned before, social media now plays a bigger role than ever in establishing peer pressure on people even when they are not directly involved in any group of peers in frequent face-to-face interactions. 3 billion people globally use social media around the world, which causes data related to its effect to vary between countries (Williams, 2019).

Adolescents are more prone than any other age demographic to take risks in their lives, like taking drugs, smoking, drinking, texting while driving, or any sexually risky behavior (Steinberg, 2008). Research has shown that although teens and adolescents are very likely to engage in risky behavior, they are actually very capable of evaluating risk; however, in recent years, results emerging from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have shown that there are several changing that occur in the human brain during puberty (Blakemore, 2012). Further studies have also shown that the adolescent brain is more sensitive when it comes to rewards in the form of peer relationships than the brains of adults, which in turn forces them to concentrate on their peers when it comes to committing behaviors and making irrational decisions (Albert, Chein & Steinberg 2013). Additionally, more results indicated that adolescents can become more distressed if they feel like they’re being excluded by their peers. The right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) in the brain plays a role in downregulating distress (Sebastian, Viding, Williams & Blakemore, 2010). It is very important to help people overcome distressful situations like exclusion by peers. Adults are more capable of using that part of their brain than adolescents, due to the fact that the PFC is still in development during adolescence, and thus not very effective in battling the negative effects of peer pressure and exclusion, which explains why young teens are more likely to instead engage in risky behavior to please their peers to avoid getting excluded by them (Blakemore & Mills, 2014). Thirdly, there is another area of the brain that may play a role in the erratic behavior displayed by adolescents, called the lateral prefrontal cortex. That part of the brain is the reason people mature and it gradually grows during the time of adolescence (Albert, Chein & Steinberg 2013).

A study was conducted between early adolescents, late adolescents, and adults, which consisted of a computerized driving test. Results have shown that when doing the test with friends near them, early and late adolescents’ driving became much riskier with the presence of their friends, while adults’ driving was not impacted whether they were by themselves or with friends (Gardner & Steinberg, 2005). Teachers need to ameliorate their relationships with their adolescent students in order for the latter to have a lower probability of engaging in risky behavior; the more negative the relationship is, the more likely adolescents are prone to risky behavior. Other factors associated with risky behavior may include their families’ gender, their income, their social status, or their receipt of special services (Rudasill, Reio, Stipanovic & Taylor, 2010).

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Cooperative learning is a learning technique aiming to increase the learning capacity of students by forming student-centered small groups, aided by teachers. This strategy is utilized to encourage interactions between students and work together to achieve goals, solve problems, and/or find a solution (Li & Lam, 2002). The structure of social interaction and the learning activities are usually constructed by the teachers themselves (Kagan, 1989; Li & Lam, 2002). Cooperative learning is very useful for students and can exponentially increase their capability to absorb information and achieve more significant results by working as a team (Johnson, Johnson & Holubec, 1994).

When it comes to the origins of cooperative learning, one might assume it was theorized by social theorists after the Second World War such as Allport, Shaw, and Mead. They realized that working together as a group is a tool to obtain more efficient results than working alone, hence the theory of cooperative learning was invented (Gilles & Adrian, 2003). The modern version of cooperative learning theory however was most probably established by psychologists John Dewey, and Morton Deutsh among others. Dewey especially thought that the student would benefit much more from the learning process if they personally got engaged in the acquisition of information rather than being an idle receiver of such information. Furthermore, he hypothesizes that students, adolescent ones especially, need to learn skills from cooperative learning that they could use outside the classroom, in a society where democracy dominates (Sharan, 2010). Lewin in turn established that the betterment of the relationship between members of a group can further assure a substantial success rate and reach the desired learning goal. Moreover, Deutsh has contributed to cooperative learning by defining positive independence; every student must realize that they have to contribute to the group of people they are working with and increase their knowledge (Sharan, 2010).

Misguided cooperative learning in schools could be detrimental to students in their adolescent years. Lack of teacher intervention could cause a faulty cooperative learning attempt, which causes the effects of peer pressure to show, where the majority of peers grouped together apply their social pressure on an adolescent. That in turn could lead to risky behavior in said adolescent that can itself bring about many erroneous actions in an attempt to succumb to peer pressure and please them, including drugs, smoking, and drinking (Steinberg, 2008). Many of these activities end up inducing the adolescent’s undoing. The most integral aspect of cooperative learning is for the students to work as a robust unit to reach their team goals. (Li & Lam, 2002). There are 5 factors that assure the most accurate execution of cooperative learning. Those factors include positive independence, in which a group that works together assures their success both on an individual and a group basis (Choi, Johnson & Johnson, 2011; Johnson, Johnson & Houlbec 1998), accountability of individuals and groups, face-to-face promotive interaction, group processing and finally making sure the students know some small group skills (Johnson, Johnson & Houlbec 1998).

An example of peer pressure and risk-taking is the following: a boy was about to start his assignment that was due the next day when a group of friends came over and wanted to hang out. Peer pressure may cause that child to prefer hanging out with his friends and pleasing them instead of doing what needs to be done and that’s doing his homework on time to avoid getting penalized. To avoid peer pressure, the boy must avoid the risk and not comply with his friends’ requests and instead focus on his studying goals. This is where the teachers should intervene. They should teach adolescents all about time management and organizing their time to be able to do their work on time and in turn, have some free time to engage in social activities to keep their relationship with their peers strong, without actually negatively affecting their work-rate and studies. It is essential for adolescents to understand the value of time and benefit from being able to manipulate it to their liking, where as previously mentioned, can achieve their study goals without damaging it due to the effects of peer pressure, avoiding taking an unnecessary risk in the process.

Regarding cooperative learning, for example, a student trying to learn by himself would be much more difficult than when associated with peers who share the positive independence discussed earlier. Positive independence could prove useful because it is defined as the awareness that a student is responsible to learn and share his skill and information with his group, facilitating the learning process. Just like that, learning becomes much easier for student encompassed in groups, who individually share with the rest of their peers what they know of the goal they are working on achieving in order to get one step closer to actually sow the fruits of their labor. Working together as a unit can prove indispensable to reaching a learning goal or setting at a much faster, much steadier rate. The healthier the relationship is between the members of that group, the better the result they obtain.

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