Book: Why Don't Students Like School?

Post date: Sep 2, 2012 11:23:42 PM

The subtitle of this book is "A cognitive scientist answers questions about how the mind works and what it means for the classroom." The author is Daniel T. Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and an expert in memory research. I highly recommend this book for any teacher, whether experienced or just starting out. It wouldn't hurt for parents to read it, too. The book is organized around nine cognitive principles, each of which satisfied the following four criteria:

  • the principle applies all of the time

  • the principle is supported by a great deal of data

  • using or ignoring the principle can have a sizable impact on student performance

  • it had to be clear how to apply the principle in the classroom

Here is a table from page 163 of the book. I've included it mostly for my own benefit. Much of it won't make sense without having read the book, but you will get the flavour of the ideas presented in the book.

Some parts of the book reinforced ideas that I've come across elsewhere and that I've incorporated into my teaching. Other parts were quite new. For instance, even though I've never given much credence to the theory of learning styles -- the notion that some children are visual learners, some are auditory learners and some are kinesthetic learners -- I thought it was an accepted truth. However, it's not an understatement to say that Willingham demolishes the theory and states that there is no evidence whatsoever to support it.

All in all, this is well worth reading for anyone involved in education.