Thursday, July 30, 2009

Why Don't Students Like School

I just read Daniel T. Willingham's new book, Why Don't Students Like School?. The book doesn't really answer the title question comprehensively--there's nothing about bullying, negative social pressure, unpleasant teachers, getting up early day after day, etc. However, it's a very readable (considering it's by a cognitive psychology professor) book about what science has found out about how the human brain works and how those insights can be applied to education.

The parts of the book I found most useful were about "working memory"(the average human brain can only consciously deal with a limited number of facts at a time, so it's better to "chunk" the information pieces together or have practiced recall of the information pieces to the point where they are automatically available to the working memory as needed), intelligence is malleable (so praise kids for their effort, not for "being smart"), lessons should be planned so that the students will think about what you actually want them to remember instead of the nifty attention-grabber that doesn't have any important meaning, and students should be given tasks that are just the right level of do-able challenge for them (too little challenge, and they're bored; too much, and they'll give up).

Besides the above, there is much interesting and helpful information in Willingham's book. I recommend this important book about how humans think and learn to anyone who is teaching or raising children.

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