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227 of 237 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Don't They Teach This Stuff in Ed School?, March 20, 2009
This review is from: Why Don't Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom (Hardcover)
Factual knowledge must precede skill. Rote learning and memorization are valuable teaching strategies. Teaching to "multiple intelligences," "learning styles," and individual student interests is a waste of time. Is this really a cognitive psychologist talking?

The answer is yes, and Dr. Willingham should be knighted for flouting some of the most persistent lies about what constitutes "best practice" in the classroom these days. I just attended the ASCD's national conference in Florida last week, and while there was much blathering about brain research, teaching to the "whole child," and professional learning communities (the latest cult movement among education bureaucrats), there was precious little discussion about substantive teaching. In just 165 pages, Dr. Willingham presents more useful information than I've managed to glean in ten years of teacher-training, and he does so in a user-friendly, non-dogmatic style that can be read in one sitting.

Most useful are the nine organizing principles, which are both memorable and quotable (like any smart rhetorician, Willingham begins with his most startling fact: the brain is designed not to help us think, but rather to help us avoid thinking), the quick lists of classroom implications at the conclusion of each chapter, and the bibliographical citations categorized by "less technical" and "more technical." Rather than using cognitive research to justify some hotly promoted fad or gimmick, Dr. Willingham presents the most consistent research findings, all of which tend to confirm things that the best and most experienced teachers already know to be true--e.g. the effectiveness of using narratives to dramatize and illustrate important concepts, a "best practice" that's been around since at least the time of Christ.

In the current professional culture of education, searching for honest information about cognitive psychology--that is, information free of commercial or ideological bias--is like searching for a fast-food restaurant that doesn't use trans-fat. Thanks to Dr. Willingham for delivering the goods.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 13, 2009 11:39:08 PM PDT
Hamada Kaido says:
im not a formal educator but i support that point about 'using narratives' to teach. this is surely one of the most powerful ways to get complex and simple concepts across to the greatest group of people at once. i am sure that most people that review how they best learned things will support this. now some things are too complex to use this method but that only really comes about in specialized higher domains of learning that most people only encounter in graduate school IMO.

Posted on Apr 28, 2014 11:08:59 PM PDT
Hans Arp says:
Actually, we did read him in Ed School and the consensus among my circle was that Willingham was profoundly misguided because he could not see the forest for the trees.
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