Top positive review
9 people found this helpful
Should be required reading for all in the education field
on March 1, 2014
I am a teacher. A colleague recommended this book and started a book club for us to discuss it. Our district admins have long been 'believers' of 'brain science' but much of what they purport can't be supported by data or it has since been shown to be one person's bright idea that isn't accurate. Yet they still push it on us to drive our lesson planning (most of these people have little or no experience as classroom teachers). They seem to have some Hollywood-ized version of what a classroom should be. My hope is that they would reconsider their approach if they had a better understanding of 'real' brain science.
First, I have to say the title is misleading. At no point does the author ever explain why students don't like school. He leaves it up to the reader to extrapolate that from the information given. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter why they don't like school since that doesn't seem to be the goal of the book anyway. The goal seems to be to give teachers an understanding of how we learn, some insight into our motivations behind learning and the limitations to learning something new in hopes that, when designing lessons and activities, we can address these issues.
This book explains how our brains learn and why in language that's easy to understand even for those without a science background. The author only includes information that can be supported by LOTS of data (as a scientist, this is important to me). He gives many examples to illustrate his points. It saves a lot of time to have an expert in the field separate the good from the rest. He also makes recommendations for further reading on topics that he divides into 'technical' and 'less technical' with a few notes on what the paper/article is about.
Those of us who spend day after day in the classroom actually do know something about our profession. (We do seem to have the one profession where everyone seems to feel that since they spent time in school, they must understand all aspects of our jobs and be able to weigh in on how we should be doing them.) We know that some of the things others want us to do in the classroom are unrealistic. Students are unable to 'think like.....' (insert profession here). People in professions have spent years in school learning background knowledge (which students don't have) and years of experience working with and integrating that knowledge. To expect students to just be able to leap-frog over all of that hard work if only the classroom teachers could design FUN lessons that 'trick' them into learning is just unrealistic.
That's not to say that we don't have lessons where students play games, watch movies or engage in other activities that help them to remember background knowledge and integrate it by extrapolating what we've been doing in class to other problems. But it's not an instantaneous process - it takes a lot of practice and yes, some rote memory. The best days for us are when (usually weeks into a topic/unit) students are able to apply what we've been working on/with to new problems, remember how this might apply to previous topics or ask questions that show they're using the information they learned in class to apply it to new ideas. Asking students to learn a new topic through 'project-based learning' is leaving them to flail around without the proper tools and does not mimic work life for professionals in any field. I know I'm going to anger some people here and get responses that they successfully run project-based learning programs. I say good for them but I maintain that this is not appropriate for all students.
I recommend this book to anyone (educator or not) who would like to better understand how human beings learn.