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Showing 11-20 of 130 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 176 reviews
on January 17, 2016
I really liked this book. It is written by a cognitive scientist. I bought the book as sort of a fun read after a semester of reading books for classes. It seemed like a good title. Who wouldn't want to know why students don't like school? The book ends up being more about how brain functions affect what happens in school. It doesn't answer the question of why students don't like school as much as it does give positive advice about how to help students like school and be successful. There were a few concepts in the book that were counter intuitive and surprising. For example, one of the ideas that goes against current style is the idea that students need to have background knowledge before they can do things like critical thinking. At the end of each chapter, the author gives some professional sources that delve deeper into the topics. If you are involved in education and like to think about how brain functions affect school, this is the book for you.
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on March 20, 2015
This is one of those books that I will talk about to anyone who shows passing interest. Willingham's explanations of how we learn and the cognitive science of our brains make so much sense. As a veteran teacher, I would find myself reading a section and thinking, "That's why that happens!" He also does a great job linking the science of thought and memory to practical classroom application.
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on April 17, 2017
I liked this book so much, I'm using it as a book study for teachers. It's very specific--both with background and how to approach the particular issue in the classroom. It's based on research.
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on November 8, 2012
In his time of getting an undergrad at my RDU area neighbor Duke University, a PhD at my not affiliated whatsoever (but much superior to my undergrad and grad schools) far to the north neighbor Harvard University, and a teaching position at the University of Virginia, author Daniel T. Willingham has put together a healthy collection of cognitive psychology books based on education. Being a fan of both the worlds of education and brain science (maybe to solve the mystery of what happened to all that information I put in during decades of education), I thought it was a good idea when the professional development class I took over this summer required us to read Willingham's book Why Don't Students Like School? I realize the question that title poses seems strangely enough both convoluted and pretty obvious. But it turns out... it's just convoluted.

Why Don't Students Like School? gives some great insight for teachers; insight that often seems completely unintuitive until you read through the research based explanations Willingham gives. This title is a little misleading, though, without the very sub-subtitle (one that looks more like credits than a title) A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions about how the Mind Works and What it Means for the Classroom. It's packed with information that can't be piled into one representative main topic (besides maybe just... education), but one of the most talked about topics was that, regardless of what most education books of the day will tell you, there are two tools of pedagogy that work better than anything else to build competent students with the best ability to take in and truly understand new knowledge: factual learning and practice... (i.e. memorizing dates in history, formulas in math, and practicing until and after we've got it all down). Huh? Isn't that exactly what we've been doing for time immemorial and are now leaving? Yes. What about teaching test taking strategies and research strategies so students can do well on state-mandated tests? Sad answer to this is, it might help them a little on these tests, but it hurts them in their memorization and application skills later in life... It's like cramming; it does work if all you're looking for that information to do is give you a passing grade on a test.

Willingham and others' research has said that in order to build analysis skills that will last (which is virtually all students learn in school today... at least the temporary kind) they need the background information that we are presently too busy to teach them. The education debate between teaching more subject content or more learning strategies has already been won - by learning strategies (it even has a more politically correct name), but this research is saying, wait, we're teaching them so they can have better lives, right? Not just so our school system can have more 4/4's on the End of Grade Test than the next...

I'm not going to say the whole book was great, cover to cover. Probably a third of it was a really good read and the rest was stuff many of us (certainly teachers) have heard or read in school (college and job) many times. By the way, while it's a comparatively small topic in the book, he does give a reason for the main title being what it is. Our brains don't like to learn. We spend a third of our brains' energy consumption on vision alone, and they do whatever they can to stop from using more for thought. They do so by supplementing a lot of that thought with memory, hence the reason why we need to get information into memory. Then, we can use our full amount of working-memory (or thinking) to figure out what we don't know.

I think this came out as less of a review of Willingham's book and more of a pedagogical rant backed up by his research. Either way, I enjoyed it.
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on January 26, 2014
The title of this book "why don't students like school" suggests that this is just yet another book about how sucks the schooling system is, and what should basically be changed. The book has very little with that. The secondary title "A cognitive scientist answers questions about how the mind works, and what it means for the classroom" describes the content of the book quite well.

Based on scientific research, we can now point out various things that can make teaching and learning less effective. Being aware of that would improve teaching and learning. Understanding more about the way our brain acquires knowledge and cognitive abilities should help teachers, and should help learners to stay away from "new age" methods that have no scientific support.
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on February 17, 2012
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Written by a professor with a Harvard PhD in cognitive science, this book offers scientific credibility and common sense teaching tips.

Cognitive science and our own personal experiences tell us that the more we know about almost any topic, the easier it is to learn more about it. We have mental hooks to hang ideas on.

Simplifying the instructions, chunking the information into smaller, related parts, designing lessons to come across as stories, asking students to think about the meaning of what they have learned, and yes--repetition-- are just a few of the tools Willingham presents.

Willingham is not promoting rote memorization, he is promoting ways to give students the background information they need to move forward.

There is nothing earth-shakingly new here, but this is a well-written and thoughtful book. Willingham's own teaching experiences give him faith in other educators' knowledge and intuition. He states straight-out: "craft knowledge trumps science." [pg 164]

If, like me, you are a learner-centric educator, you will probably like this book.

Kim Burdick
Stanton, DE
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on May 20, 2011
I like this book and it is quite thought provoking for me. I understand not all agree with the ideas presented here, but I think it is more than safe to say may "do" like what is being presented. I would imagine that even the critics of the book, writing reviews here, are keen to learn and were keen through their life - hence the criticism. I love to think. I know many people who do indeed love to think. Thinking is very rewarding for thinkers. Thinking about the joys of thinking may only yield one conclusion: that thinking is enjoyable. This would be a conclusion that thinkers may make.

I am a Canadian. I have been traveling and teaching internationally for the best part of two decades now. I see, in various cultures, that thinking is a cultural "thing". In the Middle East, where I currently teach, students have not been equipped to think as we have in the west, in general. Yes, a lot of knowledge does exist here. There are very clever Middle East residents. Many lack the drive to think. I have never seen a student, at the college where I teach, carry a book (for personal interest) in my six years here. They say, quite clearly, that they don't like to think. Not all. Many.

I had the chance to teach in Tanzania as well. Similar story BUT without the wealth there was more drive to seek education as it was a ticket to a good life. People needed to work hard to rise there.

In Japan, where I also taught, most students would carry a book and loved to discuss and contemplate various issues and cultures within the world.

I think that the introduction is not where this books stops. It goes beyond stating that people don't like to think, it goes way beyond this first page which may have been (may be) what sets people off the book here in reviews - but the book is a brilliant one. It acknowledges that perhaps naturally without modern 21st century Maslow needs meeting most in the west, we may not be as inclined to think.

The book ends with advice on how educators can help students like learning, and thinking, more. I see no harm in that, at all. I have worked with a lot of very unmotivated students, ones that had not done well in K-12 and are in college as in the Middle East this is what happens regardless of K-12 performance (in many cases) and the ideas in this book are immediately useful.

Its a darn good book. Not pseudoscience at all. It's stuff to think about. That's it.
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on April 6, 2015
This book has taken me quite a while to read. Many aspects have sent me off down rabbit holes looking for more to read. Some ideas challenged my thoughts and experiences from the classroom. At times, I just had to put it down and let my mind dwell on ideas for a while. I will need to blog about parts of this to fully form my thoughts on this book, but I certainly want all teachers that I work with now and in the future to have read this. The structure was brilliant with each chapter providing implications for the classroom based on the cognitive principles explained. Thanks for challenging and expanding my thoughts on education.
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on August 2, 2010
A very readable book, you don't need to have a graduate degree in neurobiology to understand and appreciate it. The author carefully explains the cognitive scientists research about the brain and learning, including how new information is learned and then stored (or, too often not stored) in long term memory. It has profound implications for the classroom, and every teacher should read this early in their teaching career. The author does not enter into the political fray and spout off about a "core curriculum", but he does strongly advocate teaching content knowledge and skills. He doesn't address some of the other reasons why children, especially minority children, don't like school, but then there are other authors like Lisa Delpit, Herbert Kohl, Jonathan Kozol, and others who have contributed valuable reading on education reform and culturally respectful teaching. I don't think one book by one author will give all the answers to the incredibly complex human process of learning, but this author has done an admirable job explaining some of the reasons why Johnny can read and remember just enough to fill in the multiple choice answers on the test, then forget everything the next day!
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on March 6, 2016
I loved this book. It brings together a significant amount of cognitive research to the subject of education. It should be required reading for every teacher at every level.
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