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Why Don't Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What it Means for the Classroom [Hardcover]

Daniel T. Willingham
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 April 2009 0470279303 978-0470279304
Easy–to–apply, scientifically–based approaches for engaging students in the classroom Cognitive scientist Dan Willingham focuses his acclaimed research on the biological and cognitive basis of learning. His book will help teachers improve their practice by explaining how they and their students think and learn. It reveals–the importance of story, emotion, memory, context, and routine in building knowledge and creating lasting learning experiences. Nine, easy–to–understand principles with clear applications for the classroom Includes surprising findings, such as that intelligence is malleable, and that you cannot develop "thinking skills" without facts How an understanding of the brain′s workings can help teachers hone their teaching skills "Mr. Willingham′s answers apply just as well outside the classroom. Corporate trainers, marketers and, not least, parents –anyone who cares about how we learn–should find his book valuable reading." —Wall Street Journal

Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey Bass (7 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470279303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470279304
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 16.3 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 588,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"Drilling often conjures up images of late–19th–century schoolhouses, with students singsonging state capitals in unison without much comprehension of what they have learned," ( New York Times , 2010) "But Mr. Willingham′s answers apply just as well outside the classroom. Corporate trainers, marketers and, not least, parents –– anyone who cares about how we learn –– should find his book valuable reading." ( Wall Street Journal , April 29, 2009)


"Just like his Ask the Cognitive Scientist column, Dan Willingham′s book makes fascinating but complicated research from cognitive science accessible to teachers. It is jam packed with ideas that teachers willfind both intellectually rich and useful in their classroom work." —Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers "This readable, practical book by a distinguished cognitivescientist explains the universal roots of effective teaching and learning. With great wit and authority it practices the principles it preaches. It is the best teachers′ guide I know of—a classic that belongs in the book bag of every teacher from preschool to grad school." —E. D. Hirsch, Jr., university professor emeritus, University of Virginia "Dan Willingham, rare among cognitive scientists for also being awonderful writer, has produced a book about learning in school that readslike a trip through a wild and thrilling new country. For teachers and parents, even students, there are surprises on every page. Did you know, for instance,that our brains are not really made for thinking?" —Jay Mathews, education columnist, The Washington Post "Educators will love this wonderful book—in clear and compelling language, Willingham shows how the most important discoveries from the cognitive revolution can be used to improve teaching and inspire students in the classroom." —John Gabrieli, Grover Hermann Professor of Health Sciences,Technology and Cognitive Neuroscience, Massachusetts Institute of Technology "Scientists know so much more than we knew thirty years ago about how children learn. This book offers you the research, and the arguments,that will help you become a more effective teacher." —Joe Riener, English teacher, Wilson High School, Washington, D.C. “A must read for those wishing to improve their classroom and those looking for ways to help their students be successful.” —G.L. Willhite, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse—Highly Recommended

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant insights 2 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are three reasons why, despite having read hundreds of books on how to teach, I've used this one the most in two years teaching in inner-city London.

First, it's packed full of practical ideas. If you want to know how to improve the way you use stories, knowledge or problems, examples, practice or mnemonics, there's no better author than Dan Willingham.

Second, it distills three decades of scientific research into how the brain works. Thirty years of evidence is crystalised at your fingertips: all of it tailored to the classroom.

Third, it opens your eyes as to why certain things aren't working. For instance, why don't they remember anything I tell them? Because I'm starving them of stories and mnemonics that make content memorable. Why can't they understand the concepts? Because I've starved them of concrete examples. Why can't they interpret critically? Because they don't have a sufficiently secure foundation of background knowledge of the text. Willingham's brilliant diagnosis sheds light onto why students struggle at school.

This link explains why:
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exposing the 'critical thinking skills' myth... 24 May 2009
By T. Burkard VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ever since New Labour came to power in 1997, professional educators and administrators have been assiduously promoting radical changes designed to renew the progressive agenda which was thoroughly discredited in the 1980s and 1990s. They've dressed up tired old ideas with new slogans: our children are now supposed to be learning '21st century skills' and 'learning to learn'. Instead of child-centred learning, we now have 'personalised learning'--in their fantasy world, these people really seem to believe that teachers have the time to design lessons which match each child's 'learning style'. High school teachers often have to teach over 200 pupils--one can only wonder what fantasy world our educators (and New Labour) live in.

Of course, our progressive educators make it sound very convincing, citing numerous studies conducted at the Institute of Education and other prestigous institutions. However, educators live in a hermetically-sealed world, where other serious disciplines are generally ignored. Dan Willingham, a distinguished American cognitive scientist, exposes the fraudulent nature of progressive mythology. Children cannot learn all-purpose 'critical thinking skills'--why anyone supposed they could is a complete mystery. If you want to master any serious academic discipline, there aren't any shortcuts: you really do need to know a lot. The web won't help you--if you don't know a lot about a subject already, the information you find won't mean much to you.

This book is superbly written. Willingham makes his points with well-chosen examples. It is written at the level of the educated lay reader--it's a good introduction to a complex subject, and it deals with learning at a level that parents and teachers will be able to understand. If you have any interest at all in education, buy this book--it will open your eyes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars practises what he preaches 20 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I will only add one thing to what has already been said in favour of this book (much in demand in my school library by staff, I may add) - Prof Willingham practises what he preaches. He starts the book off with an explanation of why we find problem solving satisfying and how this is important for teaching, and then uses lots of little puzzles to get his points across through the rest of the book, making it a most enjoyable read.
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I know some people who have been out off this book because of endorsements from Michael Gove, but this is a foolish response and those who don't read it are missing out on a really thorough and well informed read. Daniel Willingham gives us a thesis which helps to explain why students find learning so hard. He is rigorous in his referencing and there is no doubting his credibility in terms of understanding what we know so far (or at least knew at the point of writing) about the way the brain learns. Of course, this is a relatively new science and there is still a lot to learn, but Willingham's premise that we need to shift knowledge from short term to long term memory and his suggestions for doing so are sound. He advocates techniques for making elements of information more memorable and speaks of the power of narrative - something any good drama teacher understands - in terms of securing long term retention. I'd like to see more on embodied cognition and the impact of movement on memory, but this is a good and informative read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Introduced me to psychology 16 Oct 2011
Nice writing style. He first introduces each topic with some stories then conducts a literature review and applies the concepts to the stories. This makes for a very approachable book while maintaining academic integrity. He also puts a human readable reference section at the end of each topic so its easy to go deeper into the technical stuff if you feel compelled. Forget about teaching, this is a great introduction to psychology.
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