Sunday, November 08, 2009

Dan Willingham's book

I was impressed earlier by some you tube videos and articles by Dan Willingham (some summaries here) so when I discovered that he had written a book I bought it

Why Don't Students Like School? A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions about how the Mind Works and What it means for the Classroom (2009)

From the Introduction:
Repetition is good for learning but terrible for motivation
This quote and book is a timely reminder for me that teaching is a complex balancing act, there is no one true way. Also, the claim that we have learnt "more about how the mind works in the last twenty-five years than we did in the previous twenty-five hundred" is credible. And Willingham makes a brave attempt of translating these discoveries into worthwhile "Implications for the Classroom" in every chapter.

So far I've read two chapters and skimmed the others. Below is a thumbnail of what each chapter discusses.

Chapter 1: Although we are naturally curious our minds aren't naturally good at thinking and often avoid thinking

Chapter 2: Background factual knowledge is essential for skill development (Content precedes process)

Chapter 3: Memory is the residue of thought. If we want students to remember things then work out a way for them to think about those things.

Chapter 4: Abstraction is hard. We understand new things in the context of things we already know and most of what we know is concrete knowledge.

Chapter 5: Expertise. Extended practice is essential to become proficient at a mental task.

Chapter 6: There are no short cuts to teaching expertise. Cognition early in training is very different from cognition later in training.

Chapter 7: Learning Styles. Children are more alike than different in terms of how they think and learn.

Chapter 8: Slow learners. Children do differ in intelligence but intelligence can be changed through sustained hard work.

Chapter 9: Teachers. Teaching like any complex cognitive skill must be practiced to be improved.

The book title, Why Don't Students Like School?, is a little sensationalist. This book does contribute significantly to the answer of that question but the main point is better expressed in the long subtitle.

1 comment:

Britt Watwood said...

For another review, check out what I said at