Archive for Books

Why don’t students like school?

The title of this excellent book is perhaps a little misleading – there’s not much in it about why students don’t like school; it’s actually a concise list of nine principles about how the brain learns that can be applied in the classroom by cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham.  The result is a practical and easily readable introduction into research based cognitive psychology, along with practical suggestions for applying the theory to the classroom.

In a nutshell, here are Willingham’s nine key points:

1. People are naturally curious, but not naturally good thinkers: unless the cognitive conditions are right, we will avoid thinking.

We enjoy mental activity and solving problems bring pleasure, but only when the problem is appropriately challenging – not too simple, and not so difficult that it is frustrating.  Appropriate levels of difficulty will engage students provided they have access to enough information to solve the problem.  Cognitive conflict is a great way to stimulate thinking. (If 1/2 plus 1/4 really does = 2/6 (a pretty common assumption amongst those who are struggling with fractions), then why is the answer (2/6) smaller than 1/2  ? ). It’s also good developing a good metacognitive skill – self check that the answer makes sense. Read more