Willingham, Daniel T. Why Don’t Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions about How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass-Wiley, 2009. Print.
Although aimed at K-12 instructors, Willingham’s book can also be useful for college instructors. In the book, he discusses in detail nine principles supported by years of research, and examines how they might be utilized in the classroom. The principles are: “People are naturally curious, but they are not naturally good thinkers; unless the cognitive conditions are right, we will avoid thinking” (3), “Factual knowledge must precede skill” (19), “Memory is the residue of thought” (41), “We understand new things in the context of things we already know, and most of what we know is concrete” (67), “It is virtually impossible to become proficient at a mental task without extended practice” (81), “Cognition early in training is fundamentally different from cognition later in training” (97), “Children are more alike than different in terms of how they think and learn” (113), “Children do differ in intelligence, but intelligence can be changed through sustained hard work” (131), and “Teaching, like any complex cognitive skill, must be practiced to be improved” (147). A chapter is then devoted to each principle.
Willingham is an engaging writer, and the book offers good advice on how to improve student learning. Some advice will strike instructors as just plain common sense, but much of the book challenges current pedagogical thinking. For example, Willingham suggests that modifying teaching styles to match the learning styles of students (or “multiple intelligences” as they are sometimes called) has little effect and is probably a waste of energy (120).
The book is available in the Ursuline library.