Book Review

Why Don’t Students Like School?

A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom

by Daniel T. Willingham, John Wiley & Sons, San Francisco, Calif., 2009, 180 pp., $24.95 hardcover

The title Why Don’t Students Like School? A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom fails to fully represent the breadth and depth of the material covered in this 180-page book. Few other books that attempt to relate brain research to learning and teaching are as clear and straightforward.

Why Don't Students Like School?


Daniel Willingham, a psychology professor at University of Virginia, takes on some of the most critical issues that confront teachers: How do I deal with the student who is falling further and further behind? How can I teach to all of the learning styles and the other differences among my students?

Willingham translates cognitive theory into practice that is ready for direct application in the classroom. Readers should not be put off by Willingham’s cognitive science background. He shares his technical knowledge with a comfortable writing style, making pretty stuffy material very inviting.

The book argues for instructional methods that counter conventional wisdom, but a reader schooled in the traditional notions of cognitive development levels or different types of learners will find it difficult to challenge his position. His argument is based on solid theory, and he demonstrates throughout an understanding of the realities of the classroom.

Why Don’t Students Like School? is augmented by down-to-earth illustrations, appropriate figures and descriptive charts. The author’s sense of humor resides in the background giving his writing a congenial tone.

Reviewed by Jim Frenck, associate professor of teacher education, Roberts Wesleyan College, -Rochester, N.Y.