Why Don’t Students Like School? Book Summary - Why Don’t Students Like School? Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro
00:00

Why Don’t Students Like School? summary

Daniel T. Willingham

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

4.3 (141 ratings)
21 mins

Brief summary

"Why Don’t Students Like School?" by Daniel T. Willingham explores the science of how the brain learns and offers practical strategies for teachers. It explains why students find some tasks engaging while others are boring, and provides ways to make learning more effective and enjoyable.

Table of Contents

    Why Don’t Students Like School?
    Summary of 7 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 7

    Humans aren’t actually that good at thinking, but we are pretty great at pattern recognition.

    Why is it that teenagers just can’t seem to get off their electronic devices? And why are they using the internet to play silly games, rather than using it as a treasure house of free knowledge?

    Such stereotyping is pretty common, but it’s grossly unfair. As adults and maybe even teachers or parents, we should instead learn a little more about how the brain really functions and why it makes young adults behave the way they do. That’s what we’ll be doing here. You’ll find there’s no need to pass judgment.

    The first surprising thing to take on board is that our brain actually doesn’t like to think. We’re not talking about day-to-day thoughts here, but rather those energy-intense, higher-level cognitive processes you employ when reading a difficult text or solving a complex math problem. Just think of how taxing it can feel to decipher a riddle!

    It’s this kind of thought process that the human brain dislikes. In fact, its natural tendency is to try to avoid it altogether.

    The reason is that active thinking of this kind is not only slow, but also requires huge quantities of energy. In the hunter-gatherer days of our earliest ancestors, that energy was certainly better spent elsewhere. Instead, most of our brain is devoted to processes which were far more important for survival, namely sight and movement. As a result, our abilities to see and move are extraordinary. For instance, a $5 calculator can do math faster than most humans, but no computer can yet walk along a rocky seashore.

    So, while we’re great at seeing and moving, our brains don’t really like to engage in serious thinking. Where we do shine, however, is pattern spotting and recognition. Why? Well, this too has to do with energy. Having this skill means we can interpret situations quickly by comparing them with what we’ve seen before, rather than having to spend precious energy on thinking every time we encounter them.

    Just think of how infants learn to speak. No one is sitting them down and giving them elocution and grammar lessons. Rather, babies instinctively spot language patterns and connect them with certain situations and objects. That’s how “mom” and “dad” get their names, and how infants learn to make a sound like “goodbye” when someone leaves.

    We’ve seen that pattern recognition is great for avoiding energy-intensive thinking. But there’s another cognitive tool that stops us from overloading our brains while combing our hair: memory.

    Want to see all full key ideas from Why Don’t Students Like School??

    Key ideas in Why Don’t Students Like School?

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is Why Don’t Students Like School? about?

    Why Don’t Students Like School? (2009) seeks to explain the brain’s most important processes relating to memory, learning and intelligence. A stronger understanding of these mechanisms will enable all educators to train themselves in better teaching methods and result in more engaging and effective educational programs.

    Why Don’t Students Like School? Review

    Why Don’t Students Like School? (2009) is an enlightening exploration of the human mind and why students often struggle to engage with learning. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Through insightful analysis and accessible explanations, the book sheds light on the cognitive processes that influence students' motivation and comprehension.
    • With its practical strategies and evidence-based recommendations, it provides educators and parents with valuable tools to create engaging learning environments.
    • By debunking common misconceptions about teaching and learning, the book challenges conventional wisdom and offers fresh perspectives that can transform educational practices.

    Best quote from Why Don’t Students Like School?

    Having factual knowledge in long-term memory makes it easier to acquire still more factual knowledge

    —Daniel T. Willingham
    example alt text

    Who should read Why Don’t Students Like School??

    • Parents wanting to ensure their children succeed at school
    • Educators and teachers hoping to hone their craft
    • Forgetful people trying to improve their memory recall

    About the Author

    Daniel T. Willingham is a cognitive psychologist who is a professor in the University of Virginia’s Department of Psychology. Daniel T. Willingham earned his PhD from Harvard University and has authored numerous books related to education and psychology. These include Cognition: The Thinking Animal (2001) and Raising Kids Who Read (2015).

     

    © Daniel T. Willingham: Why Don’t Students Like School? copyright 2009, John Wiley & Sons Inc. Used by permission of John Wiley & Sons Inc. and shall not be made available to any unauthorized third parties.

    Categories with Why Don’t Students Like School?

    Book summaries like Why Don’t Students Like School?

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    31 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial

    Why Don’t Students Like School? FAQs 

    What is the main message of Why Don’t Students Like School??

    The main message of Why Don’t Students Like School? is that understanding how our brains work can help improve students' engagement and learning.

    How long does it take to read Why Don’t Students Like School??

    The reading time for Why Don’t Students Like School? may vary. However, reading the Blinkist summary will only take a few minutes.

    Is Why Don’t Students Like School? a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Why Don’t Students Like School? is a thought-provoking book that offers valuable insights into educational psychology. It's definitely worth a read.

    Who is the author of Why Don’t Students Like School??

    The author of Why Don’t Students Like School? is Daniel T. Willingham.

    What to read after Why Don’t Students Like School??

    If you're wondering what to read next after Why Don’t Students Like School?, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Case Against Education by Bryan Caplan
    • Creative Schools by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica
    • Grasp by Sanjay Sarma
    • How We Learn by Benedict Carey
    • Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
    • Unlimited Memory by Kevin Horsley
    • Don’t Go Back to School by Kio Stark
    • 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do by Amy Morin
    • Atomic Habits by James Clear
    • Ultralearning by Scott H. Young