Friday, May 15, 2009

Article: Why Students Don't Like School

Researcher Sheds Light on Why Students Don't Like School
Cognitive scientist argues that the mind is designed to avoid thinking.
By Fariss Samarrai

"The mind is actually designed to avoid thinking," Willingham said. "Thinking is a slow process; it's effortful and even uncertain. People naturally want to avoid that process, and instead rely on memory, the things we already know how to do and are successful at."

Which is one of the reasons students don't like school. They are forced to think, to accept new challenges, to learn new things, and therefore do the thing their mind most wants to avoid – thinking.

But this is true only up to a point. People also are curious.

"People actually enjoy thinking – when it is at a level that is not too simple, and not excessively difficult," Willingham said. "People like to be challenged. That's why we play games, it's why we read books, why we do many of the things we do. So there's a sweet spot, a level where learning is neither too simplistic to be interesting, nor too difficult to be enjoyable. This is the spot that teachers are always trying to find for their students in the classroom."

This is where creative teaching comes in, using a combination of storytelling that evokes emotion and thought, and exercises that put lessons into context and that build upon previous learning. It's also sustained hard work, Willingham said, that creates thinking skills dependent upon factual knowledge.

"We want to create learning experiences that last," he said.

Isn't that interesting?

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