As I prepare to start another school year, it might be helpful to review my notes on one of the best education books I’ve ever read, Why Don’t Students Like School?
1. People are naturally curious, but they are not naturally good thinkers.
a. Be sure there are problems to be solved
b. Respect students’ cognitive limits
c. Hook students on questions that will lead to the factual answers a lesson provides. Don’t rely on trivial connections to their interests.
d. Puzzle/dazzle students to get interest AND later to help review material, even during ongoing learning.
e. Alter student work to match individuals’ ability; don’t give everyone the same thing.
f. Change things up to redirect lost attention.
g. Keep track of what works and what doesn’t
2. Factual knowledge precedes skill.
a. Teach the touchstones of Western Civilization’s culture.
b. Teach the core concepts of each discipline deeply over time.
c. Be sure that the knowledge base is mostly in place when you require critical thinking.
d. Shallow knowledge is better than no knowledge at all.
e. Students must read A LOT.
f. Make opportunities for incidental, ancillary knowledge acquisition.
g. “Start early” (level the playing field for students with poor home environments–somehow!)
h. Avoid lots of lists–knowledge must be meaningful.