Why Don't Students Like School? Handout Highlights The Mind is Not Designed for Thinking; p. 4 The Candle Problem; p.5 Curiosity; p.6 How Thinking Works; p.7 Implications for the Classroom; p.9, 12, 13
The brain is not designed for thinking. It’s designed to save you from having to think. * Dr. Daniel T. Willingham, Why Don’t Students Like School?
People are naturally curious, but we are not naturally good thinkers; unless the cognitive conditions are right, we will avoid thinking.* * Dr. Daniel T. Willingham, Why Don’t Students Like School?
The Rule: If there is a vowel on one side, there must be an even number on the other side. Your job is to verify whether this rule is met for this set of four cards, and to turn over the minimum number of cards necessary to do so. Which cards would you turn over? A 2 3 B
The Rule: If you’re drinking beer, then you must be 21 or over. Imagine that you are a bouncer in a bar. Each card represents a patron, with the person’s age on one side and their drink on the other side. Your job is to verify whether this rule is met for this set of four people, turning over the minimum number of cards necessary to do so. Which cards would you turn over? Beer 31 17 Coke
What information about the brain and how it works could help us to better understand the cognitive conditions necessary for optimal thinking and learning?
Could understanding the brain and how it works help us to articulate the Characteristics of Effective Instruction to our learners?
Sensory Memory Long-Term Memory Working Memory Eyes Ears Nose Tongue A Model of Information Processing Skin Not transferred to next stage and therefore forgotten
Initial Processing Sight Sound Smell Taste Touch R E C E P T O R S Not transferred to next stage and therefore forgotten Sensory Memory
There are three factors that strongly influence whether or not the brain pays attention to incoming stimuli… 1 2 Whether or not the information has meaning and relevance Whether or not the information has an emotional component or hook 3 Novelty
The brain is continuously trying to make sense out of its world, attempting to determine what is meaningful in what it experiences.
What if there is no existing category to fit new information into? Is it possible to learn new information without context or connections? ?
It is very important that you learn about traxoline. Traxoline is a new form of zionter. It is montilled in Ceristanna. The Ceristannians gristeriate large amounts of fevon and then bracter it to quasel Traxoline. Traxoline may well be one of our most lukized snezlaus in the future because of our zionter lescelidge . THE MONTILLATION OF TRAXOLINE
? Would it be possible for a student to learn something well enough to ace a test over it… without really understanding the material’s meaning or relevance?
= a = b = c = d = e = f = g = h = i a b d c e f g h i
If we want to make information meaningful to students, we have two options… Find an experience they’ve had and hook the new information to it, or… Create a new experience with them. 1 2
Image Credits by Slide Number Slide 1. Calvin and Hobbes. Bill Watterson. The Essay. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xx2Slxp0TkM Slide 2: A Vision of K-12 Students Today http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_A-ZVCjfWf8 School Sucks http://withpraise.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/school-sucks2.jpg Slide 4: Willingham, Daniel. http://www.danielwillingham.com/ Slide 5: Willingham, Daniel. http://www.danielwillingham.com/ Slides 8-25: Teaching For Understanding. How the Brain Works. Part 1 http://www.aea267.k12.ia.us/icc/files/Session2/How_the_brain_works_part_1.ppt
Additional Resources 21K12. Johnathan Martin. http://21k12blog.net/2009/11/11/arguing-with-willinghams-why-dont-students-like-school/ American Association of Law Libraries. http://aallspectrum.wordpress.com/2009/11/16/review-why-dont-students-like-school-a-cognitive-scientist-answers-questions-about-how-the-mind-works-and-what-it-means-for-the-classroom-by-daniel-t-willingham/ Dialogic. http://dialogic.blogspot.com/2009/04/daniel-t-willingham-why-dont-students.html K-12 Educational Technology. Steve Hargadon. http://www.stevehargadon.com/2009/11/dan-willingham-on-why-dont-students.html Learning in a Flat World. Britt Watwood. http://bwatwood.edublogs.org/2009/09/15/why-dont-students-like-school/ Morsie Reads Blog. http://morsiereads.blogspot.com/2009/12/why-dont-students-like-school.html Personalized Education Now. http://blog.personalisededucationnow.org.uk/2010/01/06/education-revolution-e-newsletter-06-01-2010/ Why Don’t Students Like School? Well, Duhhh; Children Don’t Like School Because They Love Freedom. by Peter Gray, Psychology Today Pyschology Today. Peter Gray. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/200909/why-don-t-students-school-well-duhhhh Teaching For Understanding. How the Brain Works. Part 1. http://www.aea267.k12.ia.us/icc/files/Session2/How_the_brain_works_part_1.ppt Teaching For Understanding. How the Brain Works. Part 2. http://www.aea267.k12.ia.us/icc/files/Session2/How_the_brain_works_part_2.ppt Teaching First Year Students. Galveston Faculty Forum. August 2009. http://www.tamug.edu/acen/Teaching%20First%20Year%20Students-Galveston.ppt The Pods are Coming! David Truss. http://pairadimes.davidtruss.com Willingham, Daniel. http://www.danielwillingham.com/
Notas del editor
Start playing video as people come in the room and get seated. T3 Presentation 2010 Video Intros video: Start with The Essay video: A Vision of K12 Students Intro self, presentations, big picture, hand-outs, expectations, what you will take away from this presentation, websites for more info and to download everything you see here Intro book, Willingham interview video Start PPT Ch. 1: Why Don't Students Like School? How Thinking Works Ch. 2: How Can I Teach Children the Skills They Need Relationship between facts and skill Reading Comprehension Background Knowledge and Memory Implications for the Classroom Ch. 3: Why Do Students Forget Everything I Say? Working Memory v Long-Term Memory Pennies What Good Teachers Have in Common Mnemonics Implications for the Classroom Summary Q&A / Discussion Exit cards: &quot;I want to know more about...&quot; Videos
Continue playing this video as people come in the room and get seated.
Be brief. After introducing yourself, get people in room to turn to those next to them and say hello, introduce yourselves.
Send book around for people to look at. Distribute hand outs
Question audience to see: Who teaches grades k-5 / 6-8 / 9-12? What positions / job titles do people have? Teacher, assistant, parent, student, administrator? Where are you from? Honduras? San Pedro? USA? Canada?
Consider leaving out Give a brief overview of presentation Use as a time-filler to distribute hand-outs
Agenda Preview with hand out Be brief: this presentation will not follow the hand out; it is meant to supplement what you learn here and for you to investigate further. Use this hand out to enrich what we do here or for more information regarding your particular case (parent, teacher, K6/MS/HS...).
The brain is not designed for thinking. It is designed to save you from having to think. People enjoy mental work if it is successful. What would you prefer to do: a Sudoku or crossword puzzle OR a calculus problem? Why? What are the implications of this for teachers... see h/o p.4.2
What conditions to you provide in your classroom to maximize the possibilities for learning? Play “Mr. Winkle Awakes” video Do you engage your students w/ technology? Can you? What limitations are there? Implication: Thinking is (1) Slow (2) Takes Effort (3) Is Uncertain: which is why we rely so much on MEMORY TRY p. 5 OUTLINE “The Candle Problem” Conclusion: we rely on memory whenever we can. Question: What implications does this have for YOUR classroom? Investigate: How many of those here have access to internet (a) at school (b) in your classrooms? How many have access to computers (a) at school (b) in your classrooms?
Consider this task : The Rule is: If there is a vowel on one side, there must be an even number on the other side. Your task is to verify whether this rule is met for this set of four cards, and to turn over the minimum number of cards necessary to do so. Which cards would you turn over? The correct answer is: the minimum # of cards necessary to verify that the rule has been met for this set of cards is 2 cards . The cards that must be turned over are the A card and the 3 card. Most people get the A card- it’s clear that if there is not an even number on the other side, then the rule has been violated. But the task is to determine the least number of cards necessary to VERIFY the rule- not to prove it wrong. So if there IS an even # on the other side of the A, then additional cards must be turned over as so far, the rule stands. Many people incorrectly think they need to turn over the 2 card. The rule does not, however, specify what must be on the other side of a card with an even number. Whether there is a vowel on the other side of the 2, or whether there is a consonant on the other side of the 2 (or anything else)- it doesn’t matter- according to the rule. The B card does not need to be turned over, as the rule does not state anything about consonants. The 3 card must be flipped because there must be something other than a vowel on the other side, in order for the rule to stand. (It is easier to DISPROVE this rule than it is to PROVE the rule- as it COULD only require turning over 1 card- the A card, or the 3 card- to disprove the rule. However, 2 card- the A and the 3- must be turned over in order to PROVE that the rule is met for this set of cards.
Here is another problem: Imagine you are a bouncer in a bar. Each card represents a patron, with the person’s age on one side and their drink on the other side. Your job is to verify whether the stated rule is met for this set of four people, turning over the minimum number of cards necessary to do so. Which cards would you turn over? The rule is: If you’re drinking beer, you must be 21 or over. Most people find this problem relatively easy: You flip the beer card (to be sure this patron is over 21) and you flip the 17 card, (to be sure this kid isn’t drinking beer). Many people even voice their thinking with rationale such as “if this person is 31, I don’t care what he’s drinking” and “if this person is drinking Coke, it doesn’t matter how old she is) It’s fairly quick and easy to determine what matters , and what doesn’t matter in determining whether or not the rule holds.
Which of the two problems was easier for you to solve? The two tasks are virtually identical in terms of the reasoning necessary to complete them! If the exact same reasoning was required in both tasks, why was the first one so difficult, and the second one so easy? It’s because the second task was presented within a context that was familiar- and the first task had no context for you to draw upon. Memory is the cognitive process of first resort. When presented with a problem or a challenge, your brain will first search for a solution in memory and if it finds one, will very likely use it. Doing so is easy and fairly likely to be effective; you probably remember the solution to a problem because it worked the last time, not because it failed. (* Dr. Daniel T. Willingham, Why Don’t Students Like School? , pg. 29) One reason the second problem was easier was that the topic was a familiar one. You have background knowledge about the idea of a drinking age, and you know what’s involved in enforcing the rule. Thus, you don’t need to spend lots of time and energy reasoning logically. You have experience with the problem and you remember what to do quickly, rather than having to spend much time thinking- it- out. It is all a matter of background knowledge--- as well as the context of the problem presented. These two problems illustrate several concepts about how the brain works: Having background knowledge makes new learning easier Solving a problem within a real-world context matches the brain’s design for learning, rather than solving problems out of context, or without a concrete experience to build upon.
See h/o p 7.1b-7.2t What information presented in the opening session can help us understand this problem better? What do we know? What do we want to know?
Look at “What Does This Mean For The Classroom” p. 9, 12-13 in h/o 1. Be sure that there are problems to be solved AND that they are solvable by the various levels of students in your classroom (DIFFERENTIATE) 2. Respect students' limited knowledge and space in working memory (more on this later). In some cases, you might have to build the background knowledge for your students if what is presented in the text does not appreciate your students' particular experience. 3. Identify key questions and ensure that problems are solvable: RELEVANCE. 4. Reconsider WHEN to puzzle students. 5. Act on VARIATIONS in student preparation 6. Change the pace 7. Keep a diary
Let’s start with a quick- very simple- overview of the memory systems in the brain. One way to understand memory and learning is to think about 3 very distinct types of memory that all humans have: There’s Sensory Memory , Working Memory (Short Term) and Long-Term Memory . Here’s how the 3 memory systems work together: Information enters the brain through the 5 senses. (That’s the ONLY way that information can get into the brain.) As the senses bring in information- massive amounts of information- your sensory memory stays busy by scanning all of the incoming information- deciding what should be paid attention to, and what should be dropped immediately. Most ( 98-99%) of the sensory information that enters the brain ends up being “dropped”, because the sensory memory finds no good reason to alert the brain to pay attention. Also, sensory information stays in the brain for only 1-2 seconds AND… the Sensory Memory System works completely at the unconscious level ! Most of the information is discarded before you’re even aware that the information has entered your brain! If the brain DOES decide that something needs to be paid attention to… or if you NOTICE something in your environment, that means that the information has been transferred to a different memory system- Working Memory- which is physically located right behind your forehead. Working Memory is like your brain’s “scratch pad”- it’s your consciousness- what you’re consciously thinking about at any point in time. It’s very limited- only holding information for 18-20 seconds- unless something is “done” with the information. The only way to get most information into long-term memory is by practicing it - rehearsing it- until it finds it’s way. Only then, can it be “ retrieved” when needed, and brought back into Working Memory for more processing. So… with this brief overview- the first question that we need to address is “ how do we get students to pay attention to us in the first place? How do we get them to move the information we’re providing for them from their Sensory Memory System- into their Working Memory System?
All information enters the brain through the 5 senses. (This is the ONLY way that information can enter the brain.) The brain takes in EVERYTHING in its environment- at every moment. It is bombarded with information at all times! This is a key survival process in the brain! ALL information from the environment must be fed into the brain- because any one piece of that information COULD be a threat to safety--- or necessary for survival. The senses thus bring EVERYTHING IN to the brain. Small structures deep in the center of the brain (first the Thalamus, and then the Amygdala) scan all of the incoming information. The thalamus is somewhat of a relay station that sends each piece of information off to the appropriate lobe of the brain for processing. As it sends each bit of information, however, it DUPLICATES it, and also sends it to the Amygdala. (The quick and dirty path- as the two structures are in very close proximity to one another, so that the message arrives at the amygdala almost immediately) The amygdala scans the information and in essence, determines what should be “paid attention to” and what should be discarded. The determining factors: 1. novelty , 2. whether or not the information has meaning/relevance, and 3. whether the information has an emotional component or “hook” TRY THIS: Everyone count out loud 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, ...10 Count our loud: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J Now combine the two and count: 1A, 2B, 3C, 4D, 5E, 6F, 7G, 8H, 9I, 10J Question: At what point did you start getting lost? 5? 6? 7? 8? Even though the counting and number systems are in our long term memory, even though we know them like the back of our hand, put them together and we're lost after 6 or 7. Anyone able to go further? OK... why don't you try starting from 26Z and go backwards? Let's see what happens. The point is that even highly educated, intelligent teachers like all of us cannot do what we so often ask our students to do. And we wonder why our students have difficulties or become problems or just don't like school.
First: The amygdala will always alert the brain to pay attention to something that is novel- different- out of the ordinary. Why do you think this might be so, in terms of the brain’s primary function- survival? (The answer? It’s because if something is different in the environment- out of the ordinary, or novel- the amygdala alerts the brain to pay attention to it- because there is a chance that it could be a threat to survival.) So…. As a classroom teacher, using Novelty to get students to pay attention will work---- but most likely will only work ONCE, maybe TWICE! That’s the thing about novelty– it doesn’t last! A teacher who relies on novelty only will wear him/herself out! (The brain term for this phenomenon is ‘habituation’- something that is once novel, when repeated, will no longer be novel, as the brain that experiences it will “habituate”- or “get used to” the stimulus, thus- no longer viewing it as “novel”. Second: The amygdala will alert the brain to pay attention to any sensory information that it deems to have meaning/relevance. Of course, anything that has the potential to threaten safety would be paid attention to. More broadly, sensory input that is from the “real-world”, in a real-world context, and or is “authentic” automatically carries meaning/relevance. (Remember that “relevance” does not equate to “interest”. Interest is unique to an individual. Relevance is common to all humans, as it refers to authenticity in terms of the real world.) Additionally, information that can be hooked to a learner’s prior knowledge will always (at least temporarily) be considered meaningful/relevant. After all, if something has “made it” into a person’s long-term memory, there may Third: The amygdala will also automatically alert the brain to pay attention to any sensory information that activates the emotional system. This is because anything that activates the emotional system most likely does so because it is meaningful and relevant (authentic), related to the real-word, and/or is either a threat to survival- or could enhance the chances for survival.
Because the brain’s #1 job is that of survival, it continuously scans the environment, trying to make sense (find meaning) in whatever it encounters. Every encounter with something new, requires the brain to fit the new information into an existing category or network of neurons. If it can’t, the information will have no meaning. Think of it like this: Imagine that your students enter your classroom on any given day dragging behind them their own personal “trunk” that contains all of their prior experiences and knowledge. (Use the trunk as a metaphor for the brain.) You begin to present a lesson to them- brand new information- and as you are talking, all of your students turn, open their trunks, and “dive in”- searching for ANYTHING familiar that they might be able to “hook” the new information to. This is kind of how the brain operates- it will pay attention to something that is new- or novel- but it will immediately begin trying to fit the new information into an existing category or network of neurons. If it can’t find an existing category to fit the new information into, then the information will have no meaning. This scenario presents a huge dilemma for a classroom teacher. Each student’s trunk is filled with a different set of knowledge and experiences---- and some students have a great deal more in their trunks to draw upon than other students. Every encounter with something new requires the brain to fit the new information into an existing category, or network of neurons. If it can’t, the information will have no meaning.
Imagine a scenario like this one: A father and a toddler- on a stroll- toddler points to something he sees ahead: a small, black, furry creature with 4 legs, 2 ears and a long tail- Father labels the creature a DOG . A moment later- toddler points to something else ahead: a large white, furry creature with 4 legs, 2 ears, and a short tail- Looks completely different than the first creature, yet the Father labels it a DOG . (The toddler is taking in all of this sensory input, and creating categories, or networks of information to draw upon later.) The story continues- toddler points to something up ahead: small, yellowish, furry creature with 4 legs, 2 ears, and a long tail- TODDLER says “DOG”, and FATHER corrects, “ no, that’s a CAT”. (Toddler adds this new bit of information to his developing network of “creatures”) Continuing: A group of dogs and cats--- father labels as ANIMALS Father says that this weekend, they will go to the zoo and see all of the ANIMALS. Yet at the zoo , they see NO dogs and NO cats , but see elephants, zebras, giraffes, etc. All the while, because of the experiences- and the sensory information that is being taken in, the toddler’s brain constructs “networks” of information, in an attempt to organize it, and store it in such a way that it will be “retrievable” at a later time. The toddler is in essence, “making meaning” of everything that is encountered- creating “networks” or “categories” of information that can be hooked to in the future, when new sensory information is encountered. This is what all brains do… continuously take in information, scan it, try to fit it into an existing category, or network of neurons… so that it has meaning and relevance.
So here is a question for you: What if there is no existing category to fit new information into? Is it possible to learn new information without context or connections? Talk with those at your tables. Is it possible? Yes? or No? (Ask for a show of hands… how many said Yes… how many said No? What is your rationale for each of those answers? (Share out very briefly) Let’s test this out. I’m going to present some new information to you- some information that I’m guessing you don’t have prior knowledge about, nor a context that would help you to make sense of the information. I’ll show the information to you on the next slide, will give you a minute or two to read and study the information, and then will give you a “quiz”. Are you ready to study?
Have them read the slide… leave it up for a minute or so…. Then announce that because they had so little time to study, the quiz will be an “open-book” quiz. The questions: What is traxoline? (a new form of zionter) Where is traxoline montilled? (Ceristanna) How is traxoline montilled? (large amounts of fevon are gristeriated and then bractered to make traxoline) Why is it important to know about traxoline? (traxoline may well be one of our most lukized snezlaus in the future, because of our zionter lescelidge.) So… you all did very well! Now… imagine that I had given you more time to study- say 15-20 minutes, and then administered the quiz without “the book”. Is it possible that you could still have done well, even if you had to do it “without the book”? The answer is most likely YES! What would your “mode of study” most likely have been under those conditions? MEMORIZATION…. ROTE REPETITION…. Through rote repetition and memorization, it surely WOULD be possible for you to do well on the test! So…. Here is yet another question for you:
Would it be possible for a student to learn something well enough to ace a test over it… without really understanding the material’s meaning or relevance? The answer is “YES”. Students do it all the time… and… it’s probable that all of YOU did a lot of that as you went through high school and college, as well! (Example… I see classes on my college transcripts- that I earned good grades in- yet I have no recollection of ever taking, and certainly no memory of what I might have “learned” in those classes! Yet, my transcript says that I passed… sometimes even with As!) The traxoline example is kind of like that… when a brain must rely on memorization in order to “learn” information, it very rarely “sticks”. Do you remember the illustration a few slides ago showing how the toddler was taking in information and categorizing it into existing networks? Using that “metaphor” for YOUR brain, do you know where your knowledge of traxoline is most likely stored right now?
(Click to bring in the “traxoline” oval) “Now… what is the problem with the information you’ve “learned” about traxoline?” The answer: It isn’t “connected” to anything! There is no way to “get back to it” when you try to retrieve the information later! It will eventually “go away”- as it isn’t a part of usable network of neurons that will be repeatedly accessed and/or used. When students must rely on memorization to “learn” information, because they have no way to hook it to prior knowledge, or because the new information is presented “out of context” from how the information will actually be used in the real world… the information is rarely “learned” beyond a surface level… and almost never is a “deep conceptual understanding” of the information attained.
Here’s a task that will test your ability to memorize: Study this “code” for a few seconds. (10-15 seconds) I’ll then “take it away” and ask you to remember- and reproduce- it on your paper. You aren’t allowed to write anything down- until the code “goes away”. After 10-15 seconds, “back up” the animation to hide the code. People attempt to reproduce it from memory. After a few seconds, ask how they think they did, and advance the animation to once again, show the code. Ask, “how many of you had at least a bit of trouble remembering the nine figures?” Then ask, “Would it have made any difference if I had shown the code to you in a different format…?” (CLICK several times to bring in the tic-tac-toe board with the letters) How long would you have had to study the code when shown as a tic-tac-toe board? (most likely one or two seconds!!!) WHY? Because you had something familiar to “hook” the new information to- the new information was presented within a “context” that was familiar to you, thus making it “easy” to learn! Spelling test: face, idea, chaf, beg, hedge
So…. The point is…. We need to do everything we can to help students understand the meaning and relevance in whatever we are trying to teach. In doing this, we have two options… 1. Find an experience they’ve had and hook the new information to it … OR… 2. Create a new experience WITH them. (Sometimes a new experience is necessary- in order for students to BEGIN building a network within their brains. After the initial experience, additional information and experiences can be provided for students that will enable them to “grow” their neural networks.)