Why Don't Students Like School?Welcome to the PACT book club. This book club focuses on Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel Willingham. It has been designed for PACT RQTs, but is open to anyone from across the trust and across the world. Below each book club date you’ll find three key questions for discussion. Join the conversation by following the hashtag #PACTbookclub.

Dates for the spring and summer terms will follow shortly.


Thursday 13th September 2018, 7.30pm – 8.00pm

Principle 1: People are naturally curious, but we are not naturally good thinkers; unless the cognitive conditions are right, we will avoid thinking

Read pages 3 – 22.

  1. Are your students naturally curious? How do you know?
  2. Are your students naturally good thinkers? How do you know?
  3. Do your students avoid thinking? If so, why?

Thursday 11th October 2018, 7.30pm – 8.00pm

Principle 2: Factual knowledge must precede skill

Read pages 25 – 51.

  1. Consider a student who is particularly skilful. What factual knowledge does the student rely on to enable that skill?
  2. Can you think of an occasion when a skill can be acquired without first knowing related factual knowledge?
  3. How often have you considered skill to be an accumulation of small units of knowledge?

Monday 26th November 2018, 7.30pm – 8.00pm

Principle 3: Memory is the residue of thought

Read pages 53 – 86.

  1. When trying to make content meaningful for students, do you try to make it ‘relevant’ to them?
  2. Is ‘relevance’ a successful strategy? What are the drawbacks of this strategy?
  3. Have you used the power of stories (narratives) to help students think about meanings? Why would stories be a powerful way for students to meaningfully engage with new material?

Date to be announced

Principle 4: We understand new things in the context of things we already know, and most of what we know is concrete

Read pages 88 – 104.

  1. Do you agree with Willingham that understanding is remembering in disguise?
  2. Do you ever just assume that students will understand what you’ve taught them?
  3. Is understanding contingent on ‘deep’ knowledge? (pages 93 – 96).

Date to be announced

Principle 5: It is virtually impossible to become proficient at a mental task without extended practice

Read pages 108 – 126.

  1. When should a student stop practising a new skill?
  2. How much privilege do you give to practice in your lessons?
  3. How do students respond to practice? How can you elevate the status of practice, even for students who have mastered a skill?

Date to be announced

Principle 6: Cognition early in training is fundamentally different from cognition late in training

Read pages 127 – 144.

  1. What is your ‘Mastermind’ specialist subject? How did you think about that subject when you first started to learn about it? How does that compare to the way you think about that specialist subject now?
  2. What does it take to become an expert? How do you recognise expertise?
  3. Should we be expecting ‘expert’ thinking from students? What are the dangers?

Date to be announced

Principle 7: Children are more alike than different terms of how they think and learn

Read pages 148 – 166.

  1. Is saying that children are alike the same as saying that children should be treated as interchangeable?
  2. When you change how you present material to play to a student’s strengths, is the extra work that this entails worth the outcome?
  3. Can you recognise in your students a cognitive style? Have you made assumptions about the student based on this recognition? What are the implications of this?

Date to be announced

Principle 8: Children do differ in intelligence, but intelligence can be changed through sustained hard work

Read pages 169 – 187.

  1. Do you consider intelligence to be fixed by genetics? Do you find yourself thinking that people are either intelligent or not?
  2. Is there a culture in your classroom that elevates intelligence instead of hard work? How can we privilege hard work over intelligence?
  3. Do your students sometimes associate working hard with being ‘less’ smart? Do they assume that being ‘clever’ means you shouldn’t have to work hard? When students work really hard, are they perceived by other children as struggling?

Date to be announced

Principle 9: Teaching, like any complex cognitive skill, must be practised to be improved

Read pages 190 – 204.

  1. Does teaching make excessive demands on your working memory?
  2. How can you increase your working memory?
  3. Can practice improve your teaching?