Book Review – How Learning Happens

How Learning Happens by Dr. Paul Kirschner and Dr. Carl Hendrick is a massively important work for teachers and learners. When I began having a look at this text, I knew I was in for a treat. As a teacher and learner, I love to sit down with research articles and read through the research, contemplate the findings, and consider how I may or may not be able to use this information to better my classroom. However, this can be a bit taxing, because there are a lot of research articles and not a lot of guidance on what is worthwhile for the classroom teacher. This text has done the work for you. 

How Learning Happens is organized into six parts. Each part is composed of chapters that tackle a “giant of education research”; twenty-eight in total. Each giant is afforded around ten pages in the book, so each paper is looked at thoroughly without belaboring the work. Topics range from cognitive load theory to dual coding to the potential perils of independent learning. To close out their work, Kirschner and Hendrick include a twenty-ninth chapter considering ten deadly sins of education; which discusses major popular myths of education (learning styles, digital natives, multitasking, grit, et cetera).

The structure of each chapter is as follows:

  1. Explanation of why this work is important
  2. Presentation of article abstract
  3. Description of research and insights gained
  4. Description of works implications for education and classroom teaching
  5. Tips and tricks for teachers utilizing this research
  6. References and suggested readings 

In particular, I appreciate the opening discussion of each chapter that dives into why the authors chose this particular bit of research. As a teacher, it helps me to understand what to look for in my own search for research relevant to my classroom. Also, Kirschner and Hendrick do a wonderful job of covering the implications for the classroom and tips and tricks. These sections really provide the incredibly important ability for teachers to take this research into their classroom to better their students’ learning. Ultimately, this is what all education research and writing should aim to do; improve teaching and learning. 

In typical Mr. Oliver Caviglioli fashion, the illustrations, organization, and layout of the text is impeccable. I especially appreciate how more technical terms and topics are set aside in the margins with definitions and the manner in which charts and graphs are simple, yet very informational. It looks and feels like Mr. Caviglioli put his magic touch on this book, and that’s a really good thing.

This book is just perfect for a book study in any school. I can imagine reading and discussing an article every two weeks or perhaps one larger part every month. The writing is such that even someone who is a novice at reading academic research articles will easily appreciate and comprehend its meaning. I know it  was a bit intimidating when I began looking at research articles; understanding such technical writing can take time and practice to understand. Dr. Kirschner and Dr. Hendrick make this technical writing easily accessible for all. 
The only downside to How Learning Happens is there are only twenty-eight articles discussed. I sincerely hope the authors are fervently working on a follow up considering many more articles. Any educator that wants to improve their classroom needs this book. It is a valuable resource and I am quite happy to have this giant on my bookshelf and I know I will utilize it often.

2 thoughts on “Book Review – How Learning Happens

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  1. The original Dutch title of the book was (if I’m not mistaking this for another book by Kirschner) “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”. I don’t know why they didn’t keep that title, because it sounds more inspiring to me. And apparently they did keep the Giant metaphor in the book to point to the research body available on each topic they cover.

  2. I am at a crossroads: how learning happens or The science of learning: 77 studies that every teacher needs to know. Any advice?

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