Why So Many Kids Struggle to Learn

Natalie Wexler

The American Scholar

December 2021

Teachers continue to be trained in ways that ignore the findings of cognitive science

When Eric Kalenze was getting his master’s degree in education in the 1990s, he was immersed in pedagogical theories that have prevailed at ed schools for a century. Learning proceeds best, he was told, when focused on skills like critical thinking and tailored to the interests of individuals. Rather than assuming the role of a “sage on the stage,” depositing facts into children’s passive brains, a teacher should be a “guide on the side,” enabling students to learn primarily through inquiry and hands-on activities. Kalenze was dubious. None of this jibed with what he recalled of his own school experience or his gut-level sense of what works.