The Learners' Way: Brain-Based Learning in Action. 2nd ed.


337 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 1-894110-55-2
DDC 372.6




Reviewed by Luke Lawson

Luke Lawson is a teacher and administrator in Halifax, Nova Scotia.


The debate continues to rage in educational circles on what is the best
way to teach children how to read and write, especially in the primary
years. The authors endorse a whole-language approach that is more or
less child-centred, inquiry-based, collaborative, and noncompetitive.
They reject traditional methods such as worksheets, continuous
correction of mistakes, overuse of phonics instruction, and standardized
tests, to name but four.

The two best chapters are “Developing a Learning Climate,” which
gives solid advice on the setting up of a positive and interactive
learning climate, and “Day to Day Classroom Management Fits the
Children’s Way of Learning,” which describes a typical day in
kindergarten and Grades 1 and 2.

The balance of the book is marred by four major flaws. First, the
authors ignore the backlash against the whole-language (and its recent
cousin, new math) approach, which has contributed to the illiteracy of a
generation of students. Second, they make a very dangerous assertion
about the teaching profession when they write: “Shifting the
teacher’s role from expert and boss to colearner and facilitator frees
up energy normally used in trying to be—or appear to
be—knowledgeable about and on top of every situation.” In fact,
teachers have insisted that they be treated as professionals because
they are experts in their field. Moreover, only bad teachers would
contend that they know everything; effective teachers continue to learn
while maintaining their role as “expert and boss.” Third, the
authors advocate a multi-age classroom but offer little evidence as to
its benefits. Finally, they seem to regard the whole-learning and
traditional approaches as mutually exclusive. For example, they claim
that there are only two ways of assessment: product-oriented (the wrong
way) and development-oriented (the right way). In reality, proper
assessment should have elements of both.

Supporters of the whole-language approach will find much to applaud in
The Learners’ Way. Those who take issue with the approach will find
the book thoroughly disappointing.


Forester, Anne D., and Margaret Reinhard., “The Learners' Way: Brain-Based Learning in Action. 2nd ed.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 13, 2024,