How Learning Happens, by Paul A Kirschner & Carl Hendrick

How Learning Happens, by Paul A Kirschner & Carl Hendrick

What is the book about?

Paul A. Kirschner, Emeritus Professor of Educational Psychology at the Open University of the Netherlands, and Carl Hendrick, who holds a PhD in Education and is a teacher at Wellington College, have created a comprehensive yet practical guide to educational research that introduces 28 topics to help improve your teaching.

Why read this book?

To be honest, we can’t think of any reasons why educators or those with aspirations of becoming educators wouldn’t want to read this book. How Learning Happens superbly does what it says in the title: comprehensively covers some of the most important research finds in education and puts them into context for you. This book is perfect for those who have little time for research or who want to know even more about what research-informed teaching looks like.

Who is this book for?

How Learning Happens will help inform any educator or aspiring educator who wants to better understand what the research actually says and most importantly, how this applies to the classroom. Frankly, anyone involved in helping others learn will benefit greatly from this book.

Evidence base

How Learning Happens is incredibly evidence based and might be one of the most research informed books we have come across. The book covers 28 key works in education psychology literature. Each chapter uses a number of these key works to explore a specific theme or question. This is done by breaking down each key work into sections on why you should read it, the abstract, the article conclusions and implications, how to use it in your teaching and lastly, the key takeaways. Embedded in this structure are also other useful research finds.

We were impressed how comprehensive and rigorous each section is in its research, yet still manages to be highly accessible too. For example, each section starts with the heading of the paper followed by a key quote from the research. Each section also provides a full reference list, as well as suggested readings and links in case you wanted to delve deeper into the topic. We think that the use of QR codes here is genius too!


This book looks great and strikes a well-structured balance between text and useful figures throughout. This approach really helps the reader to digest all of the information that it contains.

The main focus of this book is to cover 28 of the key works from educational and cognitive psychology to help inform you in your teaching. This is helpfully split into a number of chapters which are titled: ‘How the Brain Works’, ‘Prerequisites for Learning’, ‘How Learning can be Supported’, ‘Teacher Activities’, ‘Learning in Context’ and ‘Cautionary Tales and the Ten Deadly Sins of Education’.

It’s often hard to find the combination of research and practice that this book offers. Each key text is supported with a section on classroom implications and key take homes for educators. We also really liked the ‘Teacher Activities’ chapter which breaks down research on key tools such as direct instruction, what good feedback looks like, and what learning strategies work best for your students.


The layout of How Learning Happens is very clever in that each section builds on the last to help the reader understand the what, the why and the how for each key reading. The ‘How to Use the Work in Your Teaching’ and ‘Takeaways’ sections provide a clear and concise link back to how you can use that finding in your own classroom to better your practice. We think this book perfectly helps to bridge the research/practice gap.

Another great part is the last section called ‘Cautionary Tales’. We particularly liked the exploration of papers such as “When teaching kills learning: Research on mathematics” as well as “Reconsidering research on learning from media”. We think it’s really refreshing to get a research driven take on what doesn’t work, rather than just opinions.

Value for money

This book is excellent value for money, and is currently available for £19.99 on Given how essential we think this book is for every educator, we think this is a great price. It also contains lots of further reading list for you too.

Why we love this book

  • Clear, practical and research driven advice
  • Helps educators engage with key research
  • Easy to use classroom tips
  • Recommended for both new and experienced teachers as well as school leadership teams

Final thoughts

Paul Kirschner and Carl Hendrick have provided the perfect tool for educators to engage with and utilise some of the most important research finds out there. From clear concise summaries of the research to clear research driven advice, this book has it all.

Alternative books

If you have already read this book or are looking to expand your knowledge of teaching practices further, we recommend reading:

Related resources

If you have limited time and are looking for something a little less comprehensive to read that will still allow you to make positive changes to your classroom, take a look at our research-based blogs for educators. Or, why not join our interactive online Teacher CPD Academy?

Our Review Summary

Overall Rating:

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How Learning Happens covers some of the most important research finding in education and puts them into context for you. Kirschner and Hendrick introduce 28 topics to help you better understand research and put it into practice in your classroom.

The book provides clear, practical, and research-driven advice, making it easier for educators to engage with research. The layout of the book is very clever in that each section builds on the last to help the reader better contextualise the key reading and research. Furthermore, each key text is supported with a section on classroom implications, helping to bridge the research-practice gap.

This book is excellent value for money and is currently at £19.99. It’s great for informing any educator (or aspiring educator) who wants to better understand research. It also contains a lot of further reading if you want to go deeper.