Suggested Readings to Inspire Teaching

With the end of the year approaching and holidays looming for some now is the ideal time to share some suggestions for books and papers to read. A great book can provide the inspiration required to begin the new year positively and this list includes some of my favourites from 2015. In no particular order here is my list of top ten reads to inspire quality learning and promote discussion. 

1.    Future Wise: Educating our Children for a Changing World by David Perkins
How do you answer the 'uppity question’ from a student who wants to know why they need to learn what you are teaching? Do you reply that they need it to do well in the test or are you confident that it is learning they will need to do well in life? In this book Perkins examines what we teaching in schools and makes recommendations for a shift in focus. A key idea introduced early and unpacked throughout the book is the idea of ‘Life Worthy’; learning that is 'likely to matter in the lives learners are likely to live’. Future Wise is jargon free and a great book to share with colleagues, it will help you rethink what you spend time on in class and clarify how you see the role and purpose of education. 

2.    Who owns the learning? Preparing students for success in the digital age by Alan November
The title alone is worth pondering, ‘Who does own the learning?’ If the best learning occurs while the unit is being programmed, if the students have little say in the direction their learning takes then how are we preparing them for their learning futures. Alan has a solid understanding of the implications of technology for learning and combines this with student centred pedagogical approaches to describe a model of education that empowers young learners to take charge of their learning. For teachers the challenge is to get out of the way of the spectacular learning that their children are capable of. 

3.    Learning by Choice: 10 ways choice and differentiation create an engaged learning experience for every student by A.J. Juliani
Students appreciate choice just as much as adults do and are more likely to engage with the learning they choose. Inflexible curriculums full of content that is not personally meaningful is hard to sell to students but a ruler understanding of the purpose of the curriculum and a desire to include choice can transform this. Through the inclusion of passion projects, twenty-percent time and genius-hour teachers are giving students choice in their learning and the benefits are enhanced learning and highly engaged students. If you are looking to give your students choice then this book is the perfect starting point.

4.    The Smartest Kids in the World: and how they got that way by Amanda Ripley
Globalisation of education and the rise of international assessments such as PISA has lead to comparisons of national education systems. In this book Amanda Ripley investigates the experience American exchange students have learning in some of the worlds top-ranked educational systems. The experience they share reveals that the true nature of the success of these systems can not be found in the league tables. From South-Korea to Poland to Finland each system has particular advantages and disadvantages and there are no quick fixes to be found. Beyond the hype of global education leaders this book paints a more human story of schools around the world through the eyes of the students.

5.    Creative Schools: Revolutionising Education from the Ground Up by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica
Sir Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED Talk has reached and inspired a global audience on a new scale for educators. It has inspired teachers to seek ways to educate that do not kill creativity but it has one missing piece, the how to element. In ‘Creative ‘Schools’ Robinson sets out to make the process of school transformation achievable in a practical manner. With advice and strategies ranging in scale from the classroom to the system this book is an ideal tool for any teacher inspired by Robinson’s speeches. 

6.    New Kinds of Smart: How the science of learnable intelligence is changing education by Bill Lucas & Guy Claxton
Intelligence is neither fixed or a unitary concept, it is changeable, learnable and varied. Understanding what this mens for education should have a profound effect on how we teach and how we see our student’s abilities. The book explains what intelligence is how, the varied forms it takes and offers practical advice on how new research can provide insights for how we learn. The authors deserve praise for the way they present complex material in such an accessible way that is entirely readable by time-poor teachers. 

7.    Reading the Visual: An introduction to teaching multimodal literacy by Frank Serafini
 We live in an increasingly visual world and this requires a new literacy that combines the various elements of the visual into a compoundable text. Serafini’s book is full of practical advice for teachers of visual literacy based on a clear understanding of how multimedia texts are constructed and are open to various readings. With a set of model units for teachers to follow the book is sure to enhance your teaching of Visual Literacy. 

8.    Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 forces we must master to truly transform our schools by Ron Ritchhart
In this book Ron Ritchhart outlines the eight cultural forces required for successful schools and the development of thinking cultures. Understanding get eight forces is the first step towards school wide transformation. For schools with an interest in 'Making Thinking Visible' or 'Habits of Mind’ the eight forces are an essential element that take these already effective strategies to a higher level where they can be fully embraced. 

9.    Rethinking National Curriculum Collaboration: Towards an Australian Curriculum by Prof. Alan Reid
If you are interested in knowing what the Australian Curriculum could have been like then you should read this report. It presents a view of curriculum in which the content is a vehicle for learning of broad skills and dispositions that are widely transferable. In this model students would learn twenty-first century skills through content. This shift away from content as the goal of teaching would have allowed a curriculum with flexibility to respond to local need and individual needs while ensuring that essential aspects of a long-life education where adequately addressed. Reid’s model provided us with the ‘General Capabilities’ of he present curriculum but shows how these could have been the essential ingredient of a modern curriculum. There are lessons here for anyone with an interest in curriculum design. 

10.    Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential by Carol Dweck
The notion of fixed vs growth mindsets has become a common feature in educational dialogue but the implications of this are not always fully understood. This book is essential reading for teachers looking to achieve the maximum benefit from Dweck’s ideas. Beyond the oversimplified explanations often shared this book takes you into the true nature of the mindsets and shows how the reality of their interactions and the potential for transforming one’s thinking is more complex. 

Also worth a look: 
1.    Creating innovators: The making of young people who will change the world by Tony Wagner
2.    Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing our kids for the innovation era by Tony Wagner & Ted Dintersmith
3.    Invent to Learn: making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez & Gary Stager
4.    Limits to self-organising systems of learning—the Kalikuppam experiment by Sugata Mitra & Ritu Dangwal

And something Different

5.    Elon Musk: Tesla, Space X and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance


by Nigel Coutts