12 Books About Learning Every Teacher Should Read

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books-about-learning-every-teacher-should-read12 Books About Modern Learning Every Teacher Should Read

by TeachThought Staff

In the age of blogging and social media, is there still room for books? Hopefully.

While digital content is handy and accessible, many of the issues we face as educators are deeper than any single post–or series of posts–can adequately address. While RSS skimming and short eBooks are beginning to find favor with busy teachers–and for good reason–pairing that kind of persistent content with longer-duration reads is never a bad idea. Where will you find the time? That’s another post.

Or book.

Note, there are scores of incredible books about teaching and learning, from When Kids Can’t Read by Kylene Beers, to seminal works from Tomlinson, Marzano, and Atwell, to “new learning” stuff like The World is Flat, and classic works we don’t even begin to cover from Thorndike, Dewey, Piaget, and others. (

The big idea of this list was a well-rounded look at learning and education, rather than strictly pedagogy, or strictly ed-reformy content. If you can add to this list in the comments section with other books teachers might consider and why, your colleagues would certainly benefit!

1. Teaching What Matters Most by Richard W. StrongHarvey F. SilverMatthew J. Perini

This short book offers 4 standards for prioritizing in your classroom: Rigor, Thought, Diversity, and Authenticity. It defines each, and offers a helpful rubrics to begin measuring how each standard does or does not function in your classroom.

2. What Are People For? by Wendell Berry

What Are People For? is a collection of essays by Berry that attempt to clarify what the title sounds like it might–what does it mean to be human, and how can we best relate to the world around us. This isn’t a teaching book, but a human book, and is best read in small sections at a time.

3. Essential Question: Opening Doors by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe (or any of their UbD series)

Whether you choose this or any other Understanding by Design resource, you’re going to get a focus on understanding, and how to promote it through intentional backwards design of learning experiences.

4. Developing Minds by Art Costa

This resource is a collection of short essays/chapters that explore different strands of how people think, and how to better teach it. Chapters include Teaching Thinking in Science, Teaching for Transfer, Making Thinking Visible, and What is Problem-Solving?

5. Visible Learning & The Science Of How We Learn by John Hattie and Gregory Yates

This is basically an updated, more accessible version of his original work (see below) that is designed for professional development, staff meetings, and other forms of teacher training.

His original, much longer publication was a ground-breaking effort gathered 15 years of data synthesis from over 800 meta-analyses, and thousands of individual studies. The goal of the book was to provide an evidence-based “effect size” for many “pieces” of education, ranging from instructional strategies to family structure and teacher training.

It’s easy to misunderstand how best to use this information, with the tempting method being to simply start at the top and “do that.” But it’s this kind of reductionism that makes this data a book you have to read rather than a simple graphic or blog post you can “pin.” If there is a downside to it, it’s the considerable time and effort it takes to unpack, internalize, and integrate into your instructional and curriculum design.

6. Reign Of Error by Diane Ravitch

Some of themes in this book contradict much of what we’re about at TeachThought, as Ravitch argues that, fundamentally, schools are doing better than they’ve ever done, which is another conversation (or book) entirely. That said, she provides a compelling argument for why schools are not only worth saving, but also shines a light on less-attended aspects of ed reform discussions, including political, social, and economic impact–truths we can no longer afford to ignore.

7. The Connected Educator by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Lani Ritter Hall

Editor Description: “Connected learning communities are a three-pronged approach to effective professional development using the local (professional learning community), contextual (personal learning network), and global (community of practice) environments. Connected learners take responsibility for their own professional development. They figure out what they need to learn and then collaborate with others to construct the knowledge they need. Instead of waiting for professional learning to be organized and delivered to them, connected learners contribute, interact, share ideas, and reflect.”

8. The Pedagogy Of The Oppressed by Paulo Freire or A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne

At TeachThought, we love macro-analyses, and it doesn’t get much more macro than Freire’s manifesto on the philosophy of education, and the relationship between the teacher and taught, the oppressor and oppressed.

9. Out Of Our Minds by Ken Robinson

(Note: This book was added in an update, so does not appear in the image above.)

Excerpt: “It is often said that education and training are the keys to the future. They are, but a key can be turned in two directions. Turn it one way andyou lock resources away, even from those they belong to. Turn it the otherway and you release resources and give people back to themselves. To realizeour true creative potential—in our organizations, in our schools and in our communities—we need to think differently about ourselves and to actdifferently towards each other. We must learn to be creative.”

10. So Much Reform, So Little Change by Charles Payne

Editor Description: “This frank and courageous book explores the persistence of failure in todays urban schools. At its heart is the argument that most education policy discussions are disconnected from the daily realities of urban schools, especially those in poor and beleaguered neighborhoods. Charles M. Payne argues that we have failed to account fully for the weakness of the social infrastructure and the often dysfunctional organizational environments of urban schools and school systems. Yet while his book is unsparing in its exploration of the troubled recent history of urban school reform, Payne also describes himself as guardedly optimistic. He describes how, in the last decade, we have developed real insights into the roots of school failure, and into how some individual schools manage to improve. He also examines recent progress in understanding how particular urban districts have established successful reforms on a larger scale.”

11. A New Culture Of Learning by Douglas Thomas, John Seely Brown

“Typically, when we think of culture, we think of an existing, stable entity that changes and evolves over long periods of time. In A New Culture, Thomas and Brown explore a second sense of culture, one that responds to its surroundings organically. It not only adapts, it integrates change into its process as one of its environmental variables. By exploring play, innovation, and the cultivation of the imagination as cornerstones of learning, the authors create a vision of learning for the future that is achievable, scalable and one that grows along with the technology that fosters it and the people who engage with it. The result is a new form of culture in which knowledge is seen as fluid and evolving, the personal is both enhanced and refined in relation to the collective, and the ability to manage, negotiate and participate in the world is governed by the play of the imagination.”

12. The Unschooled Mind by Howard Gardner

In this book, Gardner takes a look at the apparent disparity between how schools are designed, and how students learn best. Thus the title “Unschooled Mind.” Yet he argues consistently for using many of the most controversial elements of schooling, including the widespread application of academic standards.

12 Books About Learning Every Teacher Should Read

  • Jane Healey

    Thank you! This is a great resource to share with colleagues.