The 33 books every teacher should read

5th January 2016 at 17:24
Educational books
In the 18/25 December issue of TES, we asked leading figures in education to tell us the book they think every teacher should read. You can now read their choices below.

1. How Children Succeed: grit, curiosity and the hidden power of character by Paul Tough

Chosen by Nicky Morgan, secretary of state for education and minister for women and equalities

“There should be no tension between academic success and character education – the two are mutually dependent. Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed offers an important contribution to the debate around the role of character education in schools and, in particular, the value it can have for disadvantaged pupils. I want all children, no matter what their background, to leave school well rounded, with a range of interests.”


2. Leading in a Culture of Change by Michael Fullan

Chosen by Sir Tim Brighouse, former schools commissioner for London, education author and TEScolumnist

“Michael Fullan’s book is cheap and a quick read, so it starts with two great advantages for busy school leaders. You could start each senior leadership team meeting with a short debate on each chapter. I guarantee it will help your school be a better and more cheerful place to learn and teach. The Idiot Teacher by Gerard Holmes, Bounce by Matthew Syed and Howard Gardner’s Education and Development of the Mind should also be must-reads.”


3. Children, Their World, Their Education: final report and recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review edited by Robin Alexander

Chosen by Dame Alison Peacock, executive headteacher at The Wroxham School and TEScolumnist

“This has to be the most important book in recent times for all those interested in elementary education. The book and the accompanying volume of research papers provide a compelling synthesis of published educational research and findings that relate to the full range of issues encountered by everyone working with elementary-aged children. It focuses on three core principles: equity, expertise and empowerment.”


4. The Creative Destruction of Medicine: how the digital revolution will create better health care by Eric Topol

Chosen by Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive, Education Endowment Foundation

“I love roaming in related disciplines searching for clues and paths to our future. This book shows us how the powerful combination of good science and technology is already delivering ‘ultra-personalized’ health solutions. It also demonstrates how continuous feedback and automated alerts manage risk, and help promote fitness and wellbeing. Eric Topol points the way to a revolution that will sweep through our profession. It reminds us that informed citizens and democratic checks are essential if we are to deliver the benefits of technology to all.”


5. Why Don’t Students Like School: a cognitive scientist answers questions about how the mind works and what it means for the classroom by Daniel Willingham

Chosen by Nick Gibb, minister of state for schools

“Dan Willingham argues that we expect too much of students in terms of capabilities and skills, without focusing enough on the knowledge required to develop them. He demonstrates how the limitations of working memory, and the power of knowledge stored in long-term memory, should guide classroom practice.”

What other leading figures say about the same book...

E D Hirsch, founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation, author and professor emeritus of education and humanities at the University of Virginia

“In my experience, when teachers are informed about current cognitive science they are moved to change their practice for the better. Here, Dan Willingham explains the science clearly and agreeably.”

Daisy Christodoulou, head of education research, ARK

“Dan Willingham is brilliant at explaining complicated science clearly, offering useful reference to real classroom problems. Read it and you will never plan a lesson in the same way again.”


6. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Chosen by Samantha Twiselton, director of Sheffield Institute of Education

“The plot, characters, themes and perspectives that are so beautifully and movingly articulated have powerful messages for all involved in education. Importantly, Haddon has said: ‘[It is] not a book about Asperger’s…if anything it’s a novel about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way.’ The novel should give all who read it important insights into their students’ perspectives on the world.”


7. The Tail: how England’s schools fail one child in five – and what can be done edited by Paul Marshall

Chosen by David Laws, executive chairman, CentreForum

“This focuses on the causes and the consequences of the lowest achieving quintile of children, who leave school without basic skills in literacy and numeracy. The power of this book comes from the fact that it challenges existing notions and demonstrates that, with strong commitment and effective incentives, ‘the tail’ is neither intractable nor immovable. Importantly, it puts teachers right at the heart of this challenge, reflecting growing evidence that the leadership and dedication of teachers can make the single biggest difference to improving outcomes for the tail.”


8. Switch: how to change things when change is hard by Chip and Dan Heath

Chosen by Dylan Wiliam, emeritus professor of educational assessment at UCL Institute of Education

“Perhaps the most counterproductive idea in professional development over recent years has been that teachers need to share good practice – most teachers already have more good ideas than they can use in a lifetime. What they lack is time and support in putting their ideas into practice. In other words, professional development needs to focus on changing practice, rather than sharing practice; not knowledge giving, but habit changing. That’s why I recommend every teacher should read this book. It’s a brilliant, readable summary of the research on habit change.”


9. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Chosen by Vicki Davis, author of the Cool Cat Teacher blog (@coolcatteacher) and host of educational podcast Every Classroom Matters

“Schools are full of people. People need respect, love and attention, not manipulation and coercion. I’ve read this book on working with people at least once a year since I was 12. I’m still improving as I apply the ideas in this book. Kids still benefit from this book. Life is full of people; when we respect them, we all win.”


10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Chosen by Chris Keates, general secretary, National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers

“This is a timeless story about childhood and a child’s-eye view that conveys an understanding of human behavior, justice and compassion, which is much needed in these times, when far too many lives continue to be blighted by inequality and prejudice. Its messages are as hard-hitting today as they were when it was first written.”


11. Legacy: what the All Blacks can teach us about the business of life by James Kerr

Chosen by Neil Carmichael, Conservative MP for Stroud, chair of the Commons Education Select Committee

“This book analyses the secrets of the most successful rugby team in history and how their disciplines in character, preparation and responsibility can be used by leaders in all fields. I know of school leaders who have already applied many of the tips to their work and I believe it’s of great use for inspirational leadership in education.”


12. The Art of Being a Brilliant Teenager by Andy Cope, Andy Whittaker, Darrell Woodman and Amy Bradley

Chosen by Charlotte Vere, executive director, Girls’ Schools Association

“At a recent conference, Andy Cope delivered one of the best opening sessions I have heard on ‘The Art of Happiness’: from ‘special pants’ (yes, that’s right) to ‘mood hooverers’. It gave everyone there a basic belief that happiness is a state of mind that can and should be encouraged. So I bought my two children his book, which focuses on the younger mind. With all the talk around poor mental health in teenagers, it’s got to be worth a try, right?”


13. Visible Learning for Teachers: maximizing impact on learning by John Hattie

Chosen by Mary Bousted, general secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers

“Recognizing what makes a difference enables reflection on how to do more that makes a positive difference. Reading this book should make obvious the swathes of time-consuming tasks that make no (or worse, negative) impact, making them easy to remove. It is fabulously well-researched.”


14. The Hidden Lives of Learners by Graham Nuthall

Chosen by Lee Elliot Major, chief executive of the Sutton Trust, a trustee of the Education Endowment Foundation and co-author of the Sutton Trust-EEF toolkit for schools

The Hidden Lives of Learners lays bare the truth of what really happens in classrooms. Hundreds of hours of videotape evidence expose the crude inefficiencies of everyday teaching: 50 per cent of what teachers teach, children already know; 80 per cent of pupils’ time is spent pretending to listen; teachers talk 75 per cent of the time. This book shows why effective feedback is so key to learning.”


15.  Why Do I Need a Teacher When I’ve Got Google? The essential guide to the big issues for every 21st century teacher by Ian Gilbert

Chosen by Julie Robinson, general secretary, Independent Schools Council

“This is a humoros roller coaster of a book, full of big ideas to improve learning and make you a better teacher. Ian Gilbert inspires through insightful, enthusiastic, reflective and well-researched wisdom and experience. Read it to ensure that you are not falling into bad-teacher traps.”


16. The Logic of Scientific Discovery by Karl Popper

Chosen by Russell Hobby, general secretary, National Association of Headteachers

“I recommend this because of its unflinching analysis and its fascinating account of the accumulation of knowledge. An additional book for school leaders is The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig – it promotes a healthy scepticism about ‘advice’, and urges trust in your common sense rather than fashion.”


17. The Predictable Failure of Educational Reform: can we change course before it’s too late? by Seymour B Sarason

Chosen by Pasi Sahlberg, Finnish educator, author and visiting professor of practice at Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard University

“This book really changed the way I thought about my own school. It helped me to understand the importance of the culture of the school and how beliefs, habits and power relations between people are keys to school change. The Predictable Failure of Educational Reform is a must-read for teachers who want enriched perspectives to teaching and school improvement.”


18. Rebel Yell: the violence, passion and redemption of Stonewall Jackson by S C Gwynne

Chosen by Barbara Oakley, professor of engineering, Oakland University, and author and co-instructor of the popular Mooc Learning How to Learn

“S C Gwynne’s book helps us to understand that even the most reviled among us can have unexpected depth of character and ability. Teachers can bring this inspiring example to mind when they face challenges with the students who are in their charge.”


19. The Expert Learner: challenging the myth of ability by Gordon Stobart

Chosen by Tim Oates, group director, Assessment Research & Development

“In 2011, a draft of the new national curriculum for primary maths came back to me and ministers with all mentions of ‘practice’ red-penned by officials. They said: ‘Practice in maths is just dull repetition of the same thing. It will switch children off the subject.’ We reinstated the word. Doing so felt contrary to the educational zeitgeist at the time, so we were relieved at the publication of Gordon Stobart’s brilliant, iconoclastic, evidence-driven analysis book, which puts practice at the heart of learning.”


20. The People: the rise and fall of the working class 1910-2010 by Selina Todd

Chosen by Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers

“Policymakers talk a lot about the ‘disadvantaged’, but they hardly ever listen to them. Selina Todd’s book is a marvelous corrective to that attitude. Based on the voices of working-class people, it charts the history of ‘those who won wars, who got an education against the odds and who worked hard to give their children the best possible start’. Now, as inequality rises and austerity bites, the ‘anger and defiance’ of ‘the people’ have been muted. But as Todd points out, their experience shows us that social injustice can be challenged.”


21. The Smartest Kids in the World: and how they got that way by Amanda Ripley

Chosen by Andreas Schleicher, director for the Directorate of Education and Skills, OECD

“Amanda Ripley follows three American teenagers who each chose to spend one school year living and learning in a different country: Finland, South Korea and Poland. Through their adventures, Ripley discovers startling truths about how attitudes, parenting and rigorous teaching have revolutionized these countries’ education results. Ripley’s astonishing insights reveal how kids learn to think for themselves, and that persistence and resilience matter more to our children’s life chances than self-esteem or sports.”


22. Outliers: the story of success by Malcolm Gladwell

Chosen by Helen Fraser, chief executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST)

“This is a must-read for teaching staff. Gladwell explores why some people achieve so much more than others, and puts forward the theory that none of us is naturally talented. Rather, we become good at things by working away, for 10,000 hours, at whatever it is we want to excel in.”


23. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

Chosen by Becky Francis, professor of education and social justice, King’s College London

“Besides being a gripping, insightful and hugely well-crafted ‘coming of age’ tale, Black Swan Green provides a timely reminder that schools really have got better since the 1980s. It also conveys the intensity and vulnerability of adolescence without ever patronising, and includes some reminders of the difference that great teachers can make.”


24. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Chosen by Sam Freedman, acting executive director of programmes at Teach First and TEScolumnist

“Teachers are bombarded with theories about how best to do their job, so it’s crucial to understand how to make open-minded, sceptical judgements about what is and isn’t worth trying. Start with this – it’s an excellent guide to why our reasoning is so often misguided.”


25. Measuring Up: what educational testing really tells us by Daniel Koretz

Chosen by Amanda Spielman, chief regulator and chair, Ofqual

“This book explains, with fascinating examples, the principles of testing and test design, including validity and reliability. By the end, the reader is well equipped to avoid many common pitfalls.”


26. Reading Without Nonsense by Frank Smith

Chosen by Nancie Atwell, author, teacher, winner of the inaugural Global Teacher Prize and founder of the Center for Teaching and Learning

“As a literacy teacher for 40 years, Frank Smith continues to be the theorist who most informs my work with children. In this refreshing book, Smith rightly characterises much reading instruction as ‘ritual and nonsense’, starting with an overreliance on systematic phonics in both the UK and US. Instead, he urges teachers to understand what skilled readers actually do and what the beginning reader is trying to do.”


27. I Am Malala: the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

Chosen by Julia Gillard, chair of the board of directors, Global Partnership for Education

“I suggest keeping a copy to hand and letting it inspire you on the days when the disadvantage that follows some children to school seems impossible to overcome, and when it all seems too hard. A book to remind us that education is precious, sought-after and fought for.”


28. On Liberty by John Stuart Mill

Chosen by Baroness Warnock, philosopher and chair of The Warnock Report (1978) Special Educational Needs

“Mill speaks of the ‘tyranny of the majority’, the fetters imposed on the individual by the need to conform to the role society has assigned them. Teachers must avoid stereotyping their students by categorising them: she’s a girl; he’s a West Indian; she’s a spoiled only child; he’s from a deprived background. Teachers should hope beyond expectation. All classroom teaching involves a degree of manipulation. On Liberty serves as an exacting warning.”


29. How to Create Kind Schools by Jenny Hulme

Chosen by Professor Sonia Blandford, founder and chief executive of Achievement for All

“This book is very different from other guides to bullying. Uniquely, it brings together 12 charities (and their celebrity ambassadors) to discuss bullying, and how to prevent it. Readers are invited into settings embracing the charities' ideas and that reveal magnificent and moving results. From peer mentors to gay role models, achievement coaches to a touring Gypsy and Traveller theatre group, the stories are threaded together by a focus on promoting understanding. They demonstrate how we can all help create a generation of ambassadors for tolerance and diversity, and how a kind school is a good school, but a really kind school is an outstanding school.”


30. The Science of Learning (Deans for Impact)

Chosen by Tom Bennett, TES columnist, behaviour expert and teacher

“I believe this text is one of the most important reference guides for teachers published in many years, and should be compulsory reading in initial teacher training. It offers a super-brief summary of what the best research tells us about how children really learn, how memory, attention and focus work and, more importantly, what this means for classroom practice. In an educational system where terrible science often dominates, it's refreshing to see something so carefully put together, and translated into a language that neither patronises nor confuses the classroom practitioner. It’s brilliant and, best of all, completely free to download.”


31. Team of Rivals: the political genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Chosen by Angela Constance MSP, Scottish education secretary

“I often recommend to friends and colleagues Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Abraham Lincoln. She narrates wonderfully how he rose to become the unexpected winner of the Republican nomination for president by building alliances. In office, he brought together all his former rivals into a cabinet team and used all their talents to win the Civil War and to amend the constitution to bring an end to slavery.”


32. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Chosen by Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union and a former English teacher

"Teachers should read primarily for enjoyment; for the chance to escape to a different reality – to experience different worlds. The choice is endless, but if I was to advocate a single book, and that inevitably is a challenge, I would suggest Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. It is a book I remember with joy from my childhood and which I have re-read several times. The storyline may well be familiar to many but only reading the text allows Stevenson’s art with language and imagery to transport you to an adventure beyond compare – it certainly did with me as a child, cementing a life-long love of books."


33. The Blunders of Our Governments by Anthony King and Ivor Crewe

Chosen by John Dunford, chair of Whole Education

“Teachers are more subject than most people to the winds of policy change as governments and secretaries of state (33 since 1944) change and an increasing amount of legislation is introduced. The causes of government blunders are many – the cultural disconnect between governing and governed, media-led panic, the musical chairs of ministers and civil servants, the divorce between policymaking and implementation, impatient ministers and short-termism, to name some of the causes that have undoubtedly blighted education policy for the past 30 years. The education example in the book is the Individual Learning Accounts fiasco (the 'great training robbery''of 1996-2001). Teachers will no doubt add their own suggestions.”

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