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From our bookshelf

OK, so I’m old school. It’s hard to beat the feel of a book in your hand (although I have become partial to audiobooks when driving), particularly when you want to take notes and need to re-read passages. So, the books you’ll find below are those that I have marked up, re-read, re-used, and generally relied upon in my quest to be a better teacher.

There is no method to the books I have listed here, other than I have found them either a) really interesting, b) really useful, or better yet, c) both. You can filter the books using the terms on the left of the page, or search for an item in the search bar. I know you’ll find them useful, I hope you find them interesting … and I think you’ll find them both.

Browse away!

  • Mindmaps to Learn By
    Oliver Caviglioli & Ian Harris
    I am a big user of mind/cognitive maps in the classroom. The ability to visualize how others link words and concepts is a powerful discussion aid. This book has a really good discussion of the use of maps (models, in the parlance of the authors), and for that alone is worthy of an investment.

    I particularly like this book because of its focus on language, particularly how to visualize the use of language. If you are a heavy user of discussion to build meaning in class, this is a great reference. If you want to broaden your students vocal knowledge structures, this is a great tool. If you like good theory supported by practical and useful artifacts, you’ll like this book. If you want your students to be able to critically analyze the language of others, well then, toss this book in your bag.
  • Talk, Talk, and Learn Some More
    Classroom Discussion
    Dixie Lee Spiegel
    Without question, the book I have used the most as a teacher. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I am a discussion-oriented teacher. So, the title alone should say it all.

    Another book with ample theory, this book is flat-out practice oriented. Packed with examples and diagrams for use in your class, this is the veritable toolkit for structuring and leading meaningful discussions in your class. Although written for a K-12 audience, I have used numerous tools and techniques from this book in my Management classes … all to good effect.

    Like to use discussion in class? Then get this book and don’t look back.
  • Teach to the Brain
    Teaching with the Brain in Mind, 2nd edition
    Eric Jensen
    If you've ever wondered what's going on inside those heads you're staring at in the classroom, well … this book is for you. There is a lot of information packed into this book, a lot to like about this book, and a lot you can do with this book.

    The fundamental premise of the author is simple and straightforward: your students' "brains are highly susceptible to environmental influences - social, physical, cognitive, and emotional. And, more important, their brains will be altered by the experiences they have in school." (Jensen, 2005: 10)

    Jensen provides a wealth of well-researched information on how the brain functions with respect to learning. With this as a backdrop, he lays out a nice discussion of how teaching approaches, environments, and interactions can be developed to maximize cognitive growth. Among other areas, Jensen touches on classroom environment, student engagement and motivation, memory-forming, and the differentiated brain functions of age-grouped students. Jensen also provides some sound practical suggestions to help you construct brain-friendly classroom settings and activities.

    As someone who believes in constructivism, Jensen's book speaks to me. As he says, "… the most amazing new discovery about the brain might be that human beings have the capacity and the choice to be able to change our own brains.” (Jensen, 2005: 10). His book provides a wonderful picture of how we, as teachers, can help our students change their brains most effectively and efficiently.
  • Know, Explore, and Inspire
    What the Best College Teachers Do
    Ken Bain
    A really intriguing read with one fatal flaw … how could the author's exhaustive research manage to miss me as on of the best college teachers ever (I jest, I jest. My exclusion probably does more to validate their research!)?

    Seriously, this is a valuable review of the mindset, if not the specific tasks and tactics of exceptional teachers. Based on qualitative reviews of some 63 select teachers, the author settles as much on midst as skill: a commitment to in depth knowledge of the instructional field, a commitment to your student, and a commitment to developing an environment of real critical inquiry within the classroom.

    This is what struck me the most … the pathway to impacting your students doesn't run through your lesson plans and your classroom exercises. Rather, that impact runs through the mindset you bring when you develop those lesson plans and develop those exercises.

    You'll find good examples of how these exceptional practitioners ply their craft and will see how profoundly your commitment can influence your students by opening up pathways of exploration and classroom experiences.

    If not inspirational, I think you'll find this study reformative and transformational.
  • Straegic Reading
    Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding, Engagement, and Building Knowledge
    Stephanie Harvey & Anne Goudvis
    This book has a long and comprehensive title, elegantly and entirely backed up by a wealth of information and suggestions on teaching reading for comprehension. It is a grand revision of a revised classic, and worth every penny of your investment.

    The focus of this book is kind of a "meta-reading" approach, asking us to help our students read with a critical learning outcome in mind. They authors get right to the point in Ch. 1, describing it as "reading is thinking." The authors develop their thesis as strategic reading, suggesting that, "Strategic reading refers to thinking about reading in ways that enhance learning and understanding."

    I could stop right there and be happy, but the authors go on to offer a wealth of discussion on how to help young readers begin to think about what they are reading, comprehend their experience with the text, and synthesize useable knowledge from their effort. As a college instructor, I can only hope that their approach continues to take flight and strengthens my future students' reading comfort and skill.

    As usual, Harvey and Goudvis do a great job of injecting theoretical support for their approach throughout the book. Their references are well cited, and the bibliography alone might be worth the price for an educator. The real value, though, lies in the detailed discussions of techniques and approaches to build strategic reading skills. I was particularly interested in one tip on having readers use music to synthesize their reactions to text, offering a quick guide on how to use Garage Band to produce the learning artifact.

    As a complement to close reading, they also have a great tool for helping students think about "close viewing." I think that's a critical skill, and was glad to see the book is refreshed for more digital "readings" and applications.

    I could go on and on about this book, but there's not enough space. Just go get it … you won't go wrong.
    Knowledge,Teaching,Learning,Cognition,Discussion,Critical Thinking,Reading
  • See it, Learn it
    Thinking Skills & Eye Q
    Oliver Caviglioli, Ian Harris & Bill Tyndall
    This is just a great book … well researched, well written, and presented in a clever and useful manner. Truly, this is one of my go-to’s when planning and delivering a class.

    The premise of the book is that we construct knowledge through observation of objects and/or mental thought objects, and consider the relationships and interactions around us by manipulating these visual and mental images. So, when it comes to helping others construct meaning, visual approaches have some usefulness: “Visual tools make the private thinking of teachers and learners public and available to each other. They support interaction and active learning. They are the constructivist’s tool kit.”

    The authors’ do a good job of presenting their practical visual tools on a foundation of succinct theoretical support. Fishbone diagrams, development of schemas, visual reading tools, mapping, thinking in action, critical path analysis … if you are a constructivist, this should be in your go-to tool kit, too.
  • Make My Knowledge Structure
    Invent to Learn
    Silvia Libow Martinez & Gary Stager
  • Inclusive Education
    Connecting Teachers, Students, and Standards
    Deborah Volta, Michele Jean Sims & Betty Nelson
  • Critical Thinking and Acting
    Developing Critical Thinkers: Challenging Adults to Explore Alternative Ways of Thinking and Acting
    Stephen D. Brookfield
    This book is directed more at college-level and above learners. Brookfield offers an opening discussion of critical thinking that is as good as it gets. He follows that up with a series of techniques that can help you develop critical thinking skills in your class. And they are practical, effective, and lucid techniques.

    I find that my students are prone to leave assumptions unchallenged, or attack them like a charging bull … neither approach is very helpful in critical thinking. Brookfield’s discussion of critical questioning and how to develop it was life-saver to me, and helped me elevate my students’ listening skills dramatically. The whole chapter on strategies for developing critical thinkers was a virtual primer … sets you up for more effective teaching.

    Highly recommended if you are searching for an approach to develop critical thinking in your classroom.

    Teaching,Cognition,Critical Thinking,Discussion
  • Biases and heuristics in rational thinking
    Judgment In Managerial Decision Making
    Max H. Bozeman & Don A. Moore
    If you are interested in an exceedingly well written and accessible treatment of rational thinking and biases, this is a go-to book. I have found this book extraordinarily helpful not only for my own thinking, but invaluable when working with students on critical thinking.

    Meta-cognition relies upon the individual being able to perceive his/her own thinking processes. This text can help illuminate the subtle traps and heuristics that adjust our thinking. Consider the authors’ treatment of temporal shifts in cognition, the struggle between what I want to do now as opposed to what I know I should do in the longer term. Or, their discussion of how framing arguments can affect our ability to negotiate positions. If you are pushing critical thinking in your classroom, or are focused on meta-cognitive development, give this a read.

    Cognition,Rational Thinking,Biases,Critical Thinking
  • Web-based Collaboration
    Charles LeadBeater
    This is not an educational book, per se. Rather, the author offers some insight into the capability of the internet to boost creativity through broad sharing of knowledge. Not necessarily an unique premise, but one that bears some inspection.

    Leadbetter posits that the future economy will revolve around innovation fostered by web-based knowledge sharing. If so, it might be wise to have our students ready to participate in a world where information is open, not restricted. That means they must know where to access the information, how to critically analyze it for validity and reliability, and understand how to build upon that information to participate in future innovation. It’s called critical thinking … this book places it in the context of critical web-thinking.

    This is a good book for the teacher of critical thinking, and for advanced 10-12 grade/higher-ed students.

  • How They Think ... How We Teach?
    The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach
    Howard Gardner
    You might think of this book as kind of a add-on to a classic. Gardner’s seminal 1983 work, Frames of Mind, introduced us to the concept of multiple intelligences. In this book, Gardner extends that concept to question how teachers and schools should respond to those differences in the day-to-day management of their classrooms.

    New technologies and tools have opened up the classroom from what Gardner described as one teacher with one textbook in front of 30-40 students. If there is a message in this book, it is that modern educational environments can be designed to better enable us to reach different intelligences through differentiated approaches. This is a great linking piece between the concept of multiple intelligences and the quasi-differentiated practices pursued in many enlightened settings.

  • Round and Round We Learn
    Cycles of Meaning: Exploring the Potential of Talk in Learning Communities
    Kathryn Mitchell Pierce & Carol J. Gilles, Eds.
    This is a research-oriented piece focused on how readers and build knowledge in group conversation and reflection. Illustrated with in-class case studies, the editors offer a great selection of action-research on how readers convert the written to knowledge through the spoken word and reflection. My critical take-away was the thought of learning as a cycle of pre-work, discussion, reflection. That forms the basis of my in-class discussions to this day.

  • What's Going On Up There?
    How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School
    John. D. Bransford, Ann Brown, & Rodney R. Cocking, Eds.
    The focus of this book is “research on learners and learning and teachers and teaching.” (Branford, Brown & Cocking, 2000:14) Simply put, the editors offer insight into how people learn, and how teachers are, and can, teach more effectively.

    The overarching structure of the book has three key supports:
    1. students come to education with some measure of “pre-knowledge”
    2. Knowledge structures require students recognize, gather, organize and manipulate facts in the context of a conceptual framework
    3. a metacognitive approach will help students develop the ability to continually add to and manipulate knowledge within conceptual frameworks

    The second half of the book: how can you as the teacher actively mediate that learning process.

    A bit deep at times, but you’ll come out of it with a better conceptual framework of what it involves to teach to learning.

  • Get Them on the Line!
    Discussion-Bused Online Teaching To Enhance Student Learning: Theory, Practice, and Assessment
    Tisha Bender
    This book was a life-saver when I prepared to teach my first online course. I tend to be a discussion-oriented teacher and use a lot of case studies. So, I was confronted with a real challenge as I thought about how to set, manage, and assess discussion via a digital platform. Tisha Bender to the rescue.

    Bender is clearly a believer in active learning and does a great job of illuminating how discussion can be an active tool even when we can’t see each other. Rather than lose all of the non-verbal signaling, we can actually build forums, rules, and techniques to allow students the freedom to express their views and engage others in free exploration of counter views.

    Steeped in a solid theoretical base, Bender offers some exceedingly informative approaches to structuring effective online discussion for your desired learning outcomes. She also points out the pitfalls that arise with online discussion, but tempers that with some useful solutions. Backed up with thoughts and approaches to meaningful assessment routines, this book can get you up and running great online discussions in no time. A must read for anyone engaged in online teaching.

    Teaching, DIscussion,Online,Environment
  • Teach Strong, Stay Focused
    Teach With Your Strengths: How Great Teachers Inspire Their Students
    R. Liesveld & J. A. Miller, with J. Robinson
    Teachers are constantly bombarded with the latest tools, techniques, and classroom strategies, all designed to make you a better teacher. An admirable objective, but how practical is it? This book implies … not too practical at all. In fact, its message is clear: stop trying to be every other teacher and focus on what makes you good at what you do.

    Much like the pitcher facing a good hitter in the bottom of the 9th, you shouldn’t let yourself get beat using your third or fourth best pitch. If the game is on the line, go with your best stuff. Teach With Your Strengths is all about convincing you that there are just a few things that help your students get your message. Stop comparing you to all the other teachers, focus on you. Drop all the other stuff and go with your best stuff. For me, that’s discussion. I’m better at leading a group to explore through discussion than by way of practice and drill, So, I spend my limited time on getting better at what works for me, not what works for others.

    If this book was the movie Major League, its line would be “Give ‘im the heater, Ricky.”

  • A Well-placed Picture is Worth a Lot
    Multi-Media Learning
    Richard E. Mayer
    The essence of this book: A picture is worth a thousand words, as long as it is presented properly.

    Another of my go-to’s. Mayer’s book steeps the use of media in the theory of how imagery affects cognition. You’ll learn about how the relationship of words to images can affect learning, or how the temporal sequencing of words and imagery can influence meaning. IN addition, the author is keen to remind us that we need to avoid cognitive overload through the misuse of multimedia.

    If you are devote of Powerpoint, this book is a must. If you are considering, or have embarked upon, a flipped classroom, this book will really help you with structuring pre-class materials to maximize retention. Highly recommended.

  • The Right Tool, a Better Product
    Tools for Learning: A Guide to Teaching Study Skills
    M. D. Gall, J. P. Gall, D. R. Jacobsen & T. L. Bullock
    This is a solid, nuts-and-bolts tome on study skills. I don’t know about you, but even at the college level, students seem less and less able anymore to actually sit and study.

    The authors offer a good opening with some research on the effectiveness of studying, and then get right down to business … solid “how-to’s” that stand the test of time. I was particularly fond of the chapter on self-management, which provided thoughts on how to manage external time demands and how to manage space and materials.

    Although a bit dated, it offers a veritable primer of the tools that can get your students on the study skills path.

    Teaching,Study Skills,Learning
  • Can We Talk?
    Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms
    Stephen D. Brookfield & Stephen Preskill
  • Do I Have to Do My Homework?
    The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing
    Alfie Kohn
    Teaching,Knowledge,Learning,Study Skills