My Top Ten Books on Education (this week)

After a brief Twitter conversation, Phil Stock @joeybagstock suggested we name our Top Ten favourite books on education. Here are mine. They are not, let me stress, a list I expect everyone to agree with. Neither do they represent a definitive Top Ten, the best books on education ever written, or the most influential, seminal or whatever. They are just my current favourites and I’m very likely to change my mind tomorrow.

1. Asking Better Question, Norah Morgan & Julianna Saxton [1994]A brilliant book on the art and craft of questioning, I’ve read many times. I’m currently drafting a series of blogs based on its many ideas. A must read for all teachings.

2. Trivium 21c: Preparing young people for the future with lessons from the past, Martin Robinson [2013] – This book took me completely by surprise and made me think about education in lots of new and different ways. I read it right through in one sitting. Stunning and original. A must read for all teachers.

3. Teaching as Story Telling: An Alternative Approach to Teaching and Curriculum in the Elementary School, Kieran Egan [1989] – This is not Egan’s best book or his most challenging, but it was the first book I read by him and it took my teaching in a completely new direction and made me think much more about the role of imagination and narrative in teaching and learning.

4. The Drama of History, John Fines & Ray Verrier [1974] – Long out of print, this is a treasure of a book. John Fines was one of the most brilliant teachers of a generation who took risks, experimented with pedagogy, and discovered some amazing applications. Now much forgotten and lost.

5. Punished by Rewards, Alfie Kohn [2000] – Alfie Kohn has carved out a career in recent years as the arch-enemy of the American School system. He’s a radical progressive and very unpopular in some quarters as a consequence. This, however, is his first book and its stunning. Meticulously well-researched and referenced, it is a damning attack on pop-behaviourism and its influence on schools and schooling. A brilliant and challenging read.

6. Teaching Drama: A Mind of Many Wonders, Norah Morgan & Julianna Saxton [1989] – Although this is a book written by Morgan and Saxton its really the work of Dorothy Heathcote, who they followed around for two years at the hight of her powers in the 1980’s. It is a wonderful book, the most accessible on Heathcote’s work, and full of practical ideas and strategies for using drama as a pedagogy. It should be on every student teacher’s reading list in my opinion.

7. Why Don’t Students Like School? Daniel Willingham [2010] – This is a fantastic book. The best on the application of cognitive science in teaching. Practical, accessible, and full of good advice. I’m guessing everyone has read it.

8. The Idiot Teaching, Gerard Holmes [1977] – This is almost impossible to get now (although it is possible to download as a PDF). Its about Teddy O’Neill the headteacher of  Prestolee School between 1918 and 1946. If you don’t know about this story take a look at the school website, its wonderful.

9. The Education Debate (Policy and Politics in the Twenty-first Century), Stephen Ball [2013] – This is not a happy read, but essential for anyone who wants to get their head round the history of political interference in education over the last hundred years and the damage its done.

10. Mindset, Carol Dweck [2012] – Although I think there are much better books on education that haven’t made my list. Dweck’s book is very influential and I find myself thinking about it all the time. The term ‘mindset’ is not perfect, but it does a lot of work and captures a great many important things in education.


So, that’s my list. What’s yours?

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