Professional reading has never really been a chore to me. I enjoy reading and I particularly enjoy Psychology, Neuroscience and other fields of inquiry that inform the academic melting pot of Education. Yes, to make space for this to happen to any meaningful degree of critical engagement presents many challenges in the frenetic pace that we get to call both ‘life’ and a ‘life’. Achieving a balance that embraces ‘leaving work behind’ and connecting regularly (and sadly re-connecting at times) to family life, has arguably never been more important to a profession that faces serious potential teacher shortages and excessive burn out rates.
To me though, such a balance should include professional reading and a motivation to up-level our knowledge around key aspects of learning and teaching as a key driver of professionalization. If teaching is learning, then reading to me is an integral part of dialogic thinking, and Alexander’s framework (Robin Alexander and Dialogic Teaching) may apply as equally to us as teachers as it does to our students?
Inspired by @turnfordblog and @headguruteacher, I’m going to put together a list of the Psychology (and wider) books that are currently open in my mind, together with a short blurb of each book. In no particular order:
1) How We Learn, Benedict Carey:
Looking beyond the contentious yet popular 10,000 hour rule of Gladwell, Carey reminds us that learning is not about a series of ‘sweatshop, cramming sessions’ prior to exams, and highlights the importance of taking breaks, a good nights rest and that breaking up study times across days and weeks beats cramming, even when the total study time is the same. Carey highlights decades of research, revealing why teachers should give final exams on the first day of class and focusing upon the biology of memory. Interleaving, retention amd spaced learning fuse with problem solving and tapping the subconscious in the easy to access and enjoyable book on ‘How We Learn’.
2) Neuroscience – BIOS Instant Notes
Perhaps Neuroscience as a multidisciplinary field of inquiry is losing its esoteric label and becoming more accessible to teachers. With a healthy degree of cynicism, it seems also to be attracting a growing number of CPD Consultants and ‘Experts’. Understanding more about the mysteries of the brain and child development and translating them into knowledge that we can use in the class has obvious appeal. But how for example does understanding cortical mechanisms of cognitive development help improve pupil learning? How does understanding neural correlates of development improve my teaching in the class? With input from molecular biology, psychology, physiology and medicine to name but a few, this book is split into 15 sections, ranging from the cells of the nervous system to properties of synapses to cognitive aspects of brain function. Essentially, it is my attempt to better answer the questions that I raise myself- self empowerment perhaps?
3) Matthew Syed, Bounce
I read many people discussing this on twitter, so I decided to buy. From the onset, I found myself wanting to be ‘seduced’ by the chapter headlines, let alone chapter contents; The Talent Myth, Paradoxes of The Mind and Deep Reflections. A kind of universal egalitarianism, open access to all, irrespective of social background. Syed himself is a former British Table Tennis Champion and this is a book that was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award. Put simply (very), Syed investigates the probable causes of elite performance by juxtaposing talent against practice. As a former elite athlete, he weaves a narrative borne both from his own experiences and relevant research. There are very obvious parallels to our role of developing talent as teachers and I found the discussion greatly enriched when I ‘sat’ this book alongside research from Hambrick (Deliberate Practice- is that all it takes to become an expert) Ackerman (Nonsense, Common sense and the science of expert performance) and Plomin (Nature, Nurture and Expertise)- an ensuing and intriguing dialectical dissection of talent v practice.
4) Fundamentals of Cognition, Michael Eysenck
Probably a key textbook of psychology undergraduates the world over, this book focuses on Cognitive Psychology and the cognitions that allow us to make sense of the world around us. Written by one of Britain’s best known psychologists, who himself believes that cognitive psychology sits at the heart of all psychology, it begins by outlining the four major approaches to human cognition that have now developed; Experimental Cognitive Psychology, Cognitive Neuropscyhology, Computational Cognitive Science and Cognitive Neuroscience. The book is structured into a number of topics of study; Perception and Attention, Learning and Memory, Language, Thinking and Reasoning and Broader issues. Each topic contains evaluation and chapter summaries and further reading references for the ‘very motivated’. It’s a wonderful textbook and one I frequently dip in and out of still.
5) Nicholas Epley, MindWise- How We Understand What Others Think, Believe and Want
I recently reviewed this book for @schoolsweek;