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Books: Best Places to Start

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 T. Willingham.
Willingham’s central questions (“Is Drilling Worth It?” “What’s the Secret to Getting Students to Think Like Real Scientists, Mathematicians, and Historians?”) organize nine chapters filled with the psychology of education. His helpful skepticism provides essential balance in a field that can run too far ahead of its own research.

Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do (Issues of Our Time) , by Claude M. Steele
In this marvelous book, Steele explains "stereotype threat"--a psychological phenomenon he first described and measured. With precise and direct language, he explains his research into this problem, and the solutions that may well make education more effective and more just.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
Dweck explains the dramatic classroom results when students change from a ‘fixed mindset’ to a ‘growth mindset’—and she offers several easy strategies to guide them to this switch. Her anecdotes are easy to follow, and her research is compelling.

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey with Eric Hagerman
Focusing specifically on the role of exercise and fitness, Ratey makes a compelling argument for the centrality of physical health for mental health. The Greeks advocated “a sound mind in a sound body”: Ratey explains the connections.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
By explaining the neurology of pleasure and reward in simple language, and by interweaving real life stories with those explanations, Duhigg makes a complex neurological process admirably clear. His strategies for helping change habits may be particularly useful when talking with students—or when refocusing ourselves on our own resolutions.

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely
Ariely’s genial style enlivens his grim topic: the reasons that we (yes, we) cheat. While not all of these chapters offer concrete suggestions about reducing cheating, many do—and all offer real insight into the methodologies used by inventive psychologists.

When Can You Trust the Experts: How to Tell Good Science from Bad in Education, by Daniel Willingham.
Both informed and practical, Willingham offers specific guidance for navigating the complex field of education research. An example of his helpful straightforwardness: he suggests that big, counterintuitive breakthroughs are possible, but quite unlikely. Most topics in education have been researched extensively for years, and so it would be surprising if an important truth had been utterly undetected all along.