American education is at a crossroads. There are two paths in front of us: One in which we destroy our strengths in order to “catch up” with others in test scores and one in which we build on our strengths so we can keep the lead in innovation and creativity. Yong Zhao
Anyone interested in a different perspective on PK-12 education and learning might find the following five books fascinating reading. These books will showcase a variety of perspectives that may challenge or change the way you currently perceive educational practices as well as the way in which you perceive learning in general. Any one of these books would make an excellent choice for a study group or book club.
Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization by Yong Zhao
The above quote is from the introduction and best describes the importance of what Zhao is advocating in his book. Zhao challenges readers to consider the criticism of schools, which he thinks is misleading and misinformed, while taking into account the impact of globalization on the economic and social landscape. Ultimately, Zhao advocates for leaders to take five actions to ensure a world-class education for American students—actions that are realistic and doable.
The Best Schools: How Human Development Should Inform Educational Practice by Thomas Armstrong
Armstrong makes a strong case for changing the way we talk about education, moving away from academic achievement discourse toward human development discourse. He argues for developmentally appropriate practices that emphasize play for early childhood learning, theme and project-based learning for elementary students, active learning that focuses on social, emotional and metacognitive needs of middle school students, and mentoring, apprenticeships, and cooperative education for high school students.
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink
Both Zhao and Pink use the words innovation and creativity. According to Pink, the 18th century was the Agriculture Age (farmers), the 19th century, the Industrial Age (factory workers), the 20th century, the Information Age (knowledge workers), and the 21st century, the Conceptual Age (creators and empathizers). In order to maintain our lead in innovation and creativity, Pink advocates that we need to complement our L-Directed reasoning (L for left-brain functions) by mastering six essential R-Directed aptitudes (R for right-brain functions).
Those six high-concept, high-touch senses are:
1. Not just function but also DESIGN.
2. Not just argument but also STORY.
3. Not just focus but also SYMPHONY.
4. Not just logic but also EMPATHY
5. Not just seriousness but also PLAY.
6. Not just accumulation but also MEANING
The rest of the book defines and describes these six senses with a variety of activities to develop and refine those senses—of which many are fun and easily adapted to the classroom.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
For anyone who teaches any age student, this book is a must-read. Pink supports his theory of motivation with numerous research studies and anecdotes. While it isn’t a surprise that humans are intrinsically motivated, Pink addresses rewards in the following list:
CARROTS AND STICKS: The Seven Deadly Flaws
1. They can extinguish intrinsic motivation.
2. They can diminish performance.
3. They can crush creativity.
4. They can crowd out good behavior.
5. They can encourage cheating, shortcuts, and unethical behavior.
6. They can become addictive.
7. They can foster short-term thinking.
Those who have read Alfie Kohn will appreciate the support that Pink provides for Kohn’s ideas about punishments and rewards. Included is a list of 15 books for further reading.
The Invisible Gorilla and Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons
Of all the books listed, this is the one that will definitely challenge your belief that you see yourself and the world as they really are, but in reality, we’re all missing a lot. The topic is intriguing, the writing is witty, and the answer to why we all see the same situation in different ways becomes more apparent. And for those of us who believe in intuition, this book may change all that. We may want to rethink how we teach and how we keep our students attentive.
Our goal is to incorporate many of the concepts in these books into the teacher materials we create. Check out the books and check out our teacher materials at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Browse/Search:surviving+to+thriving+ljl