Over the last eighteen months, I’ve been reading a lot to prepare for my next book. My notes list 122 books, most of which I read cover-to-cover. Below I’d like to share a few of the ones that influenced my thinking the most.
1. Fear and Courage by S. J. Rachman
People are more resilient than they are often given credit for by most popular media accounts (or psychologists). Exposure to situations that make us anxious tends to diminish fears rather than sensitize us to them.
As a moderately anxious person, I found this book a valuable antidote to the widespread belief that the best way to manage one’s fears is to seek refuge from them.
2. The Atomic Components of Thought by John Anderson and Christian Lebiere
Amassing a wealth of psychological findings, Anderson has spent his career trying to model the basic cognitive processes that underlie our thinking skills. Given the magnitude of the task, it’s likely that ACT-R is wrong about some important details. Nonetheless it offers a powerful lens for understanding thinking.
3. Theory of Instruction by Siegfried Engelmann and Douglas Carnine
Direct Instruction is one of the most successful instructional methods and has withstood rigorous testing. The basic idea is simple: students fail because teachers don’t teach the subject completely. Smart students can fill the gaps, but weaker students fall behind.
Despite the evidence for its efficacy, Direct Instruction remains underused. Critics attack the approach for being overly rigid in its formulation and for teaching mechanical procedures instead of thinking. However, it is precisely these “failings” that make it so successful.
(Greg Ashman’s The Power of Explicit Teaching and Direct Instruction is a good introductory book to understand the debate.)