Education researchers and practitioners are rapidly bringing forth new, powerful ideas to students perform better in school and on tests.
For example, here is a short list of relatively new ideas about how to help students perform better in school:
- Adopt (or encourage your child to adopt) a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset
- Understand how to set goals and strategies within and across classes
- Study via frequent “mini tests” vs. focusing on reading chapters and taking notes
- Organize to-do lists around medium term objectives (like projects, etc.), not a list of daily tasks
However, the pure volume of books, web-sites, and suggestions offered by friends and family makes navigating the world of “education advice” difficult.
We’ve tried to cut through the clutter to highlight what we view as the most important books to read and ideas to try to implement in your own life.
Here you’ll find links to insight-packed, accessible, and entertaining (generally…) books on performance (focused on academic performance), organized around a four-part framework we’ve developed to help students and parents think about how to perform better in school and on standardized tests.
Section 1: Understanding the role of mindset, grit, talent, and practice in explaining performance
One of the most important ways students can begin to transform their academic lives is simply to realize that intelligence (even measured IQ) is not static and can grow over time, and genetics plays a far smaller role in academic performance than many people realize. With the right mindset and focused-practice, any given student can get As in even the most daunting subjects, like calculus or physics. Truly accepting and believing the premise that you are in full control of your academic life and can build your intelligence steadily over time is a foundational step in improving performance in school. Books in this section explore this and related themes.
- The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born, It’s Grown. Here’s How – by Daniel Coyle
- The Genius in All of Us – New Insights into Genetics, Talent, and IQ – by David Shenk
- Talent is Overrated – What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else – Geoff Colvin
- PEAK: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise – by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool
- Ungifted - Intelligence Redefined: The truth about talent, practice, creativity, and the many paths to greatness – by Scott Barry Kaufman
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – by Carol Dweck
- How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character – by Paul Tough
- Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – by Angela Duckworth
- The Complexity of Greatness: Beyond Talent or Practice - A variety of perspectives and the most cutting-edge research on genes, talent, expertise, practice, creativity, savants, passion, and persistence. – by Scott Barry Kaufman
- The Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence: This volume provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date compendium of theory and research in the field of human intelligence. – by Scott Barry Kaufman
Section 2: Strategically navigating academics, test prep, and admissions to reach your goals
While hard work is important, the difference between more successful vs. less successful students and young professionals can often be explained by the use of strategies to reach specific goals. Successful students go about their academic life strategically.
- Plan, Prepare & Perform: A Strategic Approach to Test Prep Fueled by Expert Tutor Insights and Scientific Research on How We Learn – by Mark Skoskiewicz
- How to Be a High School Superstar: A Revolutionary Plan to Get into College by Standing Out (Without Burning Out)– Cal Newport
- How to Win at College: Surprising Secrets for Success from the Country’s Top Students – Cal Newport
- How to Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less – Cal Newport
- So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love – Cal Newport
Section 3: Applying the latest in “learning science” to study more effectively
Once the belief that academic success is in the control of the student is fully adopted, there are specific approaches to studying and best-practices that have been scientifically validated. Books in this section explore these ideas.
- A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science - by Barbara Oakley
- Brain Rules: 12 Rules for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School – by John Medina or read our Summary of Brain Rules
- Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning – by Peter C. Brown
Section 4: Making plans and getting things done
Once you believe you have control over your academic life, you’ve developed a strategy for a specific class, and you have the latest tools in “learning science” at your disposal, it’s time to execute and get to work.
- Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets to Being Productive in Life and Business – by Charles Duhigg
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World – by Cal Newport
- The Power of Habit: Why Wo Do What We Do in Life and Business – by Charles Duhigg
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity – by David Allen