3 Must-Read Books To Create Better Courses

Updated on March 23, 2022

I’m still new to Instructional Design (and might always consider myself new because our field keeps evolving!), but I’ve always been interested in how people learn and how we can teach. The more I read about education and learning (for enjoyment, not any formal schoolwork), the more I got excited about working in this space. Because, believe it or not, I previously assumed…

Good teachers are naturals at it. Good learners are naturally “strong” students.

…No, no, no! We can all learn — how to teach and how to learn. I wish I had read many of these books much earlier, and I’ll aim to tell you why in a short personal line next to each recommendation.

Design for How People Learn (Dirksen)

  • An excellent (with pictures!) introduction to how people learn that covers some common myths and provides practical examples —details on the author’s website.
  • I love this one because it’s digestible (short chapters), avoids jargon, and is chock full of real-life examples and fun stories.

Make It Stick (Brown, Roediger, McDaniel)

  • Huge focus on metacognition (learning about learning). Awesome stories about techniques from education, including the “memory palace” that I still think about often. Details presented in a fun way that gets me intrigued about learning design and wanting to borrow Shortform’s interactive approach to presenting this content right here.
  • Opened my mind (and improved my teaching) to the power of mental modelsconnecting new things to prior knowledge, and retrieval practice.

Made To Stick (Heath and Heath)

  • Yep, two of my favorite books are nearly identical in title, and I still need to look up who wrote what 😉. This book by the Heath brothers was a textbook for a strategic communications course I audited when I worked at Columbia University. Details on the authors’ website.
  • I still use the SUCCES framework as often as I can. I love this book so, so much. It convinced me that teaching and learning are fundamentally about communicating. Here is a fun video on that embedded below 📽️.

Closing Thoughts

And that’s a wrap from me! Have you read any of these? Curious about picking one up? Let us know about your favorites in the Sensei Community.

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