I had a wonderful email from a Learning and Development Roundtable member recently asking me for my top Learning and Development books.
She wrote: “I wanted to ask if you have any recommendations for books/ training manuals for working with vulnerable youth (in an international context) or any other training for trainers? I really want to focus on improving my workshop leading skills. My context is primarily: youth, Latin America, localizing SDG fundamentals, empowerment, capacity-building, and asset-based community development.”
So, I sent her a bunch of photos with my favourite training-related books circled and promised her a blog post briefly explaining each one.
Voila! Here you have thirty-plus years of Learning and Development summed up in thirty books (including a few podcasts).
In this post I’ll cover my favourite Learning and Development books related to:
- Instructional Design (e.g. how to design powerful learning, and including theory of change)
- Delivering powerful learning
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion focused
- Trauma-informed teaching
- Online focused Learning and Development
And next week I’ll cover my fav books on:
- Human behaviour- how we learn, what motivates us, how our brains work etc.
Know the books are wide-ranging.
For example, I think any profession such as marketing that can convince us to part with our hard-earned cash to buy something that can kill us (a.k.a. cigarettes) has to know a lot about human behaviour. I’ve learned a ton about Learning and Development by studying marketing. Therefore you’ll find some marketing books thrown in.
I also focus on studying what makes us humans tick and how our brains work because if you don’t know that how can you design good learning? To my great consternation, I see a bunch of learning that is actually designed to go against how we learn (insert angry face with fists raised here).
Let’s jump in – part one – fifteen books on Learning and Development
How to design powerful learning, including theory of change. Because all teaching is about effecting some kind of change.
- Pedagogy is the study of teaching. There are a bunch of different kinds of pedagogies, for example, you’ve probably heard of adult ed. Your pedagogy (whether you can define it or not) has a massive influence on how you teach. This old classic is a fabulous intro to popular education pedagogy – which was crafted by Paulo Friere in Latin America and is all about effecting social change. Gold. (You can also get a pdf copy here.)
2. Teaching to transgress; Education as a practice of freedom – bell hooks
- Again, a classic. Using education as a means to social change.
- Gamification, a popular trend in training, is not, as many people believe, solely using games in teaching. Rather it’s how to use the principles that make online gaming so popular in teaching. Gamification is a super dense topic – this book makes it fun and easy to understand.
4. The One World Schoolhouse; Education Reimagined – Salman Khan
- Written by the founder of the Khan academy it’s a fascinating dive into how bad our education system is and how, for example, its historical roots are based on keeping people uneducated and not asking too many questions so they’d be “good” (a.k.a. not ask too many questions or be problematic) on factory lines.
- Another pedagogy-based book, this one is a fun dive into brain-based learning or teaching in a way that works with how our brains actually work. Sounds obvious right? Yet, so many learning programs, as mentioned before, go against how we tend to learn.
Delivering powerful learning
Once you’ve got your instructional design skills down it’s time to focus on how you deliver your powerful learning.
6. Confessions of a Public Speaker – Scott Berkun
- This is a fun read with many practical tips on public speaking. If you’re a nervous public speaker make sure you read the section on ‘It can’t get worse than this’ where the author relates tales of truly horrible examples.
- Good teaching includes good storytelling and besides the amazing Marsha Shandur, no one does it better than the Moth.
8. A Whack on the Side of the Head – Roger von Oech
- Another classic on creativity. Great teachers are really creative and this book is a wealth of ideas for how to amp up your creativity.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) focused
Nothing is neutral. Culture affects everything, including how we design and deliver learning. Therefore a DEI lens is critical.
9. How to be an Anti-Racist – Ibram X. Kendi
- SUCH a fabulous read. The author focuses on systemic and structurally embedded racism. Combining research and personal stories, it’s a compelling read.. “Racist ideas make people of color think less of themselves, which makes them more vulnerable to racist ideas. Racist ideas make White people think more of themselves, which further attracts them to racist ideas.”
10. Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes – Elizabeth Lesser
- Another fabulous read, this book also looks at systemic issues, from a feminist perspective. “she told me a story that turned out to be the answer to a question I didn’t even know I was asking.” “It is Cassandra’s story, and it is the story of any woman who has been dismissed, gaslighted, or punished for having an opinion of her own.”
11. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism – Robin J. DiAngelo and Michael Eric Dyson
- Another great thought-provoking read. “The loveliest trick of the Devil is to persuade you that he does not exist.” “It’s [race] not a biologically heritable characteristic that has roots in physiological structures or in genes or chromosomes.” And, “Whiteness costumed as American.”
Given the plethora and raising awareness of trauma, it’s a human’s responsibility to have some form of awareness of trauma-informed teaching. From the violence of poverty, sexual abuse, physical and mental abuse to racism, addiction, and more, I always throw a trauma lens on my work to see how I can design learning that makes everyone feel as included as possible so that everyone can participate.
12. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma – Bessel van der Kolk
- A classic if you’re looking to learn about the effect trauma has on our bodies.
13. Waking the Tiger; Healing Trauma – Peter Levine
- Another wonderful classic. Highly recommended.
Online focused Learning and Development
14. The Indispensable Community: Why Some Brand Communities Thrive When Others Perish Paperback – Richard Millington
- Remember when I said I learned a lot from marketing books? This one is a prime example. It sounds very marketing focused but it’s a great read on how to create indispensable online communities, which is critical given the meteoric rise of online teaching.
15. Buzzing Communities: How to Build Bigger, Better, and More Active Online Communities – Richard Millington
- Ditto this book, by the same author. It takes a more detailed, how-to approach.
So, what did you think? Are any familiar to you? Would you add any to the list? Feel free to comment below. And stay tuned for next week’s part two where I’ll share my top fifteen favourites related to Human behaviour- how we learn, what motivates us, how our brains work etc.
Now go on and learn, laugh and lead
- Now, click on any of the above that tickle your imagination and dive in.
- Learning is all about getting new insights, and new perspectives. Tickle your funny bone by getting a new view of the English language via Michael McIntyre
- Let me know in the comments below what books or other resources you’d add to the list. And, feel free to share this post with another learning-focused person.
P.S. Want to join our community and receive regular invitations to my monthly Learning and Development Roundtables plus get access to all nine-plus years of Roundtable resources? Easy peasy. Sign up here.