5 Key Books on the Science of Learning and Achievement

Minnie Lee, the director of George School's Learning Center, shared her top five book recommendations on the science of learning. (Photo by Laura Pedrick)

Grit, passion, and positive thinking: these are qualities that we hope our children will have, but can they be taught in a classroom? Minnie Lee, the director of the Learning Center at George School, believes they can, as long as teachers understand the organ of learning.

Minnie is committed to educating herself on the student brain and implementing her findings in the Learning Center. She has amassed an impressive reading list on the neuroscience of learning, and she shared her top five book recommendations for parents and fellow educators below. These books have been formative in her understanding of how students surmount obstacles, build character, and thrive in school and life.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

Angela Duckworth, an esteemed psychology professor and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that success is not dependent on talent alone. Her research has demonstrated that grit—the quality of courage, persistence, and passion—is instrumental to achievement. And better still, she has found that grit is a quality that can be nurtured and grown within us all.


Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

In this book, Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck consolidates decades of her research on the power of mindset. She posits that employing a growth mindset—that is, the belief in one’s ability to learn and develop—will set students up for success in any area, from schoolwork to athletics to the arts.


Neuroteach: Brain Science and the Future of Education by Glenn Whitman and Ian Kelleher

Glenn Whitman and Ian Kelleher, innovative teachers and researchers from St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, share cutting-edge educational neuroscience research in their book Neuroteach. They believe that teachers are brain changers and that the more educators know about mind, brain, and education research, the better they can design schools, classrooms, and curricula to serve students.


Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation by Gabriele Oettingen

We hear it time and time again: just think positive and you’ll achieve your dreams. Psychologist Gabriele Oettingen, finding this advice insufficient, offers an alternative in Rethinking Positive Thinking. Drawing on her own research and decades of studies on the psychology of motivation, she argues that focusing on both the goal and the obstacle is a more effective way to gain motivation for change.

Understanding How We Learn: A Visual Guide by Megan Sumeracki, Oliver Caviglioli, and Yana Weinstein

Like Mindset, this book emphasizes the importance of adapting teaching practices to the latest cognitive psychology research. In Understanding How We Learn, the authors, known as “The Learning Scientists,” map out six effective learning strategies with digestible illustrations. With the aim of cultivating independent learners, they also offer practical tips to teachers, students, and parents for applying these strategies in the classroom and at home.

Learn more about the George School Learning Center.

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