These two books, are similar if you look at their titles, and yet very different, if you glance at the pages, even very quickly. Both are published by UK publisher David Fulton (1836), which since 2006 has become a part of Routledge, a part of perennially-troubled Taylor & Francis. Looking a the titles alone, both books have a superficially similar focus: to translate solid educational research, into practical guidelines and recommendations for classroom and curriculum development practice. The 2019 Busch & Watson’s The science of learning: 77 studies that every teacher needs to know is a very colorful, illustrated collection whose title would better explain its content if it ended with an additional “about”: the studies and research papers are more signalled than really discussed (so you get to know a little about them), with a focus on practical implications for in-class practice. Each study is summarized in a highly visual “poster style” page, with a little additional commentary on the next page or two. I find this book useful as a quick “pointing” reference that allows me to direct attention to a specific study, and there is a very brief one-minute, colorful poster for it. If you need to communicate the key idea to someone (for example a group of instructors in a workshop), and you happen to know that the research is solid, this is very handy. But there is a non-obvious downside: the summaries tend to strongly affirm research, even when its results have more recently been questioned, or when its application may be more complex and limited (boundary conditions) than the summary lets on… For example both #5 and #7 focus on Mueller/Dweck growth mindset, and while the summary truthfully states that “Since this study, many different researchers have studied the impact of having a growth mindset. Some, though certainly not all, have found that having a growth mindset leads to better grades.” (p. 14, emphasis mine), it tends to seriously understate any controversies (see Warne) and avoids making things complicated and multidimensional, sometimes at the expense of usefulness of its summary.

It’s a good book to have handy as a “gist” to refer to, if you know which studies are rock solid, and which have been partly refuted or questioned, or have faced issues in recent “replication crisis,” and where the studies are OK, but the practical use cases might be more nuanced and narrower than the simplified “poster” would lead one to believe. In brief, a well-written, very user-friendly, visually attractive “workshop” reference if you know how which stuff to to filter / adjust / gloss…

Kirschner and Hendrick’s recent (Feb. 2020) How Learning Happens (HLH): Seminal Works in Educational Psychology and What They Mean in Practice, is a serious compendium of “28 key works on learning and teaching” by “giants of educational research.” (ix) It covers a vast territory and time-span (see Routledge book page with detailed ToC) including works from cognitive and educational psychology. Each chapter has a section titled “Why you should read this article,” followed by the abstract, and more in-depth analysis, with concept-boxes for key terms introduced in each work; then it proceeds to Conclusion/implications … for educational practice, section on How to use the work in your teaching, and a bullet-point list of key Takeaways. Finally there are suggested readings and links, and what makes this list innovative and time-saving is the inclusion of QR codes for many references available online. And so – to compare both books when they zoom-in on the same concept, HLH is much clearer in its reservations regarding Dweck’s growth mindset: “Although her work yielded promising results in the lab, more recent attempts to replicate her findings in the field have led to dubious results.” (76), but they sensibly proceed to suggest that despite some challenges, growth mindset may be usefully viewed “as more of a philosophy as opposed to an intervention? All teachers should believe at some level that their students’ intelligence is malleable and that they can help them improve it, otherwise why bother?” (HLH 81)

I haven’t had HLH long enough to read all of it (and I haven’t devoted equally focused attention to ALL 77 poster-summaries in Busch and Watson either, plus I do not know (had not previously read or even heard about) many of the studies B&W reference, so I feel I should proceed with caution; but what I have read so far in both books is quite useful – impressively so in the case of HLH.My guess is that – for totally different reasons, and under different circumstances – I’ll be re-visiting both books quite frequently in the future.

From Busch & Watson to Kirschner & Hendrick: Research Made Accessible & Useable