We drafted a list of topics that we wanted to learn more about, and came up with a list of books that we’ve always wanted to read and documentaries we wished to see. Many of these books are listed below.

In addition to reading, we also wanted to anchor our learnings with on-the-ground experiences.

Thus as part of our Self-Guided Masters program, we also decided to:

  1. Serve as an teacher aide at an elementary school, helping teach 4th graders

  2. Conduct site-visits to a variety of schools all over the world, including Finland, Germany, Estonia and England, where we spoke with teachers, principals, parents and students.

(One quick note: the things we’re learning have a strong United States focus. That’s because all of the three of us who are involved in this Self-Guided Masters in Education grew up and live in the United States. Thus, we’ve focused our learnings on to how what we can learn can benefit the American education system.)

Our Curriculum

1. In-Classroom Volunteering

We volunteer as a teaching aide at a Montessori elementary school in California, where we help teach once a week for the entire school day (8am - 3pm).

2. Site Visits

We also conducted a series of visits to schools abroad in hopes of learning what strategies are effective internationally. We visited the following locations:


  1. Metsokangas Comprehensive School, Metsokangas

  2. Ritaharjun School, Oulu

  3. Ressu Comprehensive School, Helsinki- We spoke with an American teacher who moved to Finland to teach and learned her impressions on differences between Finland and American education.n

  4. Stadin ammattiopisto vocational school, Helsinki


  1. The Center for Innovation in Education at Tallinn University

  2. The International School of Estonia


  1. KGS Untereicken


  1. Stowe School

3. Books We Read

In choosing books, we had a few criteria:

  • We preferred to read some “systems”-level books that analyzed the education system as a whole.

  • We also looked for books that were comprehensive in its treatment of the subject (e.g., detailed analysis of the history history, legal implications, who were the stakeholders and how they’re affected).

  • We also looked for books that fell into a few different categories:

    • Philosophy: We wanted to read books on the goals and purposes of education. These books may be more philosophical in nature, rather practical or grounded in case studies.

    • Historical: We wanted to also read books that covered the history of US education, so that we can see understand the bigger picture of the field.

    • Modern Education: Books focused on present issues, or stories of current schools.

    • Visions: For inspiration, we wanted to also read books on speculative or inspirational ideas about the future of education.

Below is mostly-complete list of books we’ve read or are reading:

  • Philosophy and purpose of education:

    • Why School by Will Richardson

    • The End of Education by Neil Postman

    • Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

  • History of US Education

    • Class Warfare by Steven Brill

    • The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education by Diane Ravitch

    • Education, Free & Compulsory by Murray N. Rothbard

    • The Teacher Wars by Dana Goldstein

  • Modern US School Reform

    • The Prize by Dale Russakoff

    • Work Hard, Be Nice by Jay Mathews

    • Moonshots in Education: Launching Blended Learning in the Classroom by Esther Wojcicki

    • How Children Succeed by Paul Tough

  • Visions of the future of education:

    • The Education Apocalypse by Glenn Harlan Reynolds

    • Education Nation by Milton Chen

    • Mindstorms by Seymour Papert

    • The Children’s Machine by Seymour Papert

    • Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era by Tony Wagner

    • Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education by Ken Robinson

    • The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined by Sal Khan

  • International Education Systems:

    • Finnish Lessons 2.0 by Pasi Sahlberg

    • The Smartest Kids In the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley

4. Documentaries

Below are some documentaries we watched:

  • The Finland Phenomenon

  • Race to Nowhere

  • Most Likely To Succeed

  • School: The Story of American Public Education by PBS