Carol Dweck describes the simple ways that our mindset impacts achievement in school, productivity at work and satisfaction in our personal lives. Her ideas are easy to connect with and she outlines specific, actionable steps that can be taken right now in order to make change. It is now available in every format.
Our leadership team just read this book and it definitely gets you thinking about old practices and what we could easily change. I wrote a detailed review on my blog but whether you can see the imperfections that our current grading systems possess or you question changing our current system, this book will get you thinking.
What I love about this book is that Todd Whitaker has identified research-based ideas that can be implemented at any time. They are simple strategies that can be used independently of one another at any time during the year. Sometimes I pick up What Great Teachers Do Differently when I am feeling drained and try to focus on one actionable behavior. It is easily organized and well put together.
Even though Where Heart Meets Mind, by Barrie Bennett dates back to 1991, the resources in it are invaluable and timeless. This author put together a wealth of resources for developing lesson plans for groups, evaluating groups, structures for scaffolding groupwork and just tons of templates that can be used to structure groupwork so it is productive. I wish they would update it but that doesn’t seem to be in the plan. It continues to be a great resource that I reference all the time for the templates as well as the information provided about the elements of cooperative groupwork.
Professional Capital by Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan is a really intelligent look at how to transform the teaching profession. I think every principal and superintendent should study the steps that this book outlines as being the keys to ultimately transforming schools into the dynamic, engaging places we want them to be. This was a great read and is available on audio as well.
The cover of Make Learning Personal can be a little misleading because it looks like it might imply that personal learning is about computer software that tracks and individualizes student learning but that is not the case at all. Make Learning Personal does an excellent job giving a thorough overview of the concepts. Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey define personalization and address common misconceptions that can arise. They address the learning theories, brain research and universal design issues related to personalized learning. The book outlines the various stages of personal learning so that beginners have a place to start and some idea of where they might go next. If, like me, you are interested in doing site visits, this book offers a resource of schools that are implementing personal learning in various forms. The authors provide sound reasoning for why personal learning is a transformation worth tackling and provide frameworks for how to make it happen. Especially useful in this book are two charts that the common misconceptions and the stages of implementation. This book might make a good book study for a school getting ready to make learning more personal.
Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom really doesn’t get nearly enough attention. The updated version addresses the practical aspects of running groups in a heterogeneous classroom but it also digs deeper into the issues of equity that can arise when implementing groupwork in a heterogeneous classroom situation. My favorite part about this book is that the perspective that Rachel Lotan and Elizabeth Cohen take on groupwork provides a solution to inequality in the classroom. They consider the social emotional factors that can make or break learning that most books on the subject do not address. This is not a book about management of groups but the insights it provides allow the reader to see the underlying causes of problems with groupwork and ultimately help teachers focus on designing tasks that will be productive and meaningful. This obviously impacts the need for management and the level of productivity a group demonstrates. I love this book!
Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education, by Sir Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica was an inspiring read. Many examples of transformative schools are outlined in this book. Robinson and Aronica are aligned with my thinking in that they suggest transformation from the bottom up rather than from some political or economic motivation coming from above as most educational reforms begin. Many great examples of transformative schools were offered and many times they were offered from the students’ point of view which I really appreciate. The critiques I have aren’t really critiques but rather missing pieces for me. Many of the reviews of this book state that there is some sort of actionable plan. I felt like this was a little bit misleading. From my perspective, the author’s offer many strategies and conditions that promote transformation but they do not offer a step by step process. This makes sense because transformation is complex but some of the descriptions about the book may make it seem like it is more linear than layered. The second missing piece is that most of the schools referred to are charter, private or independent schools. There were a few public school examples but this is definitely a missing link in the research. We shouldn’t use this as an excuse but public school settings have a separate set of issues around transformation. We can always try and figure out how to tweak and replicate ideas that work in private school settings. Despite my frustrations (more with school transformation than with this book), the ideas and examples in this book will get you thinking and shift perspectives.