Opening up thinking about education today for tomorrow - Imagining possibilities and solutions

Friday, January 15, 2010

What to read??? Post 23rd ICSEI conference 2009

I'm often asked by leaders and teachers what's on my list of professional reading. So here is my list from the 23rd ICSEI conference 2009. One of the things I like about conferences is that I come away with a reference list that keeps me thinking for the next year or so.

The descriptions are thanks to Shelfari (except for The Strategic Leader). Images of the covers can be found in the Shelfari Shelf on the right hand side. Happy reading!!

The Future of Education: Reimagining Our Schools from the Ground Up (Kieran Egan, 2008)
This engaging book presents a frontal attack on current forms of schooling and a radical rethinking of the whole education process. Kieran Egan, a prize-winning scholar and innovative thinker, does not rail against teachers, administrators, or politicians for the failures of the school. Instead he argues that education today is built on a set of mutually exclusive goals that are destined to defeat our best efforts. Egan explores the three big ideas and aims of education—academic, social, and developmental growth—and exposes their flaws and fundamental incompatibility. He then proposes and describes a process called Imaginative Education that would dramatically change teaching and curriculum while delivering the skills and understanding that we all want our children to acquire. His speculative narrative of education from 2010 to 2060—executed with wit and verve—shows how we might very well get there from here.

Building Strong School Cultures: A Guide to Leading Change (Leadership for Learning Series) (Sharon D. Kruse, 2008)
"Standing on the back of their groundbreaking research on school culture, Kruse and Seashore Louis provide an insightful and very practical guide that should be a must-read for anyone preparing to become a school leader." -Kenneth Leithwood, Professor OISE/University of Toronto "A manageable, well-rehearsed plan for discussion, research, and lots of reflective thought for any school leader willing to develop their own leadership and the culture in which they desire to lead." -Teresa P. Cunningham, Principal Laurel Elementary School, TN Develop an integrated school culture that engages educators with their colleagues and communities! As a principal, you realize that effecting positive, long-lasting change requires support both within your school and in the wider community. This practical handbook shows school leaders how to build a climate of collaboration with staff, teachers, and parents as well as how to develop connections with foundations, business groups, social service providers, and government agencies. Sharon D. Kruse and Karen Seashore Louis call on principals to create a viable, sustainable school culture using organizational learning and trust to involve the professional community and to affect teaching and learning. This addition to the Leadership for Learning series presents a leadership approach that integrates teachers, parents, and community members into a coherent team. The authors examine schools that have achieved lasting cultural change and present practical strategies for: Diagnosing and shaping a school culture Revising leadership functions to broaden decision-making processes Rethinking organizational structures Supporting continuous improvement while ensuring stability Building Strong School Cultures draws from business and psychology research on motivating and organizing people to provide school leaders with the skills they need to promote effective change.

So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools (Charles M. Payne, 2008)
This frank and courageous book explores the persistence of failure in today s urban schools. At its heart is the argument that most education policy discussions are disconnected from the daily realities of urban schools, especially those in poor and beleaguered neighborhoods. Charles M. Payne argues that we have failed to account fully for the weakness of the social infrastructure and the often dysfunctional organizational environments of urban schools and school systems. The result is that liberals and conservatives alike have spent a great deal of time pursuing questions of limited practical value in the effort to improve city schools. Payne carefully delineates these stubborn and intertwined sources of failure in urban school reform efforts of the past two decades. Yet while his book is unsparing in its exploration of the troubled recent history of urban school reform, Payne also describes himself as guardedly optimistic. He describes how, in the last decade, we have developed real insights into the roots of school failure, and into how some individual schools manage to improve. He also examines recent progress in understanding how particular urban districts have established successful reforms on a larger scale.

The Strategic Leader: New tactics for a globalizing world (John Pisapia, 2009)

The Strategic Leader provides the tools, tactics and levers of change to enable managers and leaders at all levels of the organization to become more strategic in defining the ends they seek, the means they use, and the actions they take to overcome the crucial errors some leaders make in times of ambiguity, complexity, and chaos.
This book exposes the secrets that have worked in the dynamic conditions facing leaders today. it is framed around six habits gleaned from leaders who have successfully answered the following questions. (from the website:The Strategic Leader)

The Elusive What and the Problematic How: The Essential Leadership Questions for School Leaders and Educational Researchers (Tony Townsend and Ira Bogotch, Eds., 2008)
For the authors in this book, there can be no valid excuses for ignorance in any aspect of education as theory/practice. That is: - If we come to learn that all educational problems involve knowledge of complex systems and processes, then quick, simple solutions should not be an educator's first or only expedient option. - If all education requires a measure of cultural and contextual understandings, then uniform, standardized programs and lessons will not meet the needs of all children or communities. - If educational change takes time and strenuous efforts to take hold, then why do we abandon and restart reforms efforts year after year? - If educational practices are best performed by those closest to the problems, then why do we not prepare and continuously develop teachers and administrators to grow intellectually and politically to make wise decisions? - If who a person is culturally and intellectually shapes who they are as educators, then why are our recruitment, selection, induction, and retention policies not influenced by this assumption? - If today's best practices have not taken careful note of successes in the past, then how do we validly measure best practices in use today? - If one-time, standardized test scores are not adequate measures of a person's worth, a teacher's competency, or a school's value to its community, then why do our policies and practices say otherwise? Unfortunately, our ignorance of the "what" and the "how" of education and educational leadership has persisted across contexts and history. Why? This book provides both theoretical and practical answers to these elusive and problematic issues.

Realization: the change imperative for deepening district-wide reform (Lyn Sharratt and Michael Fullan, 2009)

Written by an experienced district administrator who accomplished reform and an internationally recognized expert in large-scale educational change, this book offers 14 key parameters for realizing districtwide improvement.

Leadership Mindsets: Innovation and Learning in the transformation of Schools (Linda Kaser and Judy Halbert, 2009)
The evidence is clear - school leaders make a difference to the learning of the pupils they serve. And yet, not all leaders have the same degree of impact. What are the factors that make the difference to student learning? Why are some leaders able to raise student achievement in schools in the most challenging circumstances whilst other leaders struggle to simply maintain the status quo? Drawing from international case study research over many years, from the experience of hundreds of school leaders serving widely diverse communities, Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser argue that there are six distinct mindsets that characterize the way successful, learning-oriented leaders operate and make sense of their professional world. These leaders are: motivated by intense moral purpose knowledgeable about current models of learning consistently inquiry-oriented able to build trusting relationships evidence-informed able to move to wise action. This book outlines an alternative way of thinking about school leadership. It examines research evidence that leaders will find most useful and suggests how they might use this evidence to maximise their learning and the learning of their students. Leadership Mindsets has been written specifically for aspiring to newly-appointed school leaders who are determined and motivated to create quality and equality for learners in the schools they serve, through networks of inquiry, learning and support.

How to Change 5000 Schools: A Practical and Positive Approach for Leading Change at Every Level (Ben Levin, 2008)
Not long ago, public education in Ontario, Canada, was in deep trouble. Student achievement was stagnating, labor disruptions were rampant, and public satisfaction with the schools was low. In 2003, a new provincial government initiated a series of reforms that embodied a positive, outcome-focused agenda for public education. Today, student outcomes have improved, labor disruption has vanished, and teacher morale is high. In this book, Ben Levin, former deputy minister of education for the province of Ontario, draws on his experience overseeing these and other major systemwide education reforms in Canada and England to set forth a refreshingly positive, pragmatic, and optimistic approach to leading educational change at all levels.

Improving Schools and Educational Systems (Contexts of Learning) (Alma Harris and Janet H. Chrispeels, Eds., 2009)
School improvement has become a dominant feature of educational reform in many countries. The pressure upon schools to improve performance has resulted in a wide range of school improvement programmes and initiatives which can provide both inspiration and advice to everyone involved in school improvement. This book draws together the most effective school improvement projects from around the world within a comprehensive overview by including detailed comparative analysis of a wide variety of school improvement initiatives. Drawing on examples from the UK, the USA, Canada, South Africa and Australia the book gives both an international snapshot and a coherent synthesis of initiatives that have given tangible results.

Distributed Leadership: Different Perspectives (Studies in Educational Leadership) (Alma Harris, 2009)
This book argues that the educational environment in many countries has shifted so dramatically and so permanently that we urgently need to re-consider what we understand by educational leadership and educational leadership practice. The book focuses on distributed leadership and focuses on the emerging evidence about the possibilities and shortcomings of this form of leadership. The book will draw upon the latest empirical findings from studies in different countries that have focused on the relationship between distributed forms of leadership and organisational change. The main aim of the book is to offer contemporary, comparative and challenging accounts of distributed leadership practice. This book outlines current understandings, findings and limitations of the concept of distributed leadership. It brings together different international perspectives on distributed leadership as well as looking at distributed leadership through three major lenses–the empirical, the interpretive and the critical. The book aims to offer challenge, debate and critique, as well as presenting the latest empirical findings about the impact and effects of distributed leadership on organizational change. Leading writers in the field will offer contemporary analysis and reflection on the theme and will also consider the future issues, challenges and directions for distributed leadership.

Teacher Professional Learning in an Age of Compliance: Mind the Gap (Professional Learning and Development in Schools and Higher Education (Susan Groundwater-Smith and Nicole Mockler, 2009)
Teacher Professional Learning in an Age of Compliance: Mind the Gap examines ways in which practice-based inquiry in educational settings, in a number of different countries and contexts, can transcend current ways of working and thinking such that authentic professional learning is the result. The authors contend that education policy, under pressure from a number of quarters, is retreating into a standardized, audited, and backward-looking arena, with the advances of more progressive educational philosophy being rolled back. In an age where practitioner inquiry and action research have often been ‘hijacked’ for the purposes of broad-based policy implementation, this book offers a rationale for reclaiming the critical edge so fundamental to inquiry-based professional learning. It examines the potential of inquiry-based forms of teacher professional learning to contribute to the growth of professional knowledge for and about teachers’ work. The authors intend that the book will assist in building new forms of professional knowledge that go beyond the current compliance model – engineered from less enduring materials – to inform a new model with its foundations in a strong ethical and moral framework. They also believe that this new model, if implemented, will help to reverse today’s conservative educational trends and make teacher professional development a force for genuine progress once again. They have consciously moved away from the celebratory tone of much of the academic reporting of teacher professional learning, adopting instead a genuinely critical edge. In covering a wide range of policies and practices from across the international spectrum, they have allowed themselves the freedom to engage in serious epistemological arguments about the nature of professional knowledge, as well as how it is constructed and employed.

Teachers Under Pressure (Maurice Galton and John MacBeath, 2008)
What is it really like to be a teacher in today's demanding classrooms? The authors of this book spoke to teachers, parents and students in the UK, Asia, America and Australia and had some shocking responses to their questions. By looking at highly topical issues within teaching, such as teacher stress and teacher workload, they uncover an often bleak picture where individuals are frequently stretched to breaking point as they endeavour to 'make a difference'. Issues examined include: " the frustrations facing those trying to make inclusive education work in practice " the effects of constantly changing policies on the staff required to implement them " the loss of status the teaching profession has experienced " why so many are choosing to leave the job " what happens to those who stay and fight This fascinating read will be of interest to anyone involved in teaching, school leadership and educational policy.

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