Archive for the ‘Book Summaries’ Category

Class Rank Weighs Down True Learning by Thomas R. Guskey

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Class Rank Weighs Down True Learning by Thomas R. Guskey – Phi Delta Kappan, March 2014, V95 N6, pp. 15-19. This is my summary of this fine article, which makes the point that teaching and grading schemes that work to select the most talented students often fail to benefit all students and to notice promising students. This may cause you to rethink what your high school is doing regarding this matter. Here is the link to the abstract. You will probably need a subscription if you want to view the full article, or you could hit your nearest college library.

Thomas R Guskey, PhD

  • Thomas is a professor of educational psychology at the University of Kentucky. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago, and began his career in education as a middle school teacher. He served as an administrator in Chicago Public Schools, and was the first Director of the Center for the Improvement of Teaching and Learning, a national educational research center. He is the author/editor of 18 books and over 200 articles published in prominent research journals as well as Educational Leadership, Phi Delta Kappan, and School Administrator. You can find him on Twitter @tguskey or email him at guskey@uky.edu
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Counting What Counts: Reframing Education Outcomes by Yong Zhao & Friends

Monday, April 17th, 2017
Counting

Counting What Counts: Reframing Education Outcomes by Yong Zhao and friends takes on the current system with its focus on standardized tests and their sole focus on cognitive skills. Chapters are devoted to defining a variety of non-cognitive skills that are connected with success in life and the current status of how to assess them. They make a case for a new paradigm that would move the system towards more personalized learning and assessment with more focus on non-cognitive skills. Be sure to add this fine book to your professional development library.

Introduction – The Danger of Misguiding Outcomes: Lessons From Easter Island – Yong Zhao

  • Yong uses the story of how the natives of Easter Island overexploited the resources in a race to build ever bigger statues. He compares this to the current race to produce students with excellent tests scores. Here he makes the case that the obsession with test scores has and will continue to damage our education ecosystem. It has resulted in cheating, teaching to the test, focusing on students on the pass/fail border, and limiting the focus on subjects not tested. We are destroying teacher autonomy as we ignore real challenges like poverty, unsafe neighborhoods, and unequal access.
  • We are striving to produce a homogeneous population rather than supporting diverse talents. Routine knowledge and skills are stressed and they can easily be outsourced or automated. There are many negative side effects that are not considered unlike drug companies that must evaluate and publish side effects of their products. Creativity and non-cognitive skills are ignored. Students good at taking tests might not be good at anything else.

1. Numbers Can Lie: The Meaning and Limitations of Test Scores – Yong Zhao

  • Humans are too complex to be reduced to a single number, and such numbers should not be used to make life-changing decisions. Research indicates that IQ tests have limited predictive power. Personality variables like high and stable self-esteem appear to be decisive for life success. SAT and ACT tests are much less predictive of college success than a student’s high school GPA. After many years, the Common Core Standards don’t appear to make students college ready, while motivation, time management skills, and awareness of postsecondary norms and culture do.
  • A look at international tests shows that U.S. students have been bad at test taking for a long time. Such scores would suggest that by now the U.S. would be an economic backwater, but the facts suggest otherwise. It’s possible that countries that obsess about tests more than we do have discouraged the cultivation of creative and entrepreneurial spirits.
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Creating A New Teacher Profession – edited by Goldhaber & Hannaway

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Here is a review of an Edited book by Goldhaber and Hannaway that looks at a wide variety of human resource issues in education. Everyone who does any teacher hiring, evaluation, or staff development should have this book. It is also essential for policy makers. The bottom line is that we have an outmoded system and that we won’t know what works unless we try the type of alternatives discussed here.

Click here to see my review of this book.

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Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World – by Tony Wagner

Monday, December 5th, 2016
Creating Inovators

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner (© 2012, Scribner: New York, NY) explores what parents, teachers, and employers must do to develop the capacities of young people to become innovators. Tony profiles innovators to identify patterns in their childhood that made them what they are. He shows how to apply his findings to education and tells parents how to compensate for poor schools. Keys include collaboration, interdisciplinary problem-solving, and intrinsic motivation. Sixty original videos are included that you can access via a smartphone. Go to Creating Innovators for a trailer.

A Primer on Innovation

  • Innovation is about the process by which new things take place. It involves using novel and creative ways to create value via new products, services, business models, or processes. It involves valuable original ideas or insights that you somehow implement. It’s creative problem solving applied to the real world. Incremental innovation significantly improves products, processes, or services. Disruptive innovations create a new or fundamentally different product or service that disrupts markets and displaces dominant technologies.
  • Innovations can be technical like Apple’s iPod, iPhone, and iPad. They can also be social like the nonviolent strategies of Gandhi and M. L. King.

Skills of Innovators/Nature of Creativity

  • Tony offers the following as the main skills needed: 1) critical thinking and problem solving 2) collaboration across networks and leading by influence 3) agility and adaptability 4) initiative and entrepreneurship 5) accessing and analyzing information 6) effective oral and written communication 7) curiosity and imagination. It is also necessary to imagine the world from multiple perspectives, see all aspects of a problem, be optimistic, experiment to explore problems with a bias towards action, work with others as the day of the lone genius seems to be over. For places like Google and Apple, intellectual curiosity is more important than smarts. They also want people who will take control of a situation rather than waiting to be lead.

What Is Needed

  • Creativity is a habit and like any habit, it can be either encouraged or discouraged. Teachers that value the right answer more than provocative questions tend to drum the curiosity out of students early on. Creativity can be encouraged or discouraged.
  • Tony cites work of Teresa Amibile’s who says that creativity or innovation has three components. They are expertise, creative thinking skills, and motivation. She believes that motivation is the most important and that intrinsic motivation has more impact than extrinsic motivation. Tony adds that childhood play should lead to adolescent passion and adult purpose. They are the three interrelated elements of intrinsic motivation. He notes that a disproportionate number of innovative people attended Montessori schools where play is an important part of the curriculum.

What Is Needed

  • Knowing how to find those things you are interested in and that motivate you is way more important than specific things you study. This implies that you should put a buffet of opportunities in front of children and let them engage in unstructured play. If a child finds an interest, it should be encouraged.
  • Tony tells of a course at Stanford where students work in teams to solve open-ended problems. Most high school and college courses that feature individual competition, specific content, and extrinsic incentives like grades and GPA. What is needed are courses that feature teamwork, multidisciplinary approaches, and the intrinsic incentives of exploration, empowerment, and play.
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Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education by Sir Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education by Sir Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica ©2015 offers advice for educators and policy makers that can bring rigorous, personalized, and engaged education to everyone. As a leading voice in education, it’s vital that any one interested hear with Sir Ken has to say. If you haven’t seen his number one TED Talk check that out too. Click at the bottom on any page to purchase this necessary book.

Sir Ken Robinson, PhD and Lou Aronica

  • Sir Ken is an English author, speaker, and international advisor on education in the arts to governments, non-profits, education, and arts bodies. He was Director of The Arts in Schools Project (1985–89), Professor of Arts Education at the University of Warwick (1989–2001), and was knighted in 2003 for services to education. He is the author of The Element, Finding Your Element, and Out of Ours Minds. His 2006 TED Talk How Schools Kill Creativity is the most watched in history with over 33 million views. Originally from a working-class Liverpool family, Robinson now lives in Los Angeles with his wife Marie-Therese and children James and Kate.
  • Lou Aronica is the author of three novels and the coauthor of several works of nonfiction, including the national best sellers The Culture Code, The Element, and Finding Your Element.

Introduction: One Minute to Midnight

  • The current reforms are being driven by political and commercial interests that misunderstand how real people learn, and how great schools work. As a result they are damaging the prospects of countless young people. The standards culture is harming students. In response, Sir Ken continues to push for a more balanced, individualized, and creative approach to education. Instead, schools take children with voracious appetites for learning and see to it that their appetites are dulled as they go through school. Current efforts focused on raising standards through competition and accountability do not work, and compound the problems they claim to solve. If you design a system based on standardization and conformity, you suppress individuality, imagination, and creativity. Schools that were designed to produce factory workers resemble factories with their assembly line approach. Current reforms stick with this approach only to be less in tune with the circumstances of the 21st century. Sir Ken thinks that schools need to be transformed not reformed, and that we know how to do it even though we aren’t.
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David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants is Malcolm Gladwell’s fourth best selling book to be summarized here. I’ve been a big fan ever since I summarized The Tipping Point. If you like to give books as gifts, please click below and get copies for yourself and your favorite book worms.

Malcolm Gladwell

  • Malcolm has been a staff writer with The New Yorker magazine since 1996. From 1987 to 1996, he was a reporter with the Washington Post, where he covered business, science, and then served as the newspaper’s New York City bureau chief. He graduated from the University of Toronto, Trinity College, with a degree in history. He was born in England, grew up in rural Ontario, and now lives in New York City.
  • He is also the author of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference, (2000), Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, (2005), and Outliers: The Story of Success (2008). They were all number one New York Times bestsellers. Click the above links for my summaries.
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Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, Heath Bros.

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work (©2013) by Chip & Dan Heath, Crown Business: New York, NY shares research and cool stories that show how our decisions are disrupted by an array of biases and irrationalities. They go on to introduce a four-step process designed to counteract these problems. Their fresh strategies and practical tools will enable you to make better choices at work and beyond. If you want to increase your chances of making the right decision at the right moment, this book is for you. Click the icon at the bottom of any page to buy this important book for yourself and your key colleagues.

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Denialism – Irrational Thinking is Common – Michael Specter

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives by Michael Specter deals with how large sections of our society are in denial about things that science supports. Included are topics like child immunizations, genetic engineering of our food supply, alternative medicine, and race-based medication. The following quote should give you some idea of what to expect:
“Denialism is not green or religious or anti-intellectual, nor is it confined to utopian dreamers, agrarians, or hippies. It is not right- or left-wing; it is a fear expressed as frequently and with as much fervor by Oxford dons as by bus drivers.”
Although the book is science centered, you don’t have to be a scientist to follow it.

Click here to see the excerpted summary of this book.

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Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017
Designing Life

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans offers time-tested advice for becoming the best version of yourself possible. The advice here can help even if you are already fairly happy with your life. Their website also contains useful resources and supplements to the book.

Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

  • Bill is the executive director of the Stanford Design Program and co-founder of the Life Design Lab. He is also a former leader of Apple’s PowerBook product line and CEO of a design consultancy. Dave is co-founder of the Life Design Lab, a lecturer in the Stanford Design Program, a management consultant, and formerly a co-founder of Electronic Arts.

Introduction

  • Since only 27% of college grads end up in a career related to their jobs, it’s clear that most end up designing their careers and all need to design their non-career life. While this book is for all of us, it’s the two-thirds of workers unhappy with their jobs and the 15% who hate their work that need it the most. Life is full of problems, and solving them is what design is all about. A well-designed life is constantly creative, productive, changing, evolving, and there is always the possibility of surprise. Life then is about designing something that has never existed before. Keep in mind that passion is something you develop after you try something and get good at it. A key point is to never measure yourself against anyone. The five necessary mindsets covered are 1. Be Curious 2. Try Stuff 3. Reframe Problems 4. Know it’s a process and 5. Ask for help.

1. Start Where You Are

  • You need to know where you are and what design problems you are trying to solve. In design thinking, the authors put as much emphasis on problem finding as problem solving. Deciding which problems to work on may be the most important decisions you make. The authors define a class of problems known as gravity problems. These are problems like trying to overcome gravity in that they are not actionable and therefore can’t be solved. The key is to not get stuck on something you have no chance of succeeding at.
  • At the heart of this chapter is an activity that lets you take stock of your current status. You are asked to rate from 0 to 100 how you feel about the criteria of 1) Your Health, 2) Your Work, 3) Your Play, and 4) Your Love. As far as love is concerned you should consider all the different types of love you experience, not just love from a spouse or significant other. When you complete this task you will have a framework and some data about yourself. Nex,t you are asked to answer these questions. 1) Write a few sentences about how it’s going in each area. 2) Ask yourself if there’s a design problem you’d like to tackle in any area. 3) Ask if your problem(s) is a gravity problem.
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Discipline Survival Guide – Get One For Your School

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

In the Discipline Survival Guide for the Secondary Teacher, 2nd Ed, (©2011, Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA) Julia Thompson takes on what may be the most unpleasant part of the profession and a top reason why teachers leave. She draws on up-to-date research and theory that can help students become more self-disciplined, goal-oriented, and successful learners as teachers enhance leadership skills. She focuses on student motivation, classroom management, relationships, instructional techniques, safety, and high expectations. This 350 page effort is easy to read and can be used as a desktop reference. My summary contains key ideas, but there is a lot more I left out. Every student teacher, beginning teacher, and veteran teacher with discipline problems should have this at their side. Lots of advice for parents too. As a former secondary teacher and elementary principal, I can assure you most of this applies to students of all ages.

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