If you are what you eat, what does your reading selection say about you?
In a world where the feeling of information overload resonates with nearly all working in education, some of CORE Education’s most ferocious readers have reviewed their best professional read of 2016 in the hope we can help with any feeling of ‘infowhelm’ you may have.
Our curated What are we reading — the best of 2016 professional reading list is a snapshot of recent and current literature which has been added to our CORE Library collection. This collection — a mix of print, e-readings, and research — supports our CORE whānau to keep current and innovative, as we work across Aotearoa’s schools, kura, and centres.
Your local public library can get you a copy of any of the books reviewed here, if your school library’s Professional Development Collection doesn’t.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable — Patrick Lencioni, Jossey Bass. Wiley, 2002.
Every organisation within and outside of education faces, at some point, the need to address issues around trust, conflict, commitment, accountability, or results. In fact, these are areas we continually work on, in, and across our teams. Lencioni’s work promotes these five areas as the necessary components of a successful, functioning team. If any are absent, a team will not be successful in achieving its common goal or desired results.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is an easy-to-read fable created by Lencioni to illustrate his theory in real terms for leaders, or for anyone working in, or with, collaborative groups or teams. The fable follows the efforts of a newly-appointed leader who has been introduced to an organisation with several dysfunctional practices. She uses Lencioni’s theory to observe the staff and then to slowly address their areas of need in terms of working successfully as a team. There are challenges along the way — as there always are when working with other people — and the fable shows practical ways to introduce the model and then address the five dysfunctions. At the end of the fable, Lencioni provides a series of chapters outlining the five dysfunctions in detail, along with some strategies for leaders.
CORE facilitators use this book to support CoLs, Clusters, teaching teams, and many other groups, both within the CORE Whānau and with our clients. Facilitation, teaching, and educational leadership are all human-centred professions, and this book shows you in clear, easy-to-understand ways how to ensure that you can be part of, or lead, highly collaborative groups. Combine this theory with your organisation’s cultural values and with our tikanga Māori — for example, using a wānanga setting to build teamwork — and you can build powerful, connected teams. (Also available on Audible as an audiobook)
Reviewed by Rebbecca Sweeney
Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts, and Systems — Michael Fullan & Joanna Quinn. Corwin, 2016
Before I had even started Chapter 3, I had pulled several valuable quotes from Michael Fullan and Joanna Quinn’s book, Coherence (2016), for proposals and papers! It is deceptively easy to read, with a framework, detailed examples, infographics, and guidelines. The book, I feel, would support facilitators, kaiako/educators, and leaders/kaiarataki to work with demanding political requirements, while also building the conditions for genuine change, shared aspirations … and learning — with the learner very firmly at the centre — “…through purposeful action and interaction, working on capacity, clarity, precision of practice, transparency, monitoring of progress, and continuous correction“.
Some of the recommendations for leaders include:
- Engage as a co-learner;
- Support the growth of leadership from the middle
- Recognise that “shifting practices” will come from all areas of an organisation;
- Balance push and pull strategies;
- Create “safe places for risk taking”; and,
- Encourage the growth of human capacity in every way possible.
Fullan and Quinn define coherence as the “[s]hared depth of understanding about the purpose and nature of the work“, as opposed to structure, alignment, and strategy. Their framework for coherence making is based on 1) focusing direction, 2) cultivating collaborative cultures, 3) deepening learning, and 4) securing accountability. To achieve coherence, all four need to be “addressed simultaneously and continuously”. There is plenty of room built in for the human factor within the change process, including the recognition that many in the education profession are working “under conditions of overload, fragmentation and policy churn“.
There are also, for me, some insightful ‘myth busters’, including a sometimes misplaced notion that to “gel under the reality of action” collaboration is the key. However, although important, “collaboration as an end in itself is a waste of time”. To make sure that collaboration is effective it also requires the “discipline and specificity of collective deliberation”. The people who are involved in the collaboration need to have a clear idea of why they are collaborating, to the point where everyone in the kura / school / centre or region can “talk the walk” (i.e., articulate the key ideas and actions behind any initiative for change).
By the time I had finished reading the book, it was bristling with the little stickies I use to mark nuggets of ‘idea gold’. The picture presented by Coherence grew as I read it and the pieces all started to gain detail and colour. I would highly recommend this as a quick read — and then something to return to for a follow up read!
Reviewed by Hazel Owen
Change: Learn to Love It, Learn to Lead It by Gerver, Richard (2013) Paperback — Richard Gerver. Portfolio, 2013.
An interesting year indeed, for me, in terms of reading. I have borrowed more books than ever before and read less. I refuse to enter the ‘busyness-trap’-type discussion, I just think I am changing as a reader. I skim and scan, I read online, I devour magazines and articles, and I enjoy reading for pleasure, losing myself in a book that is as far removed from my real life as possible. Having said that, I have a stack of partially read books that I can’t wait to dive into as the end of year chaos settles…
Our educational landscape is undergoing change at a fast rate of knots, and my reading choice of late aligns with the change theme:
Change: learn to love it, learn to lead it by Richard Gerver is a great easy read. It reads as if Gerver is speaking directly to the reader, inspiring, empowering, and encouraging. Following a carefully woven path; from exploring change, to questioning change; to developing and leading change, this book is a refreshing read in changing times. Sharing and reflecting on his journey, Gerver invites us to welcome change.
This book speaks to me as a facilitator, an educator, and personally; encouraging and embracing change with a hunger for continuous improvement.
Whatever you are grappling with now, I thoroughly recommend that you read Richard’s Change, to help you reflect on where you’ve come from and maybe set some new pathways and goals.
Reviewed by Anne Kenneally
Purple Cow, New Edition: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable — Seth Godin. Penguin, 2005
I came across this book when I was in the States and it seemed very apt for where CORE is as we transition from a company focused on Ministry of Education contracts, to one operating in an increasingly competitive environment.
The main premise of Godin’s argument focuses on the need to be remarkable or become invisible in a hectic marketplace. Godin has taken the 7 P’s of marketing principles (price, product, promotion etc) and added the ‘Purple Cow’ as a way of standing out in a crowd.
For Godin, though, it is deeper than how you promote yourself — it isn’t about painting any old cow purple, it is about developing something so fundamentally different it will become a purple cow. It’s about pushing the boundaries right from the conception of an idea.
The book is quite small, and at first glance seems like an easy read, but it is packed with great insights and examples of modern marketing which certainly get you thinking. In fact, I think it is worth a second read after a few months to ensure you have digested all those ideas and mulled on how you could adapt them.
A couple of key takeaways to whet your appetite:
“It’s much riskier to be safe and blend in with the masses, and it’s safer to be risky and set yourself apart from the rest” – whilst it is scary to be brave and take risks, it should be safer for the business in the long-run to take some well thought-out risks.
And then there are the sneezers — someone who spreads an “ideavirus.” They’re more than willing to tell the world about an awesome product or service, and every market needs them. — our role is to find and woo sneezers.
It is an enjoyable book, and one I would encourage anyone to read if they are interested in how we need to position ourselves in this challenging new market.
Reviewed by Ali Hughes
Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders — Jennifer Garvey Berger and Keith Johnstone. Stanford University Press, 2015
This book has a simple and practical message — ask different questions; seek multiple perspectives; and understand the system. The writers suggest that developing these habits helps leaders move from ‘managing the probable’ to ‘leading the possible.’ I’d suggest these habits of mind are useful for everyone. I had to buy my own copy of the book as I had so many yellow stickies in the first few pages of the CORE copy. Now I’ve got a well dog-eared version.
The book powerfully uses storytelling, and is a bit of a page turner as you get involved in the lives of the protagonists. Their story is interwoven with the lessons about putting the simple habits into practice — by knowing yourself, breaking the old habits, and trying something new (all not so simple). The chapter headings are also wonderful draw cards. For example, ‘Make rational use of human irrationality’, ‘Grow your people to be bigger than your problems.’
The writers know their stuff — all theory is referenced; and they know New Zealanders — they have worked closely with government and industry leaders. They are kind to each other and kind to the leaders represented in the book. I’m recommending this one to everyone at the moment.
Reviewed by Carolyn English
Design Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean — Roberto Verganti. Harvard Business Press, 2009.
Innovation in industry has focused broadly on two strategies. One is the radical improvement in product performance pushed by breakthrough technologies. The other is improved product performance based on users’ needs. Both strategies focus on improving a product or service. With its user-centred approach, however, the latter strategy sits within the realm of ‘design-thinking’.
In his book, Design-Driven Innovation, Roberto Verganti suggests a third strategy: the radical innovation on the meaning of a product. This approach, he suggests, creates ‘disruption’ in the market. Think of Apple with its design and release of the first smartphone (the iPhone). Apple innovated on the meaning of an existing product. In doing so, it pushed the possibilities of technology and created a new market. People embraced this change quickly. They then viewed, used, and engaged with their mobile phones in a completely different, new, and ‘smarter’ way. It was unexpected and it ‘disrupted’ the mobile phone market. An entire industry then followed Apple’s lead.
In terms of education, design thinking, can be a useful strategy to change and shape the systems that have a direct impact on policy-making and educational practice. With its user-centred focus (student, leader, teacher, parent…), it enables innovative, but often incremental change. However, Verganti argues that it is limited by the parameters that are defined by a user’s current beliefs, values, knowledge, and experiences. Incremental change in education has real value, but, with its reliance on a user-focus, do we only design different ways of implementing change based on old systems and processes, improving upon our own and others’ outdated ideas and beliefs? Is this type of change too slow? Is it truly effective? Is it enough?
Even though Design-Driven Innovation is not an educational book, it really made me think about the ideas presented in the context of education. The world around us is changing rapidly. For our children’s sake, do we keep relying on an incremental approach to changing education? Can we afford to rely on a user-focus? Or do we design something that is totally out of people’s realm of thinking? Like Apple did with its innovative new products introduced in 2007, disrupting the mobile phone market. Should educators and policymakers break away totally from past and present ideologies to disrupt the status quo? Are we too busy innovating on the form and function of products and services within education, and have we neglected to look deeper and innovate on the meaning of education? Furthermore, if we were to do this, what would it look like? Is the education system ready for disruptive innovation? Do we have a choice?
Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone — Mark Goulston. Amcon, 2010
Every day we talk to different people about different things, but actually, how effective are we at understanding other people’s needs, and helping them to understand ours? This book was definitely my ‘best read of the year’. Once I finished it I started again at the beginning. I wanted to be able to remember each page word for word. I wanted to be able to remember each strategy and each occasion to use each strategy.
This is a very easy and engaging read. You will find yourself thinking of different people as the author helps you to look at yourself, and how your communication style may not actually be helping you get through to the different people you need to communicate with. Whether you are engaging with adults or children, in business, in schools, or in your personal life, this book will have something for everyone.
Reviewed by Jane Nicholls
The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity — George Couros. Dave Burgess Consulting, 2015.
If you are familiar with Carol Dweck’s concept of growth mindset, and the power of ‘not yet’, or perhaps John Hattie’s mind frames, then The Innovator’s Mindset is for you. Starting with questions, with the learner firmly at the centre, Couros challenges educators to consider:
“What is best for this learner?”
The book is clearly structured, with questions for discussion at the end of each chapter. These serve as critical self-review, and opportunities to identify next steps. A taster of topics covered include: relationships, leadership, culture and overcoming barriers to innovation in education. One thing that resonates well with me is the ‘Less is more’, a concept that we need to address if we want quality education that empowers our future learners. Couros starts with knowing WHY we must change, and identifies eight characteristics of an Innovator’s Mindset:
Image: @gcouros @sylviaduckworth
As an aside, I took the opportunity to participate in the inaugural #Innovators Mindset MOOC #IMMOOC earlier this year. I highly recommend this as Couros is planning to run round two from February 2017. You may wish to read more here. Also, subscribe to George Couros’s blog here.
In summary, the by-line of the text summarises why you might want to add The Innovator’s Mindset to your professional reading. Educators and leaders — what are you waiting for?
‘Empower Learning, Unleash Talent and Lead a Culture of Creativity’
Reviewed by Joanne Robson
UDL in the Cloud!: How to Design and Deliver Online Education Using Universal Design for Learning — Katie Novak & Tom Thibodeau. Cast Professional Publishing, 2016.
UDL in the Cloud!: How to Design and Deliver Online Education Using Universal Design for LearningAs a facilitator of blended learning, I found this book a MUST Read! I particularly liked the daughter/father team approach, and the practical nature of the book, with useful tips throughout. For example, to build engagement online, offer multiple ways of getting to know your learners. What about a 6-minute video, or an online survey where learners can share goals; how they might manage their time, and ways to measure the impact of their learning.
‘UDL assumes learner variability’ (p. 165)
To ensure we are motivating, engaging, and connecting all our learners, Novak encourages us to explore learning in a meaningful, authentic way, to ensure learners are encouraged to think critically and be creative. Facilitators need to consider their social and cognitive presence in an online environment, alongside the learners themselves. Novak asks us to consider:
What do you want your learners to remember in two years’ time?
I highly recommend this book for those embarking on online/blended facilitation, developing online courses, and anyone who wishes to ensure that their learning environment is inclusive, for all.
Reviewed by Joanne Robson
Feature image: Fractal-imagination — CC0 Public Domain