To support the argument for a more student-led and inquiry-focused model of learning to motivate students to be lifelong learners ready for the challenges of the 21st century, the author references many popular educational and business thinkers currently influencing Ontario educators and our school boards. Educators include George Couros, Will Richardson, John Spencer, A.J. Juliani, John Hattie, Carol Dweck, Dr. Yong Zhao, Dylan Wiliam, Jennifer Gonzales, and Michael Fullan. Business thinkers include Simon Sinek, Seth Godin, Steven Covey, Peter Drucker, Dan Pink, and Peter Senge. Although some readers might take issue with the frequent reference to business writers and private U.S. Charter Schools, such as High Tech High, the author’s organizational systems analysis approach highlights many system wide contradictions and the "knowing-doing gap" (P.7) related to empowering teachers, creating a collaborative school culture, and providing meaningful professional development.
The key instructional and assessment strategies and philosophy encouraged throughout the book include project and inquiry-based learning, knowing the learner, 21st century competencies, personalized learning, feedback, and creating a shared understanding of learning goals. Some practical ideas that might benefit or appeal to classroom teachers include: 1) Co-creation of class rules and norms. 2) Evaluation of information from on-line resources. 3) Developing Student Interests and Strengths Inventories (See P. 188, 216, and 313). 4) Explicitly teaching communication and feedback (giving and receiving) skills. 5) Re-framing problems or approaches to solving problems.
Most interestingly, the author provides a clear critique and recommendations related to the larger school system challenges to empowering teachers, as well as students, and to improve overall school cultures. In chapter 4, there is a discussion related to disconnects, or the contradicting reality, related to school boards messaging and vision and teacher buy-in or development of a shared understanding. Students and teachers want to be empowered, but opportunities for autonomy, such as choice and voice, are sometimes limited. In Chapter 8, there is a discussion about the importance of coaching and relationships for staff development and a recommendation to "move beyond one-size-fits-all" training and development. There is a need to change from a culture of compliance to innovation, which applies as much to teachers as students. The author suggests administrators have to go beyond an "open door policy" and actively seek out and connect with staff. In Chapter 9, which is aptly titled "Teachers create what they experience", there is a critique on traditional professional development, which is often designed by someone outside of the school, delivered as an "isolated event", and expected to be implemented even without sufficient understanding or buy-in. The author reminds us that choice and voice and providing authentic experiences to engage are equally important for staff and student learning. Teachers may benefit from personalized learning similar to what is proposed for students. Finally, in Chapter 10, there is a discussion on creating professional learning communities and a culture of psychological safety and structure to promote collaborative learning for teachers.
The key "takeaway" from the book: Learning Centered Innovation is that creating an authentic school culture or “Learning Organization”, as described by the author and Peter Senge, requires a school culture of "R-E-S-P-E-C-T." and authentic collaboration among students and teachers.