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To order any of the books listed below, simply click on the book cover image in the left column.

The Curious Classroom: 10 Structures for Teaching with Student-Directed Inquiry

by Harvey "Smokey" Daniels

When the issue of inquiry instruction comes up two questions over shadow the conversation: Where do I find the time and what are some simple ways I can try  with my kids?  The Curious Classroom answers these questions. It shares a ladder of 10 inquiry structures and 34 inspiring models. Begin with briefly modeling your own curiosity or start on a higher rung as you gradually move toward units driven by kids' own questions.

Just getting started with inquiry? Looking for your own next step in student-driven inquiry? Or do you just want new teaching ideas to try? Read The Curious Classroom. "By the end of this book," writes Smokey Daniels, "I hope you will say two things:

  • I never knew my kids were capable of working at this level; and
  • This is the most fun I have ever had in my teaching life."


Coherence:  The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts, and Systems

by Michael Fullan and Joanne Quinn

Complex times call for streamlined solutions―and leaders to pull them togetherIf initiative overload and fragmentation are keeping your best plans from becoming reality, it’s time to lead with coherence. Using the right drivers as your foundation, you’ll bring people and ideas together―and implement the kind of lasting change that maximizes results. The key to success is the Coherence Framework, a dynamic, customizable road map with four essential components:

  •          Focused direction to build collective purpose
  •          Cultivating collaborative cultures while clarifying individual and team roles
  •          Deepening learning to accelerate improvement and foster innovation 
  •          Securing accountability from the inside out

The Principal:  Three Keys to Maximizing Impact
by Micheal Fullan

Principals are often called the second most crucial in-school influencers (after teachers) of student learning. But what should the principal do in order to maximize student achievement? One of the best-known leadership authors in education, Fullan explains why the answer lies neither in micro-managing instruction nor in autonomous entrepreneurialism. He shows systematically how the principal's role should change, demonstrating how it can be done in short order, at scale.

  • Reveals the three key roles that administrators must play in today's schools
  • Explains how to choose the right versus wrong drivers of school success
  • Filled with "action items" to help implement Fullan's program effectively
  • Includes strategies that have been successfully field-tested in schools across the United States and Canada

Mindsets in the Classroom:  Building a Growth Mindset Learning Community

by Mary Cay Ricci

Based on Carol Dweck’s work at Sanford University on fixed and growth mindset theory, Mindsets in the Classroom provides educators with ideas for ways to build a growth mindset school culture, where in students are challenged to charge their thinking about their abilities and potential. Included are planning templates and a sample professional development plan and ideas for communicating the mindset concept to parents.

Appreciative Inquiry:  A Positive Approach to Building Cooperative Capacity

by Frank Garrett and Ronald Fry

This book provides a concise introduction to and overview of the growing discipline and practice of Appreciative Inquiry (AI).  This strength-based  approach to cooperative capacity building starts with the very first question--an unconditional positive question-- that moves the organization into the direction of its questions.  Included are three case studies including a successful US Navy case .If AI can work in the command  and control oriented military, it an work anywhere. 

If you are intrigued by the prospect of mobilizing rapid, positive change with multiple stakeholders in a human system that is important to you, this book is for you.

Distributed Leadership in Schools:  A Practical Guild for Learning and Improvement

by John De Flaminis, Musta fa Abdul-Jabbar

Building on best practices and lessons learned, Distributed Leadership in Schools shows educators how to design and implement distributed leadership to effectively address challenges in their schools. Grounded in case studies and full of practical tools, this book lays out a framework for building strategic, collaborative, and instructionally-focused teams. Supported by voices of practitioners and based upon original research, this comprehensive resource shares concrete strategies, tips, and tools for creating teams that are skilled at using data to plan and monitor their work, and successful in facilitating change to improve student learning. This innovative method will aid leader development and facilitate reflection, and will reshape leadership practice in a way that benefits teachers, leaders, schools, and students.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

by Carol Dweck

After decades of research, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., discovered a simple but groundbreaking idea: the power of mindset. In this brilliant book, she shows how success in school, work, sports, the arts, and almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. People with a fixed mindset—those who believe that abilities are fixed—are less likely to flourish than those with agrowth mindset—those who believe that abilities can be developed. Mindset reveals how great parents, teachers, managers, and athletes can put this idea to use to foster outstanding accomplishment.

In this edition, Dweck offers new insights into her now famous and broadly embraced concept. She introduces a phenomenon she calls false growth mindset and guides people toward adopting a deeper, truer growth mindset. She also expands the mindset concept beyond the individual, applying it to the cultures of groups and organizations. With the right mindset, you can motivate those you lead, teach, and love—to transform their lives and your own.

The Growth Mindset Playbook: A Teacher's Guide to Promoting Student Success

by Annie Brock and Heather Hundley

Here is a real hands-on, in the trenches helper for teachers wanting to apply Carol Dweck’s theoretical work on fixed and growth mindsets. The authors share more strategies, tips; ideas and research that will help teachers understand mindset and how it can contribute to positive outcomes for students.

Leading With Questions
by Michael J. Marquardt

Most of us have worked for a supervisor or boss whose conversation was full of requests and demands more than inquisitiveness. Somehow too many leaders have concluded that asking questions is a sign of weakness, an indication that he/ she is not in control or knowledgeable.

Michael Marquardt bashes this notion and provides leaders with a wealth of insights in how to energize their organizations by purposeful inquiry and powerful listening. As he writes, “Questions can elicit information, of course, but they can do much more. Astute leaders use questions to encourage full of participation and teamwork, to spur innovation and outside-the-box thinking, to empower others, to build relationships with customers, to solve problems and more.” Indeed they can and such a mind-set goes to the heart of being a transformational leader. We highly recommend Marquardt’s treasure of a book.

Eight Myths of Student Disengagement: Creating Classrooms of Deep Learning 
by Jennifer A. Fredricks

Fredricks writes, “Student disengagement is one of the biggest challenges teachers face each day in their classrooms. This disengagement can take many forms, including lack of participation and effort, acting out and disrupting class, disaffection and withdrawal and failure to invest deeply in the academic content…”

Her book presents a “multidimensional construct” addressing behavior, emotional and cognitive aspects of the solution and she argues that there is no quick fix but rather all three dimensions of disengagement must be addressed.   She has provided practical ways to implement practices to increase student engagement.


Rising Strong 
by Brene’ Brown

Transformational leadership demands risk-taking that inevitably includes failure, setbacks, discomfort, and hurt. Rising Strong by Brown, the Ted Talk phenomenon and author of Daring Greatly, offers thoughtful strategies to deal productively with these inevitabilitiesFalling down, sometimes face first with skinned knees and mud on one’s face is the chief metaphor of Brown’s inspiring book. She writes, “The truth is that falling hurts. The dare is to keep being BRAVE and to feel your way back up.” Brown’s purpose in writing this book is “to slow down the falling and rising process: to bring into our awareness all the choices that unfurl in front of us during those moments of discomfort and hurt, and to explore the consequences of those choices.” Through specific precepts and inspiring stories of “rising strong,” Brown offers us the insights and courage to take the risk, overcome fear of failure, and consequently engage in the behavior required of a transformational leader.

The Power of Collective Wisdom and the Trap of Collective Folly 
by Alan Briskin, Sheryl Erickson, and Tom Callanan

As the authors write in their welcome, “This book is intended for people who seek more effective and satisfying ways of working with other people. It is for people who are working to make their communities, neighborhoods, and organizations more inclusive, effective, and wise.” Transformational leaders certainly fall into this group. Indeed, one of the major roles of transformational leadership is to capture the power of a school’s collective expertise and wisdom.

Peter Senge who writes the foreword, commends the book for correcting two misconceptions about wisdom: one, that wisdom is not developable and, two, that it not about a few wise people…but about the capacity of human communities to make wise choices and to orient themselves around a living sense of the future that truly matters to them.” He sees this text as “…offering stories and practices that can help each of use in our own wisdom journey.”

We have all been warned against “group think” what the authors call the “trap of folly.” While praising the power of collective wisdom, the book firmly warns against “collective folly,” the consequence of two related yet opposing group dynamics: group polarization and group false agreement.

This book is inspirational in showing how transformational leaders can better capture the power of collective wisdom while avoiding the folly of the collective trap.


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

Tony Wagner is no stranger to educators seeking solutions to current educational issues. Those who have read How Schools ChangeMaking the Grade,or Change Leadership know he is both a critic of most of what passes for educational reform and a clear voice for what we should be doing.

Creating Innovators is not so much another book about K-12 reform as it is a call for the nurturing of innovators in our k-12 schools, colleges, and in the workplace. After making the case for the need of innovation, he notes the most essential qualities of successful innovators include: 1) Curiosity, which is a habit of asking good questions and a desire to understand more deeply, 2) Collaboration, which begins with listening to and learning from others who have perspectives and expertise that are very different from your own, 3) associative and integrative thinking , and 4) a bias toward action and experimentation.

Too often we assume that innovators are born not bred. Thomas Edisons and Steve Jobs are viewed as rare natural phenomena. Wagner objects and is convinced that his four essential qualities of successful innovators “…represent a set of skills and habits of mind that can be nurtured, taught, and mentored.”

He provides a clear answer for school leaders to the question “transformation into what?” Like many of us Wagner is “…frankly appalled at the idea “…that the best measure of teacher’ effectiveness is student performance on standardized, multi-choice test.” He asserts that most school administrators have “…no idea what kind of instruction is required to produce students who can think critically and creatively, communicate effectively, and collaborate versus merely score well on a test.” For school leaders questioning the current focus on test achievement, Wagner offers a compelling alternative. This is a great read.


The Allure of Order 
by Jal Mehta

This is a must-read for those seeking to understand  how we arrived at the present state of educational reform in this country. The book offers a detailed historical and political analysis of America’s checkered  attempts to reform its schools. For those familiar with Raymond Callahan’s Education and the Cult of Efficiency, published in the early 1960s, this is a much needed update on reformers’ quests to reform schools through scientific management.  Mehta’s final chapters offer recommendations  to implement practices based on valuing human knowledge and skill over technical order in our educational systems.


Leading for Learning: How to Transform Schools into Learning Organizations 
by Phillip C. Schlechty

Phil Schlechty has been an advocate for radical school change for the past 40 years. This book offers a framework, tools, and processes that will help school leaders move beyond the current bureaucratic mind-set and to a “learning organization.”  The Schlechty Center for Leadership in School Reform’s web site (www.schlechtycenter.org) offers a wealth of tools, books and other resources to help those searching for a better path to transforming schools into “learning organizations.”

So Much Reform So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools 
by Charles M. Payne
The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools 
by Dale Russakoff

Two of the largest recent urban reform efforts took place in Chicago and Newark. With the infusion of huge grants from corporate donors and foundations (Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook in Newark and the Annenberg Foundation in Chicago), these reform efforts started with great fanfare only to end with little to show for the effort. Payne writes “…most discussion of educational policy and practice is dangerously disconnected from the daily realities of urban schools,…most discussion fails to appreciate the intertwined and overdetermined nature of the causes of failure.” He contends that issues of scale, pace, capacity, and community engagement were grossly misunderstood by reformers. Payne concludes that “…nothing we know about bottom-tier schools suggests that doing a lot of good things superficially is likely to have real impact on the lives of the children or teachers.”

The Newark story so graphically depicted by Russakoff is one of unexamined ideology mixed with hubris that left the students, teachers and parents of that city with little of educational substance. Read these two books as lessons in what not to do in one’s efforts to transform our neediest school systems.


The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion Through The Art of Storytelling 
by Annette Simmons.  

Effective communications is a leadership imperative.   Effective story telling is communication’s first mate. Annette Simmons in this revised and updated edition showcases hundreds of examples of effective storytelling. She illustrates how story can be used to persuade, inspire and motivate in ways the cold facts, bullet points and directives can’t.


The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation 
by Elena Aguilar

Effective leaders are learners and teachers. Coaching one’s staff to higher levels of understanding and performance is critical in the “learning organization.” Elena Aguilar offers a comprehensive research and practice guide on how to create a coaching vision, build trust, listen well, ask powerful questions and develop a work plan. She highlights common challenges followed by creative solutions and includes many practical tools: rubrics, cheat sheets, and coaching sentence stems.


 The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human 
by Jonathan Gottschall

Just why are narrative and storytelling so central to being human? Jonathan Gottschall offers a unified theory of storytelling. He argues that stories help us navigate life’s complex social problems. He draws on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology and evolutionary biology to tell us what it means to be a storytelling animal and makes the case how stories can change the world for the better.


Transforming Schools: Using Project-Based Learning, Performance Assessment, and Common Core Standards
by Bob Lenz, Justin Wells and Sally Kingston 

“The world is changing, and our schools are not keeping up” is the opening line of this powerful prescription to transform our secondary schools. The authors draw on the example of the nationally recognized Envision Education schools and other leading schools around the country to demonstrate how deeper learning can prepare students for college and career by engaging them in their own education. Throughout the book, the authors explain how project-based learning can blend with Common Core-aligned performance assessments to create an environment that encourages deeper learning. Not just theory but included are examples of how schools have made the transitions from teacher-centered learning to project-based deeper learning.


Taking Charge: Leading with Passion and Purpose in the Principalship
by Paul Shaw

Taking Charge: Leading with Passion and Purpose in the Principalship is one of the top books I have ever read on the principal’s role in transforming a school.  Shaw is a great writer and knows the principalship from the inside out. He draws from his own experience and the experiences of the many principals he has mentored. My students in The Principal’s Role course at St. Louis University unanimously praised the book as the best leadership text they had read.  Filled with specific suggestions, Shaw weaves a clear theory of transformation throughout the work.  Is guaranteed to get you fired up if you are facing the January blahs.


 The Power of Protocols: An Educators Guide to Better Practice 
by Joseph McDonald et al

 The Power of Protocols: An Educators Guide to Better Practice is a compact book filled with specific protocols designed to improve instructional practice.  The book offers a step-by-step guide to help leaders implement intentional conversation that focuses on teaching practices, student work, and instructional design. I am afraid far too many school leaders underestimate the power of these structured conversations to raise the bar and support the purposeful collaboration that is a critical part of genuine school improvement.


 The Adaptive School: A Sourcebook for Developing Collaborative Groups 
by Bob Garmston and Bruce Wellman 

 The Adaptive School: A Sourcebook for Developing Collaborative Groups is a required book in any transformational leader’s library.  When I was at the international school, la Escuela de Campo Alegre, in Venezuela in October, so was Bob Garmston, teaching his wonderful course based on the book.  We had meals together several time, and I confided to him that I had taken his course at least five times that I could remember.  His focus on critical processes and structures that support deep reflection and learning was essential to our work at MRH; and all administrators and many teacher leaders took the course. If it’s not on your go- to pile of books, you are missing something. Get the accompanying workbook, as well.


The Advantage 
by Patrick Lencioni 

The Advantage is a must-read for leaders searching for specific strategies to nurture a more coherent and powerful culture. Clear, easy-to-read, and chock full of specifics that will help you transform your work environment, the book includes stories of leaders who have struggled and then learned how to attend to their organizational culture as intently as they do the other aspects of their business.  Included is a terrific section on leveraging meetings as part of the transformational work.


Read, Write, Lead 
by Regie Routman

If you only have time to read one book this year, read Regie! Regie Routman’s work with early literacy has always been a shining star among literacy specialists.  Her new book, Read, Write, Lead, is absolutely the best thing on the market when it comes to rethinking literacy in schools.  She expands her perspective to examine the role of teacher leadership as part of the transformation of the program.  Filled with Regie’s clear strategies for teaching literacy and for changing a school culture, this book is a must read for anyone working with elementary and middle schools. It is a clear guide to transformation through literacy.