Sunday, 4 November 2018

Book Review: The Learning Imperative

The Learning Imperative 
By Mark Burns and Andy Griffith

It has been a couple of years since I've reviewed an edu-book, largely due to reducing my writing and conference activities in 2017 and not feeling a need to read more widely when I was last teaching. The book I am sharing is one that's very relevant for school leadership teams, governors, those like me with an overall interest in education and those involved with organisational learning and development. 

I find the busyness of life can make professional reading a chore but The Learning Imperative is the kind of book that quickly had me developing an internal monologue in conversation with it, with the authors, and with the fabric that makes up 'my day'. It looks at cultivating a positive learning culture holistically in an organisation rather than through the perspective of individual roles or at targeting individual aspects. Is your organisation a good one if only certain people or groups are considered learners? How does a culture of learning support organisational outcomes and performance? And, more importantly, how can understanding this help you in your context?

It has 217 pages that are split into three main sections (Learning and your team/Overcoming barriers/Designing effective learning). At first, I was curious about the book but not enamoured; I was approaching it as an 'ought to read' rather than a 'can't wait to read'. However, after nibbling section 1, I couldn't stop and ended up going through significantly more pages than I'd intended to!

Laid out for easy-reading, it succeeds in not overloading the reader. The text is dusted with case studies and reflective questions which subtly buffer to ensure the focus when reading is your setting and the dynamics within it. I felt the book ignited a dialogue about learning with the reader and maintained its energetic momentum throughout, which echoes what most readers will want to develop within their organisation - it would be a challenge to read this book and not develop your thinking.

In my opinion, the authors writing balances objective expertise and empathy; I consider my standards quite high but as I read, I did feel I was 'in the hands' of experts. Mark and Andy have substance. There's something about them that reminds me of the "coach what you see" mantra drilled into me as a football coach - I get the impression they could enter any organisation, quickly have a mental measure of it, offer succinct feedback and select sensible suggestions for improvement from an arsenal of knowledge.

The authors aren't (currently...) in my network and the book is written from a position of improving learning within organisations, which is a stance I've not really come across on the edu-circuit before; we have many publications about leadership, the science of learning and practical strategies for the classroom but with the Ed sector wincing over retention and recruitment, and with ongoing debates about professional autonomy, I see very little material about schools as both individual systems and as systems within a larger body, or acknowledgement of this interrelationship. 

All in all, The Learning Imperative was a very pleasant surprise and challenged what I thought I would learn from reading the book as well as pushing me to really interrogate the things I'm working on in my role. It was pleasurable to read but also doesn't allow the reader to sit comfily or passively - the authors want you to take something tangible away rather than simply enjoy reading their hard work; the vibe of the book is that you, the reader, are developing something whether that be yourself or your organisation. Due to this, it now features in my book 'circle of trust' (the handful of go-to's that can be delved into time and time again) and I will be keeping an eye out on other activities from the authors. 

1 comment:

  1. I want to to thank you for this very good read!!
    I absolutely loved every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked to check
    out new stuff you post...