Book Reviews

Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education

by Peter Senge

Reviewed by Joseph W. Rudnicki
Superintendent, Sunnyvale School District, Sunnyvale, Calif.

Readers of Peter Senge's original The Fifth Discipline will immediately recognize the style. The book may be read cover to cover but reads more enjoyably within a self-directed sequence from icon to icon. Margin icons, an excellent table of contents and margin vignettes provide sparks to individual reader interest.

In Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education, Peter Senge, Nelda Cambron-McCabe, Timothy Lucas, Bryan Smith, Janis Dutton and Art Kleiner present learning organization principles in 191 articles and case study writings. The work is a massive collection of tools, methods, stories and exercises intended to stoke the fire of school improvement. The nonprescriptive writings are pragmatic and reflective and offer a means for dialogue and conversation about "where to progress from where we are."

The five learning disciplines of personal mastery, shared vision, mental models, team learning and systems thinking constitute the framework of Senge's learning organization. This structure guides the means for systemic change. Best practices and mental models are given for individuals and groups at all levels of the organization.

The Alameda, Calif., schools provide an example of positive change at the board level. Through strategic application of the five disciplines, the board increased the collective capabilities of its members. The board progressed from being fundamentally conservative to being innovative.

Because of the icon-to-icon format, readers can select the material of interest most suited to them.

(Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education by Peter Senge, Currency Books, Doubleday, 1540 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10036, 2000, 573 pp. without index, $35 softcover)