Book Review

Leading Adult Learning

Supporting Adult Development in Our Schools

by Eleanor Drago-Severson, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2009, 368 pp. with index, $85.95 -hardcover, $40.95 softcover

In her work Leading Adult Learning: Supporting Adult Development in Our Schools, Eleanor Drago-Severson combines research and practice to create an essential handbook for leaders of adults.

Building on a deep and broad base of adult learning research and theory — in particular, her four pillars for growth from earlier books — the author provides a conceptual explanation for various adult learning approaches, replete with their limits and advantages, their possible applications, and practical case studies for making the “pillar practice more tangible.” As a former staff development director, I would have found the text helpful in my role as one who provided opportunities for adults to be more effective in their work.

Drago-Severson structures her discussion of teaming, leadership roles, collegial inquiry and mentoring in a way that enables district leaders to use this work in reading groups involving teachers.

A particularly exciting emphasis by Drago-Severson centers on the development of leadership practice by principals, a subject overshadowed today by teacher attrition.

Each chapter includes cases and lessons from the field and reflective questions. The coupling of theory and practice makes this book appealing. Leading Adult Learning is as complete a primer for leading adult learning as can be found in print today. As a principal asked me recently, “What do I do with teachers who seem not to care and lack motivation?” I responded that Leading Adult Learning may be the crutch on which she can lean as she seeks to understand the adults in her school.

Reviewed by Zach Kelehear, professor of educational leadership, University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C.