Book Review

Powerful Learning

What We Know About Teaching for Understanding

by Linda Darling-Hammond and others, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2008, 288 pp., $26.95 softcover

Linda Darling-Hammond and a premier team of researchers and practitioners have documented what they describe as “powerful learning” projects in diverse school settings. 

I loved reading Powerful Learning: What We Know About Teaching for Understanding for two reasons. First, the research is exhaustive and top-drawer. We see clear evidence supporting well-designed programs that feature project-based learning, cooperative learning and performance-based assessments in all subject areas.

Powerful Learning: What We Know About Teaching for Understanding


Darling-Hammond, a Stanford professor, describes the results of the programs documented in this research. The students who are “taught for understanding,” she says, can “evaluate and defend ideas with careful reasoning and evidence, independently inquire into a problem using a productive research strategy, produce a high-quality piece of work and understand the standards that indicate they have done so.”

The second reason I admire this book is because it links to a wonderful streaming video website that can be viewed while reading about the projects. These clips are housed at www.edutopia.org, a site sponsored by the George Lucas Educational Foundation.

The book is ideal for school and district leaders who are looking for professional development materials. The videos can be downloaded for use in staff training programs.

Reviewed by Perry Berkowitz, department chair, education leadership and counseling programs, College of Saint Rose, Albany, N.Y.