Book Review                         Online Exclusive

Learning for Leadership: Developmental Strategies for Building Capacity in Our Schools

by Eleanor Drago-Severson, Jessica Blum-DeStefano and Anila Asghar, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2013; 295 pp. with index, $41.95 softcover

In today’s schools, it seems that leaders are asked to do more and more with less and less. But at the end of the day, the non-negotiable assessment for all leaders in all places is evidence of student achievement.

The best way to make that outcome a reality, according to Eleanor Drago-Severson, a professor of education at Columbia’s Teachers College, and her colleagues, is to craft an environment where adult learning is woven across the educational fabric so seamlessly that habit of mind and practice come to blanket, and thus characterize, the school culture for both children and adults.

Drawing heavily on their longitudinal research based on the Four Pillar Practices for Growth, the authors bring to educational leaders insights that have obvious and meaningful applications to essential questions, such as how to develop and retain effective teachers and leaders in the high-stakes environments of today’s schools.

Certainly many superintendents share such frustrations, and this book invites the reader to consider ways in which organizational cultures can be transformed from hostile places to learning and leading spaces. The authors remind leaders that bringing adults together to enhance learning and practice within an environment that is based in adult learning theory can do much to support and retain both teachers and leaders.

I remain consistently impressed with the simplicity and clarity of Drago-Severson’s writing, even when she deconstructs highly complex and sophisticated research findings. In the hurry of today’s schools, leaders and teachers frequently lack the time and space to analyze and reflect on research. Drago-Severson connects the findings from reliable research to authentic problems facing teachers and leaders today and tomorrow. I am certain that practitioners will appreciate the specific and helpful guidance coming from this work.

What strikes me even more than the applicability of the discussions or the ease of the writing is the persistent sense of hope and possibility that characterize the discussions. Drago-Severson and her co-authors have the audacity to imagine schools can be positive learning places for children and adults alike. I find her sense of hope and optimism infectious. We all might enjoy a positive boost as we persist in the important work before us.

In this work, Drago-Severson encourages an optimistic attitude, even when we all seem to be trying to do more and more with less and less.

Reviewed by Zach Kelehear, associate dean and professor, University of South Carolina College of Education, Columbia, S.C.



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