Chapter 27 Excerpts

Below is the bulk of the content of Chapter 27 from Know Power, Know Responsibility. These are the materials recommended in the book for those who are beginning the school model reinvention journey.

CHAPTER 27—Building a Base of Knowledge about Learning, Growth, and Development (excerpts)

Required reading for all team members

At a minimum, I strongly recommend all or most team members read the following books. I consider these critical to understanding the most important aspects of designing an effective school model. Full descriptions of each are found in their respective sections that follow:

  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
  • The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson
  • The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness by Todd Rose
  • Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
  • Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet

Leadership, planning, and change

The knowledge and research here are more about the process than the school model itself, except for Turn the Ship Around and Blink. If you want a better understanding of how a leader can bring a group together to effectively achieve a purpose such as designing a new school model, consider reading these books or exploring alternate versions of their contents.

  • Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet—Navy Captain David Marquet shares the lessons he learned introducing an entire new paradigm of leadership aboard a US Navy nuclear submarine. These lessons are incredibly relevant to local efforts of designing a new school model as well as the school model itself. (Marquet, 2012)
  • Leading Change: An Action Plan from the World’s Foremost Expert on Business Leadership by John Kotter—Kotter provides a model for leading change in an organization; this model can be adapted for leading a change such as designing a new school model. If you don’t take time to read the book, visit Kotter’s website on this change process: (Kotter, 2012)
  • The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization by Peter Senge—This is one of the earliest works on learning organizations and contains valuable resources and tools for creating and leading organizations striving to make change. It contains many excellent insights. (Senge, 2006)
  • Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath—This book explores the science behind the difficulty of getting individuals and organizations to make significant changes. Dan and Chip Heath use effective analogies to help illustrate the challenge of change and ways to address these challenges. (Heath, 2010)
  • Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek—In a book directed at businesspeople, Sinek demonstrates how the “why” of an organization is much more important to success than the what or the how. The ideas here support the development of a vision and belief statements. (Sinek, 2009) Sinek also has a website dedicated to the book’s concept:
  • Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell—Gladwell explores the science behind intuition and demonstrates why we shouldn’t always discount hunches, which can greatly influence our decisions and behaviors. This book also has value in the realm of learning. (Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, 2006)
  • Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t by Jim Collins—While not as directly valuable as some of the others, this book and Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All look at the factors within an organization that can lead to success beyond that of peer organizations and then allow those organizations to sustain that level of success. Of particular interest are the insights on leadership for such organizations. (Collins J. C., 2001) (Collins J. C., 2011)
  • Simple Thinking: How to Remove Complexity from Life and Work by Richard Gerver—Gerver led one of the most successful school turnaround efforts to ever take place in Great Britain. In this book, he talks about the many things that can lead to such successful outcomes without being overly complex. In fact, often simpler is better. (Gerver, 2016)
  • Creating Tomorrow’s Schools Today: Education – Our Children – Their Futures by Richard Gerver—This is Gerver’s story of bringing innovation to the Grange School and the many lessons he learned along the way. The most recent edition includes additional insights from his later journey working with schools around the world. (Gerver, Creating Tomorrow’s Schools Today, 2014)

Use of data, information, and averages

Data-based decision-making and using data for accountability is a rather volatile subject. Data use has been emphasized in education for decades and is regularly used to justify actions and decisions. One of the chief arguments against the use of data is the difficulty of collecting and applying it appropriately. Having a better understanding of this challenge will be helpful. Here are two books I recommend:

  • The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness by Todd Rose—This book exposes the perils of applying averages to humans and human systems. Rose details the ways that averages have been inappropriately used in all areas of our society and the many problems and challenges our reliance on averages has created. (Rose, 2015)
  • The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—but Some Don’t by Nate Silver—This book helps readers determine when and how to use data to achieve a desired purpose while demonstrating the many ways that useful data is lost or obscured by other data and information. (Silver, 2012)

The brain

Anyone designing a school model should have a basic understanding of the way the brain functions, grows, develops, and learns. Many of the books in the learning and thinking section below contain additional information on the brain.

  • Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Daniel Siegel, MD—This book addresses numerous myths about the adolescent brain and helps explain how understanding the teen brain can allow us to create circumstances and respond to teen actions and decisions that will lead to more positive outcomes. (Siegel, 2013)
  • My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor—This book, written by a brain researcher after having recovered from a stroke, provides great insights into how the brain functions, the ways the two hemispheres of the brain interact, and how all this can play out in people’s personalities and traits. (Taylor, 2006)

Motivation, willpower, and success

When people are motivated to learn, they retain knowledge better, can combine it with other learning, and can apply it in new situations. Pushing past challenges that occur when striving to learn may require willpower. These books help provide an understanding of motivation, how motivation occurs in individuals, and where willpower might come from.

  • Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink—Pink cites extensive research and examples that demonstrate the shortcomings of rewards and punishments for providing motivation. The book details alternative, more effective drivers of motivation. (Pink, 2009)
  • The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control is the Engine of Success by Walter Mischel—Mischel tracked numerous child test subjects over the course of several decades to see how early demonstrations of “willpower” affected their future education and professional paths. He provides research that shows that willpower is not simply a trait people have but is something that can be enhanced and strengthened. (Mischel, 2014)
  • Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker—This book explores myths and facts about achieving success. The nature of Barker’s research and writing is somewhat diverse, but the insights are individually and collectively very valuable. (Barker, 2017)

Learning and thinking

This is clearly one of the most important and valuable elements when it comes to building a base of knowledge for school design, but it comes with a huge caveat. Most of the literature around learning—including books, journal articles, and research—frame the work and findings in the current model of schools. The authors and researchers take their findings and adapt them based on an assumption they will be applied in such a school model. That means, to get the most out of these materials, we must consider what the findings and recommendations would mean in a different model or, even better, how they can inform the design of a new model.

For example, in How We Learn, Benedict Carey spends a great deal of time on memorization of vocabulary lists, science terms, poems, and math formulas. The writing is framed with the expectation that a student is memorizing to prepare for an upcoming exam. The insights that Carey provides are valuable in a traditional school, where there are exams that rely on rote memorization, but they might be useless in other school models. Other parts of the book, however, note that knowledge will be learned more effectively and be more retrievable if encountered in a more meaningful, relevant, contextual manner. (Carey, 2014)

Although many of the writers would likely agree their findings support a different model of school, their texts rarely consider a new design as an option. To best utilize these texts, we must look past the writers’ biases toward the current model. Instead, we should focus on ways the findings and recommendations can lead to significantly better learning than the writers even considered.

  • The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson—In this 2018 book, Stixrud and Johnson show how lack of power and control is a leading cause of childhood stress and contributes to numerous challenges. Stixrud is a clinical neuropsychologist who works primarily with children, and Johnson runs a tutoring service. They provide solid, research-based insights along with corresponding examples from their own work and experiences. (Johnson, 2018)
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck— Dweck, a Stanford psychologist, discusses the concept of mindset and research showing the powerful benefits of a “growth mindset.” Even more important is that Dweck illustrates numerous dangers of a “fixed mindset” beyond just learning and academic performance. (Dweck, 2016)
  • Tapping the Power of Personalized Learning: A Roadmap for School Leaders by James Rickabaugh—Rickabaugh, Senior Advisor at the Institute for Personalized Learning, provides a comprehensive look at what personalized learning is, the incredible positive impacts demonstrated through decades of implementation, and insights on implementing such innovative practices. (Rickabaugh, 2016)
  • Why Don’t Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions about How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom by Daniel T. Willingham—Willingham is a cognitive scientist who wrote this book to help teachers better engage students by exploring the science behind the challenges they face in learning at school. The research and explanations, however, also provide valuable insights for how to design a new school model that will foster learning for all students. (Willingham, 2009)
  • How We Learn: The Surprising Truth about When, Where, and Why It Happens by Benedict Carey—This book dives deeply into centuries’ worth of research on how we learn and what that might mean for the most effective ways of fostering learning for oneself or others. (Carey, 2014)
  • How We Learn audio course from The Great Courses, delivered by Monisha Pasupathi, associate professor in the department of psychology at the University of Utah. This course is made up of twenty-four lectures on how people learn and is based on a wide array of research which is presented in a clear, easy to understand format. (Paupathi, 2012)
  • Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. Though written for a business audience, Outliers provides excellent insights on the influence of environmental elements and the ways certain experiences can contribute to success, thus informing how we might design a school model. (Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success, 2008)

The List Continues

Even as we were preparing this book for publication, I found more books with great value.  My website,, will maintain an up-to-date list of resources, so check there regularly.  Three additional works I found just prior to press were The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt (Lukianoff, 2018); Dare to Lead by Brene Brown (Brown, 2018); and Free to Learn by Peter Gray (Gray, 2013).

Journals to further inform your work

Although the listed books are more comprehensive, journal articles have the benefit of being current. Also, because they are shorter than books, you can cover more ground in a shorter amount of time. Rather than list specific articles to read, I encourage you to seek out the most recent articles on a given topic and consider subscribing to or browsing through learning-related journals regularly for the latest research and perspectives. Here are a few I recommend:

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