Leading Teaching and Learning
If you are only going to read one educational leadership book in 2017, then make it Leading Teaching and Learning by Stephen Dinham (and then get your priorities in order and read more books!).
This book is an excellent summary of the broad range of educational research and evidence, that school leaders are required to understand in this day and age. Dinham is a leading researcher at The University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education which appears to have taken on a new lease of life under the leadership of Professor Hattie.
The book is divided into 5 sections covering Teaching and Learning, Educational Leadership, Professional Learning, School Improvement, and Leadership Preparation. In each section, Dinham sets out to describe what the evidence says works best. Chapters cover some of the most debated topics in education today including; What works best in teaching? What do quality teachers do? What forms of professional learning are most effective? And What role does leadership play in turnaround schools? Dinham takes such debated topics and empirically displays the evidence of what works best.
You can read the book straight through, and while its chapter format makes it easy to read, at over 300 pages long it could take time for some readers. Where the book works best is as a reference resource, with teachers and leaders able to quickly check a chapter, get the evidence, and put it into practice.
Probably the best section (well in my opinion anyway) is the chapter entitled “What works best in teaching? Evidence, myths, ideologies, habits, fads and fashions.” In this chapter, Dinham takes apart some long admired, used and abused strategies, of which there is either little or poor evidence. Strategies such as Constructivism, Learning Styles, Multiple Intelligences and Neuromyths all receive their research based comeuppance. Whilst displaying that each of these approaches has either “weak, unproven or disproved effects, on student learning”, Dinham takes this notion a step further than other writers on similar topics by linking the negatives of these approaches to the work of both John Hattie and Carol Dweck. Dinham points out that approaches like Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles essentially label students. As Hattie’s work has shown, not labelling students has a significantly higher than average effect size of 0.61 on student learning, and as Dweck has pointed out, labelling leads to the theory of a fixed intelligence as opposed to a malleable intelligence, potentially inhibiting learning. While the debunking of Learning Styles is not new in academic circles, the powerful evidence Dinham provides, as well as the support from both Hattie’s and Dweck’s work, makes this chapter essential and compelling reading for every school leader.