9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2009
Every teacher, school, district, and government searches for the best way to educate the children in their care. If there were one magic way to accomplish this daunting task, we would have implemented it long ago. David Perkins' wonderful Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform Education addresses the problem of how the whole picture of education, from Kindergarten through University, fits together: how it interacts, connects, and becomes meaningful.
Perkins begins with the basic premise that most formal education in our world approaches ideas, concepts, subjects, and disciplines in a piecemeal approach instead of looking at the big picture. We are subject, in school, to what he calls "elementitis" and "aboutitis," or breaking down learning into discrete, unconnected bits that frequently - usually - never do get connected. It's a fractured curriculum, with a narrow focus on standards which are frequently based on disjointed accumulations of facts. We teach what's relevant to what's going to be tested. Perkins says we go through our years of schooling in this lurching, broken way, "with the whole game nowhere in sight."
So what to do about it? Perkins, along with Howard Gardner, is a co-director of Harvard Graduate School's Project Zero, which aims to investigate education and learning in a holistic way. Project Zero has supported the concept of Teaching for Understanding. Its researchers are in the forefront of studying what education can look like for the 21st century. Perkins proposes that we look at education with an eye for bigger goals than just accumulating disconnected pieces of knowledge, without discounting the need for skills and foundational knowledge.
To do this, he sets out seven principles of teaching that can make significant changes in how a teacher plans and implements a curriculum in any subject area, for any grade level. Suggested classroom practices are included, but more than that, the book is about different ways of thinking, for both teachers and students. Written in Perkins' delightful wry voice, Making Learning Whole is motivating, inspiring, and very accessible. Perkins recognizes past and current research into the process of learning, and cites numerous additional resources in which "visions of meaningful education seem to speak to three basic agendas: enlightenment, empowerment, and responsibility" (p.61).
The seven principles to get started on that vision, a wonderful extended metaphor to the game of baseball, are:
1. Play the Whole Game: Get students started on accessible, authentic ways of learning; get into the game instead of being always stuck at "threshold experiences."
2. Make the Game Worth Playing: Get students started with deep disciplinary thinking and investigating processes. Be able to answer the question, "Why are we studying this?"
3. Work on the Hard Parts: Find ways to support and fine-tune areas where individual students are stuck, without getting mired in "elementitis."
4. Play Out of Town: Stretch learning to new situations and applications, for tomorrow and not just for the test.
5. Uncover the Hidden Game: Pay attention to the deeper principles beneath the obvious.
6. Learn from the Team... and the Other Teams: Learning is social and constructed in communities. Put those learning groups and communities to work in "participation structures" to deepen experience and proficiency.
7. Learn the Game of Learning: Students can develop intellectual dispositions and learning habits of mind to become self-managed learners.
Teachers, you will love this book! It will inspire you to remember that the most important goal of learning is understanding, and the criterion of understanding is performance: whether the learner can "think and act flexibly with what they know" (p. 49). It will help you go beyond the ordinary routines of skill lessons to look at how your teaching and your students' learning can be transformed. Perkins provides a guide for the "choreography of learning, an effort to organize learning for greater timeliness, focus, effectiveness, and efficiency" (p. 17). Educators of any stripe or level, school administrators, district board members - you need this book also. If education is going to be meaningful in significant ways in our time, we need to be playing the whole game all through school!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
It would be redundant for me to detail how David N. Perkins cleverly uses baseball as a metaphor for education -- other reviews here have already done so at great length. I'll focus more on the theory-to-practice ratio and state that this book is decidedly one of theory, as you might expect of a Harvard professor. Not that this is a slight. Books of theory and books of practical teaching strategies and activities each have their place. This book, then, provides a good research base for many of the practical ideas floating out there by people like Rick Wormeli and Jeff Wilhelm and Kelly Gallagher.
Given its theoretical blood, the book can thank its author for at least having a conversational tone. Perkins is an engaging "speaker" and, based on the book, one would predict his classes would be entertaining and erudite at once (not a bad combo!). At times he can drift a bit too much into abstractions, but overall, the book reinforces the importance of giving students "junior versions" of "whole games," that is, start-to-finish assignments that replicate authentic practices seen in the real world. Students will buy in if the work is worthwhile, shown to be relevant to THEM, and challenging. They actually WANT to work under those circumstances. And yet so many teachers continue to play the school games their OWN teachers played twenty and thirty years ago. Bits and pieces. Work and assignments you would only find in a school. That sort of thing.
If you haven't read a lot of modern educational theory, this is a great way to be introduced to many of the trends. And if you have, it will be a great way to see the foundational bases (another baseball metaphor for you) of all of your beliefs going forward.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2012
If someone posed the question to me of "If you could take just one book with you to a desert island, an island where you'd open up a school," then I'd choose this book, without hesitation. As a teacher for many years, I can say that this book is a wonderful dream come true.
Using highly-interesting stories and metaphors to explain his ideas and principles, the author will soon have you shaking your head in agreement with him, at the same time wondering why so few of these ideas, or anything similar, have ever been implemented in our schools.
He starts from the ground up, showing us that one of the main problems in today's schools is how they teach the many "elements" of subjects, but fail to bring together "the big picture" for students. The difference is huge.
With the overabundance of information and distractions facing our students today, finding cohesion and clarity amongst all the noise is essential. As far as this book is concerned, that's just the beginning. It explores creativity, curiosity, the desire to learn, as well as the practical benefits of real world learning. If you could put a price on all the wisdom and knowledge that you'll discover in the pages of this book, it would be more than a thousand times greater than what's printed on the cover.
For those who haven't yet read this book, run and get yourself a copy of it today.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2013
I expected a stilted academic read, but instead found this book to be written with passion. It is academic literature. The author pours himself into each page with a topic not only relevant but meaningful. Whether you are a parent, student, or educator, find the time to read this book and then share it with a friend or colleague who cares about learning or should.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2013
By following David Perkins's prescription for education we could teach children to think more deeply and gain a greater appreciation for the learning of many concepts presented in our schools. Students could also learn to transfer what they have learned in the classroom to the world in which their parents live. Unfortunately, Perkins's precriptions do not lend themselves to achievement testing which is the darling of politicians, so we won't see a push to incorporate his well thought out and truly educationally sound approaches to what makes for a solid educational approach. In addition, school administrators, especially those at the central office level, may find incorporating Perkins's approach challenging when their focus has been to keep raising student test scores in an incredibly shallow evaluation system.