Can Social Network Analysis Help Teachers Change?

Edited by Alan J. Daly. Harvard Education Press, 2010

Recent education studies underline the value of strong social networks among teachers for the spread of reform implementation and innovative climate…and their capacity to change” — Moolenaar & Sleegers, chapter 6: Social Network Theory and Educational Change

“Social Network Theory and Educational Change” is a collection of case studies that describe the impact of change efforts in schools through analysis of social networks. Using social network theory is a unique way to analyze reform initiatives within education settings—more so given social interactions among stakeholders is key factor in any type of change initiative within an organization. The studies examine teachers and education leaders communication patterns and behaviors within their school or district’s social networks; with each case measuring a different aspect of change or reform effort.

“Drawing on the work of leading scholars, the book comprises a series of studies examining networks among teachers and school leaders, contrasting formal and informal organizational structures, and exploring the mechanisms by which ideas, information, and influence flow from person to person and group to group. The case studies provided in the book reflect a rich variety of approaches and methodologies, showcasing the range and power of this dynamic new mode of analysis” — Harvard Education Press

Examples of studies in the book include one that examines a new “ambitious” district-wide math curriculum accompanied by a comprehensive professional development program for teachers. The purpose of this study was “exploratory and theory building”, researchers sought to demonstrate the value and applicability of social network analysis in education reform efforts (p. 36). Other studies delved further into teachers’ perceptions of change. Chapter five—’Peer Influence in High School Reform’ focused on measuring teachers attitudes towards reform efforts in order to “better understand the variables that impact the implementation of reform programs” (p. 82).  The study’s data came from surveys administered by Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) across nine high schools, each who had implemented externally designed reform programs that aimed to bring about significant changes in teachers’ classroom practice.

Social Network Analysis Defined
Social network theory and analysis is the study of how people, organizations or groups interact with others within their network. Social Network Theory  has its roots in sociology where graph theory was used as an analysis tool in research; it’s now an established research method used in biology, anthropology, economics, management, and is gaining momentum in education (pg 4). The focus of social network analysis (SNA) is on relationships; the flow of information within social network structures, where the structure is a collection of individuals (nodes).

‘Social network analysis requires an understanding of how independent people related to each other, affect each other’s views, and interact together’ – Susan Fant (2013). Slide 8, 10

Methods for Collecting and Visualizing Data
Methods of SNA include identifying the actors—the individuals within a workplace network and implementing a questionnaire with each. Questions within a survey tool might be: “to whom do you turn for work-related information?” or “with whom do you collaborators regarding instructional issues?” or “how often does your interaction with colleague increase your energy level?”.  The purpose of the survey instrument is to determine: the flow of information, mode of communication, frequency of contact, strength of ties and the structure of relationships within the network.

Data is complied and transposed using analytic software to create network visualization. Visual representations of networks can be a powerful method for conveying complex information. Chapter 13 outlines best practices and methods for collecting and managing high-quality data for SNA, and provides readers instructive guidance to overcome the main challenges with SNA which according to the chapter author includes, 1) the quality of data, where there’s a concern that the survey-respondents don’t provide responses that accurately reflect social interactions, and 2) quantity of data—where target response rate from actors in a network should be close to 100%.

Diagram above: “Visualization of data from a district-wide study examining the exchange of ‘expertise’ between central office and site administrators. Findings indicate great deal of expertise sharing between the central office administrators (red nodes) and limited expertise exchange between principals (blue nodes)”. (Shanker Institute, 2014).

Revisiting the question—can social network analysis help teachers change?   Social network analysis is a useful tool for providing insights into the complexities of change, into school-wide and organization learning, into how relationships influence education practices, and new initiatives. Yet on its own SNA won’t help teachers change, but serves as a tool for education leaders to help teachers changeby helping leaders to understand the flow of information, to identify how to support the relationships responsible for change, and determine the critical resources needed. SNA is not a solution but a unique tool to consider and evaluate. More so now given the increasing number of applications in our workplaces that facilitate social and informal communication and collaboration.


Seven Must-Read Books About Education: The 2016 List

Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” ― Lemony Snicket

This is books scramble. Many books on white background.

Two thousand and fifteen was another great year for books. This is the third-annual post where I feature seven books must-read books for the up-coming year related to education, learning, and digital culture. My goal is to curate a list of books that provide thoughtful, unique perspectives on education and learning. The 2015 must-read list received over 11,000 views last year; I hope the readers who read one or more of my recommendations enjoyed the books as much as I did.

As last year, this year I’m aiming for thought-provoking reads, quality over quantity. I consulted numerous sources for the 2016 list—book reviews, best seller charts, education books lists from NPR, New York Times, The Guardian, Amazon, and education organizations. I also considered readers’ reviews and opinions shared on Goodreads, Amazon and via Twitter discussions. Collectively the books provide a breadth of perspectives on education; two titles fall outside of the education sector, but I’m hoping they provide insight and thoughtful perspectives that round out the list.

97811388320081. What Connected Educators Do Differently (2015), Todd Whitaker, Jeffrey Zoul & Jimmy Casas
A relevant topic for today’s educators—how to use social media to stay current, to learn from and connect with like-minded educators on a global scale. I chose this book mainly because of its publisher—Routledge. I’ve read several books under the Routledge label and not been disappointed. They’re current, concise with practical strategies and knowledge that can be applied to real-life contexts. “Connected educators” appears to follow suit with its eight key connector’ strategies that provide practical guidelines and specifics on how to use social media and digital platforms to build a personalized learning network. Cumulative reviews from Amazon readers put the book at a 5/5. A sure bet.

2. How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens (2014), Benedict Carey
How We Learn is more than a new approach to learning; it is a guide to making the most out of life. Who wouldn’t be interested in that?”—Scientific American

“How we Learn” is in the same category as “Make it Stick“, my top-rated education book from last year which covers the science researchers use to explain how we learn and subsequent strategies for improving learning.  Yet “How we Learn” takes a different perspective, ‘more practical’ as one Goodreads reviewer described. It focuses on specific methods for memorization, for improving retention and recall.  Will the author delve into the application of memorized content—how knowledge is applied and critical thinking engaged? I’ll be interested to find out as our education sector is at a crossroads in our knowledge economy, where information is accessible to anyone, anywhere and anytime with a web-enabled device. Stay tuned.

Joseph-R.-Corbeil_MOOD-E-Learning_Cover-11-Aug-2015-page-001-736x10243. The MOOC Case Book – Case Studies in MOOC Design, Development & Implementation (2015).
An instructive book featuring a collection of case studies about MOOCs in twenty-five chapters where each chapter describes a unique experience of e-learning practitioners, faculty, or students. Each case provides details and takeaways of the challenges faced in the design, development, implementation, or participation of a MOOC. The book is more or less a handbook geared to designers, developers, and instructional facilitators of MOOCs. A caveat, I’ve included this book as I’m a contributing author. I wrote about the pedagogy of MOOC design through the lens of Khan’s e-Learning framework  in chapter 3: “Pedagogy and MOOCs: A Practical Application of Khan’s E-Learning Framework”.

4. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2006), Carol Dweck
Carol Dweck, Stanford professor introduced the concept of growth mindset in her book “Mindset: The New Psycholgoy of Success”.  Though written in 2006, the concept is trending among educators evidenced in Twitter discussions via hashtag #growthmindset, numerous articles, and Web searches as Google’s trend chart reveals (peaking in September 2015). Dweck suggests that intelligence is not fixed or predetermined, but can develop and change over time with external influences. Dweck provides advice for parents and teachers to foster a growth mindset in children that doesn’t include methods such as overt praising of intelligence and accomplishments. I’m intrigued to learn more given our culture that’s focused on praise and recognition.

5. The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World (2015), Pedro Domingos
“All knowledge – past, present and future – can be derived from data by a single, universal learning algorithm” — Pedro Domingos.

“The Master Algorithm” was a bestseller in the ‘information theory’ category on Amazon, and after reading a review of “The Master Algorithm” in The Guardian I added the book to this year’s list. The book seems far from a dry read; according to The Guardian review, Domingos describes machine learning as a “continent divided into territories of five tribes – where the Master Algorithm is the capital city, standing in the center of the landscape where the lands of the five groups meet” (Gilbey). Wow.

97815946320516. The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere (2015), Kevin Carey
There are a handful of books with this prediction— that college as we know it is coming undone, or ‘unbundled‘—a term that emerged last year to describe how a traditional undergraduate college education is disrupted by options that allow students to compile an education from a variety of sources.  I chose “The End of College” written by education policy researcher and writer Kevin Carey, after reading a handful articles and interviews with Carey.  In an NPR interview Carey describes a future where “the idea of ‘admission’ to college will become an anachronism, because the University of Everywhere will be open to everyone” and “educational resources that have been scarce and expensive for centuries will be abundant and free” (nprED, 2015). This I have to read.

7. The smartest kids in the world: And how they got that way (2014), Amanda Ripley
Compelling . . . What is Poland doing right? And what is America doing wrong? Amanda Ripley, an American journalist, seeks to answer such questions in The Smartest Kids in the World, her fine new book about the schools that are working around the globe ….Ms. Ripley packs a startling amount of insight in this slim book.” (The Economist)

This book was a New York Best Times notable book of the year for 2014, has received numerous accolades from a variety of sources, and has 4.5/5 rating cumulative rating from 540 Amazon reviewers.  I deem it a must-read for anyone interested in education.

I look forward to another year of good company with some great books.  I track my book list and reviews on the Goodreads platform, with a virtual shelf dedicated to books on Education which you can view by clicking here if interested.  Happy New Year to all readers! Thank you for reading Online Learning Insights, providing the incentive for me to continue writing and sharing.

Related Posts



The Stories Data Can Tell: “Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking)”

Dataclysm Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) Christian Rudder, Random House

Data has this marvelous capacity to show patterns of human behavior, tell stories and even predict what we are going to do next. It’s the premise of “Dataclysm”—the stories data tells about what we value, how we think and act. I chose the book as one of my 2015 reads because of the big mountain of data that education institutions are collecting; I wanted to get a glimpse into how data predicts behavior, to learn about privacy boundaries, and was hoping to get a glimpse into how data might help us design, develop and deliver better learning experiences for students. A tall order. Not surprisingly I didn’t find answers; but I did learn about the power that data holds and discovered a  good report by EDUCAUSE that does have some of the answers I was looking for.

The biggest takeaway from “Dataclysm” is the incredible potential data holds, which can translate to education sector. On its own data has no value, but with the right software data can inform, support, predict and help. Most organizations including education institutions collect mounds of data. Some is put to good use though according to the EDUCAUSE report the majority of data is used to satisfy credentialing or reporting requirements rather than to address strategic questions. And much of the data collected is not used at all (Bichsel, 2012). Education data is of abundance. Students generate a significant chunk. Every time a student logs-on to the LMS, school portal, or uses school software, printers, e-books, etc. data is collected. Every click, key stroke, time on web pages, links clicked are recorded.

The Book

I definitely think it’s good. … All of this data — everything in the book and generally anything you read online about people’s behavior on sites — is aggregated and anonymous. Nobody’s looking at your personal account. But when you put all this stuff together, you’re able to look at people in a way that people have never been able to look at people before. — Christian Rudder, Author of “Dataclysm: Who We Are” NPR Interview

Rudder, author of the book and quote above, is also co-founder of the dating site OKCupid. He gets most of the content for his book from data on his site though he also draws from Twitter and Facebook. Rudder describes how he takes data, without identifying details such as user names, and analyzes it to create narratives that describe human behaviors. The book is full of stories the data tells about race, gender and politics, which at times was disturbing. Not the writing, which is witty and entertaining, but the results of his analyses. Rudder calls his work more of a ‘sociological experiment’, examining human behavior, values, even biases by looking at (online) actions, words, choices, link clicks, and ratings.

‘Dataclysm’ was interesting—not instructive but insightful. Since finishing the book I’ve recognized how, what many label as disruptive services, are data-driven. Uber for instance, the new taxi service. Its business model rests entirely upon big data. Uber uses complex algorithms to aggregate data into actionable info that quite literally drives the business (Marr, 2014). Another—a new email program by Google, SmartReply, can write email responses for us by using machine learning to ‘work on a data set that they cannot read’ (Corrado, 2015). Whatever that means. But the gist is, its BIG data behind it.

Big Data and Education

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 2.44.58 PM
“When you hear the word ‘analytics,’ what comes to mind?” Responses in Wordle (above) to this question posed to focus groups for ECAR 2012 study on analytics. (Bichsel, 2012)

EDUCUASE defines analytics as “a tool used in addressing strategic problems or questions”.  Analytics are typically applied to institutional data and learning or academic data. Yet it appears that the potential of big data in education is yet to be tapped. The field is broad, complex and there are numerous barriers as described by Bichsel.

One of the major barriers to analytics in higher education is cost. Many institutions view analytics as an expensive endeavor rather than as an investment. Much of the concern around affordability centers on the perceived need for expensive tools or data collection methods. What is needed most, however, is investment in analytics professionals who can contribute to the entire process, from defining the key questions to
developing data models to designing and delivering alerts, dashboards, recommendations and reports.

Though there are many institutions working extensively in learning analytics with the goal of helping students succeed and improving outcomes. One is University of Michigan who have helped create a standard that ensures third-party vendors (e.g. LMS providers) provide institutions with access to data generated by their students—not to withhold the data which can be critical for schools looking to use it to support and inform student success (Mathewson, 2015). Another is Purdue University who has done extensive work in academic analytics with its LMS program Course Signals (Research on Course Signals, n.d.).

Rudder states in his book that we are on the ‘brink of a revolution—a data revolution‘. I think he may be right. The education sector may take some time to figure it out, but for those that get it right, it will be revolutionary.

Further Reading


Seven Must-Read Books About Education: The 2015 List

Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly  — Francis Bacon

Book selloutTwo thousand and fourteen was a great year for books. I read all the books on last year’s list, “Seven Must-read books about education for 2014” and wrote reviews for each. The books were thought-provoking, refreshing, well worth the investment of my reading time. I’ve complied a selection of titles for 2015 and share the top seven related to education. Collectively the books provide unique and broad perspectives on education. Three titles fall outside the education discipline though each provides insight worth exploring. The list is based upon reviews of several published lists featuring best books overall and best-selling education books of 2014 by The New York Times, NPR, The Chronicle of Higher Education etc. as well as readers comments on GoodReads and Amazon. Like last year, I’m aiming for thought-provoking reads, and quality over quantity.

1. Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, (2014). Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III & Mark A McDaniel

“Make it Stick” made The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Top 10 Books on Teaching. Though two of the three authors are college professors, the book emphasizes the practical application of learning techniques rather than teaching strategies. Authors present recent research on memory, cognitive functioning, how the brain encodes, consolidates information, etc. The subject might suggest a dry read—but reviewers claim it’s engaging, even lively. The book delivers practical advice on effective learning techniques that trump traditional methods of cramming, rote memorization, etc.  Update: read my review here.

“From the perspective of a professor with a good 20 years of experience, this book is a gem. The authors use research to demonstrate how students learn best and how teachers can structure courses to facilitate student learning. While I’ve read many books on teaching, few are as helpful as this one”  Elizabeth Theiss (Goodreads)

2. Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products, (2014). Nir Eyal (author),  Ryan Hoover (editor)

“Hooked” is not about education, but product design. The design concept is typically not considered among educators let alone applied when creating learning environments, yet it’s a critical component in developing learning for online spaces. Up until now online learning has focused on delivery of content, level of engagement of learners, completion rates, etc.  There’s been little consideration of usability of learning platforms, of creating and structuring content, or guidance for students that provide intuitive pathways for learning. Design principles—principles that guide product design to create user-friendly, intuitive products can and should be applied to online learning. There’s science behind the book too, it incorporates behavioural theory and research.

3. Mastery, (2013). Neil Greene

I chose to include this book for a few reasons, first—the publisher is Penguin Books, my favorite book publisher. I’ve yet to read a Penguin book I didn’t like. Second the format of the book is intriguing as the author Robert Greene examines the lives of several masters—Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Leonard da Vinci, and contemporary experts such as tech guru Paul Graham. The book is also the sequel to New York times bestselling book “48 Laws of Power”. As the title implies, “Mastery” is about mastering a subject through a three-phase learning technique that includes, 1) apprenticeship, marked by intense learning, 2) the active level, set apart by practice and final phase is mastery.  This book sounds review-worthy.

Social Network Theory and Educational Change, Alan J. Daly, Harvard Education Press (December 16, 2010)

4. Social network Theory and Educational Change, (2010). Alan J. Daly

This book intrigues me. After reading the description it appears to be about implementing change in education settings by using the theory of social network analysis as a framework. Worth considering since the focus is on examining the relationships between teachers, leaders, and students, considered ‘nodes’ in the network, and the patterns of communication and information flow between them. The author, a professor of education, uses a case study approach to illustrate application of the network analysis model. Update: You can read my review here.

 5. Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking), (2014). Christian Rudder

Not just a book about big data and what it tells us, “Dataclysm” explores the idea of the vision itself.  Highly acclaimed, it made NPR list of Best books of 2014 under the ‘eye-opening reads’ category, The Globe and Mail’s Best Book for 2014, Amazon’s top book of 2014, and was a New York Times Bestseller. As education moves online and institutions and companies gather millions of data patterns of students, Big Data is a BIG topic that both students and institutions need to examine closely for different reasons. “Dataclysm” made my list this year so I can learn more about data that’s collected and the implications for design and development of online education and its students. Update: you can read my review here.

“Most data-hyping books are vapor and slogans. This one has the real stuff: actual data and actual analysis taking place on the page. That’s something to be praised, loudly and at length. Praiseworthy, too, is Rudder’s writing, which is consistently zingy and mercifully free of Silicon Valley business gabble.”  Jordan Ellenberg, Washington Post

6. Peeragogy Handbook version 3, (2015). Howard Rheingold et al.

I was introduced to this book last year by a reader, and placed it on my must-read list for 2015. The book’s premise is technologically enhanced peer learning, and is a guide to help peers around the globe attain their educational goals and improve their projects. In keeping with the thesis is its authorship; it’s collective, anyone can contribute. From the Peeragogy Handbook website:

“The “Peeragogy Handbook” isn’t a normal book. It is an evolving guide, and it tells a collaboratively written story that you can help write. Using this book, you will develop new norms for the groups you work with — whether online, offline, or both.

Version 3 of the handbook launched January 1, 2015 and is available as a free PDF download on  A Peeragogy Workbook is also available for download in a PDF format here. The softcover format is available on for $20.

7. Understanding Media: The Extension of Man, (1964). Marshall McLuhan

I’m a big fan of Marshall McLuhan’s work; the man was a genius. McLuhan was a philosopher, author and professor of communication studies. Reading his works and listening to recordings of his talks, one hears him speak of the effects of the internet long before we had the internet. I’m eager to read this book where he argues a society is affected and shaped by the medium, its characteristics rather than the content that’s delivered over it. How intriguing!

Closing I look forward to another year of good company with some great books.  I track my book list and reviews on the Goodreads platform, which you can find here.  If interested in viewing the previous books I’ve read on education along with their reviews click here for my education virtual bookshelf on Goodreads.

Update: New post with must-read books for 2016

“I am Malala”: A Review of the Book and Its Implications for Education

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. Little, Brown and Company, 2013

“I am Malala” is the true story of a fourteen-year old girl’s campaign for women’s right to education. In 2011 Malala was shot  by the Taliban in a bus on her way home from school. Two men boarded the school bus—“Who is Malala” they asked and fired gun shots; two lodged in Malala’s head. The series of events that followed, described in Malala’s voice, are remarkable—the politics, the media frenzy and her recovery. The shooting triggered a complex series of negotiations involving prominent political figures from Pakistan and England. It’s a powerful book. Malala’s story is remarkable in light of women’s role in her culture and the groups fighting to oppress women—in this case the Taliban. It was the Taliban that claimed responsibility for shooting Malala calling her crusade for education rights an “obscenity.” (Walsh, 2012).

The first half of the book Malala describes Pakistan’s history including the history of her ancestors and the northern region of Pakistan, Swat where she lives. Malala also shares stories of her family, giving the reader a glimpse into the culture of Pakistan from a young woman’s perspective. Many of the stories involve Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai. She describes his involvement in local politics, in the community and his vocal support of education for boys and girls. There’s no doubt Malala’s passion and courage to stand-up for women’s rights stems from her father’s actions and character. Ziauddin Yousafzai defied Taliban orders by running a private school that encouraged girls to attend. Malala describes the challenges and frustrations her father faced when starting the school. The motto over the school’s door read “We are committed to build for your the call of the new era”. Her father believed the school’s students could fight the enemy with pens, not swords.

Some reviewers claimed the book was poorly written, disjointed. It’s a valid point. The first half of the book does jump around, sometimes repeating facts. But I see this as a sign of authenticity; it’s written in a 14-year old’s voice, from her perspective. The first half of the book provides context for the second half. I could appreciate more about what happened to Malala after her shooting because of the background she included.

Education’s Value
In Western culture it’s unthinkable that women be excluded from education. Malala and her story are symbolic of education freedom and the book delivers a message to the world. Education, considered a right for many is used as a mechanism for oppression in some countries.

Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow.” Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human. —  Malala Yousafzai

Malala’s story emphasizes education’s value. Looking deeper it challenges readers to examine the role of education, its purpose and function within a society. Withholding education from certain groups within a society hinders progress, threatens peace and perpetuates poverty. These principles also apply to Western cultures where education is the starting point for eliminating poverty, reducing crime and violence in impoverished neighborhoods. There are parallels; it’s thought-provoking.

MOOCs and Education for Women Without Access
Daphne Koller founder of Coursera when launching the MOOC platform often spoke about MOOCs as a vehicle to bring education to those without access and MOOCs “democratizing education”. Though the chances that MOOCs will bring education to women In countries like Pakistan and empower them is questionable. How can MOOCs democratize education if a country’s government is unstable, when there is oppression of women and other groups? Or where there is no internet or access to computers or mobile devices? What about language barriers? MOOCs do have potential to deliver education to those without access, yet there are significant barriers to overcome.

Curriculum for “I am Malala”
George Washington University and the Global Women’s Institute developed a university-level curriculum based upon “I am Malala” to work across various academic disciplines. The tools focus on themes such as how education empowers women, global feminism, political extremism and youth advocacy. One of the goals of the program is to encourage college students and eventually high school students to get involved, to facilitate dialogue among various groups, and to influence public opinion about access to education and women’s rights.

“I am Malala” is a compelling read. Malala as an individual is a remarkable women who is a hero for women’s right to a quality education. With her father, Malala created the Malala Fund that supports education for women including the Global Partnership for Education. The book is a good starting point for learning about the complexities of women’s rights in some countries and education access. “I am Malala” delivers a message to each reader about the value of education. Education empowers.

The Wisdom of Jerome Bruner in “The Culture of Education”: Book Review

Education is not an island, but part of the continent of culture  —Jerome Bruner

THE CULTURE OF EDUCATION, Jerome Bruner, Harvard Univ. Press, 1996

The Culture of Education presents nine thought-provoking essays on the subject of cultural psychology and its implications for education. The essays embody Bruner’s experience, knowledge and wisdom of the science of learning, and culture’s influence on teaching and learning.  A scholar of psychology, Bruner defines cultural psychology as a system that describes how humans make sense of their world. A cultural approach to education describes how the mind works—the science of learning with culture. In Bruner’s words the theory of education lies at the intersection “between the nature of mind and the nature of culture”.

The essays are still relevant in today’s context with the abundance of educational technology. Bruner provides a unique construct for thinking about technology. He describes how humans make sense of the world—where learning and thinking are dependent upon cultural settings and the use of cultural artifacts. Thinking of educational technology as artifacts of culture, and learning as dependent on culture—puts technology in a different perspective. Technology as part of culture suggests education needs to embrace technology, as according to Bruner learning is always dependent upon the cultural setting and its resources. Technology in education settings, as many have already argued, needs to be closely linked with pedagogy (Anderson & Dron, 2011Okajie et al., 2014).

In the first essay, Culture, Mind, and Education, Bruner devotes significant discussion upfront to contrasting theories that describe learning. Bruner is critical of the information processing theory or what he calls ‘computationalism’—comparing the mind to a computational device. Bruner proceeds to methodically outline how the psycho-cultural approach addresses learning via ten tenets that each include, to varying degrees culture’s influence and theory of the mind—cognitivism.  Bruner argues each tenet elegantly; none better than number seven—the institutional tenet.  The institution refers to all types of institution, each embodying a distinct culture reflected in symbols, stories and power figures. Complex structures within institutions Bruner argues, leads to coercion, power struggles which are especially detrimental for entities responsible for education. Bruner concludes that any efforts towards improvement (reform) by education institutions must involve teachers; teachers are critical and central to reform efforts.

Several of the essays quite practical in nature, focus on how to teach effectively. The second essay Folk Pedagogy brings in to the open the idea that teachers do not always approach teaching and learning effectively. Teachers (and students) bring with them to the classroom pre-conceived ideas of how learning happens, explained in part by ingrained cultural beliefs about how the mind works.  Bruner outlines in his methodical manner four models of the mind based on pre-conceived ideas, and the related education goals of each. Bruner suggests that by examining and evaluating each carefully, we are then able to rethink our approach to education. Pedagogy is not innocent Bruner states—it’s a medium that carries its own message (page 63).  The latter statement is an example of how powerful and deep Bruner’s ideas are.  The remaining essays are just as stimulating as the first two. Each presents a dimension of education worth examining. Each challenges the reader to think about teaching and education from a different viewpoint, sometimes several.

Closing Thoughts
The Culture of Education deserves a place on every educator’s bookshelf. Bruner is a remarkable scholar, author and man. At ninety-nine years of age his contributions to the study and advancement of education are numerous. As recently as 2011 Bruner participated in Arizona State University’s Inside the Academy program via an interview. The Culture of Education is just one of Bruner’s many works well worth studying; it’s an indispensable guide to finding answers to today’s toughest questions about education.

Educational encounters, to begin with, should result in understanding, not mere performance. pg. xi