Book Review: The Instructional Leader and the Brain

I’ve been poking in and out of this book for a few months now, interrupted by other reading.  The growing fields of cognitive and neuroscience have fascinated me, but the intersection of this research with practical application has been scattered so this title was alluring.  The book ended up not being so great though.  Chapters 1, 2, 4, and 6 were worthy as the author provided an accessible outline of brain structures, emotions, processing, and memory, respectively.  These will be good reference chapters for me to return to when I confuse the work of the amygdala and the hippocampus, or to activate my own memory about how we remember things.


The other chapters had buzzy titles about engagement and feedback which are even more familiar to me, but I found the content to be thin and sometimes the reasoning was contrary to other research I have read on how the brain works in those contexts.  I found myself not highlighting or feeling much practical learning out of large chunks of the book, though there are a few useful vignettes regarding teaching practices.  The truth is the title was a little misleading.  Each time I felt the scientific info was going to be followed with application of how it would be used, the book gave examples of what you might recognize in practice in specific contexts that didn’t really lend themselves to generalization.  This felt like connections that would benefit a novice instructional leader looking for particular behaviors.

I didn’t hate it, but I’m also thinking my pokiness with this book was a result that it just wasn’t setting my neurons on fire.  I’ll give this one two SutterStars.

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