In March 2009, I read a fascinating education book, Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, by Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn and Curtis Johnson.
Christensen is a Harvard Business School professor, which gave me pause. I’ve heard too many business people oversimplify the challenges we face in our schools and universities. But as I read the first few chapters, I was pleasantly surprised that Christensen didn’t attack educators and did understand complex education issues.
In earlier books, The Innovator’s Dilemma and The Innovator’s Solution, Christensen writes about “disruptive innovation” in the business world, documenting that excellent companies were undermined through no fault of their own by an innovation so disruptive to their business model that they eventually went out of business.
Christensen and his two co-authors then took these concepts and applied them to education with some intriguing insights. He describes how “disruptive innovation” will gain a foothold in education, and then eventually radically change how teachers teach and children learn. He describes this disruption as “student-centric learning.”
I was impressed that the authors had done their research in early childhood education, and the concept of multiple intelligences, topics that are generally not addressed by business people.
My one reservation about this book centers on accountability. Rightly so, Americans want to hold their schools and universities accountable, but our current accountability models employing multiple choice, pencil and paper tests that focus on status and not added value inhibit innovation. Unfortunately, this reality was not addressed in Disrupting Class.
Disrupting class is a quick read and well written. While you may not agree with the content, as informed educators and policymakers, you need to know that these ideas are circulating, and, could dramatically change how we teach.