Reviews of the best 21st Century learning's books and articles

good reads

This Good Reads landing page highlights material published by authors who enhance our understanding of key 21st Century Learning issues. In particular, this section highlights books and articles published by experts who are investigating learning issues through experiential and transformative learning lenses. It, for example, highlights authors who can explain the meaning-making processes that adults at various levels of consciousness use to advance their learning interests. It also highlights books and articles that expand our understanding of the "learning cycles" that are characteristic of all effective learning. Finally, this section examines new learning issues like "Horizontal and Vertical Learning," "Learning Triggers," and "Self-Directed Neuroplasticity."  Each of these, in their own ways, is emerging as a new way practitioners can support individual human beings either strengthen or transform their habitual modes of thinking .


Becoming an Effective Thought Partner
David Nicoll, Ph.D.

Becoming an Effective Thought Partner is a book that defines what a thought partner is and does. It describes the four essential 'presences' an effective thought partner must know how to offer their clients, and it identifies the pivotal steps and way stations that are associated with building effective thought partnerships. Finally, Becoming an Effective Thought Partner describes the difference between a thought leader and a thought partner.

This is a book that's based on extensive research and a number of case studies drawn from a variety of industries. Becoming an Effective Thought Partner offers practical advice on how to develop yourself into a world-class thought partner, and what, as an effective thought partner, you should do to design, build, and implement the kinds of Thought Partnerships that serious clients can thrive in. This book offers ten chapters that describe the basic strategies that should be used to become an effective and successful thought partner. It also describes how to build a Thought Partnerships that can support and encourage clients’ personal and professional transformation.

Available @ Amazon.com


Experiential Learning: Experience as The Source of Learning and Development
David Kolb, Ph.D.

Experiential Learning is a difficult book. It's difficult mostly because it's so thorough.The philosophical and conceptual sources for this book are work done by John Dewey, Jean Piaget, Vygotsky, Carl Jung, and Paolo Freire. Kolb acknowledges all these luminaries in fulsome ways, and integrates all their key ideas into a theory of experiential learning that today, three decades after its first publication this theory is still the most referenced model on the subject of experiential learning. It's certainly a hard book to stay with and think through, but it's definitely a book that more than repays the effort it takes to finish. 

 The foundation and centerpiece of Kolb's learning model is a four step learning sequence. Kolb's basic premise is that, for someone to be an effective learner, they must have four distinct skill sets. The first skill set is the ability to act. The second is the ability to observe and reflect on the real-time, real-life experiences that  necessarily come with any action. The third is the ability to conceptualize and re-conceptualize one's recovered interpretations of these original experiences. The fourth is the ability to take these reconceptualization build them into plan of experimentation that includes the new behaviors they think may be more effective than their old habit patterns. In action, the learning cycle looks like this: Immediate action provides the basis for observation and reflection; these observations are pulled together into a ‘theory,” from which new implications for action are deduced; these action hypotheses then serve as guides for “experimenting,” which, in turn, create new experiences. Reflection, model building, and playful experimentation are abilities essential to Kolb's learning cycle. 

For committed learners, Kolb's book can be invaluable. In three ways. First, the philosophical and conceptual background Kolb offers through out the book is comprehensive. But, if you appreciate contextual perspective and theoretical context, then Kolb's discussion of the contributions to experiential learning that precursors like Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, Jung, and Freire are most welcome aspects of this book. Beyond this, the meticulous explanations and descriptions Kolb provides for the four stages of steps of his learning cycle are invaluable. If you invest yourself in a careful read of this book, especially the ideas and information Kolb provides on Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualization, and Active Experimentation, you will come away with a real sense of these four steps and why each is necessary for effective experiential learning. Finally at the end of this book, in Chapters 6, 7, and 8, Kolb describes the ways in which his ordinary, everyday learning cycle can be used to escalate a person's entire learning effort up into a vertically oriented transformative learning journey. This section is perhaps the first attempt anyone has made at outlining and magnifying what needs to be done to escalate an ordinary horizontal learning effort up into a transformative vertical learning journey.

We can't close this review without mentioning two significant experiential learning issues that Kolb does not discuss in this book; Learning Triggers and Transformative catalysts. 

At TLO, we're gradually learning that simple intention is rarely sufficient motivation to get a person who needs to learn something new fully launched on an effective horizontal or vertical learning journey. Unfortunately, we seemingly are discovering that every person who's interested in learning a new skill or launching a transformative journey has to experience some sort of unique event that, for them, acts as their personal "learning trigger." We know of five triggers that, for the right person in the right circumstances, can serve this kind of catalytic purpose. These five are disorienting dilemmas, curiosity, inspiration, aspiration, and fear. Each of these can, when the learner fully grocks their presence and acknowledges their significance, be enough to kick start a learning journey. To learn more about disconcerting dilemmas, see our November 2016 blog, Disconcerting Dilemmas. To learn more about all five learning triggers, take a look at the TLO Thought Paper titled Learning Triggers which you'll find in the Experiential Learning Thought Papers section.