Why professional reading is necessary, but not sufficient

Dennis Sparks

In some school systems a particular book takes hold for several months and everyone seems to be reading and talking about it. The following school year it is another book, and so on.

The ideas and practices recommended in those books are seldom deeply understood, and seldom implemented, no matter how substantial and important they may be.

While I value the intellectual stimulation professional reading provides, I am aware that it can be a distraction from the sustained and challenging daily work of meaningful change.

Just as leaders sometimes confuse activity with accomplishment, it is easy to confuse reading with the disciplined, sustained actions that are necessary to achieve important goals.

Put another way, while reading can be an important source of professional learning and a stimulus for change, it is far from sufficient.

Professional reading can, however, be an essential first step in a series of steps to produce meaningful change when leaders engage the school community in identifying within its reading the most powerful, compelling, and actionable ideas that are closely linked to the system or school’s most important goals.

To that end, leaders:

• with others, determine among the many ideas and practices they acquire through reading those most worthy of further exploration,

deepen the conversation in the system or school about those ideas and practices so that they are thoroughly understood and their merits carefully considered, and

patiently and persistently engage in the demanding and never-ending work of changing habits of mind and practice so that teaching and learning continuously improve for the benefit of all students.

In what ways can professional reading be integrated into the process of continuous improvement?

3 Responses to “Why professional reading is necessary, but not sufficient”


  1. 1 Lisa Madden (@lisa_madden) January 28, 2015 at 9:25 am

    Hi Dennis, Thank you for your wonderful posts. We @geneseeisd are using Twitter Chats to share our professional learning and challenge participants to commit to taking action with something they’ve gained from the experience. This venue allows all participants to share their voices, resources, and expertise.


  1. 1 Why professional reading is necessary, but not sufficient | Dennis Sparks on Leading and Learning | Learning Curve Trackback on February 3, 2015 at 9:50 am

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