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teachable moments

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Click below for featured article by George Otero:
Connecting school, family, and community: The power of positive relationships



Related Links


Coalition for Community Schools

National College for School Leadership (NCSL)

National Community Education Association (NCEA)

Rural Education Forum Australia (REFA)

New Internationalist – Australia – a Fair Trade Organization

Catholic Education Office of Melbourne

John West-Burnham

John Halsey



Book image for bibliography




Axelrod, R.H. (2000). Terms of engagement: Changing the way we change organizations. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.

Axelrod offers a practical strategy for change with his engagement paradigm. He offers ways to truly engage people in creating real organizational change, creating accountability and alignment around a common purpose and promoting creativity.


Botsman, P. & Latham, M. (2001). The Enabling State: People before bureaucracy. Annandale, NSW: Pluto Press.

In this book, some of Australia’s best political thinkers and activists set out a new agenda for the role of government. They look to community-led solutions as a way of rebuilding social capital and reviving the public’s faith in parliamentary democracy and position government as a facilitator of community projects and social outcomes.


Brighouse, T. & Woods, D. (1999). How to improve your school. New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

This book takes a practical look at how improvements can be made in any school. It addresses the following topics: effective schools and how they have achieved their goals; leadership within school; teaching and learning effectively; making critical interventions to secure improvement; and how schools involve others to aid improvement.


Brookfield, S.D. & Preskill, S. (1999). Discussion as a way of teaching: Tools and techniques for Democratic Classrooms. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

In this guide to planning, conducting, and evaluating lively discussions, Brookfield and Preskill offer a variety of practical ideas, tools, and techniques for creating democratic classrooms. They address diversity issues, creativity, student engagement and how the process of democratic participation enhances learning.


Bryk, A.S. & Schneider, B. (2002). Trust in schools: A core resource for improvement. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

This book is a study of effective social relationships in schools. Theoretical insights into how trust acts as a dimension of social capital are provided as well as evidence that trusting relationships among teachers, parents, and students promote school improvement.


Cameron, J. (1992). The artist’s way: A spiritual path to higher creativity. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

With the basic principle that creative expression is the natural direction of life, Cameron leads her readers through a twelve-week program designed to recover one’s creativity from a variety of blocks, including limiting beliefs, fear, self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, and addictions. She links creativity to learnable skills, detailing a variety of exercises that spur imagination and capture new ideas.


Carse, J.P. (1986). Finite and Infinite games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility. New York: Ballatine Books.

Finite games are the familiar contests of everyday life with winners and losers. Infinite games are unscripted, unpredictable, and more mysterious; they are the source of true freedom. In this book, Carse explores what these games mean and offers new insight into the nature of property and power, culture and community, and sexuality and self-discovery.


Csikszentmihalyi, M. & Schneider, B. (2000). Becoming adult: How teenagers prepare for the world of work. New York: Basic Books.

This book reveals how adolescents develop attitudes, skills and expectations about their adult careers. Based on studying a wide range of educational institutions, the authors detail the different ways adolescence manage the transition from school to work.


Dutton, J.E. (2003). Energize your workplace: How to create and sustain high-quality connections at work. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

This book uses energy as a measurement to describe the power of positive and negative connections in people’s experiences at work. Dutton provides three pathways for turning negative connection into positive ones that create and sustain employee resilience and flexibility, facilitate the speed and quality of learning, and build individual commitment and cooperation.


Edgar, D. (2001). The patchwork nation: Re-thinking government – re-building community. New York: HarperCollins.

Edgar proposes an end to top-down, one-size-fits all management in Australia. He suggests a more locally responsive approach to schools, skills training and community support services, with a new business ethic based on social values rather than profit.


Evans, R. (1996). The human side of school change: Reform, resistance, and the real-life problems of innovation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Evans offers practical advice on problem solving, communication, and staff motivation. He presents a conceptual framework for approaching all school improvement, for understanding change as a process, educators as people, and leadership as a craft.


Giddens, A. (2002). Runaway world: How globalization is reshaping our lives. London: Profile Books.

Based on the 1999 BBC Reith lecture series, Giddens provides a succinct and skillful explanation of how and why globalization is reshaping our lives and the effects it is having. He explores the following topics: globalization, family, risk, democracy, and tradition.


Hargreaves, A. (2003). Teaching in the knowledge society: Education in the age of insecurity. New York: Teachers College Press.

This book discusses what it means to teach in the new knowledge society; how to prepare young people for a world of creativity and flexibility and protect them against the threats of mounting insecurity. He discusses the dangers of ‘soulless standardization’ and provides inspiring examples of schools that operate as creative and caring learning communities.


Hargreaves, A., Earl, L., Moore, S., & Manning, S. (2001). Learning to change: Teaching beyond subjects and standards. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

This book charts the perceptions and experiences of twenty-nine teachers in grades 7 and 8 from four districts. It shows how they grappled with integrated curriculum, common learning standards, and alternative modes of assessment, highlighting the intense emotional demands that school change imposes on teachers.


Henderson, J.G. (2001). Reflective teaching: Professional artistry through inquiry. (3rd ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill Prentice Hall.

This book supports professional inquires of teachers who see themselves as more than content specialists. It shows teachers how to integrate five forms of professional inquiry so that they are better able to facilitate a democratic living that is manifested through the daily practice of a generative and generous intellect.


Hillman, J. (1995). Kinds of power: A guide to its intelligent uses. New York: Currency Doubleday.

Hillman discusses how power can be practiced in ways that are organizationally effective, psychologically healing, and personally fulfilling. He delineates twenty different kinds of power, including charisma, resistance, tyranny, persuasion, and ambition, some of which are highly valued in other cultures.


Jensen, E. (1998). Teaching with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Jensen balances the research and theory of the brain with successful tips and techniques for using that information in classrooms. From his primer on brain biology to in-depth discussions of emotion, memory, and recall, this book is an invaluable tool for any educator looking to reach students more efficiently.


Kotter, J.P. & Cohen, D.S. (2002). The heart of change: Real-life stories of how people change their organizations. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Based on interviews with over 100 organizations in the midst of large-scale change, Kotter and Cohen introduce a new dynamic for change that involves feeling: ‘see-feel-change’ fuels action by showing people potent reasons for change that sparks their emotions and their heart.


Kouzes, J.M. & Posner, B.Z. (1999). Encouraging the heart. A leader’s guide to rewarding and recognizing others. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

This book offers a set of principles, practices, and examples for energizing people to excel. It shows leaders how they can find their voice and their hearts and, through caring and courage, mobilize people to personal and organizational greatness.


Lawrence-Lightfoot, S. The essential conversation. What parents and teachers can learn from each other. New York: Random House.

A book for parents and teachers who seek productive dialogues and collaborative alliances in support of learning and growth of their children, Lawrence-Lightfoot offers valuable insights, lessons, and guidance on how to communicate more effectively.


Levine, E. (2002). One kid at a time: Big lessons from a small school. New York: Teachers College Press.

Levine helps us see how preparing young people for the ‘real world’ works best when it is intensely caring, relevant, community-focused and tailored to student passions and concerns. At the urban Met High School, there are no classes, tests, or grades but high achievement is expected. Students have a personalized curriculum and real-world internships based on their interests, parents help plan and assess their child’s learning, and almost all students are accepted to college.


Littky, D. (2004). The big picture: Education is everyone’s business. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

The schools Littky has created and led over the past 35 years are models for reformers everywhere: small, public schools where the curriculum is rich and meaningful, expectations are high, progress is measured against real-world standards, and families and communities are actively engaged in the educational process.


Lundin, S.C., Paul, H., & Christensen, J. (2000). Fish! A remarkable way to boost morale and improve results. New York: Hyperion.

Fish! addresses today’s most pressing work issues, including employee retention and burnout, with an engaging parable. It offers simple lessons on how to energize employees and create an astonishing transformation in any workplace.


Meier, D. (2002). In schools we trust: Creating communities of learning in an era of testing and standardization. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Meier offers a multilayered exploration of trust and schools, critiquing the ideology of testing. She puts forth a positive vision, forged in the success stories of small public schools in Boston and NY and discusses the importance of trusting teachers and building parent involvement.


Noddings, N. (1992). The challenge to care in schools: An alternative approach to education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Noddings envisions a school system built on the idea that different people have different strengths, and that these strengths should be cultivated in an environment of caring, not competition. She addresses practical and theoretical questions involved in organizing traditional and nontraditional areas of study around themes of care, and offers advice on implementing a caring curriculum in schools.


Otero, G. (2002). Literacy in the global classroom: Reading in the content areas. Victoria, Australia: Hawker Brownlow Education.

This book focuses on literacy and numeracy, communication skills and critical thinking skills. It is designed as an activity supplement for secondary teachers interested in helping students in years 6-12 improve their ability to critically read content materials. The activities are organized into topical units that deal with specific reading and thinking skills related to the teaching of subject matter materials.


Otero, G. (2001). Did you say six billion? Teachable moments on population, food and hunger. Victoria, Australia: Hawker Brownlow Education.

A quick reference guide for inside and outside the classroom; addressing important global issues, this activity booklet provides 28 lesson plans on population, food, and hunger. It facilitates skill development for third millennium schooling.


Otero, G. (2001). Global realities and the youth leadership challenge. Victoria, Australia: Hawker Brownlow Education.

This book seeks to inspire and enliven youth leaders by unlocking their vision and encouraging their hope for a better future. It gives young people the tools and skills to understand their world and to transform it.


Otero, G. (2001). What am I looking at? Teachable moments on perception, cultural awareness and understanding. Victoria, Australia: Hawker Brownlow Education.

This activity booklet provides Teachable Moments on perception, cultural awareness, and understanding. It challenges students to evaluate their image of others. Developing reflective thinking skills is vital for all global citizens in the 21st century.


Otero, G. (2000). Learning ain’t what it used to be: Student engagement strategies for the 21st century. Victoria, Australia: Hawker Brownlow Education.

This book offers educators 21st century strategies for engaging middle-years youth. It provides quick, easy to use, motivational activities that work with current educational requirements. Creating playfulness, engagement, and motivation within the classroom is the goal.


Otero, G. (1999). Teachable moments: Learning to live in a global society. Victoria, Australia: Hawker Brownlow Education.

Each day, life presents us with countless opportunities to initiate a learning conversation. Teachable Moments presents 45 examples of how to utilize these situations. The lessons in this book challenge us, as educators, to use information from real-life – from our global society – to make teaching relevant to the student’s experience.


Otero, G., Sparks, R., Chambers-Otero, S., & Sparks, M. (2001). RelationaLearning: Education for mind, body, and spirit.Victoria, Australia: Hawker Brownlow Education.

Essential reading for parents, teachers, community leaders and others interested in guiding learning in a global society. This book offers a radical new look at how relationships make learning possible. Teachers and students become leaders and learners together as they build more interdependent relationships.


Otero, L. & Marsh, S. (2003). RelationaLearning: A guide to using notebooks in the classroom. Victoria, Australia: Hawker Brownlow Education.

This self-discovery book helps students relate to subject material by experimenting with connection-making strategies. The notebooks also help teachers actively engage students according to their individual thought processes and learning styles.


Palmer, P.J. (1966). To know as we are known: A spirituality of education. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row.

In this book, Palmer presents a spirituality of education in which mind and heart work together in the quest for knowledge. He argues for teaching and learning that engage the whole person and allow room for ultimate concerns. He provides teachers a way of cultivating, educating, and helping their pupils reach their full potential.


Preskill, S., Vermilya, L. & Otero, G. (2000). Skills for democracy: Promoting dialogue in schools. Victoria, Australia: Hawker Brownlow Education.

Educational leaders are beginning to understand that in order to increase student achievement, communities and their schools must work together. This book encompasses strategies, activities and lesson plans on how to facilitate the process of dialogue with students, schools and communities.


Purkey, W.W. & Siegel, B.L. (2003). Becoming an invitational leader: A new approach to professional and personal success.Atlanta, GA: Humanics Trade Group.

A guide for leadership based upon the principles of trust, respect, optimism, and intentionality; this book offers a genuine, empathetic form of leadership with the ultimate goal of collaboration with mutual benefit.


Purkey, W.W. & Novak, J.M. (1984). Inviting school success: A self-concept approach to teaching and learning. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

This book offers an invitational approach to the educational process that teachers can use to increase their student’s motivation, performance, and happiness within the school environment. The authors show how a teacher’s language and actions can affect student’s self-concepts and either “invite” or “disinvite” the learning process.


Putnam, R.D. & Feldstein, L.M. (2003). Better together: Restoring the American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Better Together is a book of stories about hardworking, committed people across the country who are building communities to solve specific problems. These stories demonstrate that bringing people together by building on personal relationships remains one of the most effective strategies to enhance America’s social health.


Sarason, S.B. (1999). Teaching as a performing art. New York: Teachers College Press.

Sarason approaches the topic of teaching as a performing art. Seeing teachers as actors, he discusses effective engagement techniques for galvanizing a student audience.


Senge, P., Scharmer, C.O., Jaworski, J., & Flowers, B.S. (2004). Presence: An exploration of profound change in people, organizations, and society. New York: Doubleday.

This book introduces the idea of ‘presence’, a concept, borrowed from the natural world, in which the whole is entirely present in any of its parts. By encouraging deeper levels of learning, we create an awareness of the larger whole, leading to actions that can help to shape its evolution and our future.


Sizer, T.R. & Sizer, N.F. (1999). The students are watching: Schools and the moral contract. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

A hugely important piece of school reform is morality. Students learn not just from their classes but from their school’s routines and rituals. This book addresses character education and moral education reminding us that schools must constantly demonstrate a belief in their students.


Soloman, R.C. & Flores, F. (2001). Building trust in business, politics, relationships, and life. New York: Oxford University Press.

Soloman and Flores argue that trust is the essential precondition upon which all real success depends. They assert that trust is an emotional skill that we build and sustain with our promises and commitments, demonstrating how to move from naïve trust to authentic trust through open and honest communication.


Sterling, S. (2001). Sustainable education: Re-visioning learning and change. Bristol, UK: Green Books.

Sterling shows how ‘sustainable education’ – a change of educational culture towards the realization of human potential and the interdependence of social, economic, and ecological well-being – can lead to transformative learning. He discusses change strategies and action suggestions, emphasizing the need for vision and design at all levels of educational systems.


Stoll, L., Fink, D., & Earl, L. (2003). It’s about learning (and it’s about time): What’s in it for schools? New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

This book is about understanding the connections between the pupils’, teachers’ and leaders’ learning, and between learning in schools and in the wider community. It argues that it is schools’ internal capacity that fuels learning, and examines the ways that pupils, teachers, parents, school advisors, and policy makers can all help increase this capacity to turn schools into learning communities.


Townsend, T. & Otero, G. (1999). The global classroom: Activities to engage students in third millennium schools. Victoria, Australia: Hawker Brownlow Education.

The purpose of this book is to provide teachers, parents, and students with an alternative strategy for improving the quality of education. It offers over 100 engaging activities for classrooms under four themes: education for survival, education for understanding our place in the world, education to understand communities, and education for personal responsibilities. In short, a school reform book with a global perspective.


Wagner, T. (1994). How schools change: Lessons from three communities. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

This book offers a behind-the-scenes look at three public and private high schools in the midst of reform. Wagner explains that a good school must have clear academic goals, must live as a community by articulated core values, and must foster collaboration among its key constituencies – students, faculty, parents and community members.


Weisbord, M.R. (1987). Productive workplaces revisited: Dignity, meaning, and community in the 21st century. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Weisbord shows how dignity and meaning can help resolve tensions in the workplace by involving everyone in whole-systems improvement. He offers specific instructions for involving people in designing new work methods, developing new strategies for organizational improvement, and building cooperation.


West-Burnham, J. & Coates, M. (2005). Personalizing learning: Transforming education for every child. Stafford, UK: Network Educational Press.

The authors outline a holistic, systematic approach to education that is learning- and person-centered, challenging many of the prevailing orthodoxies about schooling. This book is a powerful resource for those concerned with the creation of an educational system based on equity, inclusion, and effectiveness.


Wheatley, M.J. (2002). Turning to one another: Simple conversations to restore hope to the future. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.

Wheatley discusses the importance of meaningful conversation and deep listening. She believes we can change the world by listening to one another again through simple, honest, human conversation. She encourages her readers to begin conversations about things that are important to us; our yearnings, fears, hopes, and experiences.


Wheatley, M.J. (1994). Leadership and the new science: Learning about organization from an orderly universe. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.

Our understanding of the universe is being radically altered by the “new science” – the revolutionary discoveries in quantum physics, chaos theory, and biology that are overturning old models of science. Wheatley shows how the new science provides powerful insights for transforming how we organize work, people, and life.


Zaiss, C. (2002). True partnership: Revolutionary thinking about relating to others. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.

Zaiss details the ‘True Partnership Model’ to radically transform our relationships and our individual effectiveness. He details the main principles of the model: communicating, observing, connecting (see ourselves as interdependent parts of the whole), and expanding (operating from a both/and mentality).


Zohar, D. & Marshall, I. (2000). Spiritual intelligence: The ultimate intelligence. Toledo, OH: Bloomsbury.

SQ is the intelligence with which we balance meaning and value, and place our lives in a wider context. This book offers ways to develop our SQ; by making our own set of principles and applying them to all areas of our lives – home, work, and play.