Book Review – Disruptive Thinking in our Classrooms: Preparing Learners for their future

Book Review – Disruptive Thinking in our Classrooms: Preparing Learners for their future. Author Eric Sheninger 

Eric has done it again! As the author of several best selling books designed specifically to make education better (click here for his list of books) and more importantly, poised for the future, Disruptive Thinking In Our Classrooms is an instant paradigm changer.

The book is separated into 4 parts that allow the reader to sequentially explore the process of disruptive thinking. Educators from the classroom to the Board offices need to read this book and get the conversations started in their districts about how they can unleash the 21st century learning environment and truly prepare our learners for the future.

Part One – Rethinking Normal

Educators often tell the students, parents and community that we are preparing them for work. Do we really know what the future of work is or isn’t? In this section, Eric discusses the advances in the world of work that have catapulted us into the world of the 1960s cartoon, The Jetsons. Eric provides the reader a futuristic perspective on automation, job availability, division of labor, workplace responsibilities, and lifelong learning.  The only constant in the future is disruption, the unusual, and change.

Part Two – Rethinking Learning

If the first part of the book didn’t make you rethink the future and the various trends on the horizon, the second part will. Today, tomorrow and next week we have kids sitting in our classrooms (virtual or in person) and time is ticking. We need to act now, and according to Sheninger, this can happen (and must happen). Eric has visited hundreds of schools, talked with thousands of educators around the world, and studied with the most progressive authors during the past few years. In this section, he clarifies the important, albeit essential, aspects of the effective learning environment.

One the big takeaways from this part is that, for the most part, we know the type of learning environment we should be creating for kids and teachers. It should be relevant, with high levels of questioning, activities, collaboration, interdisciplinary, and applicable. Sheninger provides easy to understand explanations, charts and graphs about what the learning environment should look like to get the most of the experience for the learner. My favorite terms to describe the environment in this section is Sticky Learning.

Part Three – Rethinking the Learner 

Now that you have gone through the why and the how, in this part Sheninger provides you with a thorough explanation of the who… The Learner. In the Disruptive Thinking paradigm the most important part of the equation, according to Sheninger, is personalization. To help guide this discussion, Eric asks some guiding questions that can help educators gain perspective into personalization.

  1. Are the learners telling us what they know, or showing what they understand?
  2. Who is doing the work and the thinking?
  3. Who is asking or developing the questions?

In order for this new, personalized focus on the learner, schools are going to need to examine their perspective on curriculum, instruction, pedagogy, and assessment data. The gatekeepers at the top of the organizational structure will need to understand personalization and give up the management, top down style of leadership for this to work. Rigor is key with this process and so is a GROWTH MINDSET!

Part Four – Rethinking our Mindset

Moving forward into the 21st Century, Disruptive world, Sheninger will make you re-think everything you thought was working such as:

  • Zeros
  • Grades
  • Feedback
  • Homework

In addition, Eric provides sound advice on the climate and culture that needs to be developed for all this to work. He encourages teamwork, positivity, diversity, empathy, understanding and caring.


In conclusion, if you are looking for a book that is going to disrupt your thinking and change the learning opportunities for your learners than this is the book to purchase immediately. If you think that disruptive thinking and growth mindset are a passing fad, then you desperately need to read this book. Please don’t let the future slip away for our learners by clutching onto the past.

To purchase this book – Click here 

About the Author

Spike Cook, Ed.D., Principal, Lakeside Middle School, Millville, NJ. In addition to being a Principal, Dr. Cook published two books through Corwin Press (Connected Leadership: It’s Just a Click AwayBreaking Out of Isolation: Becoming a Connected School Leader). He is the co-host of the popular PrincipaPLN podcast and his blog, Insights Into Learning, was recognized as a finalist for Best Administrator Blog by the EduBlog Awards. Spike earned his Doctorate from Rowan University and is an Adjunct Faculty member in the Masters of School Administration Program He is featured in Twinkl’s 30 Education Influencers You Need to Follow and Klear’s Top Ten Middle School Influencers. Dr. Cook is also on the Education Advisory Board for Whole Health Ed. Connect with @drspikecook via Twitter, YouTube,  LinkedInFacebook or Instagram.

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