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Disrupting Class

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Disrupting Class

How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns


15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

To change public education, society must completely redefine it. Are you ready for disruptive innovation at school?

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


The very real value of this useful and, at times, pleasantly surprising book comes from the way the authors apply their expertise in innovation to the field of education. By approaching public education’s crisis with new eyes – and conceptualizing education as a product or service like any other – Clayton M. Christensen (The Innovator’s Dilemma), Michael B. Horn and Curtis W. Johnson provide insights that escape the tired loops of argument that often define discussions about public education. These writers’ obvious willingness to look in new directions for learning innovation is matched by their genuine concern for everyone involved in education. However, they do seem a bit idealistic, as they focus so strongly on the pedagogical and conceptual aspects of education that they seem to skim over other concerns, like logistics and budgets. The authors acknowledge the legal monopoly governing public education without really addressing the social weight and inertia of such a monopoly. In fact, they seem to believe that positive disruption is almost inevitable. getAbstract recommends this thoughtful book to anyone interested in social change and education, and – not tangentially – in how new technologies affect societies.


What People Want from Schools – and Why Schools Fail

Imagine what a school should do: help students become the best people they can; give them the background to play active roles in “a vibrant, participatory democracy”; guide them toward understanding the value of diversity; and teach them the skills they need to support themselves and contribute to a thriving economy. Unfortunately, American schools aren’t doing a good job of reaching these lofty, varied ideals. Many elements contribute to the weak U.S. educational system – a lack of funding, insufficient technology, uninvolved parents, a faulty educational model, the unions and more – but the blame never gets assigned correctly because Americans measure scholastic performance the wrong way.

When you want someone to do something, you can use “extrinsic motivation” (rewards from the outside) or you can rely on “intrinsic motivation” (satisfaction from the task itself). Right now, students have little extrinsic motivation to learn, so their progress depends heavily on the slippery issue of intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation used to be stronger. People wanted to get ahead economically. However, their success...

About the Authors

Clayton M. Christensen is the Cizik Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, and the author of The Innovator’s Dilemma and The Innovator’s Solution. Michael B. Horn co-founded the Innosight Institute. Curtis W. Johnson served as chief of staff to the governor of Minnesota and was an early champion of charter schools.

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