Book for Teaching and Learning Has Vicksburg Faculty Contributors

Jim Heath, Pat Reeves, Mary Burke, Sabrina French, Jill Barton, receive their copies of the new book from Pat Wilson O’Leary seated on the far right.
Jim Heath, Pat Reeves, Mary Burke, Sabrina French, Jill Barton, receive their copies of the new book from Pat Wilson O’Leary seated on the far right.

By Jef Rietsma

A Portage resident with ties to Vicksburg Community Schools played a key role in a book that took three years and more than two dozen contributors to assemble.

Pat Wilson O’Leary downplayed the significance of her part in the creation of The Power of the Social Brain. It is subtitled, “Teaching, Learning and Interdependent Thinking.” Teachers College Press (TCP), Columbia University, NY.

“There was a great amount of collaboration from highly respected, professional contributors and I also had the good fortune of working with Art Costa, a California colleague who I’ve been associated with for 32 years,” said Wilson O’Leary, who co-edited the book with Costa. “Our book models the message of collaboration and interdependent thinking.”

Released in March 2013, the 240-page book features a collection of work from scholars either in the field of education or whose contributions center on thoughts and processes related to education and business leaders. Contributors Sabrina French, Mary Burke and Jill Barton also have previously worked for or are currently employed by Vicksburg Community Schools.

Wilson O’Leary said the collection of 28 contributors is something that would likely most interest college professors, current and aspiring school superintendents and administrators. The hard work and countless hours logged by contributors and editors is paying dividends, as The Power of the Social Brain recently received special recognition abroad.

The book made the U.K. Times Higher Education Suggested Reading List for 2013. Wilson O’Leary said considering the goal of the book wasn’t to win global recognition, she and the contributors were thrilled with the acknowledgment.

“What’s most rewarding is knowing that the (publicity) may put the book in the hands of more educators and business leaders who would benefit from the content,” she said. “If that makes them better at what they do, ultimately administrators, teachers, students, and employees will benefit.”

To provide a flavor of the book’s wide-based content, Wilson O’Leary mentioned chapter titles include “Creating Interdepenent Thinking Among School Staff,” “Cooperative Learning:  Accessing Our Highest Human Potential”,  “Thinking Maps for Meetings of the Mind,” and “Thinking Interdependently: The Family as a Team”.

Again, Wilson O’Leary said the nature of the book lends itself to a targeted audience, but contributions from so many experts in the field of thinking and learning makes it a valuable tool for the population to which it is applicable.

Furthermore, she said, its content is timeless.

“It will have relevancy years down the road,” she said. “The only critical updating would be in areas where the information fits as it is used in future technology and social media, for example.”

Reflecting on the process of assembling and editing the book, Wilson O’Leary said it involved trips to California to meet with Costa, phone and virtual meetings in between and the efforts of a hired proofreader, in addition to the TCP editing staff.

She said the procedure required thorough organization on account of so many contributors being a part of the book, likening the process to putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Wilson O’Leary said Costa’s expertise and international stature as an authority in cognitive coaching and Habits of Mind and her national presentations and writing in cooperative learning and collaboration prepared them for this team work.

The book made its debut at the International Conference for the Association of Supervision Curriculum and Development in Chicago. Another book signing was at the AERA Conference in San Francisco.

Wilson O’Leary served as an instructional specialist for Vicksburg Community Schools from 1998 to 2010. She maintains a soft spot for the district and called it “the educational gem of Kalamazoo County.”

She is a member of the district’s Community Schools Foundation.

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