Welcome to

Kieran Egan's Home Page


I am primarily interested in education. My work focuses on a new educational theory and its implications for a changed curriculum, teaching practices, and the institution of the school. This site is intended to give information about my books, articles, talks, other scribbling, and related professional bits and pieces.

Schedule of upcoming talks
"Press kit,"or whatever. Maybe of interest if you want to ask me to give a talk somewhere.
"Have overheads: Will travel"

Some Projects/Programs:

The following are projects or programs that have been developed from ideas in the books mentioned below. Each has its own website, and clicking on "Click here" will take you to the diferent sites.

The Imaginative Education Research Group was formed in 2001. It introduces new theories, principles, and practical techniques for making education more effective. Because engaging students' imaginations in learning, and teachers' imaginations in teaching, is crucial to making knowledge in the curriculum vivid and meaningful, we call this new approach Imaginative Education (IE). We show how this can be done routinely in everyday classrooms and at home. Unfortunately so much of the content of the curriculum is routinely taught as though its natural habitat is a textbook rather than the fears, hopes, and passions of real people that students too commonly find it dull and lifeless, and un-engaging. We believe the ideas, materials, and practices on this website can show how to bring the curriculum to life. Click here.
Learning in Depth is a simple though radical innovation in curriculum and instruction designed to ensure that all students become experts about something during their school years. Each child is given a particular topic to learn about through her or his whole school career, in addition to the usual curriculum, and builds a personal portfolios on the topic. To the surprise of many, children usually take to the program with great enthusiasm, and within a few months LiD begins to transform their experience as learners. The program usually takes about an hour a week, with the students working outside school time increasingly. Click here.
Imaginative Literacy Program describes and gives many examples of a new approach to teaching literacy. What is new about this approach is tied up with the ways it uses feelings and images, metaphors and jokes, rhyme and rhythm, stories and wonder, heroes and the exotic, hopes, fears, and passions, hobbies and collecting, and much else in engaging the imaginations of both teachers and learners with literacy. That is, it isn’t just that we use such tools for teaching and learning literacy, but we do so in a new and systematic way. Literacy is one of the great workhorses of our culture, society, and economy. It can greatly enrich the lives of those who learn to use it well. This approach shows how we might better teach our students to learn to use this great cultural toolkit for their benefit and pleasure. Click here.
Whole School Projects are designed to involve the whole school, over a period of three years, studying a specific topic. The rest of the curriculum will continue much as it is, but some time will be given to the project during which the school as a whole builds up its knowledge. The “whole school project” will not be separated from the rest of the curriculum, and many of the year’s objectives in mathematics, science, and so on can be incorporated into the project study. The topic may involve local things—such as plants and animals of the desert if the school is in Alamogordo, New Mexico,or sheep farming if it is in Walworth, New Zealand, or the Columbia River Gorge if it is near Portland, Oregon, or the castle if it is in Ludlow, England, etc. Altenantively more "distant" topics might be chosen--the Solar System, ocean life, birds, etc. Click here.
Dividing the School in Two is a subversive project, whose purpose is to make schools more effective educational institutions. But the route proposed here is not like the usual set of prescriptions for educational improvement. Many people have noted that schools have a number of somewhat distinct aims. This website is dedicated to clarifying and elaborating that the socializing aims of schools—that is, preparing students with the skills and knowledge they will need to do well in and for society—and the academic aims of schools—that is, teaching those things that are best for the minds of the students—are not always the same. It is generally assumed that these two aims complement one anther, and that good schools can successful achieve both. This project is dedicated to showing that this assumption is not only false but is very damaging to the practice of education. Click here.

Some Books:

 

Learning in Depth: A simple innovation that can transform schooling

"This is a fascinating, provocative, utterly visionary and courageously speculative imagining of an educational future that is simultaneously elite and egalitarian, deeply intellectual yet utterly connected to passion and identity. A most audacious proposal from one of education's most audacious thinkers . . . an inspiring challenge to those who aspire to deep understanding for their students.”—Lee S. Shulman, President Emeritus, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

"The Learning in Depth project has brought to our students a completely new relationship to learning that has been surprising in its depth and quality. After seeing Learning in Depth at work in our school community, I know this has been a critical, missing element. It has proven to be everything we imagined (and much more we didn't) when we heard about Kieran Egan's remarkable vision.”—Sheri Dunton, K-3 Teacher, Corbett Charter School

“Learning in Depth outlines a bold and stimulating curricular innovation designed to improve the quality of schooling from kindergarten through high school. .”—Philip W. Jackson, David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus University of Chicago.

"What fun! . . . The book gave me lots of ideas. . . . Quite wonderful." (Nel Noddings, Stanford University).

 

The future of education: Re-imagining the school from the ground up

"Kieran Egan is one of the most original ''big picture'' thinkers in education. I always read what he writes. In his latest book, Egan critiques both traditional and progressive education and puts forth his own provocative ideas on how change might be implemented."—Howard Gardner, Harvard University, author of Five Minds for the Future and Multiple Intelligences.


Egan''s compelling and original approach to much-needed education reform is delivered through a very imaginative and engaging narrative.”—John Willinsky, Stanford University.

* 2011 Outstanding Book Award American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

 

Teaching and learning outside the box: Inspiring imagination across the curriculum

"Lively and provocative . . . . I am convinced that the imagination-based approach to education that is addressed in this collection could have a crucial and lasting impact on the way we learn."


Max Wyman, OC, D. Litt (hon), Cultural critic, policy advisor, and author of The Definant Imagination.

 

Teaching literacy: Engaging the Imagination of New Readers and Writers

"A fascinating piece of writing, presenting ideas that are fresh and exciting."
-Taddie Kelly, Literacy Coach and Reading Interventionist
Waco Independent School District, TX.
"Focuses on enhancing students' metalinguistic awareness and not just their intuitive use of words, fostering the development of higher mental functions."
-Elena Bodrova, Senior Researcher, McREL

  • USA Book News "Best Books 2006" Award finalist.
  • 2006 Foreword Magazine Book of the Year AwardFinalist

 

An Imaginative Approach to Teaching.

"As we come to expect from Kieran Egan, this book is imaginative, engaging, wise, and practical. A terrific resource for teachers at every level."
--
Nel Noddings, author, Happiness and Education and Lee Jacks Professor of Education Emerita, Stanford University. (Book cover.)

With An Imaginative Approach to Teaching, Egan provides educators with new ways to promote creativity in the classroom. This book is an essential resource for all educators. Maren Roedenbeck. Childhood Education, Spring, 2006.

"Kieran Egan’s work on imagination and learning has addressed our needs as teachers to foster more creative thinking within our classrooms. Tapping into this creative energy has added a whole new level of fascination, not to mention fulfillment, to our ‘middle years’ teaching. We encourage all educators to use the book to put this unbelievable theory into practice in the near future!”
--Anne-Marie Dooner, Peter Obendoerfer, Nicole Marie Kerbrat, and Principal Verland Hicks, middle school educators, Ecole Leila North Community School, Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Book cover.)

Getting it Wrong from the Beginning.

"This is an insightful, provocative, and highly readable book. . . . The book is a valuable work that makes a substantial contribution to current debates over educational theory and research. . . . General readers will find the author's argument rich, provocative, and quite likely persuasive. Specialists in education and psychology will find it one that commands their attention and compels serious reflection."Edward A. Purcell, Historian.

"An engagingly-written scholarly treatise. . . . What makes the book relevant to people who are interested in today's educational agenda is that Spencer's theories have been revived and repeated in almost every wave of educational reform. . . . While Getting It Wrong from the Beginning is aimed at education professionals rather than political ones, those who work with education policy could find a bit of ammunition within these pages." Diana West, National Journal

"As we have come to expect from Kieran Egan, this book is full of brilliant insights. He has a great gift for posing fundamental, yet non-obvious, questions in such a way that we find some of our most deeply held assumptions up for grabs." James Wertsch, Washington University. (Book jacket.)

The Educated Mind: How Cognitive Tools Shape Our Understanding
 

"Kieran Egan has one of the most original, penetrating, and capacious minds in education today. This book provides the best introduction to his important body of work."
Howard Gardner, author of Frames of Mind, Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice, etc. Book cover, hardback.

"A carefully argued and readable book. . . . Egan proposes a radical change of approach for the whole process of education. . . . There is much in this book to interest and excite those who discuss, research or deliver education." - - - Ann Fullick, New Scientist.

"Almost anyone involved at any level or in any part of the education system will find this a fascinating book to read."--Dr. Richard Fox, British Journal of Educational Psychology.

"A new theory of education that is (believe it or not) useful. . . . . 'The Educated Mind' is something very new and different."
C.J. Driver. The New York Times Book Review.

"This is really a very exciting book . . . Readers who feel jaded by the output of recent educational thinkers will be refreshed by this book."
Oliver Leaman, The Lecturer.

"Kieran Egan writes with clarity and wit on one of the most crucial issues of our time. The school train, Egan warns us, is lost in a confusion of philosophical dead-end tracks: we need new directions, new signs and signals to help us rethink the journey. In Egan's imaginative portrayal of 'the development of understanding,' he gives us an entirely new map, for immediate use. If we begin by reinventing the teacher as storyteller and recognizing the children as the intuitive poets and dramatists they are, we will be ready to join Egan in his extraordinary vision of sensible schooling available to all."
Vivian Paley, author of Boys and Girls: Superheroes in the Doll Corner, Kwanzaa & Me: A Teacher's Story, etc. (Book cover.)

Children's Minds, Talking Rabbits, and Clockwork Oranges

"Three cheers for this lively collection of essays by one of North America's most respected educators." Philip W. Jackson, University of Chicago. (Book jacket.)

"In an age in which so many people wring their hands about the inadequacies of schools, concerns that typically tend to result in constraining programs even f urther, attention to a more generous conception of mind is to be welcomed. Kieran Egan provides such a conception in his book."
From the Foreword by Elliot W. Eisner, Stanford University.
(Foreword.)

Teaching as Story Telling

"Egan's book makes the reader look anew at what is too often taken for granted about the ways in which children learn . . . I am very impressed by the practicality of his introduction of the use of the story-forms in curriculum for young children. His model is fascinating, and its various possibilities in a range of fields makes it worth a good look by many kinds of teachers."

Maxine Greene, Teachers' College, Columbia Univeristy.
Book cover, Chicago University Press edition

 

Imagination in Teaching and Learning

This book describes "strategies for animating even the most outwardly prosaic of lessons. His prescribed transfusion of imagination into . . .classroom education comes practically packaged and lucidly labelled, with a nice balance between scholarly exposition and constructive suggestion--and lightened by flashes of wit." Alan Klottrup, Journal of Curriculum Studies.

Building my Zen garden.

Some other books

If you would like to hear a radio interview about educational ideas, click here. It runs for 20 mins. or so.

Current projects

The "Learning in Depth" project

You can view and print off, and distribute, if you want, a pdf of "A Brief Guide to Learning in Depth" here. (It's quite a big file, with pictures, so it may take a little while.)

Spirituality, education, and the moral life

Have Overheads: Will Travel.

A cognitive toolkit for adult literacy

Some artichokes:

Here's an immodest proposal: Learning in depth: Knowledge and the imagination

I seem to have become entangled with the Imaginative Education Research Group. One aspect of the group's work is research into imagination and into how one might make everyday teaching and learning more imaginative. Another part of the work involves implementing various of the educational ideas you will find on this site. If you would like to explore these ideas further and in a somewhat different way, you might like to:

 

Teaching & Talks:

Personal: