Clayton Christensen’s book, Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns (2011), makes the assertion that the American public school system is broken and disruptive innovation is how we go about fixing it. Within the book, Christensen describes the structure of disruptive innovation, its success among the private sector, and begins to discuss how it might apply to public education. The book was originally published in 2008, where the authors began to receive a great amount of attention for their concept of disruptive innovation. What really began the conversation around this book was the conversation surrounding how these practices that work in the business world apply to the world of education. In reading what the critics have to say, many have come to a similar consensus: Christensen is successful in his description of the disruptive innovation theory, but fails to really dive into how these practices apply to working in a school.
In reading David Hand’s review (2008), he begins by summarizing the concepts Christensen discusses in his book. However, Hand provides a more simplified graphic of how disruptive innovation would work in a school and provides a clear explanation of how disruptive innovation could work in a school. Hand discusses how technology allows schools to become more competitive in the disruptive innovation process. Overall, Hand seems to express positive reviews towards Christensen’s depiction of how we can begin to “fix schools.” Hand asserts:
This book is beneficial for all educators interested in improving student learning and who have become disillusioned with the current, nonresponsive school structures. The authors’ message will challenge the readers’ thinking and may even leave the reader to ask the question: Is it really possible that schooling could become completely virtual within our lifetime? Is it really possible that schools, colleges, or universities will not have walls?
With this, Hand (2008) is asserting, while believes what Christensen states is valid and important for educators to consider, we must think about the reality and practical application of these concepts.
Ackerman (2008), Martone (2015), and Sener (2009) all express similar sentiments towards the book. While they agree that Christensen does a good job at explaining the problem with the public education system and what disruptive innovation, all three felt as though Christensen felt short in his application of these business tactics to schools. It was a common thread that comparing schools to business was an oversimplification of how a school works and they see a disconnect between the theory and practical application. In particular, it was noted across the critiques that Christensen discusses the importance of human development, but does not go into how to address human development with this system at all within his book. Sener (2009) even notes that, past page 107, teachers are not even mentioned until the conclusion of the book. This was alarming to him because teachers’ role seems to be diminished through the implementation of Christensen’s system.
In summation, many critics appreciated Christensen’s ability to identify the problem and dive into how disruptive innovation works in the private sector. Where he seems to lose the critics in his application of disruptive innovation in a school and how the role of teachers come into play in practice.
Ackerman, G. L. (2008, October). [Review of the book, Disrupting class: How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns by C. M. Christensen, M. B. Horn, & C. W. Johnson.] Education Review.
Christensen, C., Horn, M.B., & Johnson, C. W. (2011). Disrupting class: How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns. New York: McGraw Hill.
Hand, D. (2008). [Review of the book, Disrupting class: How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns by C. M. Christensen, M. B. Horn, & C. W. Johnson. Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning for Christians in Higher Education, Vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 14-17.
Martone, N. J. (2015). Using Student-Centric Technology for Educational Change [Review of the book “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns” by Clayton M. Christensen, Curtis W. Johnson, and Michael B. Horn]. Global Education Review, 2(4), 143-145.
Sener, J. (2009, December). [Review of the book, Disrupting class: How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns by C. M. Christensen, M. B. Horn, & C. W. Johnson.] eLearn Magazine.