My School Improvement Doodle Book

Making schools better, three notes at a time

By: Ben Keeling


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Size: 110mm x 200mm
Pages : 128
ISBN : 9781781350515
Format: Paperback
Published: September 2012

If picture is worth a thousand words, imagine the power of three pictures at a time. Which is exactly what former graphic designer turned teacher and leadership team member Ben Keeling has done. As thought-provoking as it is simple, this book combines an expert knowledge of schools and learning, an enviable talent for graphic design and a keen sense of irony.

First spotted by Independent Thinking founder Ian Gilbert following a Twitter exchange that stretched between Chile, the UK and Indonesia, this ground-breaking book uses three simple 'doodles' per page, each on a separate sticky note, to highlight key issues. Simple yet contagious, this book rewrites the rules when it comes to the literature of school improvement and should be on the desk of every school leader and teacher.

Picture for author Ben Keeling

Ben Keeling

A qualified but disillusioned graphic designer, Ben finally found true satisfaction in the classroom. Ben Keeling is a school leadership team member and says he is not an educationalist - just a human being (and a learner) who thinks we should all be trying to do things more effectively.


  1. I loved this creative way of looking at school improvement. I teach on a subject leadership module on the work- based primary teaching course and will recommend this text to them. The sets of pictures are so thought- provoking and will stimulate interesting discussion amongst the students. I really like the graphic approach.
  2. A book full of visual ideas to stimulate teachers, learners and managers to focus their energies more effectively. In my work as a consultant in schools and colleges I find an increasing number of staff using pictorial images to “get their message across” and stimulate thinking more effectively. A book full of ideas .... old, new and different, well worth a read.

  3. 'If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine the power of three pictures at a time,' claims the publisher of My School Improvement Doodle Book. Which is exactly what former graphic designer turned teacher and assistant head Ben Keeling has tried to do. This is a difficult book to traditionally review through words, given the nature of the fantastic images it contains, but it is thought-provoking whilst simple, and combines an expert knowledge of schools and learning, an enviable talent for graphic design and a keen sense of irony and humour. The book uses three simple 'doodles' per page, each on a separate sticky note, to highlight key issues that all teachers (whatever their role or level of experience) will recognise. Simple yet contagious, it rewrites the rules when it comes to the literature of school improvement and is certainly not boring. Whilst this book could (and perhaps should) be on the desk of every school leader and teacher, it would also create quite a stir, debate and stimulus in any staffroom if it were 'casually' left around at break time. An excellent coffee table book which could inspire.

  4. Now this -¦ This is our kind of book.
    We love clever, witty design, we love illustration and we love anything that challenges us to think. -˜My School Improvement Doodle Book' adds one more masterstroke - doodles.
    In our experience, doodles have too long been the preserve of staff meetings - afternoons lost in a scribbling reverie of triangles, clouds and stairs (“Sorry? What? I was listening-¦ It just helps me concentrate-¦”) In -˜My School Improvement Doodle Book', Ben Keeling takes the humble doodle and turns it into a thing of wisdom. The most effective logos, typefaces, stories - whatever - are so often the simplest ones. And yet, to try to start from scratch and convey an idea using a handful of lines or a limited number of words is incredibly hard. In pulling this off, Ben Keeling demonstrates he is clearly a talented thinker as well as designer.
    Apart from the foreword and two-page introduction, -˜My School Improvement Doodle Book' contains few words. Each facing page has a title (often slightly cryptic), followed by three -˜Post-It' notes containing doodles. Simple? Yes, but so, so thought-provoking.
    What would have taken other authors hundreds of words to convey, Ben Keeling manages with 9 words, 3 -˜Post-Its' and a doodle of an empty jar. It's such a positive message and because it's so simply done, it becomes more effective.
    There are fifty sets of three -˜Post-Its' in -˜My School Improvement Doodle Book', covering subjects ranging from our role as teachers to leadership and a school ethos. Not every page is immediately obvious, but that adds to the effectiveness of the book - its power comes with the thoughts and questions it provokes.
    Big questions, big themes. Now imagine the sorts of discussions that could arise in a whole-school INSET session or SLT meeting by displaying enlarged versions of those -˜Post-Its' and getting staff to come up with questions to answer. Or involving the whole school community, from caretaker to dinner supervisors, getting them answer the question -˜What are the life lessons we want to send students away with?' Or having class discussions on what life lessons pupils would value the most (I would imagine that this book would work really well in a class situation). From three doodles, a school ethos could arise.
    At the back of the book are several pages of blank notes, for the reader to invent their own doodles (in fact, on Ben Keeling's website there's a neat little tool to create your own online). Inspired by this, we had a go at our own set of three notes on the subject of Sparky Teaching-¦
    They took forever to come up with and yet they're not witty, topical and probably won't make you think! Including the blank -˜Post-Its' is a masterstroke by the author - it serves to prove just how much thought has gone into the book. The word -˜simple' features heavily in people's comments (and, indeed, in this review), but in some ways this does Ben Keeling a disservice. As long-time admirers of Quentin Blake, we understand how much effort and skill is involved in distilling a theme into it's simplest form. Edward Tufte (we have to keep citing other people - there aren't a whole lot of words in the book to quote!), once said “Good design is a lot like clear thinking made visual.”
    On the surface, the doodles in -˜My School Improvement Doodle Book' may look simple.
    But we'd rather describe them as clear thinking. Made visual.
  5. I've never seen an education book quite like it - an ingenious visual exploration of big themes presented with a light but thought-provoking touch.
    It's beautifully produced and is a superb way of challenging our assumptions and kick-starting discussion with colleagues. I love its wit, its style, and its capacity to crystallise a range of educational ideas.
  6. Sometimes you come across a book that is totally unique in its approach. How can Ben Keeling write so little but say so much? His approach of using 3 -˜post it' notes for each section really draws you in and makes you think. Each time you look, you see more! Some pages clarify ideas you will have worked with for years, Bloom's taxonomy , Gardner's multiple intelligences -” all succinctly explained in 3 -˜post its' with very few words. Others will really challenge your thinking; for some pages I'm still working out their meanings, but all have made me think. The ideas expound educational philosophy, question one size fits all education, look at styles of teaching and learning-¦..all done so simply but so so cleverly. The illustrations are just pen drawings and doodles but they say so much and always make you question your ideas.
    I love this book and yet I know I've only scratched the surface -” I've only just begun the journey of reflection that these simple yet complex -˜post its' are sending the reader on. -˜Making schools better three notes at a time' is such an innovative way of presenting ideas. The ending is, again, very clever -” -˜Your turn' -” if it's not down to all of us to have -˜our turn' how will change happen?
    This is one of those books that keeps you coming back, can't wait to share it with others.

  7. I am so glad my preference is to read hard copy when reading text for the first time!
    I had only turned two pages of this inspirational and provocative resource, when my pen was in my hand and I was doodling...inserting...adding...scribbling...
    -˜Spot the Difference?' Which am I? Where are you? Does it matter? Do we care?
    So how do we solve this puzzle? Square the circle? Back to the first set... How can one size fit all? And I was away...
    That was MY journey. Your journey will be different, for sure, but a journey will be made. It will be YOUR journey. Where will your journey take you?
    This -˜book' will challenge you, mystify you, make you laugh, cause you despair... it will take you on a -˜period of reflection' -” ONE DOODLE / THREE NOTES AT A TIME!
    And you will wonder how you could have made that journey without it.
    Or even - IF you would have made that journey without it.
  8. Anyone championing reflection and creativity quickly gets my attention. In the delightfully stimulating My School Improvement Doodle Book, talented author, artist and teacher Ben Keeling offers us a great way to read, think and reflect creatively! It is refreshing to see such an engaging approach to thinking about school development.
    With the inventive post-its that Ben has developed, it is possible to structure a process of reflection about school improvement without the restraining effects of more systematised approaches. The post-its can be analysed, interpreted, sorted, organised, categorised, added to, discussed, debated, and even re-drawn! This book is not wordy, it is very clever. It is packed with ideas concisely gathered together in illustrations (doodles) and captions. The thoughtfully selected stimuli quickly prompt the reader to connect ideas together and formulate inquiring questions.
    I can see how this book will work for an individual reader or as a great tool for getting groups of colleagues to share their thoughts and develop their ideas about school improvement. This is great resource and one I whole-heartedly recommend school managers keep to hand for reference and inspiration.

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