I wish I had a pound for every hour I've spent cloistered in hot rooms with colleagues, trying to put together a good personal, social and moral education programme. It's a difficult task because it can so easily produce classroom activity which is seen as teacher-generated a catalogue of concerns which keep parents awake and teachers on the alert.
The aim was always to design a course which was stimulating, effective and appealed to the students' sense of relevance as well as our own. But, try as we may, we came back to the old subjects drugs, sex and bullying and, too often, struggled to make the materials interesting.
This photocopiable book offers exercises in problem-solving which will dovetail beautifully into any PSE programme. Each exercise revolves around a central dilemma which the students are asked to resolve through a variety of activities including group work, role-play, and debate. The principles in each dilemma can be examined from various angles using the suggestions for extension work which help to ensure that each topic is dealt with in a thorough yet stimulating way. There is no sense of repetition, rather a feeling of broad in-depth coverage of the issues in hand.
Penny Kitchin maintains that "anyone attempting to define, establish or understand their own personal value system needs the opportunity to explore their ideas and perceptions . . . Exploring the causes and consequences of moral dilemmas can help young people construct and understand their own framework for taking decisions".
In setting out to provide stimulating materials, she has used narrative, cartoons, diaries, role-play, letters, graffiti and a number of other formats to present each dilemma simply so that the students do not have to struggle to grasp the situation.
Their task is to resolve it as well as they can. The entire problem-solving process promises to be a genuine learning experience in which the participants' involvement should lead to a deeper understanding of their own values and attitudes.
I used to find it really difficult to make use of the materials developed by someone else, especially in PSE when a discussion-based approach is most suitable. This book, however, is refreshing and should be a very welcome addition to the PSE programme of many schools. Its materials and approach will ideally suit my English classroom, too, and I'm looking forward to adapting its materials to take a firm place in our key stage 3 programme of work.