Research confirms what some of us have suspected for a long time - pupils do not go to school to learn. Schools are places where you socialise and exchange news about fashion and films. This is the real context in which any book about professional development must be written, particularly one about helping new teachers when idealism gives way to the survival instinct.
This is both an academic study and a manual for heads of department and those who teach, tutor and mentor student teachers of history. Many sections, such as those on the methodology of mentoring, assessment of professional performance and continued professional development, apply generally and, although the authors have tried to relate research findings to history where possible, the case studies of two history students would have been more useful if illustrations had been drawn from the history classroom.
Sarah's muddled explanations, low expectations and poor organisation would have failed her in any subject and Tom's enthusiasm, hard work and shambolic mark book are reported too clinically. The reader might like to know how Tom approached the teaching of crown against parliament, or child labour.
The chapters on mentoring and observation and discussion are likely to be the most read - and they should be. They recognise the experience, success and personal commitment each student brings into training. "They may find it especially hard to come to terms with the fact that they find learning to teach history extraordinarily difficult," it says.
Four examples show different aspects of the student-mentor relationship, with students in the roles of teacher, collaborator, observer and support. The mentor-student relationship is complex because it involves not merely giving feedback on what the mentor thought about the lesson, but helping students enhance their skills in the classroom, understand their own practice and learn how to evaluate their own teaching - the latter is frequently the most difficult.
This is a specialised professional text infused with extensive research - the bibliography is 13 pages long - but it addresses real issues in the training and professional development of history teachers. To its credit, and unlike many books of its type, it leaves us with more solutions than problems and is written for a world where pupils giggle over their role-play cards and Danny disrupts the English Reformation.