TEACHING SCIENCE: a handbook for primary and secondary school teachers. By Steve Alsop and Keith Hicks. Kogan Page pound;15.99 (pbk)
The complexities of teaching were once again highlighted with the publication in January by the Department for Education and Skills and the Teacher Training Agency of Qualifying to Teach: professional standards for qualified teacher status and requirements for initial teacher training. The non-statutory guidance to support these standards and requirements will further emphasise the enormous task that faces all teachers throughout their careers.
Meeting the professional standards in the three areas - professional values and practice, knowledge and understanding, and teaching - set out in Qualifying to Teach is a challenge for aspiring and practising teachers alike. Advice and support are therefore to be welcomed.
Teaching Science is a source of sound guidance. The authors have produced a text for new science teachers which, through its five well-organised and focused sections, provides a wealth of support. Content is firmly focused on classroom practice, with examples of ways in which to approach various aspects of science teaching.
But it is not a book of "tips for teachers". On the contrary, it offers a framework for trainees and others to examine their practice, consider alternative approaches and incorporate a range of techniques and strategies into their teaching.
The inclusion of three types of activities in the text (theory, observation, and practice tasks) encourages readers to engage with the narrative and not only relate it to their own situation, but to act on the outcomes to enhance their practice.
Two welcome themes come through the text. The first is the importance of professional development, which starts with initial training and continues through all stages of a career in teaching. The second is the importance of effective teaching as a contributor to effective learning. Teaching and learning are clearly linked, and the authors continuously encourage new teachers to develop ways in which their planning, organisation, teaching and assessment will improve their pupils' learning.
Despite all that is valuable in this book, it is unfortunate that its references to DfEE Circular 498 (replaced by Qualifying to Teach) will force readers to check which requirements for initial teacher training are current.
It is also unfortunate that the subtitle indicates it is a handbook for primary and secondary school teachers. While there is much in it for primary teachers, many will be put off because the book has a strong secondary feel and does not capture the flavour of primary science teaching. Perhaps this is a missed opportunity to offer a unified vision of science teaching across the primary and secondary phases.
Derek Bell is vice-principal of Bishop Grosseteste College, Lincoln