A guide to the hazards of lab life;Learning to teach;Secondary;Reviews;Science;Books

8th May 1998 at 01:00

By Tony Turner and Wendy DiMarco. Routledge - pound;15.99.

I don't think it's because science is my subject that I view it as one of the most difficult to teach in secondary school.

As well as the practicalities of organising investigative work - safely - the conceptual demands are huge.

Pupils have to leave behind many cherished notions of the world and how it works and take on new explanations. Can wood really be made from little more than air and water and how come materials feel so hard when their atoms are mostly full of space?

For a student teacher of science, the challenge is enormous, so a book which provides a detailed overview of current good practice is most welcome. Learning to Teach Science is just such a book.

It sets the skills of lesson planning, assessment and so on, firmly in the context of the science lab. Drawing on recent research into children's learning, the importance of taking account of pupils' existing theories is stressed and built on throughout the book. This approach is the essence of good science teaching and recognises the recent strides in science education as a result of initiatives such as the Children's Learning in Science Project.

The authors make a genuine attempt to encourage professional reflection. For example, they provide a variety of tasks linking the student's personal experience of education to their teacher placement in school.

As a mentor, I am always looking for different challenges to set students and there are plenty of ideas here. For example, a lesson plan for a Year 9 class on magnetism shows how differentiation might be managed. There are useful pro formas to support personal review and different types of lesson observation. I wish I'd realised that such structured approaches existed when I was a PGCE student, so having the tools ready made is an added bonus.

A useful glossary explains the many acronyms which litter education and there are helpful and extensive suggestions for further reading.

The authors have short-changed the reader on two important counts: first, the planning and managing of science investigations (so-called "Science 1") and second, the role of science teachers in challenging racism. Many experienced teachers are struggling with both these issues so it is likely that student teachers will need support.

Nevertheless, the book provides good coverage of many of the issues which student teachers will meet and they will find much good practice within its pages.

Christine Ditchfield

* Christine Ditchfield is headteacher and co-ordinator for science at John Ruskin School, Coniston, Cumbria

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