21st March 2003 at 00:00
LEARNING TO READ CRITICALLY IN EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT. Edited by Mike Wallace and Louise Poulson. Sage Publications pound;18.99

This is a book for students reading or researching for postgraduate degrees in education, many of whom are practising teachers. For such students, navigating the jungle of texts and data that await them is never easy: they need practice in critically evaluating other researchers' claims before they undertake their own more limited projects, and they need a grasp of the understandings that underpin (and sometimes undermine) current practice in their chosen areas of enquiry.

Hence this book - an international collaboration with considerable expertise behind it. It starts with our tools for thinking - the terms and concepts that shape our understanding and expression - and goes on to show how these tools can be used to critically analyse a text or to frame the scope and approach of a dissertation. The checklists offered are particularly useful. Then it moves to research in practice, with a section of research reports written for publication (on the value of Ofsted evidence, for example, in assessing the relationship between school effectiveness and resource management) for critical reading. How convincing, we are asked, are these reports; how valid are they?

It finishes with a model answer: an exemplary chapter reviewing the growing body of literature on contribution of leadership to school improvement.

This is interesting in its own right, as well as an example of critical review in action, highlighting as it does the importance of school context among the variables to be considered. In England, certainly, that is not yet recognised by policy makers; a reminder that policy needs informed analysis as much as the research that shapes it.

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