Can I tell if he fancies me?

21st February 2003 at 00:00
Higher Psychology: Approaches and Methods. By Gerard Keegan. Hodder amp; Stoughton, pound;16.99

Psychology is a new Higher subject and so does not come with the comfort of hordes of past papers, helpful guides, tailor-made videos or textbooks geared to the syllabus.

Teachers have been using materials geared to English A-level or even university students. It is a relief, then, to have this book.

It covers the first unit of the Higher course. This is the only compulsory unit.

Relevance to the course is probably the most crucial factor for any teacher contemplating buying 30 copies of this textbook. If you're spending a lot of money for just one unit of a three-unit course then the book has to do the job on its own. Happily, it does. Presentation, content and readability are all first class.

I was impressed by the size of the print. This is important as not all students are highly literate. One mildly dyslexic pupil could read the text: a smaller font would have defeated her.

The range of photographs, from Descartes to the collapse of the World Trade Centre towers, is also engaging.

Clear headings make it easy to assimilate the text. I particularly liked the intriguing panels, containing snippets such as "Can you tell if someone fancies you?" Pupils and students are drawn by such hooks which relate to everyday life.

These little titbits also break up the text, which is much needed in a book crammed with information. This is not a criticism, more an unavoidable result of a course that demands a lot of knowledge.

All that knowledge is in the book. All the approaches - psychoanalytic, behaviourist, cognitive, biological and humanistic - are fully explained, with the start of each chapter outlining what the student should know by the end.

The sections on research methods are excellent. There are many examples of research studies and, as with the rest of the book, helpful guidance on how to structure answers. This will be much appreciated by students. Sometimes teachers undervalue the need to show how to answer questions.

Perhaps most vital of all, this book is eminently readable. It can be used as the central text of a course or easily dipped into for reference.

One or two things leap out. The huge number of web addresses throughout the book are so useful for accessing further resources. All the ones I have tried to access have been available and worthwhile. A bank of such addresses is valuable because checking out websites is so time-consuming.

The other captivating feature is the range of references in the book, from John Locke's tabula rasa to the National Lottery to Viagra. It will engage students.

Modern textbooks have to compete with the television and videos. This gives them a run for their money.

Marj Adams teaches psychology at Forres Academy, Moray

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