Education books

26th March 1999 at 00:00
Even to experienced teachers, the new standards for Qualified Teacher Status can look intimidating. To teachers in training, and those about to start their induction year, they must look doubly so. Good reason, then, to be grateful to Denis Hayes for Planning, Teaching and Class Management in Primary Schools (Fulton pound;15), a compact and positive guide on how to reach them.

Hayes identifies the standards that relate specifically to the key areas of planning, teaching approach, teaching methods, special educational needs, assessment, reporting and (importantly) critical reflection. For each statement it provides a page or two of clarification and advice, a keynote summary and a competence check-list. The advice is excellent and the tone down to earth but enthusiastic and reassuring.

Remember, Hayes says, that children sometimes know but don't know they know. That some teachers have learning difficulties, especially when it comes to asking colleagues for help. Remember how easy it is to confuse busyness with learn-ing. Remember Murphy's Law: that though children may not learn all you intended, they will learn a good deal you did not intend.

And remember, too, he emphasises, that the teacher's creativity, commitment, energy and enthusiasm matter at least as much as all these standards.

Power Plays by Becky Francis (Trentham Books pound;13.95) is for teachers who want to study the importance of gender in the way children perceive their learning and life chances. It is based on the author's PhD research, which set out to demonstrate from dialogue and role-play in primary classrooms her belief that children, anxious to achieve secure gender identity, do so by construct-ing it in oppositional terms - so being a girl is seen as not being a boy, and vice versa. Hence, she argues, the gen-der stereotyping that still penalises so many women.

It is good, lively stuff, especially when it is the children who are talking. Not all teachers, I suspect, would share the author's belief that girls construct their gender identity as "sensible and selfless" while that of boys is "silly and selfish". And not all academics would be convinced by her valiant attempt to lock this into a theoretical framework that combines feminism with post-structuralism. All would agree, though, that the topic is important.

The same can be said of the problems Paul Ghuman identifies in his definitive study, Asian Adolescents in the West (British Psycho-logical Society pound;12.95). For Western-born Asians, adol-escence may be a bruising conflict between two cultural traditions. Using published research as well as interviews and case histories, Ghuman demolishes some of the myths about Asian school performance and identifies strategies to help Asian students to manage what for them are more than intergenerational tensions. Among these strategies, bilingualism - the role of the mother tongue - is seen as crucial.

Finally, two Open University readers, particularly helpful for teachers working on post-graduate degrees. Learning and Knowledge (Paul Chapman pound;14.99) draws on a wide range of contemporary international studies to remind us (and our politicians) that we have to be clear about the nature of knowledge before we lay down the law about the nature of teaching. Curriculum in Context (Paul Chapman pound;14.99) does the same to demonstrate (in the words of Margaret Thatcher) that if you "put out an approved curriculum and get it wrong, the situation is worse than it was before".

Both books are challen-ging and contain important writing. Look, for example, in the former for Michael Young's chapter on "Curriculum as a Social Construct".

In the latter, read Patricia Broadfoot's essay on assessment as a form of social control, or Jerome Bruner's plea for narrative as the heart of education. Both are excellent value.

Michael Duffy

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