Go on, you know you want to

14th November 2003 at 00:00
Getting Published. By Jerry Wellington. Routledge Study Guides pound;14.99.

Learning to Read Critically in Teaching and Learning. Edited by Louise Poulson and Mike Wallace. Sage Publications pound;18.99.

The Passion to Learn: an enquiry into autodidactism. Edited by Joan Solomon. RoutledgeFalmer pound;75.

School Management in Transition: schooling on the edge. By Dale E Shuttleworth. RoutledgeFalmer pound;70.

"I'm glad I did it," Mark Twain said of one of his books, "partly because it was worth doing, but mostly because I will never have to do it again."

Most writers know the feeling, but still they go on writing. So do those who are not yet published. The urge to appear in print is as strong as ever. In education, perhaps, it's even stronger.

So, Getting Published meets a real need. It's directed primarily at lecturers and researchers, for whom publication is a career requirement.

Author Jerry Wellington, professor at Sheffield University's school of education, knows his stuff: the chapters on the do's and don'ts of academic publishing are first class. But it's the chapters on writing and the writing process that will be most valuable to the everyday teachers who have a book or an article in them and need only encouragement to start.

Difficult it may be (to be good, Jerry Wellington says, it has to be difficult); it's still worthwhile. Here is some readable, practical advice: strongly recommended.

For many teachers, writing starts with the thesis or dissertation element of their part-time postgraduate study, which means it starts with the reading such study involves. Learning to Read Critically in Teaching and Learning is a handbook to aid this process. It starts with a helpful introduction to the nature of research and research-led literature and to the concept of "critique" or being critical. The main part consists of a sample of published research reports, interesting in their own right (for example, the case study, "Learning from homework"), but included here as invitations to critical analysis ("How convincing is this evidence? How valid are these conclusions?"), as well as exemplars of good practice.

A shorter concluding section reprints for analysis a complete "critical literature review", aimed at professional researchers and academics, but given wider relevance by the topic - "promoting inclusion". A helpful appendix lists additional sources of guidance for the researcher. The argument is that all research is rooted in its literature: by definition, it is essentially collaborative.

There's an excellent example of this in The Passion to Learn, which pools the work of 14 active researchers. As you would expect, there is a strong emphasis on creativity and on the part that ICT and interactive learning now plays with today's self-motivated learners, but the range is much wider than that.

Look, for example, at Paul Howard's challenging chapter on children with emotional and behavioural difficulties (arguing that, often, their problem is that they are so busy being taught they don't have time to learn), or at Richard Edwards's contribution on apprenticeship as the antithesis of lifelong learning. Best of all, read Jack Diamond's remarkable story, a learning odyssey that even at the age of 94 was far from over. In a final chapter on the implications of all of this for the field of adult learning, Joan Solomon pulls the various threads together.

School Management in Transition surveys another extensive field: the way in which, across the developed world, the management of public education is being transformed. Decentralisation and deregulation, privatisation, high stakes testing, performance incentives and so on are virtually universal: here, drawn from the work of the Centre for Educational Research and Development at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the approach of nine nations in Europe, the Americas and Asia is summarised.

The book's subtitle (Schooling on the Edge) identifies the common concern.

Everywhere, "school improvement" has been hijacked by the political Right, the author reports, and the widening educational gap between haves and have-nots is "a problem of global proportions". Management has pushed leadership into the background; meeting targets is more important than meeting needs. This is a familiar theme, but not always evidenced as fully and as authoritatively as here, and it makes important reading for those responsible for training the new generation of school leaders, and for those leaders themselves.

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