Helpful at all levels

29th December 2000 at 00:00
Teaching Secondary Science: Constructing Meaning and Developing Understanding. By Keith Ross, Liz Lakin and Peter Callaghan. David Fulton. pound;15.

There are quite a number of books on the market aimed at those starting their secondary school science teaching career. This is one of the most helpful. In its 186 pages it succeeds in covering a tremendous amount of valuable material. Chapters are clearly structured, readable and well laid out. I particularly like the many activities designed to get pupils to think about their learning.

The first third of the book contains some useful chapters on such subjects as practical work in science, language and learning and the naive ideas of children. In addition there are chapters on enabling children to learn through talking, reading and writing.

There is much in these chapters that almost any teacher of secondary science, however experienced, would benefit from. For example, the section on the purposes of practical work carefully analyses a range of classic activities designed to help pupils understand rusting. The authors examine what can be learned from each activity and suggest when non-practical activities could be used appropriately.

The middle part of th book is perhaps the least successful. It is a shade ambitious to cover teaching and learning at 16-plus in three and a half pages and the chapters on learning in chemistry, physics and biology similarly suffer from a somewhat fragmented approach in which there is only space for just a few rather isolated topics to be addressed.

The remainder of the book, though, is back to the standard of the first part. There are excellent chapters on preparing for classroom management, managing pupils in the laboratory, formative assessment, summative assessment, assessment of investigations and science for all.

Throughout the book there are helpful illustrations: I love some of the cartoons and wish I had consulted Figure 15.2 with its helpful advice about what pupils understand teachers' instructions to mean before I started my teaching career.

Definitely worth getting hold of, and we are promised an accompanying CD-Rom which will cover most of the topics in the science national curriculum and be available in 2001.

MICHAEL REISS Michael Reiss is professor of science education at the University of London Institute of Education from January 1 and directs the Salters-Nuffield Advanced Biology Project


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