25th February 2000 at 00:00
IMPROVING TEACHING AND LEARNING IN THE ARTS. Edited by Mary Kear and Gloria Callaway. Falmer Press pound;15.99

In this elegantly written book, Mary Kear and Gloria Callaway draw together the collective wisdom of their contributors and shape it into an intelligent and accessible account of the arts in primary schools.

Their aim is to help students and teachers to reflect on their classroom practice by exploring the many links between the arts and learning.

The first chapter confronts key issues in arts education, such as the place of teacher intervention, the relationship between artefact and process and the effectiveness of cross-curricular approaches. Although I am uneasy about the authors' use of the word "consumption" to describe our engagement with the arts, they rightly remind us that the arts are a pervasive presence in all our lives.

Non-specialist teachers, in other words, should not be downhearted - they may know more about music and painting than they think. The bulk of the book is dedicated to the exploratin of the various art forms - drama, music, art, dance and media.

Each chapter is supported by case studies, so that despite the theoretical flavour of the discourse, we are never allowed to forget that reflection is rooted in the classroom.

It is good, too, to see so many references to world sources, reminding us that the arts are naturally multicultural.

The discussion of visual literacy in the media chapter is particularly thoughtful and the authors' emphasis on story-telling in drama offers a refreshing approach to an art-form often sadly neglected in the primary years.

Kear and Callaway suggest that when we speak of the arts we refer to "a particular aspect of the way human beings behave, respond and make sense of experience, and that feelings are involved".

This cogent description exemplifies the straightforward and sensible style of this book which, although it will not tell you how to mix the paints, is a thoroughly stimulating read.

David Hornbrook is a senior inspector for Camden LEA

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