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14th April 1995 at 01:00
Learning to Teach in the Primary Classroom, By Anne Proctor, Margaret Entwistle, Brenda Judge and Sandy McKenzie-Murdoch, Routledge Pounds 10. 99. 0 415 11065 3

Barbara MacGilchrist looks at a new framework for primary teachers learning in the classroom. All those who decide to train as a teacher face the challenges of developing initial teaching skills and becoming a reflective practitioner in the classroom. Equally, as primary teacher training becomes more school centred over the next 18 months, those teachers who tutor beginning teachers will need support in developing this important professional responsibility.

With this in mind, I found Learning to Teach in the Primary Classroom a very useful book. Its purpose is to give practical guidance to trainee teachers and those who work with them in the school-based element of the course. The authors aims are: to provide a framework for understanding what teaching is about; to offer guidance in the development of essential skills; to indicate some of the current concerns about practice in the classroom; and to give help and encouragement in becoming a reflective practitioner.

The book is divided into five chapters: contexts for learning; planning; teaching strategies; assessment, record keeping and reporting; and self appraisal through profiling. What I liked about each of these chapters is that the information provided is clear and easy to understand and they are full of practical, down-to-earth advice.

There are examples of activities and ideas to try out, the outcomes of which can then be discussed by the beginning teacher and the school tutor. It is obvious from reading through the examples that the authors have their feet on the ground and that the advice offered is based on first hand experience of well tried practice in the classroom.

This book is not simply a "tips for teachers" handbook. Rather, the authors draw on learning theories, research evidence and national curriculum guidance and organise the activities to ensure those using the book reflect on their experiences. The chapters are planned to encourage trainee teachers to evaluate their teaching through feedback from children; discussion with teaching colleagues; expectations of parents and carers; documentation from the Department for Education; and appropriate literature on curriculum development and educational research.

Each chapter explains, using non-jargon terms, the basic information beginning teachers need to enable them to understand the rationale for the examples and activities that follow. Further background information is provided and reference is made to resources and sources of support. Activities to extend and to deepen understanding are then suggested. These activities provide a useful focus for professional dialogue between trainees and those supporting them.

Overall, the book is well structured and the introductory chapter is very well written. It provides a good overview of the book and enables the reader to use the chapters that follow effectively.

This book achieves what it sets out to do. It is a practical, accessible guide. It certainly reminds us how complex and skilled is the job of learning to be a successful primary classteacher.

Barbara MacGilchrist is Dean of Initial Teacher Education, Institute of Education, University of London.

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