Supermodels and navel-gazing

10th May 1996 at 01:00
MAKING HEADWAY: A SELF-DEVELOPMENT WORKBOOK FOR WOMEN WORKING IN EDUCATION. By Maureen Mitchell Zoe Gruhn, Hobsons Pounds 19.99, Available from Biblios PDS Ltd,Star Road, Partridge Green,West Sussex RH13 8LD

How do women manage? Rosemary Litawski and Kate Myers consider views from both sides of the glass ceiling

You get at least three books in Making Headway. Among other things, it should help you decide whether you are a clever fox, a wise owl, an inept donkey or an innocent sheep.

This useful and accessible workbook is a self-study programme to use with colleagues or friends, or alone. It is divided into three modules: "Understanding and managing myself"; "Managing at work", and "Managing my future".

Those that shy away from examinations of one's navel need not worry. There is plenty of sensible information on a range of pertinent subjects as well as photocopiable questionnaires and other written activities relating aspects of theory and practice to the reader's own situation and experience. Useful addresses and reading lists come in a section at the end.

Module one is devoted to self-assessment and helps the reader take stock of her life. It includes constructive guidance on managing stress and behaving assertively.

Module two is a good starting point for anyone involved in school improvement. It covers topical areas such as organisational change, leadership and management, working with teams and understanding the nature of power. The reader is encouraged to become an agent rather than a victim of change by exploring organisation structures and cultures, learning how to managing the change process and creating a force field analysis examining the forces for and against change in her own place of work.

The section on women and leadership covers transactional and transformational leadership, the difference between leadership and management, and exercises to assess and develop the reader's own preferred style. Characteristics of effective teams are described and the importance of teamwork is emphasised.

The section on understanding the politics of your organisation gives advice on how to become more influential, paying attention to image and exposure. The final module includes tips on goals and action plans, career development and managing personal change. There is practical advice on applying for jobs.

The book is written for "women working in education", but there is nothing in it that would not be useful to men though some men may be impatient with the holistic approach. It is not very education-specific, however, and more could have been said about issues facing women working in different parts of the education service.

Although the solitary reader will find much of benefit, self-help manuals are of limited use when the enthusiastic reader tries to change herself or her organisation on her own. However, this could be an extremely powerful vehicle for change used by a group within the same institution. The cartoons by Angela Martin are a delight.

* Dr Kate Myers is an associate director of the International School Effectiveness and Improvement Centre at the Institute of Education, University of London, and co-ordinates its school improvement network

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