Theories which may miss the target

19th January 1996 at 00:00
The Theory of Learning and The Theory of Learners, By Julie Cotton, Pounds 14.95 each, Kogan Page

These two books are part of a series which also includes a book on learning strategies and one on the theory of assessment and evaluation. They are aimed at "every full-time and part-time teacher".

Their declared purpose is to give the knowledge required by the Training and Development Lead Body for National Vocational Qualifications.

The Theory of Learning and The Theory of Learners are designed to be introductory books where the author has sought to assume that the reader has "nothing but an interest in learning".

This seems to be at odds with the declared target audience. That is every full and part-time teacher including trainers, further education lecturers, higher education lecturers, adult education lecturers, instructors, professors, open-learning managers, tutors, distance-learning writers, counsellors, mentors, staff development managers and work-based skills trainers, instructors, and even apprentice masters!

The apparent mismatch between target audience and aims may contribute to the tone and content of the books.

If they are genuinely introductory works then it may not be helpful for the author to refer to a large range of authorities from Freud to child psychologist Jean Piaget without much more than the rather superficial overview which is given.

The attempt to be user-friendly is demonstrated more in the chatty tone than in the rather simplistic approach which attempts to cover a great deal of source material, including, as the author confesses in her introduction, works which she came upon by chance - what she calls a "few leftovers on the photocopier".

The tone of the book may appeal to some readers but others may find irritating the homely references to grandchildren and husband whom (as Mrs Cotton explains in the paragraphs on closure in the The Theory of Learning) she can recognise immediately "by minimal information such as two treads on the stairs or one cough".

The reader may also be disconcerted by some mis-spellings and an odd explanation of Freud's theory of the super-ego, a reference to "super conscientiousness" rather than consciousness.

While the books may prove to be useful reference works which can point the way to other texts, they are not likely to provide a practical introduction to teaching for those, for example technicians and facilitators, who have been working with students for some time and who now need NVQ assessment and accreditation.

The Theory of Learning and The Theory of Learners are very readable. The lists of references are helpful in demonstrating a wide range of source material. However as companions to TDLB NVQ Assessment and Accreditation, The Theory of Learning and The Theory of Learners may have missed their audience.

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