The thinking student's (and lecturer's) book

18th June 2004 at 01:00
Teaching and Training in Post-Compulsory Education. Armitage, A. Bryant, R. Dunnill, R. Hayes, D. Hudson, A. Kent, J. Lawes, S. amp; Renwick, A. (Second Edition). Open University Press, 2003. ISBN 0 335 21273 5 (pbk.) pp302. pound;18.99

This updated, extended and new edition of Teaching and Training in Post-Compulsory Education is an ideal text for those who are either embarking on a teaching certificate in post-compulsory education (PCE), or for lecturers who teach on courses such as the certificate in education (FE). A best-seller in its first edition, this text has been substantially revised. Importantly, it now incorporates the Further Education National Training Organisation standards and many of the educational discussions have been extended beyond those in the original edition.

The first chapter spends some time discussing three educational thinkers: Socrates, Rousseau and Dewey. While this may be a strange way to begin a book aimed at some who might be returning to learning, the discussion of these writers provides a useful way for the reader to begin thinking about what the purpose of education and training actually is in today's society.

One of the activities asks us to envisage the future for post-compulsory education and is clearly aimed at encouraging students to think for themselves. The discussion also informs readers of the substantial theoretical work undertaken on education and training by the educationalist Paul Hirst in the 1960s and 1970s. It then goes on to an up-to-date and thorough examination of the trend towards vocationalism in education. This chapter sets the theoretical framework for the whole book - that education is a contested subject.

In every chapter, whether discussing teaching and learning, resources, the management of learning, assessment, or course design, readers are presented with alternative views and asked to think for themselves. This book is highly accessible and contains some very useful activities that can be used by students individually to help clarify some of the points and issues that are raised by the text - and can also be used by lecturers in the classroom to promote group discussions. The format of the book, interspersed with activities and occasional charts, makes this a highly readable book - and one that should appeal to both lecturers and students alike. One aspect of the book which is particularly attractive is that each chapter can exist on its own and be read separately, whilst at the same time the whole text forms a complete and very readable piece of work.

The final chapter will be helpful to those seeking a chronology of important events in post-compulsory education. This section has been updated and expanded for this edition and it provides a very informative guide for those of us who work in colleges and other PCE institutions. If you want to understand recent legislative changes and official reports and situate them in an appropriate historical and political context, this last chapter provides an instructive tour for the reader. This section alone would warrant reproduction as a small pamphlet. The chronology of PCE in the United States provides a useful cultural comparison for readers.

In 300 pages, the authors have managed to produce a textbook that is accessible to the new student, but is also advanced enough in places for those who require something which is going to challenge them throughout their studies. They refer to Eric Hobsbawm's memorable statement that most young (and I could add older) people today live in a sort of "permanent present" and that the "historical memory" has been lost (p.250). The chronology at the end of the book is a substitute for this lost memory but also an example of a teaching tool. The authors suggest that the study of all subjects should begin with the development of a chronology and argue that if we do not understand the past, we cannot understand the present.

For that point alone, every teacher and trainer who works in post-compulsory education should have a copy of this updated text on their shelf and be recommending it to those who want to work in our sector.

John Bryan is a lecturer in sociology at Newcastle college and is a representative of Natfhe

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