Valuable case studies make economic sense

21st June 1996 at 01:00
BUSINESS STUDIES By John Birchall and Graham Morris Nelson Pounds 13.99 GCSE Economics

By John Pratten and Nigel Proctor Hodder Stoughton Pounds 9.99 Essential GCSE Business Studies By Renee Huggett Collins Pounds 11.25 Age range 16-plus

John Trevett on student-friendly coursebooks that meet most needs

The inevitable question that arises when a claim is made that a book was written because of the needs of a particular group of students is, will it meet the needs of all? The authors of Business Studies, John Birchall and Graham Morris, both practising teachers and examiners, have produced a book providing in-depth coverage of the A-level syllabus, and a volume which will also be useful to students on other post-16 courses covering business issues.

The material in each chapter is concisely presented and the book is well indexed for easy use. Although the text size is small, there are plenty of diagrams, tables, charts and illustrations which are well integrated into the text and help maintain the reader's interest. Each chapter is rounded off with a summary of the main points and questions and activities. The definitions of the main terms are scrambled up inviting the student to match the correct explanation with its definition. This might serve as a good way of encouraging students to maintain their own glossaries.

The problem of case study material quickly becoming out of date is overcome by the creation of a fictional company, College Dynamics PLC. Real business examples are, however, used either as case studies or to illustrate points. The provision of answers to questions involving financial calculations is also particularly welcome; not least by the teacher. Examples of questions from an exam board are also included and the final chapter provides advice to students on how to produce a good coursework project.

Although John Birchall and Graham Morris have the Associated Examining Board's examinations in mind, the book represents good value for money for other syllabuses. It may not precisely meet the needs of every student, but it will certainly be useful to most and is also a valuable resource for teachers.

In GSCE Economics, John Pratten and Nigel Proctor have created the fictional village of Barengo. Each chapter provides stimulus material tracing the economic development of the village. Questions are set at three levels to allow students over the full ability range to apply their knowledge of the economic concepts covered in the section.

Clear guidance is given at the start of each chapter of the intended learning outcomes and the highlighted headings and definitions of concepts make for easy use. Suggestions for students to apply their knowledge are provided throughout each chapter, together with coursework activities. The authors devote the final chapters to advice on coursework and guidance on how to approach examinations with sample questions and answers.

The book would serve as a good course companion for sixth-form or further education students working independently and for teachers seeking ideas for learning activities and coursework projects. However, the shortage of photographs and illustrations, and absence of colour reduce its attractiveness as a class text for students of average or below average ability.

Renee Huggett's name is well known; her book GCSE Business Studies was welcomed in 1988 by business studies teachers as the first "student friendly" textbook on the market. Now in its second edition, it is still widely used.

The author's latest book, Essential GCSE Business Studies is also likely to have a wide appeal, although perhaps more to teachers and to those studying the subject post-16.

As part of the Collins Essential series, it is designed with the needs of the independent learner in mind. Coverage of the GCSE syllabus is so comprehensive that the book would also be useful to A-level students.

Each chapter states clearly the learning objectives and key terms to be introduced. The key terms are highlighted throughout the text and the margins are used to pick out ideas, emphasise important concepts and provide snippets of information. Icons invite students to undertake activities; make notes, apply the ideas covered, analyse information or carry out research. Short-answer questions are also included in each chapter to allow students to reinforce their knowledge and develop skills for the examination. The final chapter gives advice on preparation for the examination.

This book covers its syllabus comprehensively and would be a valuable source for students on other introductory courses in economics and business. How-ever, its layout and style suggests a target market of older students who take more of a responsibility for their own learning rather than a class text for students in Years 10 and 11.

John Trevett is head of economics and business at Teesdale School, County Durham

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