Teaching at Post-16: Effective Teaching in the A-level, AS and VCE Curriculum

Author(s) Le Versha, Lin and Nicholls, Gill
Publisher Kogan Page: London
Price 17.99
ISBN 0749433485
Reviewed by Richard Clarke
University of Wales College, Newport
Review published 1 December 2004

This is an extremely useful book. I started reading it with some trepidation, as there are a plethora of books available that offer good coverage of the basic principles of teaching in the post-compulsory sector; would this one offer anything new? In fact this book emerges as one of the most interesting and helpful texts on the subject that I have read for some time.

At 217 pages this is not a book for those looking for an in depth treatment of all aspects of teaching. What is does provide is an overview of most of the key information that teachers or lecturers require to function efficiently in their posts.

Part 1 begins by considering the context and origins of the post-16 framework. There are chapters dealing with examinations and assessment, key skills, student guidance and support, student learning styles, and the transitions to Higher Education. All of the chapters are packed with useful advice and each has a good collection of references for further study. The use of activities in each chapter means that the book will integrate well into most teacher training courses.

Part 2 goes on to consider teaching for learning with chapters covering managing student behaviour, lesson planning, questioning and group work, coursework and assessment, individual student needs, implications of ICT for teaching and learning, the role of the personal tutor, and quality assurance and inspection.

In places the book has the feeling of containing the condensed wisdom of years of staff room coffee breaks, in this sense I would liken it to having access to an experienced and enthusiastic member of staff who has "been there, done that and this is what you do". The level of detail means that this is the kind of book that should be lying around in staff rooms as a useful point of reference to provide answers to the kind of questions that normally take up a lot of time. In particular the chapter on student support even identifies telephone numbers for national support agencies.

Other chapters not only consider the theoretical frameworks of teaching, and provide links to further reading, they also provide real life examples. Anyone who has struggled to come to terms with the complexities of Curriculum 2000 assessment methods will welcome the detailed explanations and sample results forms included in chapter 2.

The coverage of inspection in the final chapter also helps to de-mystify what can be a very confusing, and at times threatening, process.

The book is well written throughout and more importantly very focused. It is worth noting the title and to point out that the intended audience is most definitely those staff working with 16-19 year-olds within the Curriculum 2000 framework in mainstream FE or Sixth form provision. This means that issues such as working with adults or teaching in youth work and community settings do not get coverage, which stops the book getting too large and unwieldy in the way that some general teaching texts tend to. Refreshingly there is also little or no mention of the FENTO standards; the advice in this book will in the main stand the test of time and not require constant revision as new teaching standards emerge.

There is a significant amount of useful information that is generic enough to be useful at Higher Education level as well, particularly for those new to the sector that suddenly find themselves taking on roles as personal tutors or learning support advisors.

Overall this is an excellent book and one that deserves to enter the canon of general teaching texts that support initial and in-service Post-Compulsory Teacher Training. There is also much here that would find a place on secondary PGCE teaching studies programs. For those working in Higher Education who want to understand more about the experiences that shape the students that they get, there is plenty here of interest.