Introduction to Education Studies

Author(s) Bartlett, Steve; Burton, Diana and Peim, Nick
Publisher Paul Chapman Publishing Ltd
Published 2001
Pages 277
ISBN 0761970169
Reviewed by Dave Trotman
Education and Professional Studies Department, Newman College, Birmingham
Review published 1 December 2004

Aimed largely at the burgeoning student community studying Education as part of single, joint and combined Honours courses, Introduction to Education Studies proceeds to fill a noticeable gap in the literature base for this sphere of study at undergraduate level; namely a contemporary generic course reader. With reference to the QAA's view of Education as a broad church, the introduction makes a clear case for the restoration of a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of key education issues through a contemporary application of philosophy, psychology, sociology, and history. Before embarking on its 'own take' of these key education issues the authors acknowledge that many of its intended readers are unlikely to have experienced all the informing aspects of this multi-disciplinarity and similarly forewarn of the unsettling experience of dealing with an unstable and heavily contested sphere of study.

Structured through nine chapters, the authors explore a range of pertinent educational themes that embrace; research in education, knowledge beliefs and the curriculum, psychological theory and contemporary influences, social perspectives and influences, politics and policy in education. At the end of each chapter students are invited to undertake practical, investigative or reflective activities based on the issues arising from each chapter. Inevitably such an enterprise is, as the authors themselves acknowledge, extremely ambitious in terms of both the breadth of field and level of study.

As a tour through the traditions and disciplines upon which the study of education has been commonly understood this book provides useful contextualisation and acts as a helpful reference tool. Similarly, the prominence of research in education helps to make crucial connections between approaches to research in education and beliefs and value systems. Chapter Three's exploration of curriculum provides a refreshing counterpoint to the stasis of the contemporary English curriculum context as does Chapter Five's critique of educational practices through the examination of contemporary influences on psychological research.

Introduction to Education Studies is however, by its own admittance, limited to a consideration of the English educational system with a heavy concentration on mainstream schooling. Other spheres of educational activity and practice, both nationally and internationally, are therefore not present for discussion and analysis. The addition of such aspects would, on the one hand, help illuminate a number of the topics the book aims to cover, particularly for those students whose educational interests reside in areas outside of mainstream education, and on the other, consolidate inter-disciplinary coherence.

An added complication is the difference in the depth of study and prior knowledge that some chapters expect and demand of the students e.g. in the first chapter the reader moves from general processes of education to post-structuralist theory. Consequently, in some of the areas of enquiry the sequencing of intellectual progression appears to be more precise than in others.

Notwithstanding some of the understandable difficulties in covering such a wide terrain, the authors have provided an important resource for student study in education. Importantly, it reinforces the necessity of a multi-disciplinary approach to the understanding of contested educational process and practices in a contemporary context.