Learning and Teaching in Secondary Schools

Author(s) Ellis, Viv
Publisher Learning Matters Ltd
Published 2002
Pages 168
ISBN 190330038X
Reviewed by Françoise Allen
Lecturer in Education, Brunel University
Review published 1 December 2004

Learning and Teaching in Secondary Schools is the latest addition to the well-established Achieving QTS series. As such, it provides a fresh, up-to-date look at the challenges which confront trainee teachers within the framework of the revised Professional Standards for the Award of Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) as set out in the government document Qualifying to Teach (DfES 2002), which replaces DfEE Circular 4/98.

The book is clearly and logically structured into twelve chapters which, as is stated in the introduction, focus on the first and third sections of the Standards, ie Professional Values and Practice and the Teaching Standards. The case for the teacher as a professional, which permeates the whole book, is made explicit in the first and final chapters. In that sense, the guidance which is offered fosters on-going reflection on successful teaching rather than a functional approach to reaching the standards, although the book also contains a considerable amount of practical advice.

As the title indicates, the interface between learning and teaching is examined in detail. This is first done in terms of pupils' learning styles, planning, assessment and behaviour management, in an order which mirrors that of the Teaching Standards, and again towards the end of the book, in relation to inclusive practice. The middle section focuses on curriculum initiatives in relation to the secondary curriculum, with separate chapters featuring literacy, numeracy, ICT and the key skills. The book therefore offers a comprehensive overview of the main principles and values encompassed in the Standards. While the absence of a chapter devoted to gifted and talented pupils is perhaps surprising, there is an underlying commitment to high quality learning and teaching for all pupils.

Each chapter is helpfully cross-referenced to specific Standards. However, reading the Standards can be quite a daunting experience. Novice trainees, particularly those who have chosen an employment-based route for their training, will appreciate the short precis at the start of every chapter, which interprets their meaning in easily accessible language. Similarly, educational and pedagogical principles are set within succinct, yet sufficient, contextual information to enhance trainees' knowledge and understanding. Practical tasks and classroom 'stories' further develop the links between theory and practice. The summary of key points at the end of the chapters provides a particularly useful 'plenary' which reinforces the 'teacher-like' approach adopted here. Another distinctive and equally useful feature is the tracing of important issues across chapters through the use of a graphic symbol, which helps to develop trainees' awareness of the interrelated nature of the Standards.

The conciseness and clarity of this book make it ideally suited to being recommended as preparatory, non subject-specific reading prior to starting a training programme in secondary education. It can also serve as a useful reference book to support training once it has started as a second reading in the light of school experience will enable the reader to benefit even more from the well-gauged balance of pedagogical concepts, background information and professional reflection which it provides.