The Good Writing Guide for Education Students, Second Edition

Author(s) Dominic Wyse
Publisher Sage Publications Ltd
Published 2007
Pages 179
Price £14.99
ISBN 9781412948593
Reviewed by Mr James Williams
University of Sussex
Review published 7 January 2008
Extracting good written assignments from education students can be difficult. For some disciplines, e.g. science, the notion of an assignment which integrates theory and practice presents some students with difficulty. If you are used to writing up experimental procedures then an analysis of underlying theory and critical reflection on pedagogy can be as alien as writing a best seller. Dominic Wyse’s book deserves its place on many education reading lists as it takes the process of reading and writing in the field of education step by step. It guides students through the process giving practical hints and tips as well as explaining the ‘why’ of things like literature reviews. Since the demarcation of the PGCE into ‘professional’ and ‘post graduate’ levels with the latter being assessed at Master’s level (M Level) students need more help to understand what this means in practice and how they can produce written work that satisfies M level.

The book is helpfully split into two parts, part 1 being about reading and that all-important skill – thinking. Part 2 is about the actual writing process. Part 1 begins with advice on wider reading. A lack of wider reading is frequently cited as a reason for low marks or an inability to access M level. The guide takes students through the process of wider reading; why it is necessary, how to search for relevant material and how to assess its academic provenance. Too often in my own students’ assignments I see references to online materials and newspaper reports and too infrequently references to robust peer reviewed articles and books. This guide clearly and simply shows students how to read ‘wider’ and why it is important. Referencing is also an issue and while no book can satisfy the referencing quirks of every institution, the guide takes a sensible approach and shows how the majority of education publications reference their materials. Part 1 finishes with some good advice on planning and a chapter on small scale research projects.

Part 2 concentrates on the mechanics of writing, beginning with how to structure written assignments. Chapters on grammar, punctuation and spelling are brief and provide some useful background, but occasionally the author’s love of language diverts into interesting but not entirely relevant background such as the mixed origins of the word ‘chess’ pinned down (as far as we can tell) to a Persian root. While the etymology of words is a fascinating study, what students really need is more help to avoid common pitfalls. In fairness, some help is available later on in the chapter.

The guide shows great promise by looking into assessment and feedback, but this is a tricky area and the chapter doesn’t really deliver on how to make the most of feedback or how students should assess the quality of feedback given and act on advice. The chapter ends with a personal account of how feedback from peer reviewers can be contradictory and frustrating. I can empathise with this, but wonder if students will see the point when thinking about their own approach to writing assignments.

To use a sporting analogy, this book is a book of two halves. The first half is an excellent guide that really delivers what it promises. Students will be better informed and will, if they take the advice, produce better assignments. Part two is less effective. There are better guides to spelling punctuation and grammar that would help students address their weaknesses.