Reflective Teaching, third edition

Author(s) Andrew Pollard
Publisher Continuum
Published 2008
Pages 608
Price £24.99
ISBN 9780826493408
Reviewed by Miss Emese Hall
University of Exeter
Review published 16 July 2008

The size and weight of this book could be off-putting to anyone who might be considering a career in teaching (imagine a bumper Argos catalogue), but with perseverance he or she would find it to be a worthwhile investment - both in terms of the initial financial outlay and subsequent reading time. As a primary PGCE tutor, I have read Reflective Teaching with trainee teachers in mind and consider that it would make a valuable addition to a general reading list – particularly as it provides an accessible starting point for further study and reflection. In addition to trainee teachers, Reflective Teaching is also aimed at various other readers, including: mentors, newly qualified teachers and those engaged in continuing professional development.

This is the third edition of the book, bringing together a wide range of current and historically significant information, and is designed to partner Readings for Reflective Teaching (containing 120 ‘exceptional’ readings) and the website www.rtweb.info.   Links are made to these other sources throughout, namely in the form of suggested readings. It is difficult to argue with the book’s description in its introduction as the ‘definitive textbook for reflective classroom professionalism’. It is certainly comprehensive and well constructed, encompassing policy, theory, research, and practice. Real thought has been given to its organisation and every attempt has been made to clearly explain key ideas and terminology. The index is helpfully coded to highlight references to figures, reflective activities and QTS standards, and a glossary of acronyms is also provided.

It is fair to say that Reflective Teaching contains something interesting and useful on most topics that you can think of in relation to teaching: accountability, assessment, behaviour management, bilingualism, collaboration, cross-curricular issues, differentiation, health and safety, ICT, lesson planning, national curricula, observation, parents, questioning, resources, school effectiveness, special educational needs, transition, values etc. etc. If the topic you are looking for is not discussed in sufficient detail, then the authors will point you in the right direction for further information. This, I think, is one way in which the book justifies its description as a ‘definitive’ textbook. If you are looking for inspiration and direction as a teacher or trainer then Reflective Teaching should be your starting point!

The book is divided into three sections: Part 1 concerns ‘Becoming a Reflective Teacher’, Part 2 looks at ‘Being a Reflective Teacher’, and Part 3 concentrates on ‘Beyond Classroom Reflection’. There is a strong sense of logic to the organisation of the book, but it is nonetheless possible to pick a chapter at random and read this without needing to read the previous chapters in order for it to make sense. Each chapter begins with a whole-page diagram explaining the content and structure of the chapter, which aids the reader in locating specific information. Reflective activities (73 in total) are included, which mostly involve completing some sort of small practical classroom-based investigation. Each activity is clearly structured but the downside is that you must have access to a classroom, as you cannot attempt them from a purely theoretical or hypothetical angle. At the end of each chapter key readings are given in the form of an annotated list. There are also suggestions to follow-up in Readings for Reflective Teaching and on the RT website.

Andrew Pollard, the principal author, is Director of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP) and research briefings from this initiative are included throughout, along with numerous diagrams, tables, photographs and cartoons. Presented in an engaging layout of black and blue, it is a pity that the photographs are very pale as this makes them look both slightly dated and slightly uninspiring. However, my main criticism is that the authors do not make it explicit as to whether this book is written for primary teachers, secondary teachers, or both. This is a serious omission. The vast majority of photographs are from primary school settings and so are the many vignettes and examples of work, which would lead me to believe that this is a book for primary teachers. However, some of the written content of Reflective Teaching is relevant to teachers at Key Stage 3 and 4, perhaps even beyond. I am somewhat perplexed about this lack of clarity in a book that is seemingly thoroughly prepared and well written.

In conclusion, Reflective Teaching has much to offer any reader with an interest in improving his/her practice, or the practice of others. One of the ten principles of the TLRP is that teacher learning is an essential part of effective teaching and learning: ‘the importance of teachers learning continuously in order to develop their knowledge and skill, and adapt and develop their roles, especially through classroom enquiry, should be recognised and supported’ (p.284). This is something that Reflective Teaching both recognises and supports wholeheartedly.