Reflective Teaching and Learning: A Guide to Professional Issues for Beginning Secondary Teachers (Developing as a Reflective Secondary Teacher)

Author(s) Sue Dymoke, Jennifer Harrison
Editor(s) Jennifer K. Harrison, Tony Lawson, Phil Wood, Angela Wortley, Hilary Cremin
Publisher SAGE Ltd.
Published 2008
Pages 264
Price £19.99
ISBN 9781412946476
Reviewed by Miss Angela Jaap
University of Glasgow
Review published 20 October 2008

Written specifically for the Secondary teacher in mind, Reflective Teaching and Learning is an accessible guide for both student teachers (and current practitioners) to help them understand the components of the learning and teaching process. The book therefore aims to support teachers in developing their theoretical knowledge and to relate this to the context of the classroom. Reflective Teaching and Learning is primarily based upon the English teacher training system however, the ideas, discussions and activities are transferable to the Standard for Initial Teacher Education in Scotland.

Reflective practice and understanding does not happen overnight, it requires time to develop. For the beginning student teacher (or indeed teachers who have much experience) reflection can be difficult, both in being critical towards our own practice, but also in translating this information into structuring future teaching and learning. Reflective Teaching and Learning acknowledges this through the content structure, where the early chapters of the book concentrate more on theory, for example, reflective practice through exploring authors such as Brookfield and theories of learning and thinking. The layout of the book is clear and coherent with the information supported with interesting diagrams and relevant web resources. Activities are suggested for the student to undertake and are progressive in nature, beginning firstly with more personal questions in the early chapters, such as SWOT analyses to more school-based observation and discussion tasks. In particular the school-based activities are interesting and non-intrusive, in other words, they figure as part of classroom routine and can be observed in the course of the lesson. Some of the suggested activities take the student teacher beyond the door of their own classroom to explore whole-school matters, for example, behaviour and curriculum and their relationship to wider policy. The authors stress that such an activity can be undertaken either as an individual or as a collaborative learning experience with other students or with student mentors.

Personally, one chapter of particular interest was ‘Classroom Management’ (Chapter 4, p.109).

Classroom management itself covers many aspects of the day-to-day working of the learning environment. Here, classroom management is seen as a process which starts well before the students reach the classroom, involving careful preparation of both teaching and the room, alongside detailed planning. Once the lesson starts, it also involves behaviour management, the management of the physical space by the teacher, and the various pedagogical approaches the teacher intends to use. (p.109)

Although to the more experienced practitioner this quotation could be seen as an obvious aspect of teaching and learning, it highlights the authors’ intentions for this chapter as a progressive guide for the student. The chapter demonstrates that management and control of the classroom begins before a pupil has stepped foot into the class and requires detailed, almost strategic planning. The authors discuss a range of issues within this one chapter, from lesson plans to the physical classroom environment and working with learning assistants, all of which are important aspects under the umbrella term ‘classroom management’.

To be an effective practitioner not only takes great dedication and commitment to our profession, but the need to understand what constitutes effective teaching and learning. In order to understand this, the teacher must be able to reflect upon and evaluate his or her own performance in the classroom in order to assist the pupils to fulfil their potential. The accessible and easy-to-understand tone used by the authors enables a gentle yet thorough development for the student, making it clear from the outset that effective teaching and learning requires not only a personal and professional commitment, but also a knowledgeable and reflective individual.