Learning to Teach in the Secondary School (Learning to Teach Subjects in the Secondary School Series)

Editor(s) Susan Capel, Marilyn Leask, Tony Turner
Publisher Routledge
Published 2009
Pages 524
Price £23.99
ISBN 9780415478724
Reviewed by Dr Liane Purnell
Newman University College
Review published 17 July 2009

I am always on the lookout for a text which I can recommend to my students going into a secondary school for the first time. The preface suggests that ‘each unit covers a key concept or skill, including personalised learning, and the relationship between the brain and learning’, which are new to this edition, plus:

  • Planning lessons and schemes of work
  • Managing behaviour for learning
  • Assessment
  • Ways pupils learn
  • Differentiation, progression and pupil grouping
  • Inclusion and special educational needs
  • Using ICT in teaching and learning
  • Getting your first teaching post
  • Guidance on writing.

The structure is clear: 8 main sections as detailed above, each further split with subheadings. The glossary is very detailed and the guidance for writing, contained in an appendix, is good, too.

This edition has been updated to take account of the move towards Masters (M level) qualifications and includes work to support this. There are useful sections on developing your philosophy of teaching, how to use the book, meeting the requirements of your course and ways to use the book. It is dense and probably best dipped into rather than read cover to cover and the introduction does suggest ways to use the book which is helpful.

Each section contains clear objectives, tasks, helpful and clear illustrations and tasks linked to M level work. Further reading is listed, but as a general rule, is not as up to date as I would have expected in a revised edition, with little after 2007 in the majority of sections. For example the chapter on responding to diversity has many examples dated 2006 and I would have expected this ever changing issue to be supported with much more up to date material. Relevant websites are included, which should be more up to date. The information is appropriate and seems to be accommodating enough of all courses, assignments and structures. Consistent reference is made to checking course requirements and the vast majority is exactly in line with the requirements of the courses on which I teach, with none that is contradictory. This is very helpful.

There are many very useful sections which include observing a classroom in use with a useful checklist to support this. Another example of a very useful section is linking Bloom’s taxonomy to what pupils need to do and their thinking processes in relation to communicating with pupils. The chapter on inclusion, despite dated references is excellent and I intend to use it to support my second year undergraduates on their Inclusion module as it will be extremely useful there. The chapter on active learning by Francoise Allen and Alexis Taylor is excellent.

There are lots of ideas in relation to M level work which would be very useful for ideas for small research projects. For example, the chapter on behaviour for learning contains three M level activities: the impact of praise, exploring further the links between behaviour and learning and interpretations of unacceptable behaviour.

A major omission, in my opinion, is that there is very little reference to the standards. There are many missed opportunities in relation to reflecting on own practice, assessment and professional responsibilities. This does not diminish the value of the edition but I do hope, should it reach edition six, that this will be addressed. The self study tasks would be considerably enhanced by this addition. There isn’t the emphasis on PSHE (Personal, Social & Health Education), per se, which I might have expected given that its focus is changing. I am also surprised at a lack of information to APP (Assessing Pupils' Progress), given that it is currently being rolled out and was anticipated. I also expected more explicit reference to the value and use of metalanguage and more in relation to OCR Nationals. My only other concern is that, whilst many direct quotes are used, none have page references and I suspect my students would happily follow this model.

I would recommend this as a supplementary text, certainly, and can see that it would support the training of those on taught routes as well as those on more self supported ones such as some PGCEs (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) and EBITT (Employment Based Initial Teacher Training) courses. It provides a useful reference guide to a wide range of relevant topics and, at times, is absolutely excellent. Certainly I will be recommending different chapters and sections to my different teaching groups.