Motivating Your Secondary Class

Author(s) Maurice Galton, Susan Steward, Linda Hargreaves, Charlotte Page, Anthony Pell
Publisher SAGE Publications Ltd
Published 2009
Pages 208
Price £22.99
ISBN 9781847872609
Reviewed by Dr Liane Purnell
Newman University College
Review published 4 December 2009

I approached this book with the view that it could be suitable for my students on the KS2/3 ITE routes, both undergraduate and post/professional graduate and that, additionally, it could spark interest at M level: I wasn’t disappointed!

The back cover sets the scene: ‘Why do so many pupils in Years 7, 8 and 9 ‘switch off’ and make very little progress in the core subjects such as English and mathematics?  What can teachers and schools do to improve pupils’ attitudes and motivation?’  Examples have been collected from schools of what works and the book presents practical advice and strategies for improving lower secondary classrooms.

The chapters cover:

•    Is there a crisis in the Lower Secondary school?
•    Initial encounters: moving to secondary school
•    Working together- learning together: cooperative working in the classroom
•    ‘It’s good to talk!’: improving communication between pupils and teachers and why it’s worth the effort
•    Teacher and pupil development in different school and classroom contexts
•    Why were some classrooms more successful?
•    One big family? Promoting harmony and resilience

There is clear data and data analysis, lots of the ideas are relevant to the ITE modules I teach, most particularly in relation to inclusion and in relation to use of talk in enhancing planning for teaching and learning.  The questions for discussion are relevant and interesting, such as the ones in the ‘learning together-working together’ chapter:

1.    what do you consider to be the main problems in implementing group work?
2.    in your opinion, in which of the three subjects discussed (English, mathematics and science) does the use of group work present the greatest challenge?
3.    which do you think should be the primary aim of group work, to promote better attitudes or to improve attainment?’

This book would be an excellent springboard for M level enquiry / discussion / research.  It is well written with clear links to previous chapters.  It is hard to ‘drop in’ to and it is essential that the introduction is read to establish the context.  I can strongly recommend it.