Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector

Series Fourth Edition
Author(s) Ann Gravells
Publisher Learning Matters Limited
Published 2011
Pages 144
Price £14.00
ISBN 9780857250537
Reviewed by Dr Stylianos Hatzipanagos
King's College London
Review published 22 July 2011

I started reading this book with interest as there was a claim about its accessibility as a ‘guide’ and its 'comprehensive' introduction to teaching in the lifelong learning sector on the back cover. In educational practice ‘accessibility’ is a slightly controversial term. In my view, you can achieve accessibility by simplifying the content, by putting emphasis on process rather than content or by implementing a practical framework which focuses on practical activities and tips for lecturers rather than creating necessary links to the underlying theory.

Judging from the structure and associated contents and because of the compact size and brevity, the book, is more of a 'how to guide’, and a quick reference resource rather than a comprehensive text on preparing to teach. It seems that the accessibility the author has chosen as a priority has had an impact on the comprehensiveness of the approach.

This is a book with a specific audience in mind which covers the content of the Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS) Award at Level 3 and Level 4. The outcomes associated with the award are quite ambitious to be achieved with the help of just a short publication such as this. However, there are characteristics of the book in terms of structure and content that make it a useful introductory resource for its target audience.

The lifelong learning sector is a broad area that includes further education, adult and community learning, work based learning and offender education and the standards section (in the Introduction) helps to familiarise the reader with the policy and frameworks in this area.

From the eight chapters, I thought that the strongest ones (beyond the introduction) were:

  • Chapter 3, Identifying needs: covering some key issues that affect the lifelong learning sector such as organisational, teacher and student needs, assessment of prior skills and knowledge equality and diversity and inclusion.
  • Chapter 4, Planning learning: identifying some starting points for the novice teacher, like creating schemes of work (including some examples), creating session plans and a brief account of how technology can enhance learning.
  • Chapter 7, Quality assurance and evaluation: creating an awareness of evaluation and obtaining feedback as essential practices for the teaching practitioner. Self-reflection and continuous professional development are significant issues to be covered by brief mentions (however the example of a learning journal and the links to key lifelong learning websites are helpful).

Another valuable resource is the collection of examples: cases illustrating the process of teaching that provide the practical context a reader might want to see. These focus on practical problems, with concise contextual descriptions and recommendations. The activities that aim to stretch and challenge learning further, including extension activities, give tasks the reader can engage with. What is slightly problematic are that the vignettes of learning theories can be of minimal use, unless they are employed as a very introductory resource that can encourage the reader to seek further information and relevant sources. The reader can start this journey by using the websites and texts listed in the end of each chapter (called theory focus) and connect to other references and external sources.

I see a value in this publication in introducing practitioners to some of the key concepts and frameworks. In addition, I see this book as an introduction and an invitation to a learning journey to explore further the themes it has touched on.