Issues in Educational Research, 7(1), 1997, 87-90.
Petersen, L. (1995). Stop and think learning. A teacher's guide for motivating children to learn: Including those with special needs. Melbourne: The Australian Council for Educational Research.
Written mainly for primary school teachers, the specific aim of this book is to show teachers "how to motivate any child to want to improve his or her learning in the first place, and then to sustain that motivation through the momentum of success" (p.iii). It follows on from Lindy Petersen's other books using the STOP THINK DO framework.
The challenges of managing children with specific difficulties along with the individual needs of the rest of the class is recognised. Two main points are raised frequently throughout the book - children need to become committed to their own progress and this needs to happen in a positive and supportive social environment.
The second chapter outlines six areas of information which the classroom teacher must gather in order to begin to plan for an individual student's needs. Although justified, this data collection task may seem rather daunting to a classroom teacher.
The STOP THINK DO process is then given in more detail with specific examples of what a teacher or child might say or suggest for each stage. It is basically a sound problem-solving process. Teachers who are being required to develop Individual Educational Plans (IEPs) for children may appreciate the structure and suggestions offered. Photocopy ready masters are available for each stage of the plan although the level of reading difficulty of these seems quite high for some children who may have learning problems. One difference from some other IEP formats is that Petersen sees the participation of the child in all aspects of the process as being essential.
Chapter Four contains ideas for dealing with more serious problems such as Specific Learning Difficulties (SLD), gifted underachievement, Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), negative personality factors and Asperger's (intellectual disability) Syndrome. The view given is very calm and balanced and takes a holistic approach. Ideas are given about where to obtain further assistance but it is rightly pointed out that it is still the classroom teacher who must manage and encourage the child on a daily basis.
The original STOP THINK DO model (Petersen, 1988), which was designed to be used in a clinic setting to improve classroom relationships is presented in Chapter Five but not enough detail is really given here to implement the program. Other texts deal more comprehensively with improving the classroom atmosphere and developing social skills.
A pervasive theme of cooking is used throughout the book with terms such as 'recipe', 'cocktail', 'mixture' frequently used. I happened to find this rather annoying as I do not particularly enjoy cooking! It also seemed to contradict, in some way, the idea of using a general framework which is promoted in the book. Although I do not think this was the intention the cooking analogy sends mixed messages about working with these students.
A less positive aspect of the book is that all examples and suggestions relate to upper primary students. The author says she has used the approach with many ages so some examples could have been given which would be more suitable for lower primary or secondary students. The photocopy ready masters also have limited applicability. In terms of presentation, it is a pity that colour was not used, particularly as the use of colours to reflect the traffic light theme is suggested in the book.
In summary, classroom teachers are being required to work with an increasing variety of students, some of whom have significant difficulties in coping with the classroom setting. This book provides a very useful framework which can be used to develop plans for individual students, especially those with learning or behavioural problems. The promotion of a problem-solving process and of a collaborative team approach to managing students with special needs result in this book being consistent with current educational practices. It should be of great assistance to classroom teachers wishing to improve their students' learning.
Petersen, L. (1988) Manual for social skills in young people with parent and teaching programmes. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research.
Ms Susan Beltman is a Registered Psychologist with the Education Department of Western Australia and is also a Lecturer in the School of Education, Murdoch University, Perth.
Izard, J. & Evans, J. (1996). Student behaviour: Policies, interventions & evaluations. Melbourne: The Australian Council for Educational Research Ltd.The book is comprised of selected papers from the 1996 National Conference on the Behaviour Management and Behaviour Change of Children and Youth with Emotional and/or Behaviour Problems. The forward notes this was the eighth, and possibly the last, of these annual meetings.
The first nine papers are system reports on behaviour management approaches currently being implemented by each Australian state, and New Zealand. The reports present a skeletal structure of behaviour management strategies in each state, a top-down approach, lacking details of implementation and the repercussions for troublesome individuals, but useful for comparison.
The second section deals with program evaluation. It includes a single paper. Harvey-Beavis presents 'The why, what, how, when and where of doing an evaluation'. He asks "what are policy makers doing to assess the expenditure of these monies?". He states, that at the 1995 conference, Muirhead cited Polk suggesting that "there were no youth programs known in Australia where it could be shown that the youth who had participated in them had also benefited from that participation". The paper addresses the issue of spending without evaluation. It foregrounds the need to evaluate both mainstream and alternative programs.
Section three offers a variety of papers on specific behavioural difficulties such as peer victimisation (Rigby), indigenous students (Rivers) and attentional deficits (Gleeson). The final paper in this section is by Cope and Stewart and offers an enlightened approach to behaviour management that is grounded in local law, hence providing an operational base for adult life. "Judicious behaviour management " is based on local legal systems and human rights. This approach manages student behaviours at school, whilst teaching future relevant life skills.
Section four deals with programs and strategies for different contexts. Topics are loosely grouped. Articles offer behaviour management approaches and strategies for individuals, programs and schools (Burgess, Raha-Lambert & Walker, Castan, Driver & Skowronski, Mackrill & Breheney, James, Knight & Slater, Mackenzie, Fitzsimmons and Mawson). Others deal with anti-violence education (Jenkin and Henry) or specific problems such as chronic illness peer support (Olsson & Toumbrou) and selective mutism (Slee).
On the whole I found the text disappointing. Most authors and systems offer a band-aid approach, introducing additional services for the increasing number of students falling through the net of mainstream education, rather than questioning the very base upon which such policies are based. Cope and Stewart are a refreshing exception. Working from Gathercoleis (1991) approach, they offer an appropriate ideological base for thinking about school behaviour management, the local legal system.
Most authors acknowledge troublesome students have the right to full educational service and most recognise the need to encourage young people to feel accountable for both their actions and the repercussions of their actions. However, educators and educational institutions need to consider that the growing number of alienated students may be the result of the widening gap between mainstream middle class school environments, the lifestyles of these young people and their future workplaces. The system, not just the students, needs to consider its ideological underpinning, its relevance to its clients, and the repercussions of its actions and choices.
Edith Cowan University
Ms Cecelia Netolicky is a PhD student in the School of Education, Edith Cowan University.
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