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[ Contents Vol 5, 1989 ] [ QJER Home ]


by S. O'Neill

Books for Every (Secondary) Teacher - Professional Development*

* This material was compiled by Jill Borthwick, Department of Communication and Resource Studies. Brisbane College of Advanced Education.

As part of their in-service Graduate Diploma of Education (Resource Teaching) at Brisbane College of Advanced Education, Kelvin Grove, resource teachers were asked to nominate a book that they would want each teacher in their various schools to read. The following reviews are selected from those provided by the resource teachers and recommend titles that would contribute to the professional development of all educators.

Dalton, J. (1985) Adventures in Thinking: Creative Thinking and Cooperative Talk in Small Groups. Melbourne: Nelson.

In this excellent book for teachers of junior and early secondary school students, Joan Dalton challenges us to set aside previously held notions that children learn best in formalised teacher controlled lessons. Instead, she introduces the concept of developing creative thinking skills in students through small group work. Through these group learning situations, students not only acquire knowledge but, perhaps most important of all, learn interaction skills that will equip them to become more effective individuals in their personal real life experiences of the future.

This is perhaps a radical book for teachers to use in the sense that it escalates education from the often limited parameters of the past to the edge of the unknown, as students run with the creative flow that is a natural function of using this type of framework. However, this is not a haphazard method where students are left totally on their own to problem solve. In fact, there is a quite structured series of steps where students are extended slowly so that strategies can be tried, practiced, and acquired before the next step is introduced. The benefits appear to apply to all children and extend to the areas of both academic and social integration. Thus, a feeling of accomplishment is fostered that is accompanied by support from peers.

The book is set out in three main introductory sections which give a good background to using the techniques:

  1. The skills of the future, which looks at what creative thinking is and why it is so important to develop in our students.
  2. Effective management of co-operative groups discusses the role of the teacher and how a gradual transition is vital to developing successful groups. This section also looks at how to form groups and the placement of students with particular problems.
  3. Techniques for developing creativity identifies individual skills that need to be acquired as part of the creative thinking process.
Chapter 4 presents an excellent thematic approach to various topics (e.g. the future, disasters, heroes, outer space, magic, school) that teachers can use as starting points. These are accompanied by suggested strategies and groupings, the language and thinking skills that are encouraged by using such approaches, and the creative processes that are involved when using such suggestions.

A final word gives guidelines for student evaluation and teacher self-evaluation which often is neglected and yet is so important to further learning for all those involved.

A book such as this is a must for any teacher's library as it offers tremendous potential for everyone - for the students to extend their minds and imagination and the teacher to actively participate in a new and exciting way. Dalton sees teaching and learning as an adventure and this book is all about putting this into practice in a manner that can be a positive experience for everyone. Can we afford not to accept such a challenge?

Sue Raymond

Hopson, B. and Scally, M. (1981) Lifeskills Teaching. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill.

This book provides some thought-provoking insights to back the authors' Lifeskills Teaching Programs which are widely used in many schools. Both authors have utilised their wide experience as teachers, researchers and consultants to hit out at the staid, uncompromising bureaucracies currently operating in many schools.

The book begins with a look at our rapidly changing society and, using statistical evidence, points out that by ignoring the reality of basic lifeskills, young people are not being equipped with sufficient skills for survival in the real world. The book explains Hopson's and Scally's position and describes the lifeskills they believe need teaching, and when and how to implement the course into a school curriculum or, indeed, to a classroom. There is an extremely helpful section devoted ~o teaching groups, either as a whole class or, preferably, small groups. In addition to this, a resource guide provides assistance to teachers wanting to add to their own skills. The concluding chapter is entitled "Yes, but ...". Designed to answer some of the questions raised by sceptics, it provides a fitting conclusion which rounds off the powerful argument advocating a wider range of skills needed to be taught to high school students.

The purpose of this book is to provide a discussion point for school teacher; and give practical advice as to how to go about consciously "empowering' students. The authors are insistent about young people being responsible for their own learning, not only in schools but for a lifetime. By using the Lifeskills units and allowing students to learn experientially, Hopson and Scally believe teachers will assist young people to enjoy learning for themselves.

Lifeskills Teaching provides an excellent, thought-provoking introduction for classroom teachers who wish to use some of the units in the Lifeskills series. It is well set out, using an easy to read and "non-jargonistic" style which allows the reader to follow its logical progression while, at the same time, be entertained by clever use of relevant, interesting detail. Hopson and Scally have produced a book which is practical, interesting, and well worth reading and acting upon.

N. Wilkins (Pine Rivers State High School)

Kreidler, W.J. (1984) Creative Conflict Resolution: More than 200 activities for keeping peace in the classroom K-6. Glenview: Scott Foresman and Co.

Every classroom has conflict, and it is usually seen as negative. This attractively presented book is designed to help teachers use the inevitable conflict in their classrooms in a positive way. It is very practical, full of activities to promote a peaceable, caring class community. The book is organised into ten chapters, each dealing with an aspect of conflict in respect to teachers. Topics include: resolving conflict between students, between students and teacher, and between the teacher and parents, other teachers, and administrators; helping students handle anger, frustration and aggression; and the creative aspects of peacemaking - building co-operation, tolerance and communication.

Each chapter is prefaced by a rationale, which presents the theory in a readable form, as well as recent research and writings by other experts in the field. The teacher is expected to understand the rationale, then select an activity appropriate to the class. Each activity is presented in an attractive readable format comprising: materials, procedures and discussion. The discussion questions are designed to facilitate reflection and help students learn from the experience, applying their learnings to their own lives. The activity format would have been improved with a sentence or two about the objectives of each activity. Although it may appear self-evident, especially from the discussion questions, it would help students and teachers focus the activities if they were clear on the objectives of individual exercises.

The activities are labelled according to grade levels for which they are relevant. Although this book was written for teachers of the primary school, it is quite relevant to secondary students as well. Lower secondary classes, in particular, are sometimes difficult for teachers to control. The team building activities in this book provide some answers for the root of the problem, rather than the symptoms, which are the usual point of intervention.

A sometimes hidden problem in the school is teacher conflict with parents or colleagues. In a non-blaming way, Kreidler broadens the teacher's vision to seeing the others' points of view, and recognise different needs and values.

Clear, well presented worksheets are included in the appendix. An activity index then a general index, with names of conflict resolution techniques capitalised, facilitate easy referencing.

This is an excellent resource for any teacher who cares about building a positive classroom climate. While not exhaustive, it provides a good selection of ideas based on current thinking in interpersonal relationships.

For what it can do for a teacher's peace of mind, not to mention that of hundreds of young people, it is highly recommended.

Irene Burow

Fennell, P. (1984) Working in Groups, Dickson, ACT, Curriculum Development Centre.

Working in Groups is Book 6 of a series edited by Peter McColl titled "Social Science Skills". It is a practical guide for teachers to implement group work in the classroom, providing clear, simple-to-follow explanations of how groups develop and function, as well as useful guidelines to foster the development.

"Group work is noisy and unproductive. All the kids do is talk!" Such is the lament of teachers who divide a class into groups of four or five students and set a task for the students to do. Basing their attempts to implement group work in the classroom on the assumption that students know what to do and how to do it, many teachers try the exercise once, find the results to be unsatisfactory and file the idea in the "Too hard - never to be released again" basket. However, simply dividing students into groups `>f bodies is as about as functional as expecting a queue of people at a bus-stop one morning to be the best of friends the next. How to function as an effective group member, how to interact with other people to achieve a predetermined goal and how to ensure that all members of the group contribute to that goal, are all processes that need to be taught.

Although the series focuses on the Social Sciences, the ideas in Working in Groups are applicable to any subject and the strategies and techniques can be easily modified to suit. Nine different group types are identified and the special usefulness, general characteristics and usage, limitations and particular requirements for each one are listed in an easily read format.

The section titled 'Organising the Classroom for Group Work' is particularly valuable because it poses a number of questions aimed at helping teachers to analyse not only their own attitudes but also other factors that could interfere with and impede group development and work purpose. Suggestions for coping with difficulties, such as excessive socialising and conflict are included.

In the section 'Strategies for Group Work' there are a number of activities designed to improve student communication and group interaction skills within a "relaxed, non-threatening atmosphere". Each activity is set out in a step-by-step lesson plan that specifies time, materials and physical setting required, together with variations which contribute to the flexibility of the activity in its application across the curriculum.

Having established a sound rationale for group work and presented practical methods with which to implement it, Fennell addresses the issue of assessment. Once again, the strength of the presentation lies in its simplicity and step-by-step guidelines. Suggested criteria for evaluation are listed and make for easy adaptation to be consistent with the objectives of an assessment program.

There is much evidence in research to support the notion that effective group work has a very powerful influence on learning. This realistic contribution to catering for optimal development and use of the technique within the classroom is to be highly commended.

Laurice Stefanski (Balmoral State High School)



National Heart Foundation of Australia

Applications closing 31 May each year are invited for grants to assist workers in the area of cardiovascular health education. Such grants may cover research in:

Applications will be considered from investigators with substantial experience and proven ability in research or other relevant health education areas. Each application must have the approval of the Head of the relevant department or institution. An applicant should confirm that the institution in which he/she is working will administer the grant.

The grant may cover:

Application Forms may be obtained by writing to:
The National Education Co-ordinator
National Heart Foundation of Australia
PO Box 2
Woden, ACT 2606
Ph: (062) 822144

Board of Educational and Developmental Psychologists
The Australian Council for Educational Research

University of Queensland, St Lucia, Brisbane

National testing and assessment programs, for the evaluation of standards across Australia's school systems, are of relevance and concern to the community as a whole. Children, their parents, educational personnel, private and public sector employers and the general public all have a stake in the enterprise. Testing and assessment programs inevitably are contentious and there is considerable scope for misunderstanding.

For further information contact:

Dr Alan Hayes
Schonell Special Education Research Centre
University of Queensland
St Lucia, Q 4067
Telephone: (07) 377 3036/377 3091
Fax: (07) 371 5107

Please cite as: QIER (1989). Publication reviews and Notices 5(1). Queensland Researcher, 5(1), 37-43. http://www.iier.org.au/qjer/qr5/bookrevs-notices5-1.html

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