Book reviews

By Mark Atlay, Eve Rapley and Andrea Raiker

The SAGE Handbook for Research in Education: Pursuing Ideas as the Keystone of Exemplary Inquiry.

Dr Clifton F. Conrad and Dr Ronald C. Serlin (Eds.)

SAGE Publications. Second Edition (2011)

Review by Mark Atlay

This second edition of this well established book in the SAGE Handbook series has some lofty ambitions:

To encourage and inspire educational researchers to pursue meaningful enquiry, this handbook is intended to stimulate and encourage educational researchers to place the pursuit of ideas at the epicentre of their research – from framing meaningful problems to identifying and addressing key challenges to the reporting and dissemination of their findings.

The Handbook is divided into three parts. The first of these explores the purposes of educational research from professional enquiry to informing and challenging policy-making and how to frame meaningful problems and associated research strategies. The second examines the design and conduct of research and the communication of results. The final part presents some reflections of scholars on critical incidents in aspects of research enquiry.

The authors of individual chapters are largely North American and hence the perspectives and examples presented often adopt a distinctly American viewpoint with a focus on school-based education. However, many of the underlying principles elucidated through the chapters are universal and will be of interest and relevance to UK educational researchers in all educational sectors. This is not a book to read from cover to cover but to dip into to explore aspects of educational research relevant to one's own interests. There are chapters on specific research techniques – quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods – and on defining research questions and writing and publishing outcomes. Core questions for researchers, and the articles have been extended and updated since the first edition and new chapters have been added. The chapters are well-written and accessible to those without a background in education or educational research, giving guidance on key authors in each of the areas covered.

There are a range of books on educational research available and this handbook usefully adds to this canon. The breadth of articles presented makes the Handbook of interest to experienced researchers seeking to extend their research practice. However, given its breadth and accessibility, it will be particularly useful to those new to educational research, including non-education-based academic staff and postgraduate research students. If you are only intending to buy one book on educational research then this is one to consider for its breadth of coverage, although others cover quantitative and qualitative techniques in more detail.

Education and Cultural Citizenship

Nick Stevenson

SAGE Publications (2011)

Review by Eve Rapley

Universities continually evolve and develop their curricula to ensure value and currency for future graduates. This is nothing new. What is new is the notion of university being an arena for graduates of tomorrow to develop cultural citizenship skills alongside their academic discipline in order that they be able to operate in a global economy. With most UK HEIs publishing an Internationalisation Strategy, and 'global citizens' cropping up with greater frequency in HE journals and editorials, Nick Stevenson's latest release could not be more timely.

As the themes of globalisation and cultural citizenship make their way to the top table of Higher Education, there are those within the academic community who might say, perhaps cynically, that these terms are merely marketing soundbites sprinkled throughout promotional material in order to turn the heads of would-be undergraduates and employers. As an antidote to any potential scepticism, Stevenson's genuine perspicacity ensures he brings something quite different to the citizenship party. His take on cultural citizenship is steeped in a sense of real appetite and belief. His comprehensive coverage of a range of interconnecting themes results in a cogently woven and impressive skein. Whilst not exclusively concerned with Higher Education per se, it undoubtedly has a place on any discerning academic's bookcase. Not an 'easy read' and very much sociological in its orientation, with a decidedly overt political thread, it cannot truly be said to be an education book for educationalists. Citizenship is appearing more frequently on degree course curricula, but this book is not really one for interested but, as yet, uninformed parties to dip into in order to get a quick grip on the area. If you are interested in a more practical 'guiding principles' approach to the notion of cultural citizenship, this book is perhaps not for you.

If you are prepared to go beyond casual browsing and invest time into questioning why and how UK Higher Education has arrived at its current situation, then this is certainly a worthwhile pursuit. Stevenson asks important and potentially uncomfortable questions which, in a time of uncertainty regarding the value and nature of Higher Education, need to be asked.

Pedagogy and Practice: Culture and Identities

Kathy Hall, Patricia Murphy and Janet Soler

The Open University/Sage Publications (2011)

Review by Andrea Raiker

Pedagogy and Practice: Culture and Identities is one of three readers exploring the relationship between perspectives on learning, pedagogy and knowledge. This volume focuses on pedagogy. The term 'pedagogy' is often associated with teaching in schools, and as such would be termed 'a craft... best learnt as an apprentice by observing a master' by Michael Gove. This book clearly shows that this would be a simplistic view. Gove appears to have absorbed a commonly held view that pedagogy is about strategies of teaching applied in subject domains. This constrained definition of pedagogy reduces it to tips for teachers. Even teaching as a craft is denigrated by such a perspective. The book's title suggests that practice can be separated from pedagogy though it is clearly connected to it. The subtitle suggests the nature of that connection.

Pedagogy is a relationship between the individual and the society in which s/he is learning. Both the individual learner and the curriculum being learnt are positioned in, and acquire their identities from, cultural factors; but not necessarily in equal measure from the institutional, political, economic and historical determinants of those factors. So the relationship between the learner as agent, and the practice arising from cultural factors, is complex. Each individual's agency, which has evolved from personal history, affects his/her mediation with institutional practices and strategies. So pedagogy and practice, culture and identity are inter-related and inter-dependent. Pedagogy, the knowledge and understanding of the cultural beliefs and habits exhibited through the 'craft' of practice, is philosophy made explicit through that practice. Observation is only part of the process; it is undertaken as the basis for reflection to inform practice in the quest for mastery. So Gove could find this book informative.

The socio-cultural perspective on – and understanding of – pedagogy is explored in the first five chapters, grouped under the subtitle 'Thinking about Pedagogy'. Each chapter in this section is written by a distinguished educationalist. In the first, Robin Alexander considers pedagogy as an umbrella term under which the classroom curriculum may be conceptualised. The distinctiveness of pedagogy and practice in terms of differing levels of social order is explored in a chapter by Patricia Murphy. Pedagogy in the workplace is the focus of Michael Eraut's contribution. Eraut sees learning in terms of participation, with pedagogy providing a guiding role. Barbara Rogoff's interest lies in providing a framework for defining and actioning apprenticeship, guided participation and participatory appropriation through pedagogic processes. The final chapter in this section is presented by Nicky Solomon, David Boud and Donna Rooney. They argue that any division between formal and informal learning is not appropriate when considering a socio-cultural perspective of identity formation in the workplace.

The outstanding calibre of writing continues in the second section, 'Cultural Bridging'. This section focuses on pedagogic processes and strategies that can cross social-ethnic divides to reform knowledge and transform identities. It begins with the outcomes of Kathy Hall's longitudinal ethnographic study into what children bring to the learning/teaching interface, pointing to the need for a culturally responsive pedagogy. As one would expect, Etienne Wenger's chapter focuses on the relationship between identity and practice as being fundamental to an understanding of 'pedagogy'. In particular, he stresses that individual identity is constructed from multi-membership of a range of 'communities of practices'. This theme is continued in the following chapter by Norma González and fellow academics. González et al. show, through research into Latino households, how analysis of a community's resources can undermine assumptions of children's educational backgrounds being poor or deficient. Kathy Hall (in a second contribution with colleagues) presents an edited version of research into the positioning of supplementary schools within mainstream schooling. She shows how teachers and students in supplementary schools can create different but no less positive identities to those in mainstream schools through empowering pedagogic approaches.

The final section contains four chapters under the subtitle 'Shaping Identities'. Facets of pedagogy are explored in three of the four chapters through consideration of Literacy. Gabrielle Ivinson shows how single-sex grouping and gendered seating affects understanding of 'English' by diverting attention from the content and meaning of texts. The potentially transformational impact of technology on literacy is demonstrated in Colin Lankshear and Michelle Knobels's chapter whilst Bronwyn Davies argues that cultural tools can gender learners. The section concludes with Harry Torrance's timely contribution on the constraining effects of social and political generation of compliance on transforming pedagogies. He calls for the development of communities of practice, echoing Etienne Wenger's earlier piece, to encourage critical reflection.

Pedagogy and Practice: Culture and Identities will be appreciated by all interested in teaching and learning. It is recommended as a key text on postgraduate reading lists, and for final year undergraduates too. Professionals with roles connected with education would also find the insights into theory-practice relationships provided by this book as potential talking points at the water cooler and in training meetings.


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