Book Reviews

By Nick Collis, Peter Norrington, Andrea Raiker, Garry Layden and Deena Ingham.

Bad Education

Phil Beadle

Crown House (2011)

Review by Nick Collis

Bad Education is an often humorous, sometimes enlightening and occasionally shocking compilation of 'Super Teacher' Phil Beadle's 'On Teaching' Guardian columns. Beadle, who came to public attention applying his award-winning teaching techniques to a group of delinquents in Channel 4s 'The Unteachables', draws on his wealth of experience to dispense anecdotes, observations and insight into the world of the professional educator, covering a wide range of topics from the practical – 'The Learning Environment: Life in a Glass Dungeon' to the more contentious 'Politics and Policy: Welcome Mr. Gove'.

It is the earlier chapters that prove the most insightful, showcasing the frequently soul-crunching obstacles that modern secondary teachers have to face on a daily basis, both within the classroom and without – 'What are we learning today sir?' 'The possessive apostrophe' 'But we learned that yesterday' 'No. You didn't' 'You're a crap teacher sir' – being one memorable example. Beadle effectively skewers some of the pomposity and buzzword addiction of policy makers in some of the book's best chapters – the use of 'Assessment for learning' in place of 'assessment of learning', a sudden dictate to provide 'Key Words' for lessons and New Labour's educational mantra 'Poverty is not an excuse', all receiving an F from Mr. Beadle.

Misguided policy makers are not the only ones to be on the receiving end of a tongue lashing. Information Technology, the PC brigade, academics, homophobia and taxi drivers all rouse the author's ire as well. Beadle comes across as caring and passionate about both his pupils and the teaching profession throughout the book, and it's this warmth that engages the reader and makes the swipes at those mentioned above all the more palatable.

There are some inconsistencies along the way which jar slightly. I.C.T and its use within schools is both celebrated and derided within the book's 180-odd pages. You'd be hard pressed to pin down the author's opinions of New Labour's educational policy (in full flow by the time these columns were written) as this too seems to ebb and flow throughout. Some of this could be down to the elongated nature of newspaper column compilations not being written as a continuous narrative.

Overall, this is an enjoyable and interesting read for anyone interested in education and the kind of challenges that are faced by teachers on a daily basis. For those teachers, I imagine reading this without a knowing smile and continuously nodding head will prove difficult. For those looking to become teachers, this book may come as a shocking and sobering riposte to the adverts of smiling, happy children listening attentively at the teacher's feet that the government use to lure idealistic grads into the profession. I hope, and doubt, that it would put many off however, as the author's passion and excitement for his chosen vocation is evident throughout. It's this passion, coupled with the humanity and humour evident in each one of these columns, that makes this book a great read.

Ethics Protocols and Research Ethics Committees: Successfully Obtaining Approval for your Academic Research

Dan Remenyi, Nicola Swan, Ben Van Den Assem

Academic Publishing International (2011)

Review by Peter Norrington

This is a purposefully small book, written in a style which should be accessible at any university student's level. As a small book, it cannot cover every aspect of ethics and research, certainly not in depth, and perhaps not in breadth. So, rather than reading this inappropriately as a contribution to academic discussion on research ethics, the questions I am interested in for reviewing this book are 'who is this for?' and 'will it meet their needs?'

Ethics is, as the authors acknowledge, a complex area, and one that is here to stay. They also state that it is an area with which universities have only engaged in the past ten to fifteen years, outside of medicine where the original need arose, and which universities do not yet have embedded in researcher training.

Broadly following the chapter headings, the book covers ethics protocols (what they are and what they are for); what research is; how research ethics evolved; research ethics committees (RECs); the outline of the submission process, amending a protocol; data protection legislation; cross-culture, class and language research, REC processes and decisions, and how to respond; a case study; advice to researchers, and some end notes on related issues such as intellectual property rights, plagiarism, outsourcing aspects of research, and relationships.

The back cover marketing explicitly and only mentions 'research degree candidates' and 'faculty'. The Preface opens with 'Masters, Doctoral and other Research [sic]', and closes with, 'research students and degree candidates'. Meanwhile, the 'How to use this book' page opens with a '… guide to researchers who have to obtain approval for an Ethics Protocol… also be useful to members of university faculties who are involved in advising students about ethics approval'. Then the Prologue (making three 'sections' before the book gets started) opens with 'in the field of business and management studies' and then talks variously about researchers, academic researchers, doctorates and research masters degrees. The authors use such phrases throughout the book as if they are always interchangeable.

Worryingly, I claim, the early distinction, in chapter 2, between teaching (and we would co-emphasise learning in this university) and research activities could mean that 'non-research' students could leave with no understanding of any ethical requirements or implications (REC, legal, personal, or otherwise) of the sources or applications of what they have learnt. This is a gap in explanation, notwithstanding the intended audience of research students submitting to a REC, as undergraduate student research requiring REC approval is mentioned explicitly in chapter 10.

If you acquired the book regardless of the field you research in, you will find the content tailored towards business and management studies. However, you would have to skip to chapter 10 to find examples of REC decisions relevant to this field, having been provided earlier with examples from medicine–health. By this time, I suggest, someone new to ethics may have lost engagement. These examples and some field-related scandals (again rather than medicine–health as given) would make this a live topic which a student (or faculty) could then own as significant and important.

The inclusion of much of the medicine–health – and indeed the other historical background material – is interesting and important in its own right, and should perhaps be part of researcher / student knowledge, but in the context of this particular book it would be better cut down or removed, and the examples and scandals made more relevant to one discipline or drawn from a wider range. It is only when you reach the single case study, of research that involved a field REC and an NHS REC, that the medical background becomes relevant. The requirements of NHS research are too important and resource-intensive to be condensed into a generalist book, where they override the needs of everyone else.

In general, if you acquired the book as a research student at any level, you would not find in it any distinction between the needs of these levels, nor any between a research student and someone who researches, whether or not they have already obtained a research degree. Perhaps there should be no differences on the line that ethics is ethics; but this is not stated. Working the other way, taught postgraduates and undergraduate students' (even at third year dissertation) needs are not addressed, despite the fact – at least in our University – that they are often expected to engage in research of kinds beyond literature reviews, some of which easily include submission to a REC, or that ethical dimensions should be included in their curriculum.

Moving from the 'who' to the 'what', the Preface finishes with, '[t]his book provides advice in dealing with the REC which increasingly research students and degree candidates need to address'. The REC focus strikes me as making the REC process worse for the student – or at least not improving it – because of the presentation, rather than as an approach.

According to 'How to use this book' it is 'not a 'how-to' book'; I am unclear as to how a book can provide advice without any how-to. Particularly, if the ethics protocol submitted is intended as an intelligent approach to ethical research (rather than an unconsidered tick list) such a book must engage – as this one does – with how to address the issues a REC will expect, and some commentary on how perceptions can affect researchers and REC members' views.

If understanding the REC's motivations and processes is so important to supporting the student, then those motivations and processes could be used to structure the book radically. What we have is a rather traditional 'ethics is –research is – protocol is' approach, with the REC being dealt with in Chapter 8 and advice on how to move through the REC's processes in chapter 11. Any sense of the student researcher being involved in a (Wengerian) community of practice is too remote, if present at all, to avoid the sense of distance implied by the student 'dealing with the REC' or 'coping' with its decisions, or that supervisors have 'superficial' ethical knowledge (which is deeply troubling in its own right), while at the same time claiming – rightly – that ethics should be a part of the research, not a burden on top of it. Any sense that the REC is part of the student's intellectual, cultural, emotional and physical protection and development is lost; and considerations that perhaps many students will not yet be aware of are mislaid, such as institutions' legal duties.

There are other flaws in the book, of varying severity, such as: expanding NIH incorrectly as National Institute [singular, sic] of Health; the incorrect definition of a university (in the UK at least); no definitions for confidentiality or privacy to compare with anonymity; no consideration of models of, for example, disability and how this changes the location and content of ethical issues the focal word does not capture; no mention of the non-UK student and how their ethical position is complex, and more complex when they conduct research outside the UK. And an odd error in a book on ethics, connecting ethics to a society's code of moral conduct or mores without explicitly noting that ethics are argued and structured in ways which morals and mores are not.

So, does it meet anyone's needs? If you already have good resources on ethics in your field, or if your research field does not have a social science aspect: no. If you don't have a short, accessible introduction to ethics in social science: a limited yes, but you will require materials related to the specifics of your field. If you are in business and management: you may well find this a useful place to start, unless there are other accessible texts you know of already , but one shared copy should be enough, and you will need to remember that this is an introductory book at the start of, or even before, a research project. If you are faculty staff (academic, research school, research office), you may well be better off with a well-written research ethics guide (and training sessions) for your institution, with specifics relevant to the disciplines your institution teaches and researches in.

Marxism and Education: Renewing the Dialogue, Pedagogy and Culture

Peter E. Jones (ed.)

Palgrave Macmillan (2011)

Review by Andrea Raiker

This book is not a call to man the barricades though I did begin to read with a certain prejudice at the back of my mind, aged about nineteen, clothed in black and complete with beret and embryonic moustache. But instead of putting Marxism and Education aside as being OK for undergraduates but not for mature academics with pensions to consider, I read...and read...and read. This book places Marx firmly in the centre of political debate about education now. I began to mull over how university courses bound to neo-liberalist outcomes determined by the employability agenda appeared to be manufacturing the graduating young according to the needs of employers. I wondered how different this was, in essence, from the Victorian capitalism observed by Marx during his time in Manchester. Then, most children and young people were educated for their place in a production line. Today blue-collar workers are white-collar workers in the main, but the concept of 'place' remains. It is time, as Series Editor Antony Green argues , for us to consider the Coalition's reforms through a Marxist lens so that we might recognise '...the emergent nature of social relational forms, their ontological depth, and the ever-present need to be wary of the foreshortening effects of undialectical abstraction and reifying practices' (Foreword vii).

Renewing the Dialogue, Pedagogy and Culture is the third publication in Palgrave Macmillan's Marxism and Education Series. All three volumes contain antihegemonic dialectical analyses centred on a range of interpretations of 'education' and 'culture'. This volume has three sections: 'Marxism and Culture: Educational Perspectives', Marxism and the Culture of Educational Practice' and 'Marxism and Education: Advancing Theory'. Each section contains three chapters written by individuals who are passionate about both Marxism and education. Strangely this is not off-putting but stimulates curiosity. The chapter 'A Little Night Reading: Marx, Assessment, and the Professional Doctorate in Education' was irresistible. The ideas discussed, for example, what students understand by theory and doctoral study as labour, are articulated with great elegance and force. I have already given this chapter to a PhD student as an example of how philosophical perspective, educational theory and classroom practice can provide a seamless structure for the development of originality, the ultimate outcome of doctoral studies.

It has to be said that occasionally conceptions of 'good' academic writing have to be to put aside so that the arguments can be enjoyed. For example '...the sacred cows of finance and the market were fair game in the media...' would probably attract underlining and one or two exclamation marks if it had appeared in an undergraduate assignment. But writing in this way is in keeping with Marxist principles: definitions of what is 'good' are established by the elite and should be challenged. In general, however, the writing style is what you would expect in an academic volume. The term 'culture' is fully explored in relation to educators, students and the learning environment, but the over-arching perspective on culture is Marx's own, '...human activity as the fundamental life-affirming and life-creating condition of our species'. In other words, this book invites us to engage with the culture of learning, an intellectual culture of critical dialectic analysis aimed at social emancipation and economic transformation. At a time when the Secretary of State for Education is insisting on 'traditional' curricula in state schools on the one hand and supporting autonomy of study in the free schools and academies, perhaps those interested in education might welcome renewed debate on the contradictions in capitalism, and the need for struggle so that the voices of those whose raison d'étre is learning and teaching can be heard.

Inclusive Practices, Inclusive Pedagogies: Learning from Widening Participation Research in Art and Design Higher Education

Dipti Bhagat and Peter O'Neill (Eds)


Review by Garry Layden

'We need to no we no nuthink'

Widening participation should be a top priority at all UK universities. But how many of us really understand its challenges, and how we can overcome them? This book seeks to provide clear, persuasive, constructive and often radical advice for Art and Design academics, but I believe it also has much to say to those from other disciplines – more on this later.

Bhagat & O'Neill take a wide view of what they term the 'learning lifecycle: from pre-entry to entry, from further education to higher education, from undergraduate to postgraduate, from graduation to career and perhaps re-entry into higher education' (p. 39). Referring to Bourdieu's concepts of cultural capital, habitus and field, they tell us that widening participation:

…has increasingly been seen as primarily addressing socio-economic class and increasing lower socio-economic groups' access to and success in Higher Education. While this is important, Bourdieu also offers a way to understand not only how class works as a barrier, but how socio-economic privilege works to thicken and complicate the barriers of age, disability, gender, race and sexuality. Thus, work to widen participation in Higher Education must address the totality of these barriers to offer real, structural change (p. 21, my italics).

The book argues that the nature of Higher Education needs to be changed radically in order to meet the needs of all students. Many academics might believe they are already meeting those needs. However, Bhagat & O'Neill contend that institutions (or individuals within them), can end up adopting exclusive practices without meaning to or even realising because of what they expect from applicants at interview, or the kind/s of written work they demand, or the learning environments they provide, or the support they offer to students in difficulties, or a variety of other reasons.

If I have a criticism, it is that this book needs a conclusion. The first chapter focuses largely on the background to widening participation, and subsequent chapters take the reader through the learning lifecycle, with each containing a discussion by the editors followed by one or more papers authored by senior academics, researchers, and practising visual artists. However, there is no conclusion that pulls together the numerous strands and delivers a clear, holistic summary. That said, I did not read a chapter without realising, I can do more to widen participation than I'm doing now. Furthermore, I think several papers might interest readers from beyond Art and Design. Key examples include Chapter 5 'Spaces of Learning', in which Olivia Sagan discusses how students' experiences of pre-university learning environments can hinder their undergraduate success; Chapter 8 'From Disability to Learning Differences', in which Jane Graves declares that dyslexia is 'an alternative learning style' (p. 221); and Chapter 7 'Academic Writing in Art and Design', in which John Wood challenges the role of rigour in design research. A fascinating read.

Leading Issues in Innovation Research

Daniele Chauvel (ed.)

Academic Publishing International Ltd

Review by Deena Ingham

Innovation is often regarded as the key that can unlock both fame and fortune – innovators are looked to for deliverance from economic hard times and to provide competitive advantage. Innovation fuels economies, inspires others and is a change-agent, from the innovative life-changing wheel to the lifestyle-changing iPhone.

In educational terms the study of innovation, research into its properties and the all-important teaching which develops innovative practice are all addressed within this book. The multiple authors appear to agree that innovation is an essential, which in many cases has been only tangentially tackled by academia.

This book comprises articles published in the Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management, and papers delivered at the 2010 European Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Each of the 12 chapters are self-contained papers bringing together different viewpoints and perspectives on innovation within academia and practice, from academic authors working across the globe. Their approach to the subject of innovation is as broad as their geographic locations; from Japan to Dubai, Portugal to Finland, Greece to Mexico and, you may be glad to hear, England is included.

Key themes running through this work feature creativity, and the necessity and importance of new thinking in educational and business practice. Academically this includes revisiting the ways students are able to innovate whilst in higher education; to research opportunities in relation to the factors and outcomes of innovation; and ways to develop genuine effective entrepreneurship.

Transformative learning and radical approaches to the way in which creative learning is generated, such as 'unlearning,' are examined as ways to add real benefit to innovative entrepreneurial education. The need to challenge existing practice as a way of developing innovation within both academia and practice are also tackled.

Research and Development (R&D), the traditional lifeblood of business survival is an area of change, explored together with today's Knowledge Economy which is seen as a catalyst for innovation. One chapter particularly caught my attention, The requirement for academic programmes which enable graduates to exploit experiential learning in order to enhance both the innovation process and impact of learning are recognised by Alexandros Kakouris, in his chapter 'Radical innovation versus transformative learning: A Kuhnian reading.' Kakouris identifies and explores five phases of innovation connecting them directly to transformative learning theories from Mezirow, Kolb, and others.

The focus within this book could be forgiven for being concerned with big business alone, but the content selection has been developed by the editor to go far wider, addressing the growing number of SMEs (small to medium sized enterprises) and the ways in which they can develop innovation capability. For higher education institutions developing vocational business courses, the potential and requirement to develop innovation management and development within their graduates is addressed within several papers.

It is useful in a diverse collection such as this to have an editorial commentary of each chapter, and Daniel Chauvel includes one such for each paper, conveniently situated between the title, author/s and the abstract. Together with the ubiquitous keywords they make navigating through this work easier for the browsing reader.

The book concludes with exploration of Open Innovation and Open Innovation Communities, supported by Web2.0 technologies and enabling collective collaboration. As with any innovative practice and particularly those online, user motivation and rewards for both practice and academia come under the spotlight. In a tantalising glimpse into what the future may hold, Maria Antikainen explores CrowdSpirit, FellowForce and Owela from the perspective of users and results.

If you are involved in developing approaches to the multiple facets of innovation from the perspectives of research, study or practice in any area of business or enterprise, or are keen to ensure innovation within your area of higher education, this collection of papers could provide the catalyst to innovative your own practice.


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