Product reviews for Big Ideas in Education

Jennifer Owen Adams, Director, Teach First Cymru
Russell describes the book's purpose as to prompt the reader to try out some fresh (or even old) ideas and re-examine their thinking and practice. It's done that for me. It makes a very positive contribution to the evidence base for what constitutes excellent teaching and excellent education.

This is a refreshing, honest, timely and thought-provoking book which challenges all of us involved in education to think again about what education in the twenty-first century should be all about, how we got to where are now and what action we should take to help achieve the best possible education for our children. It encourages us to reflect on how philosophies, attitudes and approaches from the past have shaped current thinking and practice, and also on the extent to which some of that thinking is outdated while other components remain relevant and true. Russell's call for a more balanced, less polarised approach is especially welcome, as is the emphasis on using a diverse range of evidence-based strategies which work both singularly and in combination.

As a consequence of reading this book, I have reframed my thinking on what the key factors are which lead to a thriving education system for our children and society. It has forced to me to think again about what I do and how I could be better at what I do; my practice will change as a result of reading this book.

From the title onwards, Russell encourages us to think -˜big'. He wants us to understand the bigger picture as well as provide us with useful tips to help us become better professionals. The book forces us to be active producers in shaping what our contribution could be in striving for an education system which is worthy of our children. That encouragement to be active participants in education is driven by the book's structure as equally as its content. His move to identify twelve big ideas is bold and is not, as he declares, -˜playing safe'. Not all would agree with the twelve; but that's not the point. Russell isn't looking for affirmation of his twelve ideas; he's looking to provoke debate, promote a deeper understanding and encourage intelligent discussion. As active producers, we should now act on our responsibility to take these ideas and engage in rigorous debate by challenging each other and ourselves to continue the discussion and, where possible, model much of what is written in this book.

Russell knits together the twelve ideas starting with an analysis of education and the challenges and opportunities associated with modern childhood, and the ramifications of these on our education system. He continues by broadening our understanding of what constitutes a relevant and balanced knowledge and skills based education in the twenty-first century. The two ideas of disposition and ethics, the importance of cultivating the right disposition for learning in and outside schools and having a moral purpose, build the momentum. His final four ideas of instruction, reflective practice, research and professional leadership conclude the journey. When looked at in the round, there is not much that Russell has left out; the reader will come away with a comprehensive understanding of the key pillars at the core of any world-class education system. Not only that, but they will also realise that having big ideas is not enough in and of itself; it's the implementation of those ideas which will deliver the results our children deserve.

The structure of the book is really helpful in guiding the reader through a comprehensive exploration of each idea; it is very reader friendly. I particularly like how Russell directs the reader to reflect and take action at the end of every chapter; helping us cement our thoughts on what we've just read and resolve ourselves about what we'll do to embed that learning in our practice.

Finally, this book captures the moment. As education systems rightly continue to devote forensic attention to delivering excellence for all our children, this book is a refreshing and inspiring read for teachers, those who aspire to be teachers and all those who have a stake in education. It provides a structure for professionals on which to frame their thinking and practice. If teachers follow the narrative in each of the chapters and act on the points for reflection, their practice will improve; because of that, this book is a very welcome, informative and practical addition to education literature.
Guest | 29/04/2016 01:00
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