Book Review: Teacher as Activator of Learning


72725_9781483381855This post is a book review of Teacher as Activator of Learning by Gayle H. Gregory.

The short version of this review: disappointing.

The long version of this review: Whilst this book has some great ideas in it, there are a few issues within it that make me come to the conclusion above.

Firstly, the positives: this book is structured in a way that allows you to pick it up and start reading from any chapter, and not have to worry about missing anything. This makes it a good ‘quick guide’ for information and strategies. Another positive is that it is researched really well and much of what is said is research-based. A heavy influence is based on the work of John Hattie, and Gregory makes his research a bit easier to understand.

Now, unfortunately, the negatives: this book really let me down in a number of ways. Firstly, it was riddled with spelling errors. When a book that is written by a very experienced educator and claims to provide strategies on how to become a better educator has a lot (and I mean, a lot) of errors, it kind of loses its credibility in being able to do what it claims. I can forgive the missing pluralisation of words, and other missing words that stop the sentence from flowing well, but, I CANNOT forgive the incorrect use of affect and effect, especially if you’re an educator. The other let-down for me in this book was the simplicity of some of the strategies and illustrations offered by Gregory.

For example, Gregory mentions the use of having students sit opposite each other or in concentric circles in order for them to work collaboratively and talk about the content. These are fine strategies, but, did she really need to add the following illustrations? Sure, they’d be helpful for people who don’t know what two rows sitting opposite each other looks like, but, really?

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Another example is a strategy that has students create a glossary of terms for a unit of work by finding as many words per letter of the alphabet. Again, a fine strategy, but was the whole page example of what the alphabet looks like necessary?

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One other aspect that I felt let the book down was the offering of strategies with either an obvious, unnecessary, or brief description. For example, a strategy offered as a feedback technique is called talk a mile a minute. The description? Students talk to each other… quickly! Really? That’s the entire description. It didn’t say anything about what they talk about or any structures in place to make it worthwhile, which I found rich because the chapter it was in kept stressing the need to offer meaningful feedback!

I think this book would be great for an early career teacher who has yet to experience a range of teaching strategies (some great examples of tables, templates, and organisers), but, if you’ve been teaching even for the smallest amount of time, surely you’ve figured out how to sit two rows of students opposite each other without having the need for a diagram.

I received this book for free in exchange for reviewing an education book proposal, and this made it great value. But, if I had to pay the roughly $30-$40, I would be disappointed.

Rating: 2 stars out of 5. Put off by the many errors, but impressed by the wealth of research.

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