Review of the book
Effective Teaching and Successful Learning
by Inez De Florio, Cambridge University Press 2016
written by Prof. Dr. Werner Blum, Braunschweig
Quality teaching has become an important topic in the educational debate during the last two decades, across all subjects and educational levels. There are many empirical findings and also considerable theoretical insight concerning principles of effective teaching and, through this, of successful learning. A major task is to bring these principles and results into everyday classrooms, in other words, to bridge the gap between research and practice. This is the main aim of this book whose audience is both teachers and teacher educators. More specifically, the aims are to present, for teachers and educators, the most important results of scientific research into teaching and learning at school in order to make teaching more effective and learning more successful.
The book is clearly structured. In chapter 1, the author describes the main features of scientific research on education, drawing on the work of three eminent educational psychologists: Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bruner. In chapter 2, important types of educational research are presented and discussed, in particular psychometrics. The theme of chapter 3 is evidence-based research on education; in particular, the authors give advice on how to deal with the results of this research. One of the most important aspects of educational research during the last decade, namely meta-analyses, are discussed in chapters 4 and 5 (here referring especially to Hattie’s famous meta-study), again with the aim of making results comprehensible and applicable for teachers. The core of chapter 6, and of the entire book, is a detailed teaching model called MET; this model has been conceptualised by the author, based on the research findings referred to in the preceding chapters. The model, which is elaborated into 30 steps, is further developed in the remaining five chapters of the book: lesson planning and initiating in chapter 7; classroom management and knowledge presentation in chapter 8; guided and independent practising in chapter 9; cooperative and project-based learning in chapter 10; and assessing and giving feedback in chapter 11. All five chapters are both practice-oriented and research-based, thus fulfilling the purpose of the book, which is, bridging the gap between research and practice. The book is rounded off by reflections on education standards and their role in the education system.
The author has included an extensive body of literature, predominantly in English and mostly subject non-specific. The subject teacher or educator would, of course, like to find more research literature concerning the learning of his/her subject. However, a book aimed at a broad audience has to argue on a rather general level. In support of this approach, there are indications that the most important principles of quality teaching, such as effective classroom management, cognitive activation of students or demanding orchestration of the subject matter, are in fact largely both subject- and age-independent, in spite of the well-known findings on situated cognition.
The main concepts of the book are defined concisely and highlighted for the reader. Concrete classroom examples are included to support the comprehension of the central arguments, and exercises are provided at the end of each chapter for the reader to “Review, Reflect, Practice”. It is important to note that the book is written in a very lively style which makes reading a real pleasure. Thus, the book shows that both scientific soundness and an entertaining style can occur simultaneously.
The book promises on its cover no less than “bridging the gap between research and practice” concerning effective teaching and successful learning – an ambitious endeavour. For me, the book keeps indeed this promise. It is worthwhile to read both for practicing teachers, by giving concrete hints and suggestions for quality teaching, and for teacher educators, by synthesising important research findings on effective teaching and successful learning. Researchers will also find it useful to have a concise up-to-date synopsis of evidence-informed and theory-based aspects of quality teaching. De Florio’s book is warmly recommended to all those who want to teach according to current empirical and theoretical evidence concerning quality teaching or those who want to teach future or practicing teachers how to teach in that way. The hope is that by implementing those aspects of quality teaching in everyday classrooms, teaching and learning at school will become more rewarding both for teachers and for students.