Carroll, M. and McCulloch M. (2014) Understanding teaching and learning in primary education: London: Sage

Pages: 323

Price: £19.79


This book explores the wide ranging and dynamic aspects of teaching in primary education. It is aimed primarily at trainee teachers and those engaged in continuing professional development. The text draws together the processes of teaching and learning and the wider theoretical research and policy contents which are relevant to teaching in the United Kingdom (UK). The chapters can be read in any order but it would be advisable firstly to read the preface, which gives an overview of the philosophy of the book, and chapter one which sets education in the context of the 21st century. Although the 20 chapters of this book were written by different authors, it has a coherent and well thought out structure with each chapter following a given format:


  • Key ideas
  • Views from practice
  • Thinking points
  • Reflective questions
  • Further reading


Even though the book is authored by writers based in Scotland the practices and theories outlined are relevant to the whole of the UK including examples from Wales, England and Northern Ireland. However, in the further reading section, the online suggestions in some of the chapters refer only to the Scottish curriculum and do not refer students to online resources from other areas of the UK.


Each chapter describes the main theoretical perspective and uses thinking points and reflective questions effectively to develop a critical awareness in the reader. As an example, in the chapter on Identity, Relationships and Behaviour, George Head critiques the terminology used in describing behaviour before going on to outline the main theories and asking readers to reflect on these points. He explains concepts such as ontology, which may be new to students, in simple but not simplistic terms. Similarly, Farrell and Pate examine the issues surrounding lesson planning and use the ‘views from practice’ section to clarify misconceptions. They also outline the essential elements of planning and discuss the necessity of planning in whatever format is chosen. Each of the 20 chapters has a further reading section which in some cases gives not only the title of the book or journal but also gives a brief synopsis of the text.


This text predominately explores and critiques existing theories and practice in teaching and learning but also explores new possibilities. Each of the chapters has drawn on a range of international research to support and develop the links between theory and practice. The knowledge base explored throughout the text makes a significant contribution to the development of teachers as professional practitioners.




The book is written in such a way as to be accessible to Initial Teacher Education students and provides a comprehensive overview of the main theoretical perspectives and practices of teaching and learning as well as giving practical examples of pedagogy. Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) and practising teachers embarking on continuing professional development will also find this text informative and worthwhile as a reinforcement of the theoretical principles underpinning their chosen profession. The book would provide a good basic text for those responsible for the training of school direct students in English schools.

Professor Kit Field.