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oneself as the neo-liberal subject, nor some of the subtleties around authenticity, which are dealt with so movingly by writers such as Valerie Walkerdine, Helen Lucey and June Melody (2001) in their book Growing Up Girl. Having said that, it was very good that Carolyn Jackson took me out of my theoretical comfort zone since it challenged me to think about what I agreed with and what I disagreed with and why. (I even made note of a couple of psychology papers that I want to read!) I would therefore urge everyone concerned with what is happening in schools to read this book, with its fascinating data and nuanced arguments, whatever their theoretical sensibilities. Reference WALKERDINE, V., LUCEY, H. and MELODY, J. (2001) Growing up Girl: Psychosocial Explorations of Gender and Class (Basingstoke, Palgrave). Institute for Policy Studies in Education, London Metropolitan University HEATHER MENDICK

Constructing Worlds through Science Education: the Selected Works of John K. Gilbert. Edited by John K. Gilbert. Pp. 270. London: Routledge. 2005. £75.00 (hbk), £22.99 (pbk). ISBN 0-415-35217-7 (hbk), 0-415-35218-5 (pbk).

In this book John Gilbert has selected a collection of sixeen key writings that represent his major contribution to science education over thirty years. The book begins with an introduction by Gilbert, in which he outlines his personal journey through a career in science education and his rationale for the choice of articles and chapters. This introduction demonstrates Gilbert’s diverse interests and collaborative activity, as he justly acknowledges the contributions of his co-authors to the focus of his work, particularly the research on models and modelling. Gilbert perceives his choice of publications to represent key themes of science education to which he is professionally committed. These include: • The nature and development of thinking in respect of the ideas of science. • The provision of a curriculum that is both philosophically valid and personally interesting to students. • The importance of opportunities for informal science education by both schoolage pupils and adult visitors. • The close relationship between educational theory and practice, underpinned by qualitative classroom research. • The value of international collaboration to generate active synergy in research of diverse knowledge and skills. These themes are represented in the book across the selection of writings, which are collected into four parts: explanations, models, modelling in science education; relating science education and technology education; informal education in science and technology; alternative conceptions and science education. The most important area of Gilbert’s work is represented in the first two parts of the book, where his interest in models and modelling, supported by his collaborations with Carolyn Boulter and Rosaria Justi, has resulted in seminal writings that are influential to our thinking in science education. Chapters 2 and 3 in Part 1 demonstrate how the historical and philosophical analysis of models used in chemical kinetics
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led to an analysis of the models used in teaching chemistry that has usefully informed teacher training. Further qualitative work led by Justi with Brazilian Science teachers (Chapter 5) established what is entailed in using modelling in teaching and learning science. In taking up the theme of student interest and the importance of a stimulating curriculum Gilbert focuses on technology education in Part 2. He presents his analysis of the nature of technology derived from the work of Pacey in examining the interface between science and technology education (Chapter 6). Gilbert remains convinced that the issues raised in this article are relevant and unresolved today, which may well be substantiated in the current climate of concerns with science uptake post-16 and attitudes towards science in younger children. Gilbert then includes a chapter from a book, co-edited with Boulter, that establishes the place of modelling and models in science and technology education (Chapter 7). This chapter conveys succinctly the central tenets of the ‘positioning’ of models in science education and is a useful source for those wishing to study the status and representation of models. Gilbert demonstrates his diversity of interest and professional commitments through further chapters that cover the notion of modelling as a creative act and research and development on satellites in education. In part 3, Gilbert has chosen publications that represent his involvement in informal education and his theme of how informal education can promote interest in science. Revisiting his ideas and the issues covered in this section of the book could inform our current concerns with children’s interest in science. Of particular interest is the article written with Mary Priest (Chapter 12) based on a visit to the Science Museum with children aged 8–9 years. The authors used qualitative analytical techniques to identify ‘critical incidents’ as represented in the children’s discourse. The analytical framework draws on mental models and the role of accompanying adults in helping children’s thinking, and was used to inform links between the visit and postvisit activity. Though the article is limited in its scope by this analytical framework, it could provide a useful read for those currently engaged in research into informal learning. Inevitably, some of Gilbert’s themes are more developed than others, as the chronology of work that encompasses many topics and collaborative ventures must leave some writings firmly situated in the time zone in which they were published. For example, the work on alternative conceptions in Part 4 was conducted in the 1980s and stands apart from the rest of the book as Gilbert’s interests and thinking subsequently took on new directions. The choice of writings does, however, focus on the seminal and influential work carried out in New Zealand with Roger Osborne and in the UK with Mike Watts on children’s ideas and ways of probing these ideas. Though the techniques and analyses have much relevance today in our teacher training, the readings themselves do not serve to convey how our current thinking about children’s learning has developed. In his discussion of this part of the book and, in my view, laudable attempt to promote the importance of Kelly’s personal construct theory, Gilbert is unfortunately rather dismissive of the influence that Vygotsky’s ideas have had on science education. Such a dismissal seems to deny the importance of dialogue in children’s learning that more recent research has begun to establish. However, Gilbert’s note of caution about social construction contributes to the continuing debate of what we really know about conceptual understanding and engagement in science. In the final part of his introduction, Gilbert includes a commentary on his choice of title. He sums up his position by emphasising that though we individually
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construct the world in which we live, science education is ‘about introducing students of all ages to the collective vision of that world currently held by scientists’. The book is a unique collection of publications. Over the course of his career John Gilbert has worked with many people throughout the world helping to enhance science education through valuing and building on international research. The presentation of key themes and collaborations is of interest to those who seek to understand how science education has evolved and the role that Gilbert has played in that evolution. Institute of Education, University of London SHIRLEY SIMON

Is Religious Education Possible? A Philosophical Investigation . By Michael Hand. Pp. 160. London: Continuum. 2006. £60.00 (hbk). ISBN 0-8264-9150-2.

The central question in this short book is ‘whether non-confessional religious education is logically possible’. The author proceeds to address this question by means of a philosophical investigation. He recognises that ‘there is an important philosophical argument’ which suggests that ‘non-confessional religious education is a logically incoherent enterprise because religious understanding necessarily presupposes religious belief. That is to say, a person cannot be said to understand religious propositions unless she holds at least some of those propositions to be true or false’ (p. 2). Hand provides us with six readable chapters that attempt to unpack this philosophical argument and therefore chapter one carefully outlines the philosophical problem through a critical review of some key players in the debate. Chapter two addresses the thesis that there are forms of knowledge and chapter three asks the question, is there a Religious Form of Knowledge? Chapters four and five move on to examining the meaning of religious propositions and there is a discussion of mental and material propositions. The final chapter is a short conclusion. The purpose of this book is to demonstrate philosophically that the position in regard to religious education which was once held by all Christian denominations and is still strongly held by the Catholic Church and Islamic faith is no longer tenable. Essentially, the proponents of this position say that you cannot remove the experiential base of religious education without leaving behind a set of propositions that make no sense. All you can do is teach about religion for you cannot seriously understand religion without actually believing in it, therefore it follows that you cannot teach or learn religion without some form of commitment to it – in other words the confessional approach to religious education. Hand disagrees with this confessional approach to religious education and says that it is only ‘morally defensible’ under ‘a rather narrow set of circumstances, and is never justifiable in schools’. He is therefore an opponent of faith schools and concludes his main argument with: If religion does not constitute a unique form of knowledge, but only involves truth claims of familiar epistemological kinds, there is no difficulty about imparting religious understanding without also imparting religious belief. Pupils can be taught exactly what religious propositions mean with reference to other propositions of the same epistemological kinds and without reference to distinctively religious experiences. The aim of teaching for religious understanding without religious belief is therefore perfectly coherent. (pp. 117–118)
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