The study of primary education has been given an added dimension in recent years by empirical work focusing on schools, on classrooms and, in particular, on pedagogy—the complex of teaching approaches, skills, strategies, tactics and forms of organization through which the curriculum is transacted by teachers and children. Such studies are in their infancy, and though their pay-off in terms of increasing the effectiveness of work in primary classrooms cannot be demonstrated, they have been useful in helping to dispel some of the myths surrounding primary practice and in raising important questions for teachers and teacher trainers alike. Their contribution has been more a form of consciousness-raising than the provision of definitive answers to questions of appropriate organization and technique.
Selections from some of the larger scale statistical studies represented in parts one and two of this volume attempt to illustrate the major themes on classroom research which have emerged since Neville Bennett’s contentious work on teaching styles and pupil progress in 1976. These include studies of teaching styles and pupil learning; studies of the way in which teachers match tasks to children; the time children spend on different tasks and how this relates to achievement; the relationship between quality of learning experience and quantity of time on task; and, more recently, in the work of Peter Mortimore and his colleagues, factors at school and classroom level which seem to have a bearing on children’s progress through school. The latter has generated a new interest in developing the concept of school and classroom effectiveness, in which children’s progress, not just attainment, has become a key criterion. Selections from smaller scale, qualitative studies, contribute to some of these themes.
In addition to these major research projects there has been a richness and diversity of smaller scale studies. They have contributed significantly to our understanding of other important classroom issues. The work of Charles Desforges and Ann Cockburn, for example, takes a much needed look at the problems presented to teachers by information processing and decision-making in the modern primary classroom. A number of contributors ask