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Kieran Egan

London (Ont.), Althouse Press, 1992. 178pp, paper, $16.95
ISBN 0-920354-31-9. CIP

Reviewed by Gail Lennon .

Volume 20 Number 5
1992 October

Kieran Egan is a professor in the Faculty of Education at Simon Eraser University. He is the author of several books and articles on teaching and curriculum. In 1991 he was awarded the Grawemeyer Award in Education for his contribution to teaching.

The fact that imagination is a vital component of good teaching and learning is the central theme of this book. This is a lot like a motherhood statement. Who would argue with it? However, teaching teachers how to teach with imagination and creativity is not unlike teaching artists how to paint with inspiration. A good deal of both imagination and inspiration is inherent.

The author of Imagination in Teaching and Learning must be commended for taking on this Herculean task. He begins by providing a history of imagination in the first thirty-six pages. While this makes interesting reading, it is hardly vital to his original purpose: the teaching of teaching with imagination.

The author then proceeds to convince the reader of the importance of imagination to education. His purpose for this thirty-four-page section is to "help us design practices and environments that will more likely stimulate students' imaginations." In addition, he contends that "spelling them out can uncover perhaps unexpected educational implications of our concept of imagination." This section fails to convince me of the importance of imagination in education and I was already a believer before reading this book!

The third section of the book deals with characteristics of students' imaginative lives, ages eight to fifteen. In the first place, this is a very large and varied age group to be lumped together under one heading. Within this section, however, the author does make some important points: teachers must be alert to bringing out whatever is important and relevant to the student at his or her specific age in the topic. We as educators have allowed curriculum and instruction aimed at producing "measurable learning to suppress or depress that imaginative activity." The influence of the "factory model" of schools emphasizes measurable products at the expense of meaning, under­standing and imagination.

The author contends, further, that teachers must bring their own feelings back into teaching content and thus stimulate student thinking, feeling and imagination.

The author then proceeds to provide a framework for imaginative teaching and learning and examples of infusing imagina­tion into curriculum in science, math, social studies and language arts. This framework is clearly laid out and examples provide further clarification of the application of the frame­work.

While the message of the book is a commendable one, the depth of the author's investigation and the complexity of develop­ment of the topic may prove too confusing for the beginning teacher and too over­whelmingly philosophical and impractical for the seasoned veteran.

This is a thought-provoking book for the teacher-philosopher but cannot be recom­mended as a practical aid to the teacher who truly wishes to teach with "more imagina­tion." I believe the fault may lie primarily with the breadth and abstraction of topic but I would not recommend this as a "must read" for teacher professional reading.

Gail Lennon is a secondary resource teacher with the Bruce County Board of Education in Walkerton, Ontario.
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