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John A. B. Allan and Judith Nairne.

Toronto, Guidance Centre, Faculty of Education, University of Toronto, c1984.
90pp, paper, $7.50.
ISBN 0-7713-0150-2.


Reviewed by Gelnn DiPasquale.

Volume 12 Number 6
1984 November

This nice looking, readable little booklet is intended for teachers and guidance counsellors; it attempts to teach them everything they need to know to conduct successful classroom discussions. Classroom discussions are a tool used to encourage children of all ages to examine, discuss, and understand their feelings and the feelings of others. The end result is usually a positive change in behaviour or attitude, but often just helping the class gain insight into an issue is the only goal.

The authors, both experienced guidance counsellors, actually devote only the first seventeen pages of the book to delineating how one goes about leading these discussions, and much of that space is taken up with describing theoretical models of counselling. The remaining pages constitute a cookbook, listing questions one should pose in each phase of a five-step format applied to more than sixty-five topics ranging from rock music to heavyweights such as divorce and racial prejudice. They do state that, "Teachers who have not received any training in the use of these skills may need to attend some in-service workshops before conducting the sessions." The general tone of the book, however, clearly suggests that any educator should be prepared for solo flight after reading it. Personally, I find the approach somewhat cavalier, knowing how some of these discussions can exacerbate a problem if handled by someone who is inexperienced or insensitive or both.

For properly trained educators, this book would be a good source of ideas for topics, and the model and format presented are quite appealing. For the uninitiated however, I recommend some serious training, or perhaps an initial joint venture with a seasoned colleague. A crash course in seventeen pages just is not enough.

Glenn DiPasquale, York Region Board of Education, Newmarket, ON.
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