The A to Z Guide to Working in Further Education

Our Book of the Week this time is The A-Z Guide to Working in Further Education by Jonathan Gravells and Susan Wallace. Designed to support professional development in Further Education at all levels, from the trainee teacher to the experienced team leader. The A-Z format ensures the book is comprehensive and easy to use, while a list of key themes enables the reader to navigate the material in a range of ways.

In this very witty blog post Jonathan explains the value of the A-Z approach. Let us know what you think!

Are you the sort of person who values order and having everything in its allotted place? Because even if you’re not, you must admit that there is something inherently satisfying about knowing exactly where to find that nugget of information you need for your upcoming paper/meeting/team day/appraisal/address to staff/etc. Cataloguing information and know-how in this way is not without its drawbacks of course. Dictionaries, for example, do not, by and large make for good holiday reading, and anyway Education already has its own dictionary anyway (we know because one of us wrote it!). Encyclopaedias, likewise, whilst undoubtedly useful as reference works, are hard to digest when read at length. Furthermore, the thought of following a dictionary by writing an encyclopaedia seems to smack of obsessive-compulsive, not to say downright masochistic tendencies. Giving people who work in FE concise, practical introductions to a host of useful topics, minus the ‘stodge’, however; that struck us as much more fun.

How about borrowing the same structure and producing a handbook people would actually enjoy reading? It would help people to find exactly what they want (and get us out of the boring job of compiling an index!)  Just call it an A to Z, and not only will readers immediately know that it is designed to help them find their way around, but also it will automatically appear at the top of any reading list (unless someone brings out “Aardvarks and their role in Further Education”). Know-how neatly presented in alphabetical order, however, was just the start. Looking for what you want might be made even easier if we also showed how those same topics could be grouped into themes. Managing Upwards, for instance, is part of Developing Resilience & Reducing Stress, as well as Personal Effectiveness. New lecturers wanting to know how to support learners effectively could in this way be directed to a topic like Emotional Intelligence, but then so could experienced leaders and managers looking to develop their people skills. O.K., so now we had our structure. Practical, bite-sized information for everyone in FE from lecturers to principals, in an easy-to-follow A to Z format. Questions remained, of course. Restricting ourselves to a manageable number of topics was not easy. S for S***ing Students was considered too controversial, as was M for Management B*****k-Speak. To make the whole thing more entertaining we have invented a cast of characters and a fictional college. Using snippets of dialogue to bring topics to life is something of a trademark for us. Vignettes like this pepper the book and hopefully help to leaven the mixture a little.

We sincerely hope that you will find much here to inspire and inform you, whatever your role, and, when faced with the undoubted challenges of working in FE, you will dip into our A to Z to seek reassurance, guidance or maybe even new ideas. X may mark the spot for treasure-seekers, but in our book you can find value anywhere in the alphabet (I may even start using this alphabetical mullarkey for articles or blogs). Yes, here it is, at last: an accessible collection of practical and easily referenced advice on everything from Appraisal to Zero-Tolerance. Zippedy-Doo-Dah!

Jonathan Gravells – September 2013

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