The teacher’s role is utterly unique. Assigned at random to a group of children who think, learn, and interrelate in complex, subtle, and individual ways, he or she is expected to transmit specific educational material uniformly in a set amount of time. Appropriately, this book on classroom dynamics is also unique. By applying eclectic methodological strategies to the study of teacher-student interactions, Lightfoot and Carew get beyond the bases that underlie more traditional analyses of classroom life.
Carew and Lightfoot devise and implement diverse methods for describing, recording, and interpreting classroom processes, and then synthesize their findings for each of the four classrooms studied. Fascinating stories emerge of how the four teachers, each with limited resources of time, space, energy, and emotion, distribute their attention among their students. Over time, patterns develop. Some are patterns of positive discrimination, in which the teachers recognize and respond to individual children’s needs; and others are patterns of negative discrimination, in which the teachers reveal particular biases on such grounds as race and sex. Consciously or not, the teachers display their individuality in terms of values, motivations, reasoning, and behavior. The startlingly original and thorough approach of Beyond Bias reveals teachers in their many facets, from what makes them most effective to what leaves them most vulnerable. All professionals and researchers concerned with the educational process will find immense value in Carew and Lightfoot’s careful analysis of what a teacher is and enlightened synthesis of what a teacher should be and can be.
A thoughtful, competent, timely work. It should undermine stereotypic thinking about schools and discourage simplistic palliatives to educational problems.
Marianne Amarel, Educational Testing Service