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The Invisible ClassroomKirke Olson

W W Norton and Company, £14.99

Those of us involved in education, be it undergraduate or postgraduate, know that we must build a relationship with our students before we can really teach them anything. I also suspect that we have all had at least one student we could not seem to reach no matter how hard we tried. The temptation is, eventually, to leave them to their own devices and assume we failed or they were not willing to make the effort.

This book argues, however, that if we think about and understand better how students respond to the classroom environment, we may be able to reach and teach them more successfully.

I did not like a lot of this book. It was a struggle to read as the language is often new age, preachy and unscientific. However, somebody once told me that you should read things you don't like or agree with once in a while. If you can get past the language, there is sense, and some science, to be found.

The author links studies in neurobiology, psychology and mindfulness with many years' teaching experience to show how the behaviour of students (and teachers) is a product of emotions and biology. The central message – that if we understand our students' underlying emotional state better, then we can be more effective teachers – is one we can all take on board even if the book itself is hard going.

Dr Oliver Jones CBiol MRSB