Monday, February 19, 2007

Don't be a slave to textbooks

Barbara Silas, South Seattle Community College, Seattle, WA USA

I use textbooks, but hardly slavishly. I choose a textbook that has a fair amount of stuff related to the focus of the class and I rearrange, add to, and skip things.

A large part of my motivation for having a textbook is affective and cultural. Students like to have a book they can take home with them and work in independently. It also gives them something to hang on to when they can't come to class (as often happens with my adult, working students with families and myriad obligations.) It gives some measure of security to a lot of students.

In my particular venue where we have many first gen college students as well as students from other educational cultures, it is part of the cultural adaptation to college to be responisible for buying and learning to use a textbook.

There is also the personal work angle. Why should I re-invent the wheel when there is a perfectly good string of activities in a textbook that addresses this or that goal?

No textbook is perfect and most are necessarily general in order to be economically viable. I regard a textbook as just one of many raw materials to be tailored to specific needs within the classroom. They have their places and uses, but if anyone is looking for a textbook to meet all needs, they're dreaming. Ain't gonna happen.

I think the trick is to find an adaptable textbook with at least 50% relevant content unchanged. The rest of it you either manipulate or cut altogether.

No comments: