Dr. Lauren Scharff
Some of these notes touch on subjects that we will cover in more detail later in the semester (e.g. lecture issues).
Notes on Choosing a Text
What are some issues to consider when selecting a text for an undergraduate course? (These are not in order of importance, and should serve as a guide for some considerations rather than a complete discussion of the issue. Many are also admittedly my opinion, so you may disagree with them!)
1. Coverage of the course it is preferential to pick a book with too much coverage than too little, because you can always leave chapters out but, if you do choose a text that doesn't cover all the topics you wish to cover, you can always supplement in class (requires more effort on your part)
2. Level of the text need to consider student vocabulary (reading comprehension level) methodology (how much the book contains) level of the theoretical points
3. Presentation of the material writing style should be clear and jargon free does writing contain examples / stories that the students will be able to relate to (these may help "grab" their interest) are there figures / pictures? are they meaningful, or do they just take up space? (figures can be a nice break from reading text, but you don't want to waste the reader's time either) are there tables? tables can be useful to summarize material, but tables that are too large (too many details / levels included) can be overwhelming are there graphs? graphs can also summarize data, but you may want to be careful of graphs in a low level course. (even in upper levels courses, many students don't understand them!) If you do use graphs, make sure the information presented is very simple and redundant are there summaries? summaries can be boring; some students may feel that they only need to read the summaries (especially if they seem substantial and they fall at the end of a chapter); however, summaries can be useful to highlight points previously covered. interim summaries may be better than long ones at the end of a chapter. Good things to look for: information which will serve as a mnemonic; comparison and contrast of information; integrates information for the students
4. General Points you want integration think about sequence you want the text to have a point of view compatible with you, the instructor (minor disagreements can be addressed, but students tend to believe what they read more than what you say) how recent should the literature be? very recent may initially seem most desirable, but it may not be appropriate in an intro course; although it is important, it may be too specific and beyond the scope of the class; remember that you can supplement a book with recent literature and you can correct or update an older theory if it has been updated or invalidated by current research
5. PriceYou should make a text choice with out reference to cost because:those who choose to keep it will want a high quality text to use for reference, etc.compared to the cost of tuition, housing, etc. for a semester, the cost of books is trivialbut, if you're not going to use the text, don't require it
6. What about texts with multiple authors?as a positive, you do get different areas of expertiseas a negative, though, each area is more likely to get too high level and technicalwriting styles may also vary, which decreases readabilitythere tends to be less integration in the final project
7. Multiple Texts?similar problems to multiple authorsmoney begins to become an issue
Coordinating the Textbook and the Class
Again, this is a collection of advise I've gotten in the past as well as some of my own opinions. It is meant to serve as a guide, not the final word on the topic.
A. Read the entire text before starting the classthis is a great goal anyway; at least try to give is a thorough glance through - more than what you did at the time of the selection processthis will aid you in knowing what to assign and what not to assignyou will also become aware of topics which will require extra review in class
B. Reinforcing topics from the textbook(or, in other words: how much of the text should you go over in class?)you have all probably had the boring experience of getting no non-text material in a class - probably made you wonder why you attended class (if you haven't experienced this, you're lucky!) So, it's good to bring in some new material - but how much?in the extreme, you could ignore the text entirely; however, even in this case there are reasons to still assign a text: it provides additional material, it provides additional viewpoints, it is a source for test questions, and it is a security blanket for the studentsan alternate viewpoint: you can't cover all material in class, so you should be selective about what is most important and/or most difficult for reviewanother viewpoint: if itŐs worth assigning, it's worth covering in class, at least to a some extent. A consequence of this is that you won't be able to cover as much in a course, but this is not a serious problem. Most neophyte teachers tend to try to cover too much.
C. Complementing the text: What can a lecture provide that a textbook can't?you can use audio-visual aids in the classroom - and other newer technologies!you have the freedom to be more informal in delivering a lecture than in writing a text. You can be more vivid in your presentation, and outrageous to make a point.you can tie in other material, review previous lessons, and anticipate future subjectsyou can respond to student's questions and difficulties in comprehending the material.
D. Providing a rationale for covering a subject(in other words: why should your students study a given section?)it may provide a background for something else (if so, these two subjects should be covered in conjunction with each other).simply, it's interesting and/or satisfies our natural curiosityit relates to personal experiences everyday lives Return to Course Listing