Textbook learning – a program of learning centred on a book developed specifically for educational purposes.
An old-school learning strategy used by almost every teacher: why is textbook learning not even considered a strategy? Why don’t universities teach best practice ways of employing textbook learning? We explore the pros and cons of using textbooks and explain why textbooks continue to be the mainstay of effective classroom practice even though many academics balk at the idea.
Textbooks have a bad rap. They conjure up images of dusty old books full of never-ending chapters and dull content. While this may have been the case many years ago, textbooks today are vibrant, colourful resources with diagrams, images, cartoons, case studies, social media snippets and ‘did you know?’ highlights. Some even include jokes, curious anecdotes and stories that students find interesting and relatable. Authors use child-friendly language, and many textbooks are as visually appealing and engaging as any glossy magazine or online blog. They can be in hardcopy or softcopy and include links to videos, online activities, games and additional interactive resources such as test-your-skill quizzes. The reality for busy teachers is that the humble textbook continues to be an invaluable tool. Almost all primary and high school students are exposed to textbook learning on a daily basis.
Textbook learning happens when teachers organise learning activities based on (or guided by) a published book written for this specific purpose.
Textbook learning happens when teachers organise learning activities based on (or guided by) a published book written for this specific purpose. They include all the necessary information, extension activities, summaries and practice questions. Teachers rarely follow any textbook chapter-by-chapter or page-by-page.i In many cases, less than half of the textbook is used throughout a course or school year. For example, students may spend a month or so on chapter 1, then chapter 4, then chapter 5 and 6 combined, and finally chapter 9. The teacher selects the chapters as well as aspects within each chapter for students to complete. In each lesson, a teacher might cover 3-6 pages on average including readings, worked examples and practice activities. Textbooks can be used extensively, or they can be supplementary (for reference purposes only). It is common for other resources to be incorporated in the lesson as well.
There are a number of advantages of using the textbook as a teaching strategy:
Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and an author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of Fast Track Training Australia, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.
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