The Textbook Duet

Our current process for provisioning courses with OER looks like this:

  1. Identify course content needs
  2. Find materials that support those needs
  3. Chose the best material for each need
  4. Pull those materials into a coherent whole

In practice, items two and four take an awful lot of time, so many people punt and get an open textbook or get a course pre-assembled.

That’s a bit of a shame, because textbooks do not provide Choral Explanations. They provide the explanation of concepts that works for the average reader. And is that what we really want?

In reality, however, the slack is picked up by the teacher. The course becomes a duet between the instructor and the textbook. When we wonder what students think they are getting out of lecture, this is maybe one of the things. They are getting the textbook concept explained to them in a slightly different way.

I’m not saying lecture is good, mind you. There’s a lot of evidence that it may be a lousy way to do this. But getting two explanations of the same concept over time has been shown as an efficient way to increase understanding. (Robert Bjork did some work on this, though I can’t find the cite at the moment).

What if what some students are seeking in lecture is just a different version of this? How might we think about lecture differently (and find alternatives for lecture) if this is true?


One thought on “The Textbook Duet

  1. Huh. Interesting. Hadn’t thought of that as I used to think our profs used textbooks they largely agreed with. Good ones went beyond the textbooks and bad ones followed it. Do we need choral explanations in math textbooks or just teachers who let us know it’s ok if each of us does it differently?

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