CAMPUS: Are textbooks a ‘textbook’ source of information?

Students and staff reconsider their textbook usage in the classroom


Sarah Olson

To promote beneficial learning skills, teachers resort to using supplemental resources as opposed to textbooks

Textbooks have continuously remained an integral aspect of curriculums, yet students and staff at SCHS are reevaluating their use.

Math teacher Tracy McClennan believes that decreasing textbook usage in the classroom would greatly benefit students as it would promote new problem-solving skills.

“I think it would be a lot better if we got away from our textbooks because our textbooks are really traditional, and you get pulled into this trap of trying to follow section by section in every topic,” McClennan said. “I have taught at other schools that have textbooks involving more integration and discovery, so it is a little bit dictated by what textbooks we have at school.”

McClennan, however, appreciates e-texts due to the additional resources that come along with them.

“I find it really cool that we have e-texts, and a lot of e-texts come with supplemental tools, such as videos and things you can click on. That’s definitely a pro of following the curriculum’s textbook,” McClennan said.

Senior Jackie Park also prefers e-texts over regular textbooks due to their convenience and accessibility.

“For me, it is easier to use e-texts because when I work on my computer, I can use the e-text on a split tab, so I can look at my notes and the textbook at the same time,” Park said. “It is easier to have it all in one space than to have to look down and back at my notes.”

As more students and staff resort to digital learning resources, teachers look for supplemental tools that can enhance curriculum. Science teacher Eric Wozadlo believes that while the textbook serves as a fundamental asset to learning, supplemental tools shape the learning experience in science as they promote engagement.

“In science, we are able to have a lot of different things to engage with content in a variety of ways,” Wozadlo said. “We have a variety of resources from Gizmos to labs, so the textbook supports and acts as a resource and reference and has never been the main thing in the curriculum.”

Similarly, social science teacher Karen Henry has a curriculum in which the textbook aids the learning experience along with other resources.

“The curriculum is textbook-centered, but I do not have kids using the textbook. I pull pieces from the textbook that are most significant,” Henry said. “They are getting the instruction from the textbook, but with distance learning, I had to make it manageable as some did not have the textbook or proper Wi-Fi, so I would take the text from the textbook and supplement.”

Park appreciates the vast array of educational resources that are available online beyond the curriculum.

“What is personally helpful for me are practice tests and Crash Course videos because they divide information nicely,” Park said. “Supplemental materials that can act as a textbook that are more approachable, such as Hank Green videos, provide more engagement and are more interactive.”

Despite increased use in supplemental resources, McClennan views textbook reading as an important skill.

“For Trig and Calculus, I try to encourage students to learn how to read textbooks that are more formal. Higher level ones are more formal and similar to those you will see in college,” McClennan said. “It takes more skill to understand math texts, especially because you can’t just read the words. You have to stop and process things slowly as it is a skill to understand math textbooks.”

Park noted the flaws present in history curriculums, which are directly attributed to textbooks’ inability to accurately convey minority voices.

“There is a saying that goes, ‘History is written by the winners of the story,’ and in the context of society, that translates to white supremacy,” Park said. “A lot of POC issues are out of the discussion (in textbooks), and I think that is definitely not correct when building a more informed historical perspective.”

Henry values the progress made toward more inclusive history curriculums through newer textbooks that convey a variety of perspectives.

“You can always find some inaccuracies, but the textbook tends to leave out certain people. The textbooks are relatively accurate from a factual point of view, but they do not give the full context of what is really going on,” Henry said. “The ones we have are better than the ones in the past in the way they highlight the voices of women and people of color.”