For two consecutive weeks, I have been inspired to write by Alex Quigley’s brilliant Hunting English blog. This week Alex’s blog Why I Never Use Textbooks lists the reasons he chooses not to use textbooks in class. I am writing in defence of textbooks.
Textbooks in schools have a bad reputation. They are often badly written. They are often used badly: often for cover lessons with poorly prepared children. Some have rude pictures scribbled in them.
Using textbooks as a lazy way of teaching content is a poor use of class time. Teaching students how to use textbooks effectively, however, is a vital learning skill which needs to be taught properly. Textbooks give learners access to knowledge throughout their lives.
At university and beyond, every student and professional needs to be able to learn from textbooks. In my first blog this summer (Great Readers Become Great Scientists), I wrote about the the time that science, technology and maths professionals spend reading as part of their work. It is my hypothesis that a major factor limiting a student’s career in a subject is his/her ability to learn from that subject’s textbooks. By specifically teaching students how to use textbooks effectively, we are supporting them to become fully independent learners throughout their careers.
So Alex, for the first time I disagree with you. It is our duty to teach learners how to use textbooks so that they can begin to teach themselves. The textbooks may not be great, but the ability to read them is fundamental.