Learning from Textbooks: Theory and Practice

Learning from Textbooks: Theory and Practice

Learning from Textbooks: Theory and Practice

Learning from Textbooks: Theory and Practice


It is surprising that there is so little research on textbooks, given their centrality to teaching and learning in elementary and secondary schools. Textbooks have become a focus of political and cultural controversy, advocating a multicultural curriculum that has sparked some vigorous protests. Research is absent in this debate; therefore, questions of legitimate knowledge, the role of textbooks, textbook design, policy selection issues, and economic issues concerning the marketplace are not part of the current debate. Without insights of research on considerate text, mentioning, illustrations and so forth, the current controversy will result in publishers responding to demands for more content not less; thus, textbooks will become compendia of information that on the surface satisfy everyone.

This volume demonstrates how research on important issues relative to textbook design can advance our knowledge about what makes textbooks effective learning tools, and thus inform policymakers, publishers, and those involved in textbook selection. Representing pure and applied approaches, researchers present papers on the quality of writing, the role of questions, the role of pictures and illustrations, and the role of auxiliary materials in the design of effective textbooks. The chapters provide insight into research and its application to textbook design and improvement -- stimulating others to follow this lead.


Arthur Woodward Norman Howard School

The array of instructional materials available to elementary and secondary schools is amazing and breathtaking. Laser disks now bring alive in text, sound, and motion the entire contents of an encyclopedia. Microcomputers are available for word processing and the use of a variety of software programs ranging from simulations to drill and practice. Networks make it easy to pass information, programs, and projects from one computer to another. Calculators are inexpensive and support a process and problem-solving approach to mathematics. VCRs are common and allow the flexible use of classroom, home, or commercially produced videotapes. and then, of course, there are the tried and true overheads and filmstrips.

As we might infer from the list just given, advances in instructional technology have made teaching and learning qualitatively different from just a few years ago - or has it? Although the "electronic classroom" is an exciting and transforming vision, not much seems to have changed in the way teachers teach and students learn. in a system that is deeply conservative and highly resistant to change, it is not surprising that the classroom of our youth is very similar to the classrooms of our children and grandchildren. Indeed . . .

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