I will tell myself three times: not everyone is like me (and for good reason).
Now, yes, sure, there are plenty of ways in which this is true (and all for the better because of it), but I’m referring in general to the hows and whys in which instructors use textbooks in their classes and, more particularly, the supplemental resource guides that come with them. After all, we publish textbooks; we want them adopted; and those ancillary instructor resources are one of the key elements to having that happen. This is a fact I’m having to come to grips with despite my own contrary experience as a college English teacher for ten years.
When I was in grad school taking my teaching methods course to be “officially” (yes, that’s ironic use of quotation marks) “qualified” (redux) to teach freshman comp classes, the prevailing wisdom from our professor was that we shouldn’t be using a textbook to teach writing. After all, people learn to do things by doing them and while it would be nice (and easier), as she supposed, if students could learn to write by reading about it or, better yet, by have some stressed, overworked teaching fellow talk at them, unfortunately it just isn’t the case. Combine that concept with your typical (and grossly unsupported by empirical evidence) grad student arrogance—no book is going to tell me how to teach!—you wind up with a real disdain for textbooks in general and, of course, the supplemental resource guides that come with them.
In my own case, this was compounded by the fact that after I got my MA I adjuncted full-time—that means carrying a full load plus some by virtue of teaching part time at 2-3 schools simultaneously any given semester—for three years or so with each school using a different textbook for their composition classes. Sure, I could’ve driven myself mad trying to work up separate class preps that dovetailed with each book. Then again, I convinced myself I was too busy spending 13-15 hours week just to drive a total of 600 miles in order to teach six days out of seven at one farflung class to another to worry about such mundane pedagogy-related issues.
But, you know, then times change. One day you wake up and go, man, as a textbook publiser I sure wish I knew why instructors choose some books over others. And then you go, d’uh! And then you slap your head and go, d’oh! Because you suddenly realize a big reason why teachers make the decisions they do about which book to use for their classes: they want a textbook that is as easy to integrate into a class as possible. And who can blame them? (That’s the thing, you know, about logic: so much of the time it’s blindingly, compellingly simple and obvious.)
So, as we put the finishing touches on not only our forthcoming technical college student orientation guide, Taking Charge: Your Education, Your Career, Your Life, we’re also wrapping up our first official supplemental resource guide for instructors as well. It has, however, been something of a crapshoot in figuring out exactly what we were going to put in it. (In the final analysis this will actually be uploaded to a password-protected Web site for instructors as opposed to going to print.) We have, however, settled on these elements so far:
- Detailed chapter outlines
- Additional discussion & writing prompts (7-10 per chapter)
- Additional suggested online and hard-copy resources (7-10 per chapter)
- A bank of test questions (10 each of short answer, fill-in-the-blank, true-false, and multiple choice)
Now that we’ve finally put this sort of instructor guide together, we’re also planning this summer to go back and produce the same kind of materials for each of the general-use (as opposed to custom) textbooks we’ve done the last few years including the the biomedical equipment troubleshooting book, the hand tools manual, the guide to safety in healthcare facilities, and the server installation projects manual.
My question would be: in addition to the four elements above—plus, of course, answers for our textbooks that have labs in them—what are the other most useful supplemental instructor resources people have come across?
(And, while I’m waiting to see what folks have to say, I will keep repeating my mantra: not everyone is like me (and for good reason).)