Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Getting Rid of Textbooks

Yesterday, the Northwestern picked up on a discussion that had a short life on our list about using textbooks. The article leads with Michael Buryadi describing how he no longer uses a textbook in his classes.

The discussion on the list and in the paper mentions several others who do this. I was struck by the massive amount of effort that Buryadi put into it. I wonder if he got anything else done over break.

Textbooks are horribly overpriced, but I am not sure that converting to articles is going to solve the problem for most of my classes. Basic information is made nicely accessible in textbooks and is often not available in article format. Doing it myself seems a bit like reinventing the wheel. It is also a big investment in time that can be better spent doing research.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Most of my professors go to the effort of providing many online (required) readings AND still make us buy (several) textbooks. But I'm not bitter...

In all seriousness, I really like/respect most of those professors, but the textbook thing is out of control. Between (limited) supplies, my new parking pass, and the gigantic stack of textbooks I dropped over $500 cash in the space of about two hours. And I'm not the kind of person that has hundred-dollar bills laying around-- that really hurts.

If a professor can minimize the required textbooks, I don't think that's wasted time.

Anonymous said...

I think many find it wasted time because the different articles often lack a connection to each other that a textbook has, and they end up using the textbook anyways.

Anonymous said...

Your job isn't to research, it's to teach. That's not exactly directed at you, however; it's directed at whatever department you work for that's putting the pressure on you to do a lot of research. That's certainly an important part of working for a university, but students should be the priority.

Bill Wresch said...

I am not used to seeing so much student comment on this blog, but I like it. The last comment is especially telling -- "your job is to teach." I think many on the faculty would agree, but the fact is our job has been defined to include teaching, research, and service. There are many reasons why faculty members are involved in research, and maybe we should discuss that sometime, but the bottom line is that research is a part of our job and we will do it or we will lose our jobs.

Anonymous said...

Conducting research is a contribution to one's own knowledge and knowledge in general. Faculty who do not do research risk falling behind in knowledge, they cannot select those readings with great competency because they don't know the standards for quality of scholarship, and they have less credibilty with graduate schools when they recommend students.

Research is part of teaching preparation. It doesn't make a professor a skilled orator or a friendlier person, but it does give them a better knowledge of the field.

I've talked with faculty who don't need to do research and they are very limited in knowledge. Unfortunately, they aren't aware of this because they don't realize what is being done. The most knowledgable professors I had were the best researchers. Some were nice and some weren't. Some had good teaching techniques and some didn't.

The faculty here aren't trying to make UWO be Madison, but they are using their research to make them more informed teachers. That is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

I agree, any faculty member who is not engaged in at least some research is not doing his or her job. My teaching is better because I do research. I have seen the syylabi of colleagues who do not do research. They are out of date, show a lack of understanding of where the discipline is going, and harm our students. Yes harm. If you are teaching from material that is dated, if you are not keeping current that you are giving your students an inferior education. I only hope that Wresch is wrong in saying that most faculty are only interested in teaching and not research.

Bill Wresch said...

I also hope that "Wresch is wrong in saying most faculty are only interested in teaching and not research." In fact I am fairly confident I am wrong, since I never said that. Please go back and read my original posting.

I know people rush through blogs, but if you are going to cite people, please use a bit more care.