Thursday, April 05, 2007

Considering ditching the textbook for next time around

Book CoverGiven my experiences with the textbook over the past few times I've taught RELS-211 (World Religions), I'm thinking of abandoning it and switching to a homemade concoction of recorded lectures (by yours truly) and a cobbled-together reader of short primary and secondary sources. It is a source of considerable student and faculty frustration that the textbook simply doesn't present the material in a way that fits my preferred approach. The result is that we never really build substantively on the textbook reading or bring it into the classroom discussion. Theoretically, it provides a "backbone" of factual data which we can then flesh out with discussion and other readings, but in practice that's not how it's working out. This has been irritating me a lot. I believe that the kind of basic foundation of factual knowledge -- the kind of stuff you can give a quiz on -- is important, and I've been going on the assumption that the textbook presents it adequately (and I think it does a better job than most or all of the alternatives), but it's not really working out. If I am going to make this shift, it's going to mean a huge up-front investment of time and energy on my part.

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