May 7, 2006

Choosing a textbook is a guessing game

Every semester nursing faculty select texts for the next semester. We would like to think we are providing our students with a tool that will be better than the competing tools. We read them, look at the pictures, graphs, and charts. We sample the student and instructor CDs and ask the publisher's rep lots of questions. But in the end it is really just a guess if one book is better than another. We really can't compare two identical groups of students and see who learned more from one book or the other. In education research on such a question there are too many variables to control. In the end, nursing faculty must make their text decisions based on their best guess as to what materials students will like and learn from.

3 comments:

Bear said...

More information is always preferable, so any review is good - for the classic textbook selection problem check Richard Feynmann's story about being on a textbook selection committee where some of the books were approved by committee members even though they had blank pages...

As to the ability to test the efficacy of books - again, any information is preferable to mere guessing - educated guessing on the other hand is quite good...

Brent Thompson, DNSc, RN said...

Bear, I agree that an educated guess is better than a random choice. I like to think those guesses are part of what we get paid for. After that guess, however, is still the messy business of ever knowing if our choice of Book A was better than Book B.

OLGA JARRIN said...

I've had some classes with phenomenal reading lists - but they were just that, lists of 4 to 20 books. That holds true regardless of the subject in my experience. It is not the book, but the teacher (and student) that matters. Granted, I am fortunate right now to have a wonderful text for my class with some simple instructor resources that free up my time and energy to help my students learn vs. lecture and write multiple choice questions.

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