04 March 2009

Teaching without textbooks

In the Philippines, we call it “weather-weather.” Elsewhere, it is called the inevitable pendulum swing or regression towards the mean. That worldwide and eternal phenomenon now applies to textbooks.

Before and even after the invention of printing, the greatest teachers in the world did not use textbooks. Think of Confucius, Buddha, Moses, Socrates, Jesus, and Muhammad. These master teachers taught millions of people in person or through their students, but they did not use PowerPoint, podcasts, textbooks, or even blackboards.

The rest of us mere mortal teachers fall back on textbooks as our security blankets during class days when we really have nothing to contribute to the store of human knowledge. We merely reproduce, sometimes in our own words, more often in the words of textbook writers, the ideas of others before us.

Even those of us calling ourselves “professors” very often have nothing to profess. We are mere conduits of knowledge, bankers as some say or, just as appropriately, intellectual property agents, selling other people’s ideas to younger people.

A relatively recent pedagogical theory, called transformative learning, has called attention to the ill-suitedness of textbooks to classroom teaching. Textbooks assume that all learners learn in exactly the same way at exactly the same pace. That, as all teachers know, even us mere mortals, has never been true. Every classroom is unique, and every student is unique. Nobody learns in exactly the same way as anybody else.

If textbooks are, in theory, bad for learners, what do we use instead? A new movement in the United States, still unnamed but that could very well be called “Teaching Without Textbooks,” shows us the answer.

“What would your classroom be like without your students cracking open their oversized textbooks everyday?” asks Laura Milligan in “100+ Resources for Teaching Without Textbooks”. She answers her own question: “Probably a lot more interesting, especially for the kiddies. There are so many other resources out there for teachers to use, online and off, that teaching without textbooks is becoming more and more acceptable. If you don’t believe us, scroll down this list of over 100 different resources – including websites, iPod lectures, and field trips – that will encourage you to toss out your textbooks.”

Eric Pallant of Allegheny College writes of his experience, which he mistakenly thinks is unique: “In the first class of the 2005-2006 school year, after calling roll and introducing myself and co-professor Terry Bensel, I told our students they were participating in an experiment, an experiment that, as far as we knew, no one else had undertaken. They were taking an Introduction to Environmental Science course with no textbook.”

Geoff Ruth of Leadership High School in San Francisco writes, “The students in my general chemistry class almost never open their textbook. My reason: The less I use the book, the more they learn.” He adds a typical comment he got from one of his students: “‘You don’t learn stuff from textbooks,’ one student wrote. ‘You just memorize for a test, then forget it.’”

In a 2007 article of the American Society for Cell Biology, entitled “Teaching without a Textbook: Strategies to Focus Learning on Fundamental Concepts and Scientific Process,” M. W. Klymkowsky summarizes some of the empirical discoveries so far of the movement: “Are textbooks useful, or are they an unnecessary expense or even an obstacle to robust conceptual understanding? Clearly, the answer depends upon course context – what are the goals of the course, how could the textbook be used to achieve these goals, does this use justify the cost of the textbook, and are there more educationally effective or cost-effective alternatives available? I discuss these questions from the perspective of a course I teach: Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) 1111: Biofundamentals, an introductory lecture and virtual laboratory course that uses online materials rather than a textbook.”

He continues: “There is little research on the impact of textbooks on student learning. Carpenter, Bullock, and Potter, in ‘Textbooks in teaching and learning: the views of students and their teachers’ (2006), provide a description of publisher-funded studies on textbook use in Britain. They outline two key points worth recognizing. First, textbook publishers and authors seem to have little appreciation of how students learn. Second, students are often motivated more by the desire to attain a degree rather an inherent love of, or interest in, course subject matter. At the same time, both students and instructors value textbooks, even though ‘there is no correlation between textbook purchase and the grade achieved.’ Similar results have been reported in U.S. chemistry and physics courses. Most textbooks are not written with current evidence about best teaching and learning practices in mind, so they may be difficult to integrate into the design and presentation of a course that is based on this evidence.”

The key insight of the movement is this: there is no evidence that textbooks aid learning. In this rapidly changing world where even the climate is unpredictable, it is about time we examine our baseless dependence on textbooks. Perhaps there is no need for the Philippine Department of Education (DepEd) to buy textbooks, which, if we are to believe some quarters, are full of errors anyway.

(First published in The Philippine Star, 12 February 2009)

4 comments:

Albert B. Casuga said...

TEXTBOOKS THAT HAD TO BE PUBLISHED

In his blog, "Critic At Large," Dr. Isagani Cruz discusses institutional education without textbooks. Are textbooks really necessary when a student could access all sources of information relevant to his disciplines? Primary, Secondary, and Undergraduate courses might still need those textbooks to fulfill the requirements of a public education geared towards productive citizenship. Graduate studies would, of course, depend more upon syllabi that would serve the student's specialisation -- a broad range of expertise that might lend themselves to easier and faster access through the information technologies like the Internet. Why even surgeries are now being conducted via the computer-transmitted images and procedure across continents! Dr. Cruz, nevertheless, would be whistling in the dark if he wished this textbook-less education obtaining at this time, particularly in a education-technology-deficient country like the Philippines. What is probably more urgent is the demand of better-written textbooks by its many brilliant mentors who soldier on through conflicting and confusing educational policies that seem to be primarily geared now to employability.




I have been there. I started my academic career teaching in the secondary level at a Benedictine-run high school for boys. I taught Speech and Public Speaking to the seniors; expensive textbooks were prohibitive and scarce, so I ended up wiriting my own textbooks: A Primer in Speech and Public Speaking (SBC and Lourdes School, 18967) and Fundamentals of Speech Arts and Public Speaking (San Beda College, 1968). I even taped English-speaking lessons for the boys. The monks thought I should also teach them Journalism being at that time also a desker at the Manila branch of the United Press International, editor of the undergraduate Journal of Arts and Sciences (1961-63, Arts and Letters, University of Santo Tomas), and Graduate School Journal editor at the same Pontifical University. My journalism tutelage started in high school as editor of the La Union TAB (1958-59), the oldest high school newspaper in the Philippines, and serving as reporter, news editor, and literary editor of the UST's offical student publication, The Varsitarian (1959-63), and the Catholic community's Parish Postscript (founded by the late Rev. LoretoI Palafox, himself a nationally published fictionist.) I ended up writing Fundamentals of Journalism (SBC, 1965).




When the brothers of De La Salle hired me to teach at their (now) De La Salle University in 1970, I was drafted to teach Humanities courses, and I ended up editing a freshman textbook, Man in Search of Meaning: Literature (Humanities Series, Asia Foundation and De La Salle University, Manila), and a sophomore survey textbook Man and His Literary Past: The Classical Tradition. This textbook-writing "saga" culminated in my writing a senior BA textbook on literary theory and criticism, The Aesthetics of Literature (see image) under the Asia Foundation and through the scholarly egging of the late Bro. Andrew Gonzalez, FSC, then the academic vice president. To qualify me for the last textbook, I was perceived as capable having published Summer Suns (selected fiction, 1962), Narra Poems and Others (1968, The Spires, San Beda College Press), and Still Points (poetry collection, 1972), was a published serial magazine writer of poems, short stories, essays, feature articles, art criticism, book reviews, of stage plays, television series plays, and an erstwhile zarzuela (local vernacular plays) writer.
I left the Philippines during the martial law years, ended up teaching an Advanced English course in a Toronto college, and also wrote a manual published by the school as Writing Fundamentals .
Was I in the business of earning my keep by cranking up textbooks and manuals? I hope not. I simply realize at this point of my life that being a teacher also automatically made me a writer of my own textbooks. The Spanish cartilla adage, "Cada un maestro, un libro." (For each teacher, his own book.) seemed to suit me well.
But are teachers the most qualified textbook writers? If they are not, who could do better? What Dr. Cruz is concerned about at this point is the corruption-ridden Philippine textbook printing through the Department of Education patronage. And the typo errors, the errors! (which my Aesthetics was not exempt from -- the personnel at the De La Salle Textbook Development Committee at that time needed copy editors, proofreaders, and the like.)
Rather than get rid of textbooks, writing them for time-pressed and harassed students by the experts who teach the courses must be supported by the government education ministries and the academic institutions through their publishing houses. (The University of Santo tomas, University of the Philippines, Ateneo University, and De La Salle University are at the leading edge of this function).

What kind of Textbook was my Aesthetics of Literature?
It was a cry in the wilderness of teaching literature and the humanities during those turbulent times of the martial law regime quarterstorms. Students were in the streets burning tires, taunting the armed forces patrolling the streets of Manila. Teaching literary theory and criticism was a quixotic act of classroom geeks. It was futile, inutile, and then a waste of time. From excerpts of my Author's Preface, I wrote:
WHEN I began writing this book, I had in mind the fulfillment of several requirements that I demanded of myself as a teacher of literature: that before I would dare profess any idea on literary appreciation, I must first convince myself that I have a firm and reasonable idea of what literature is, why and how it is produced, and how it is appreciated as a work of art.
Subconsciously, perhaps, I was also thinking of how best I could reassure myself that -- as a practising writer of the literary forms -- I know what it means to write and that when I write, I am equipped with the proper artistic discipline peculiar to my craft. It was, therefore, an attempt to synthesize and systematize, as it were, the literary theory which has governed my efforts along the creative line.
More than anything else, however, I had deliberately dogged a very demanding ideal of providing my students with a manual which could guide them in their individual efforts of arriving at their own system of literary values -- an equipment that will serve them in good stead when they start appreciating literature on their own beyond the pale of the classroom and the often irritating pontifications of the teacher. More than anything else, I had wanted my students to be able to validly evaluate literature--with this book's aid--so that I could engage them in the course's most satisfying activity of discoursing on the diverse experiences brought to the reader's world by a motley of sensitive artists who have found it their calling to extend the limits of man's awareness and knowledge.
Indeed, I had wanted to impress upon my students that literature is one sure manner of beating physical limitations imposed naturally upon efforts to extend man's range of knowing.
A convinced devotee of the ontological approach to literary appreciation, I had also tried to chart out an avenue by which students and teachers alike could--in the words of an esteemed artist and teacher, Edith L. Tiempo--"evaluate a poem (short story, novel, drama) not as an instrument of some other discipline, but would judge it for itself, as an artistic object, meaning, an artistically created object."
Certainly, "understanding literature" are key concepts in a literature course. In fact, a nebulous idea of what they mean has always succeeded in derailing the efforts of a well-intentioned teacher of literature so that he invariably runs afoul with directionless lessons on literary appreciation.
"A real understanding of literary is an ability to state the intention of the work and to demonstrate the ways in which the various parts of the work contribute to the achievement of the work's intention. Understanding means comprehension of the purpose or end and the ways in which the parts are interrelated and work harmoniously in order to achieve that end." I subscribe to this competent exposition of P. Albert Duhamel and Richard Hughes (Literature: Form and Function).
Toward this end, this book (Aesthetics of Literature) is poised. In more ways than one, if this book succeeds in making the teacher and the student understand what it means to "understand" literature, then it shall have served its purpose.
If the teacher would like to egg his students on towards a creative expression of their appreciation of literary pieces, I have also seen to it that he would find enough excellent models of how this is done. When the student writes down his appreciation in a discriminating critical essay for purposes of publication, and without the teacher's prodding, the mentor can start congratulating himself..."
(I hope to include the table of contents in future blogs, to illustrate what my idea of a useful textbook is and how it should be fleshed. At this writing, my Aesthetics gathers dust in libraries in the Philippines, in Australia, in Indonesia, and elsewhere, and I am delighted to find out that this 1972 "textbook" is still being cited by e-libraries, amazon.ca, and ironically "rare book sellers" over the Internet. Is it still being read by students? How many of them have become writers? How many kept their copies of this monograph that did not get enough funding later to see its final print sans the errata included in the book's prefaces. De La Salle Textbook Development Committee is now being run by Dr. Isagani R. Cruz for the university where it first got published. Here's a textbook, Dr. Cruz.)

Albert B. Casuga said...

THE TEXTBOOKS THAT NEEDED TO BE WRITTEN


In his blog, "Critic At Large," Dr. Isagani Cruz discusses institutional education without textbooks. Are textbooks really necessary when a student could access all sources of information relevant to his disciplines? Primary, Secondary, and Undergraduate courses might still need those textbooks to fulfill the requirements of a public education geared towards productive citizenship. Graduate studies would, of course, depend more upon syllabi that would serve the student's specialisation -- a broad range of expertise that might lend themselves to easier and faster access through the information technologies like the Internet. Why even surgeries are now being conducted via the computer-transmitted images and procedure across continents! Dr. Cruz, nevertheless, would be whistling in the dark if he wished this textbook-less education obtaining at this time, particularly in a education-technology-deficient country like the Philippines. What is probably more urgent is the demand of better-written textbooks by its many brilliant mentors who soldier on through conflicting and confusing educational policies that seem to be primarily geared now to employability.




I have been there. I started my academic career teaching in the secondary level at a Benedictine-run high school for boys. I taught Speech and Public Speaking to the seniors; expensive textbooks were prohibitive and scarce, so I ended up wiriting my own textbooks: A Primer in Speech and Public Speaking (SBC and Lourdes School, 18967) and Fundamentals of Speech Arts and Public Speaking (San Beda College, 1968). I even taped English-speaking lessons for the boys. The monks thought I should also teach them Journalism being at that time also a desker at the Manila branch of the United Press International, editor of the undergraduate Journal of Arts and Sciences (1961-63, Arts and Letters, University of Santo Tomas), and Graduate School Journal editor at the same Pontifical University. My journalism tutelage started in high school as editor of the La Union TAB (1958-59), the oldest high school newspaper in the Philippines, and serving as reporter, news editor, and literary editor of the UST's offical student publication, The Varsitarian (1959-63), and the Catholic community's Parish Postscript (founded by the late Rev. LoretoI Palafox, himself a nationally published fictionist.) I ended up writing Fundamentals of Journalism (SBC, 1965).




When the brothers of De La Salle hired me to teach at their (now) De La Salle University in 1970, I was drafted to teach Humanities courses, and I ended up editing a freshman textbook, Man in Search of Meaning: Literature (Humanities Series, Asia Foundation and De La Salle University, Manila), and a sophomore survey textbook Man and His Literary Past: The Classical Tradition. This textbook-writing "saga" culminated in my writing a senior BA textbook on literary theory and criticism, The Aesthetics of Literature (see image) under the Asia Foundation and through the scholarly egging of the late Bro. Andrew Gonzalez, FSC, then the academic vice president. To qualify me for the last textbook, I was perceived as capable having published Summer Suns (selected fiction, 1962), Narra Poems and Others (1968, The Spires, San Beda College Press), and Still Points (poetry collection, 1972), was a published serial magazine writer of poems, short stories, essays, feature articles, art criticism, book reviews, of stage plays, television series plays, and an erstwhile zarzuela (local vernacular plays) writer.
I left the Philippines during the martial law years, ended up teaching an Advanced English course in a Toronto college, and also wrote a manual published by the school as Writing Fundamentals .
Was I in the business of earning my keep by cranking up textbooks and manuals? I hope not. I simply realize at this point of my life that being a teacher also automatically made me a writer of my own textbooks. The Spanish cartilla adage, "Cada un maestro, un libro." (For each teacher, his own book.) seemed to suit me well.
But are teachers the most qualified textbook writers? If they are not, who could do better? What Dr. Cruz is concerned about at this point is the corruption-ridden Philippine textbook printing through the Department of Education patronage. And the typo errors, the errors! (which my Aesthetics was not exempt from -- the personnel at the De La Salle Textbook Development Committee at that time needed copy editors, proofreaders, and the like.)
Rather than get rid of textbooks, writing them for time-pressed and harassed students by the experts who teach the courses must be supported by the government education ministries and the academic institutions through their publishing houses. (The University of Santo tomas, University of the Philippines, Ateneo University, and De La Salle University are at the leading edge of this function).
What kind of Textbook was my Aesthetics of Literature?
It was a cry in the wilderness of teaching literature and the humanities during those turbulent times of the martial law regime quarterstorms. Students were in the streets burning tires, taunting the armed forces patrolling the streets of Manila. Teaching literary theory and criticism was a quixotic act of classroom geeks. It was futile, inutile, and then a waste of time. From excerpts of my Author's Preface, I wrote:
WHEN I began writing this book, I had in mind the fulfillment of several requirements that I demanded of myself as a teacher of literature: that before I would dare profess any idea on literary appreciation, I must first convince myself that I have a firm and reasonable idea of what literature is, why and how it is produced, and how it is appreciated as a work of art.
Subconsciously, perhaps, I was also thinking of how best I could reassure myself that -- as a practising writer of the literary forms -- I know what it means to write and that when I write, I am equipped with the proper artistic discipline peculiar to my craft. It was, therefore, an attempt to synthesize and systematize, as it were, the literary theory which has governed my efforts along the creative line.
More than anything else, however, I had deliberately dogged a very demanding ideal of providing my students with a manual which could guide them in their individual efforts of arriving at their own system of literary values -- an equipment that will serve them in good stead when they start appreciating literature on their own beyond the pale of the classroom and the often irritating pontifications of the teacher. More than anything else, I had wanted my students to be able to validly evaluate literature--with this book's aid--so that I could engage them in the course's most satisfying activity of discoursing on the diverse experiences brought to the reader's world by a motley of sensitive artists who have found it their calling to extend the limits of man's awareness and knowledge.
Indeed, I had wanted to impress upon my students that literature is one sure manner of beating physical limitations imposed naturally upon efforts to extend man's range of knowing.
A convinced devotee of the ontological approach to literary appreciation, I had also tried to chart out an avenue by which students and teachers alike could--in the words of an esteemed artist and teacher, Edith L. Tiempo--"evaluate a poem (short story, novel, drama) not as an instrument of some other discipline, but would judge it for itself, as an artistic object, meaning, an artistically created object."
Certainly, "understanding literature" are key concepts in a literature course. In fact, a nebulous idea of what they mean has always succeeded in derailing the efforts of a well-intentioned teacher of literature so that he invariably runs afoul with directionless lessons on literary appreciation.
"A real understanding of literary is an ability to state the intention of the work and to demonstrate the ways in which the various parts of the work contribute to the achievement of the work's intention. Understanding means comprehension of the purpose or end and the ways in which the parts are interrelated and work harmoniously in order to achieve that end." I subscribe to this competent exposition of P. Albert Duhamel and Richard Hughes (Literature: Form and Function).
Toward this end, this book (Aesthetics of Literature) is poised. In more ways than one, if this book succeeds in making the teacher and the student understand what it means to "understand" literature, then it shall have served its purpose.
If the teacher would like to egg his students on towards a creative expression of their appreciation of literary pieces, I have also seen to it that he would find enough excellent models of how this is done. When the student writes down his appreciation in a discriminating critical essay for purposes of publication, and without the teacher's prodding, the mentor can start congratulating himself..."
(I hope to include the table of contents in future blogs, to illustrate what my idea of a useful textbook is and how it should be fleshed. At this writing, my Aesthetics gathers dust in libraries in the Philippines, in Australia, in Indonesia, and elsewhere, and I am delighted to find out that this 1972 "textbook" is still being cited by e-libraries, amazon.ca, and ironically "rare book sellers" over the Internet. Is it still being read by students? How many of them have become writers? How many kept their copies of this monograph that did not get enough funding later to see its final print sans the errata included in the book's prefaces. De La Salle Textbook Development Committee is now being run by Dr. Isagani R. Cruz for the university where it first got published. Here's a textbook, Dr. Cruz.)

Albert B. Casuga said...

Philippine poet and National Artist nominee CIRILO F. BAUTISTA wrote the Introduction to my Aesthetics of Literature. A lot of what he said then, he could still say now because I intended the book to remain fundamental. Before I outline the contents of this book so one can appreciate it as an educational technology, let me mention what Dr. Bautista’s estimate of the book was when it was published at the De La Salle University where we both taught in the 70’s.

“The Aesthetics of Literature is both necessary and timely.

Necessary, for in the context of the curricular offerings in the College of Liberal Arts of De La Salle, the book will answer the need, so long unattended, for a comprehensive and practical text on the literary disciplines. Consequently, the students will be better equipped to relate art theories with actual art practice, and to test these theories by the application of aesthetic norms and principles. A look at the table of contents reveals the sequential tactics by which this can be achieved, with appendices that are important in the valuative analyses of the formal elements of fiction and poetry.”

Table of Contents

A Polemical Introduction

Argument for the Relevance of Literature, 5; Literature as a Humanistic Discipline, 9; the Rationale of Literature courses and Studies, 12; The Concept of Literary Appreciation, 15; Fundamental Ideas of Arts and Aesthetics, 24; Notes on the terms used in the Discussions, 29; Guide Questions for the Appreciation of Poetry, 47; Guide Questions for the Appreciation of Fiction (Short Story, Novel, and Drama), 57. Chart 1: Appreciation of the Different fine Arts, 41.

Chapter One: The concept of analysis in an Empirically-Based Appreciation of Literature, 59

Sensory-Impressionistic Level of Analysis, 67; Cognitive Level of Analysis, 73; The Associative Level of Analysis, 82; Poems for analysis, 109: (Carlos Angeles, 109; Cirilo Bautista, 110; Edith Tiempo, 111; Albert B. Casuga, 112; T.S. Eliot, 113; W. H. Auden, 112-113; Rita Gadi, 114; e.e. cummings, 115; Jose Garcia Villa, 116.

Chapter Two: The Concept of Criticism in an Empirically-Based Appreciation of Literature, 117

Nature of Formal and Technical (Empirical) Criticism, 119; Determining the Artistic Purpose, 125; The Nature and Elements of Style, 128; The Nature and Elements of Technique, 137; (Elements of Style Discussed: Use of language—diction, figures, symbols, linguistic devices, and selected details of objectification—in fiction. Elements of Technique in fiction: Point of view (with norms of qualified point of view); Order and Arrangement of actions in the Plot (with norms); Characterization (types, methods, qualities of functional characterization); Scale (arrangement of episodes, length of expository and narrative structures); and Other Techniques. Practicum, 157.

Criticism of Poetry, 185; Style, 190; Symbols, 195; Linguistic Devices, 197; Verbal, 198; Literary Devices, 203; Technique, 211; Selected Structural Parts, 211; Scale, 213; Order, 217;

Appendix A – Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe, 225; Literary Trends that Influence Criticism (Realism, Naturalism, Impressionism, Stream-of-Consciousness, and Surrealism) 237.

Chapter Three: The Concept of Evaluation in an Empirically-Based Appreciation of Literature, 259

The Universal values, 265; The formal Values, 272; The Personal Values, and Approaches, 273: The Moral Approach, Sociological, Psychological, Philosophical, and Archetypal approaches, 275; Practicum for Poetry, 279; Practicum for the short Story, 316; Practicum for the Novel, 307; Practicum for the Drama, 327.

Chapter four: Towards A Relevant Appreciation of Philippine Literature, 337.

Bibliography, 373.

Selected Bibliography for further reading, 376

Aesthetics, 376; Literary Criticism, 376; Poetry, 378; Fiction, 382; The short Story, 383; The Novel, 383; Drama, 386; Suggested Textbooks, 388.

Index of Authors, Titles, and Terms, 390

Essays Included (Illustrative Essays)

Edith Tiempo: The Flaming Heart by E.O. Constantino, 279
After the Quiver, Silence: The Poetry of G. Burce Bunao by Albert B. Casuga, 295
A Red-Blooded Literature by Salvador Lopez, 305
The Finitude of Our Watch: A Criticism of The Bamboo Dancers by Leonard Casper, 307
Bittter Country: An Illusion of Movement by Albert B. Casuga, 316
A Different Breed of Dog (On Calleja’s The Return) by Luis Teodoro Jr., 327

The Aesthetics of Literature is out of print, so this author may be reproducing these chapters in this blog or other websites. The author is also in the process of rewriting the book to include criticism of current literary trends.

Dr. Isagani R. Cruz wrote a chapter on this book in his Beyond Futility (a book on Philippine Literary Criticism and its directions.) --ALBERT B. CASUGA

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