Textbook Under Test
by P R Guruprasad
We all know that the three 'T's, viz. the teacher, the taught and the textbook will remain eternal in all our classrooms in spite of great advances in educational technology. My article documents the strategies involved in selection of textbooks in school systems. The ideas stem from my own experience and hence not necessarily to be treated perfect or better than other measures.
Textbooks must synchronize with the aims and objectives of the school curriculum. The presentation of contents must be in logical sequence with large fonts [at least size 12] preferably in bold in the elementary school level. Illustrations should be neat and simple to interpret and understand. As far as I have seen, most physics textbooks in the Indian market still contain description of the 'Aneroid Barometer' through an ambiguous and confusing diagram [which is nearly just a 'photograph' of the gadget]; our kids need to understand the principle of the gadget far more than its design aspects. A simple line diagram that explains the principle is more effective [diagrams such as those in Murray are excellent]. Concepts must be presented in such a way that they are motivating and kindling the flame of creativity. For instance a lesson on 'Fluid pressure' can incorporate a real life problem such as 'Suppose you suspect the water level in the overhead tank be very low. Suggest a solution'. Mere duplication of concepts should be avoided. Quality of presentation is a crucially important aspect and is expected in all the following stages: Lesson Introduction, Body of the lesson, Summary and Assessment/Problem-solving Exercises. Exercises should be listed down in an increasingly difficult order but solvable by the student.
The school management can invite publishers to exhibit their books in the school premises at one publisher a day; dates should be fixed on prior appointment so that no two publishers end up on the same day. On these days, any unused room should be chosen and books displayed on different tables grouped according to curricular subjects. Practicing teachers should be asked to make assessments [not selections] of the books. For this, I had developed a textbook evaluation form [containing five parts] as follows:
Title of the textbook:
Authors' names and a brief description of their experience as teacher:
Part II: [Write a brief description in each case].
Quality of paper used:
Part III: [Write a brief description in each case].
Are they presented in the following order? Y/N
End of lesson Assessment/Problem solving exercises:
Is the book supplemented by Pupil Workbook and Teachers' Guide? Y/N
How would you rate this book?
Hopeless - 0
Below average - 1
Average - 2
Good - 3
Very good - 4
Your rating: ____
Teacher's name, signature and date:
Somewhat similar format can be used to assess Pupil Workbooks.
By using the above forms, each textbook can be graded; this has to be done by a committee consisting of the HOD, the senior most teacher who actually handles the subject [as the HOD may not actually be handling the subject] and someone from the senior management. In this way, it is easy to select the textbook that gains the maximum rating. Great care should be taken to prevent/correct any oversight.
[When I gave a presentation of the idea, my teaching staff thought that it was time consuming. Yes, it was time consuming but the rewards were great. They were not only able to select the best books in market but also enjoyed the 'active participation' aspect in the process. This, I think, boosted their self-confidence and sense of responsibility to a great extent!]
- Panamalai R Guruprasad
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