Learning Disease Epidemic: Textbook Dependency

cross-posted at Education with Technology

Many students suffer from the academic disease of textbook dependency. You can help cure your students of this affliction.

Are always looking in the textbook for answers
Never thinking for themselves
Cannot make connections between two concepts found in different chapters
When told to close the textbook and do an activity on their own, they show a wide range of emotions from a dazed look to high anxiety plus physical signs of mild to severe panic.

Sample cases:
1) A Modern Language teacher asks his students to find an Internet picture of a street scene in a country such as Ecuador either on their Smartphone / tablet or print out the picture and bring to class. When the teacher asks the students to talk about that street picture which is not in their textbook but based on the vocabulary in the chapter which they have reviewed many times, students show visible signs of agitation. Eyes are wide open as their mouths may be. Visible nervousness. Inability to speak. Students feel pressured. Pulse becomes higher.

2) When a Social Studies teacher asks his/her students to compare the Occupy movement to the American Revolution, students quickly look in the textbook’s index and are shocked not to find Occupy listed. They nervously flip through the textbook pages. Mild panic sets in. They cry out in emotional trauma, “It’s not in the book. What do we do?” Faces become red or pale, sweat may appear.

One cure:
Have the students do at least one activity beyond the textbook on a weekly or even better, on a daily basis. Scaffold their transition from the textbook to applying the critical information/concept.

The teacher can relate the learning goal to the real world. He/She can start small.

Example 1: In Modern Languages, before students talk about a street scene, the teacher has them find either on their Smartphone/ tablet or print out a street scene picture and bring to class. The students identify the key street vocabulary from the book in the actual picture; they point to the object/person and say the word. They review any words with which they had difficulty. Then, without using their textbook or any review sheets, the students use the vocabulary in basic sentences to talk about the picture such as “There are many pedestrians in the street. The cars stop at the stop light.”

Example 2: In Social Studies the teacher has students use their Smartphone/tablets or their home computers to find out what the Occupy movement is and what the movement’s goals are. The teacher may start them off with some categories to explore such as purpose, method, etc. The teacher has them create a similarity-contrast chart for Occupy and the American Revolution. Students use the chart as a basis for their critical thinking.

How do you move your students from their dependency on the textbook to their independent thinking?

Harry Grover Tuttle teaches English and Spanish college courses at Onondaga Community College. He is also the author of several books on formative assessment.