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Topic: Can Introductory Course Students Learn Much From Textbooks?
Replies: 5   Last Post: Sep 9, 2013 6:44 AM

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Posts: 8,846
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: Can Introductory Course Students Learn Much From Textbooks?
Posted: Sep 7, 2013 2:04 PM
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Richard Hake Posted: Sep 6, 2013 6:07 PM

>BUT WAIT! Gerhart, Lambert, and Morrison seem to have
>had evidence that most of their students were, in fact,
>capable of substantial learning from textbooks. That
>such learning may NOT have been the case has been
>suggested by POD's Russ Hunt at <>;
>Math-EdCC's "Haim" at <>; and
>NAEP's Perie & Moran (2005) at
>The latter wrote on p. 15: "only 5 to 7 percent of 17-
>year-olds demonstrated performance at level 350?the
>ability to learn from and synthesize specialized reading


Does that last quote not settle the question? (I knew I was being generous and optimistic with my 20% figure.)

More precisely, the flipped classroom will work, or not, depending on your students. One can imagine that Eric Mazur, teaching at Harvard, can depend on his students reading their textbooks (if he demanded it). Other professors are not so lucky.

In the past, when a smaller and more elite cadre of students attended college, expectations might have been very different. I seem to recall a description of English universities, of years ago, in which professors hardly lectured at all. The students mainly read on their own, and they might have attended a recitation from time to time to discuss and clarify certain points, and at the end they sat for their examinations. Perhaps someone in this forum knows more on this subject.

At any rate, we do not live in Edwardian England, or anything like that. Today, colleges are trying to do the job that the public schools refuse to do: educate the masses. And in this mass of students, very many of them will not (probably cannot) read their textbooks.

As long as we are on this subject, I must point out that this is the evident reason textbook publishing is so active an enterprise: everyone is looking for the key that unlocks reading for more than the 10% of students already doing it. It is a fair question, for example, why a single calculus textbook has been published in the English speaking world since Richard Courant and Fritz John published their book in English (1965). It is not the math, of course.

Now, maybe someday somebody will find that key (I doubt it). But, clearly, the flipped classroom is a nonstarter unless and until that blessed event happens.


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