Quick Notes: Defining Textbook Structure and Elements

Yesterday I joined an Office Hours session run by the Rebus Community, which was a presentation by  Dave Ernst, (University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and  Executive Director of the Open Textbook Network). He spoke about  Defining Textbook Structure and Elements, essentially summarizing a chapter on developing text book structure from guide by the Open Textbook Network for teachers who are creating open textbooks. That resource, and the Rebus community look like they are well worth a look if you are not already familiar with them. Here are my notes mixed with my own reflection & comment.

Notes

What makes a textbook different from a monogram?

Books are divided into various slices: some or all of the following may be present: Book ⟹ Unit ⟹ Chapter ⟹ Section ⟹ Sub-section. I see parallels between this and the sort of divisions envisaged by schema which define course structures (e.g. OER Schema).

In a text book that Dave wishes to encapsulate the idea that curriculum (content) is separate from instruction (teaching the content). A textbook is content that is structured in such a way that facilitates instruction. This builds on lessons in instructional design learnt in creating online courses.

Structural elements have been defined (i.e. Openers, Closers, and ‘Integrated Pedagogic Devices’) into which any part of the book hierarchy can be split. The Opener of a book corresponds to the Front Matter, the Closer to the Back Matter the rest is in the Body. But Units, Chapters Sections can also have these structural elements. There were various examples of what might be part of each of these elements: the Opener may include an introduction, learning objectives, focus questions; the integrated pedagogic devices in the main content may be call outs or info boxes, case studies, illustrations; the Closer may have a summary, further reading and review questions (there were many other examples). Repeat to emphasize: these elements are relevant to any level of division of a book.

Dave two factors regarding the content of a book: scope (what is to be covered) and sequence (the order to cover it in). For any topic, teachers will differ in opinion as to what the optimum scope and sequence are–holy wars have been fought over sequence in particular. There was an interesting comment about teachers wanting to re-purpose an open textbook to have the same content in a different order–this is what Open is for.

Agreeing the structure of  a book (do you want units? do you want subsections?), the structural elements for each part, and the scope and sequence for each part, will give you the outline of the book and the elements to assist students in understanding what is covered. I know how well this can work from having taken part in a booksprint with colleagues.

I found a lot of interest in the parallels between instructional design of online courses and textbooks, and in the discussion about how the technology of printing affected the designs of textbooks (see also Euclid in colour and technology for learning).

Many thanks to Dave Ernst, Rebus and all on the call.

 

[Edited 13 Sept 2018 @ 15:30 to correct an accidental misattribution of the OTN guide for teachers who are creating open textbooks.]