Textbook genres and examples

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“Does a reprint of a Shakespeare play used as part of a learning programme constitute a textbook? Is an Open University workbook a textbook? Is a collection of mathematical exercises a textbook? Is a shorthand exercise book used by colonial administrative clerks in prewar India a textbook? Would an alien anthropologist be justified in considering the Bible as a textbook? [...] There is such a wide range of uses for the textbook, from garage manual to classroom aid, that a typology of uses offers little analytical consistency.” (Issit, 2005)

This article attempts to identify various genres of textbooks. See also:

This articles attempts to do three things

  • List some criteria to look at textbooks
  • Summarize some examples of various kinds
  • Come up with a provisional taxonomy

Daniel K. Schneider doesn't have many textbooks at hand (it's really not a tradition in a Swiss research university). But in order to write this article, I looked at some I do have and took a few that I respect. Therefore some of the writing here is biased towards fields I work in and quality textbooks.

Genres of textbooks, a first look at criteria

As argued in the textbook article, according to the educational context and pedagogy adopted by a teacher, textbooks can have very different functions and probably need to be organized in a different way. There are different ways to look textbooks and it may not be easy to define a taxonomy based on good criteria.

Daniel K. Schneider (after a little research) couldn't find any prominently cited list of textbook genres. Therefore I suggest looking at a few kinds of features that might help defined textbook features that might be used to build a taxonomy of genres. In addition, I will summarize features of a few books I have on my shelf.

According to genres of teaching media

(Sigurgeirsson 1990, DsU 1980:4) cited by Johnsen distinguish five kinds "teaching media". In their pure form, Daniel K. Schneider would hesitated to call them textbooks. However, textbooks come in various forms and some of these textbook forms can be close to these genres. In addition, teachers may use these texts as textbooks.

  • basic texts
  • manuals
  • workbooks
  • reference books
  • exercise books

These forms may be linked to their function in the global pedagogical design. E.g. a university teacher who "owns" his lectures, presents his own work-through example, designs his own assignments, etc. probably is rather interested in a pedagogically well written manual than a typical (lengthy) US textbook.

According to amount of "built-in pedagogy"

There are parameters that this is a manual define how much "built-in pedagogy" is needed. Typically in small classrooms or systems with strong tutoring support, there is less need.

Here are few typical setups for which textbook needs may be different:

  • Small classrooms (with less than 20 students)
  • Large classrooms (teacher can not monitor individual students)
  • Large classrooms with attached seminars/labs run by teaching assistants
  • Good distance education (tutored learning
  • Low cost distance education (full self-learning)

There is a question of cost, in particular for the third world where interest is very high in quality Open educational resources.

  • Rich / medium / poor context (students can/cannot afford textbooks)

Since textbooks are expensive, cost is also an issue in countries where education is supposed to be free (e.g. in Switzerland) and where textbooks are mainly used for "supplementary reading".

According to any sort of learning or pedagogical theory.
  • Learning modes. E.g. Hayes (2005) uses Kolb's experiential learning modes: active / concrete learning, reflective / active learning.
  • Learning theory, e.g. behaviorist, cognitivist, constructivist, socio-constructivist like in Horsley and Walker (2005:265)
  • Major pedagogic strategy, e.g. Baumgartner's learning I/II/III or Clark's Receptive, Directive, Guided discovery, exploratory instruction
Political / cultural
  • E.g. Titles that are formally approved by some body (a university, a school district, etc.) as teaching materials.
  • E.g. Titles that are sold as textbooks (e.g. everything that is published by Pearson's brands)
According to media
  • Published as book (online or offline)
  • Informal linear texts (online or offline)
  • Non-linear online texts
  • Other technology-enhanced online texts (e.g. McGraw Hill's smartbook.

Textbook examples

Internet and the World Wide Web

Frontcover of Deitel et al.

Deitel, Harvey M., Paul J. Deitel, Andrew B. Goldberg, Internet & World Wide Web How to Program (3rd Edition). Prentice Hall; 3 edition, ISBN 0131450913

The home page of the book includes additional resources and for registered uses, downloads of examples and PPT slides

This is a (now) outdated 1500 page thick textbook. It's not a really verbose text, it just covers a lot of subjects (too much I'd say e.g. the PHP chapter is too short). The book is rather well written (although not consistently everywhere) and it's too much focused on non-standard IE/Microsoft technology, but that's not an issue here.

Organization of the Book

The Book is organized in

  • Contents
  • Preface, including for example
    • Explanation of the teaching approach
    • Font conventions and tips (see below)
    • Tour of the Book
    • Dependency Chart (among chapters)
  • 29 chapters
  • A CD with 9 extra chapters
  • 6 Appendixes
  • 2-page bibliography
  • Index
Chapter organization

Chapters are organized like this:

  • Objects (one page to the left), includes a picture and (useless) quotes from famous people
  • Outline (mini table of contents)
  • The usual numbered Sections are: Introduction - Other Chapters - Web Resources
  • At the end of the chapter are (not numbered/indexed): Summary, Terminology, Self-review exercises (plus answers), Exercises
Typical functional / typographic elements

Sections look like this:

  • They are rather short (about 3 pages)
  • A big portion of specially marked code (yellow boxes) and associated screen captures usually at the end.
  • Some special inserts (tips) are marked by an icon and a colored title:
    • Common Programming Errors
    • Error-prevention tips
    • Good Programming Practise
    • Look and Feel Observation
    • Portability tips
    • Software Engineering Observation

Here is an example from the Preface that explains one of the tips:

Good Programming Practices Insert from the Deitel Book

New Perspectives XML Comprehensive 2nd edition

Frontcover, New Perspectives XML Comprehensive 2nd edition

Patrick Carey (2006) New Perspectives on XML, Second Edition, Comprehensive. ISBN 1418860646, 655 pages

The Book homepage

  • Includes downloads student downloads (easy to find) and teacher downloads. The latter are very hard to find. If you are not an American, you are invited to call an obscure phone number in London.
  • In this wiki, see XML (if you are interested in the topic)

This is a over 600 pages typical textbook. I used it in a course and find it ok. I didn't like the XSLT part since the author doesn't emphasize how to program with templates, i.e. he uses unnecessary "for" loops. Also, it is weak on some important vocabularies like SVG.

This is what I would call a typical American textbook, i.e. it has a clear and good instructional design behind it. It's also lengthy and repetitive, i.e I wouldn't use if for myself.

Organization of the Book

The book has two parts: Level I and Level II Tutorials (Chapters)

  • Preface (with no interesting contents for the student)
  • Brief table of content
  • Long table of content
  • Introduction to Level I Tutorials
  • 4 chapters (called tutorials)
  • Introduction to Level II Tutorials
  • 6 chapters (called tutorials)
  • 6 appendices (5 of them reference)
  • Glossary/Index
The Introduction to Level I/II Tutorials
  • 1-page introductions telling the student to download/use files, a message to the instructor where to find these files and system requirements
Chapter (Tutorial) Organization
  • Chapters are called tutorials. Each is divided into sessions
  • On the first page, Objectives are defined for each session (between 4 and 6)
  • On the bottom of the first page, student data files are summarized
  • The rest of the page (i.e. the main part) presents a case problem that will be used throughout the chapter
  • Chapters are shown in the running heads on top of the page (but not sessions)
  • Each chapter is organized in three sessions (see below)
  • At the end of the chapter is a special review/exercising section
Section (Session) Organization
  • Sessions (sections) usually start with the presentation of a data structure (XML is about data mostly). This presentation includes a short "story" related to the case problem, a list of elements of the data structure, a figure that can be a diagram, and a little bit of text. Then the student may be invited to look at the real data (open a file).
  • This is followed by longer introductory explanations about the technology
  • Next are a series of topics. Each topic may include a story, general explanations (including many figures), instructions how to do things, etc.
  • At the end of each sessions is a short "Quick check" (1/2 page)
Typical functional / typographic elements

Typical elements one can find in a section are:

  • Sub-sections and sub-subsections. These elements are not numbered
  • Various kinds of figures:
    • Diagrams
    • Instructions (do ...). These boxes take up less than a page, are rendered in yellow and students really have to do these if they plan to learn something. Instructions include both instructions, code to copy and occasionally a diagram or screen fragment capture.
    • Reference Window (usually code fragments but also of kind "if you want to obtain x, do/use "y").
    • References (i.e. portions of what one could find in a concise reference manual).
Chapter review sections

Chapter review sections include:

  • Tutorial summary (1/2 page)
  • Key Terms (1/2 page)
  • Review assignments (several pages)
  • Case problems (long). There are four case problems for each chapter:
    • Practise (work on the same case as the one used throughout the chapter)
    • Apply 1 (work on a case that is structurally similar)
    • Apply 2 (work on a case that is structurally similar)
    • Challenge (somewhat in between applying and designing)
    • Create (design something that is fairly new)
  • Answers to Review assignments

The book is part of a series that follows the same pedagogical objectives and design. In contrast to some other textbooks, there is a strong focus on transfer. “The New Perspectives Series challenges students to apply what they are learning to real-life tasks, preparing them to easily transfer skills to new situations. With the New Perspectives Series' approach, students understand why they're learning what they're learning, and are better situated to retain skills and concepts beyond the classroom.” The New Perspectives Series, retrieved 22:40, 9 August 2007 (MEST).

This book clearly requires a student to work through the pages. You can't just dive in like with the Deitel Book (which also is a typical textbook). Case problems are well prepared (3 pages of text + materials). It's probably a very good textbook in a context where students are expected to work hard on their homework and agree to work on pre-built problem cases (instead of their own projects).

La démarche d'une recherche en sciences humaines

Dépelteau, François (2000), a démarche d'une recherche en sciences humaines, De Boeck ISBN-10 2804135268

In included this book, because I consider it to be the best introductory social science methodology book in French language. Also, it represents Belgium "instructional design" (which is quite different from the french one and rather closer to Dutch thinking I believe)

Book organization
  • Table of Contents
  • A page that lists with a diagram competences to be acquire performance criteria (what a student should be able to do) with links to concerned chapters
  • General introduction (26 pages)
  • 6 chapters
  • Bibliography
Chapter organization
  • Title and synthesis (mostly listed items)
  • Numbered sections and numbered subsections
  • At the end: a 1-page list of review (synthesis questions)
Typical functional / typographic elements
  • Strong use of marginalia (typically 1-2 / page). The summarize or give reading/understanding hints. All look the same
  • Boxes (vignettes) which may contain
    • definitions
    • pictures
    • Flow diagrams (methodological how-to)
  • Figures
    • usually diagrams to explain a concept

Textbooks for professionals and tutored students

This is a category of books that are somewhat in between typical US textbooks, manuals and can also be called "introductory literature".

E-Learning and the Science of Instruction

Frontcover of Clark & Mayer

Clark, Ruth Colvin and Richard E. Mayer (2003). E-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning, Pfeiffer, ISBN 0787960519

This book can be used both in university teaching but also as a manual for e-learning professionals.

Organization of the book
  • Contents
  • Preface (personal stuff)
  • Introduction:
    • Purpose of the book
    • Overview of chapters
    • Explanation of chapter layouts
    • Overview and nature of examples used
Chapter organization
  • First page (left) contains an outline (detailed table of contents)
  • Chapter Preview
  • A vignette (box) with "design dilemma" (1-2 page case problem)
  • Unnumbered sections and sub-sections.
    • The first section provides an introduction
    • Next are design guidelines (i.e. what you as designer should apply
    • Then research is presented that supports these guidelines
  • End of the chapter
    • Design dilemma resolution
    • A item list What to look of in e-learning
    • A short coming next
    • Suggested readings
Typical functional / typographic elements
  • Sections cover aspects of the design dilemma introduced at chapter start
  • Important concepts are explained with a section
  • Sections include text, graphics, tables, screendumps.
  • Pedagogical elements are
    • Explanatory text (introducing concepts with examples and diagrams)
    • Summary tables
    • How-to lists
    • Summarized prescriptive advice

This book is quite nice to read (I do admit that only read parts of certain chapters). It is well written and well organized. It certainly can be used in content-oriented e-learning design classes, but its up to the teacher to define related review, exercise or design activities.

Similar books

This book is part of a "Essential resources for training and HR professions" series. Other books do not follow exactly the same chapter organization. Let's have a short look at:

  • Driscoll, M., Carliner, S. Advanced Web-Based Training : Adapting Real World Strategies in Your Online Learning, Pfeiffer. ISBN 0787969796

This book organizes chapters into:

  • Some quote
  • Learning goals (stated with bullets)
  • A challenge (not in form of a vignette/box)
  • Different looks at the challenge (conceptual, practical, technical)
  • Discussion of Examples
  • Chapter ending
    • Conclusion
    • Further commented reading and web links
    • Reflection and application

Both books have in common, that they adopt a similar problem case-related strategy.

Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology

Frontcover of Reiser et al.

Reiser Robert A. and John V. Dempsey (eds). (2006). Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology, 2nd edition. Prentice Hall. ISBN 0131708058

This is probably the best buy if you are looking for a single book covering educational technology, learning theory and instructional design. It's in my list of essential reading. Anyhow, it's not a textbook in the "classic" sense, but a collection of "texbook-like" articles that can be read independently. Explicitly mentioned target population are entry-level graduate students and its chapters are written by leading experts (which is another plus).

Book organization
  • Preface
    • Strength of the book :)
    • Pedagogical features (1/2 explaining how the book and its writings are organized)
    • New edition / Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • The book is organized in 7 parts (called sections), each one contains 3 to 6 chapters
  • Short 1/2 epilogue
  • Author biographies
  • Index (no common bibliography)

The book is about letter size and pages are written in 2 columns

Parts organization (called sections)
  • Each section starts with a section overview that defines topics covered in chapters, their purpose and relation
  • Then come the chapters
Chapter organization

Each author could organize its chapter in different ways, but there are common features:

  • An introduction by the Editors
  • A list of "knowledge and compression question" in a box that takes up the left column. These questions should help understanding of the text.
  • Application questions (1/3 page). These questions encourage students to go beyond reading and may be link to individual or collaborative assignments by the teacher using this book.
  • References (little to a lot)
  • Text is divided into unnumbered sections and sometimes sub-sections and includes figures

Multimedia for Learning

Frontcover of Alessi et al.

Alessi, Stephen. M. & Trollop, Stanley. R., (2001) Multimedia for Learning (3rd Edition), Pearson Allyn & Bacon, ISBN 0-205-27691-1.

This is probably the best textbook on multimedia learning. It's very readable, but not "dumbing down". There are no bullet lists for learning goals, review questions, exercises and such.

Book organization
  • Contents
  • Preface (mostly the history of this book)
  • The book is organized in three parts (with no particular introductions) and 15 chapters
Chapter organization
  • Chapters are divided in unnumbered sections and sub-sections
  • Each chapter has a longer introduction (in text) presenting aims of the chapter and a conceptual overview of the topic
  • The conclusion of the chapter includes
    • A short summary
    • References
    • Sometimes a summary vignette
Typical functional / typographic elements

These elements differ a lot from chapter to chapter which can be general conceptual, topic-oriented, technical, cooking, ...)

  • Relatively few lists (bullets or definition lists), most text is in paragraph form
  • Figures with screen captures
  • Figures with diagrams
  • Summary vignettes (usually lists of items with sub-items)
  • Fill-in tables for planning (also called figures but they take up more space)


This is a more socio-constructivist version of textbook. It aims to engage learners in situated action. Learners typically are adults, e.g. teacher's in training.

Project-based learning: Using Information Technology

Frontcover of Morsund

Morsund, David (2002) Project-based learning: Using Information Technology, 2nd edition, ISTE. ISBN 1-56484-196-0

Book organization
  • Editor (ISTE) and Author
  • Table of contents
  • Preface* At t
    • Use of Project-based learning
    • Summary of Chapters
    • Teaching and learning philosophy (focus on constructivism
    • Possible Uses of the book (both preservice and inservice teachers)
  • Introductory chapter (includes a short case description)
  • 7 other chapters
  • 3 Appendixes (goals for IT in Education; Overview of Problem Solving; References and Resources)
  • Index
Chapter organization
  • short statement of it purpose
  • Unnumbered sections with short sub-sections that introduce concepts. Sections contain major subtopics.
  • Summary (final remarks)
  • Activities
Typical functional / typographic elements
  • Various sections are not always organized in the same way (depending on the nature of issues addressed in a chapter)
  • Conceptual chapters are mostly in expository style and include figures and tables
  • Practical chapters contain lists (some with sub-lists) with instructions and "fill-in" tables whose structure should be reproduced.

This is both a conceptual book and a "how-to" book with detailed recipes

Similar books
  • Thom Markham et al. (2003), Project Based Learning Handbook, Buck Inst for Education, ISBN 0974034304

This book is quite similar in structure to the Morsund book.

  • It uses fancier layout elements. Also the book is spiral-bound with tabs, so navigation within the book is really fast and painless. This is quite interesting, since I personally find navigation in textbook sometimes awfully difficult.
  • It includes paper tools (fill-in tables) that can be copied an used "as-is" to plan teaching.
  • It is more practical than Morsund. I'd call it a "cookbook" (although it does require a lot of teacher engagement and intellectual work to get some cooking done).

Examples of manuals that can be used as textbooks

Of these, I got several. E.g. I consider that most O'Reilly computer books fall into this category.

Flash CS3 - The Missing Manual

Frontcover of Veer et al.
  • Veer, E.A. Vander and Chris Grover (2007). Flash CS3: The Missing Manual. ISBN 0596510446

There is dedicated page at O'Reilly. The example files can be found on the Missing CD-ROM page.

  • In this wiki see Flash (if you are interested in the topic)

This is not a textbook, I'd call it an instructional manual. It's organized by topic (not projects) so as a teacher one may have to assign readings not chapter by chapter, but rather a good part of a chapter together with some pages from other chapters. Also, it does not repeat the same concept several times

Organization of the book
  • Introduction. It contains
    • motivational elements (what can you do with Flash),
    • A short description of the Flash CS3 authoring environment,
    • Summaries of most important concepts (Anatomy of an Animation, Flash in a Nutshell, The Very Basics),
    • A short summary of parts
    • (Very shortly) typographic conventions.
  • The rest of the book is organized in five parts
    • These parts just group together chapters, there isn't any extra text.
  • There is a total of 14 chapters
  • 2 appendixes
  • Index
  • At t
Page layout
  • Running header left/right page: (unnumbered section title)
  • Running footer right page: chapter title
Chapter organization
  • Each chapter contains (unnumbered sections and subsections)
  • Typically a chapter starts with a short introduction that includes learning goals (formulated with sentences).
  • Then, there is an introduction to the first section (that an attentive reader can identify by looking on the running headers).

Pedagogical style is basically direct instruction.

  • Explanation of key concepts
  • Works-through examples with a lot of screen captures.

There are no review questions, nor assignments. The idea is probably that people who buy this book are mature enough to try it out either with some downloaded files or rather on their own examples (e.g. like did when I wrote some Flash tutorials you can find in this wiki. Btw. I used this book + the help built-in in CS3.

Typical functional elements with typographic rendering
  • Text (with a lot of bullets and lists)
  • Annotated Screen captures
  • Tips (specially marked short inserts)
  • Notes (specially marked short inserts)
  • Large inserts for various purposes using the same layout. They can labelled for example:
    • "Design Time". E.g. a full page on "tips from the trenches".
    • Workaround workshop
    • Frequently asked questions
    • Up to speed

Writing and Developing Your College Textbook

  • Lepionka, Mary Ellen (2003), Writing and Developing Your College Textbook, ISBN 0-9728164-0-2.

The author owns Atlantic Path Publishing on which you may find some extra information, i.e. a good list of links.

This is not a textbook, but a introduction and practical manual for "would-be" authors. It could be used as a textbook, since the text is pedagogically structured. Only missing typical elements are review questions and assignments. Also, it is concise, precise and understandable (not always the case with textbooks).

Book organization
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface (1 1/3 pages): Defines experience of the author and what a good textbook is
  • 14 chapters
  • Glossary
  • References
  • Index
Chapter organization
  • Chapters start with a show 1-paragraph introduction describing aim, motivation etc. of a chapter
  • Most chapter have an appendix that summarize key elements an author should take into account. This can be a "fill-in table", a list of definitions or references to standards,
  • Chapter contents are divided into unnumbered sections (topics) and sub-sections
Typical functional elements with typographic rendering
  • Lists in various forms (numbered, bulleted, indented definition lists)
  • Boxed lists
  • Fill-in tables (in particular at the end of each chapter)
  • Indented blocks like case studies or other examples


Common elements of textbooks and similar


  • Most often explain how the book is to be used
  • Are highly structured, but in US books, sections and subsections are not numbered. I find this very strange. Almost if textbook designers really don't want readers to jump back and forth in a text. Interestingly, the only Belgian example presented and which is a typical textbook does have numbers
  • Use a series of typographic "tricks" (but absolutely not the same) to mark special strands like case problems, examples, tips, to-do-lists, etc.
  • Chapters are structured in a similar way
  • Chapters (and sometimes section) explicitly define learning goals
  • Chapters (at the end usually) self-review questions, exercises and sometimes larger case problems

Textbook-like books (and that are being used as textbooks)

  • Most often explain how the book is to be used or at least presents shortly some use cases
  • Are also highly structured (but sometimes less consistently). This is probably due to the fact that chapters can have different purposes. US books reviewed don't number sections.
  • Usually include at least informal definition of chapter goals
  • Mostly do not include review questions
  • Mostly do not include exercises, instead they may have "cooking recipes", e.g. in the form of "fill-in tables" that can be used in a design.

A provisional taxonomy of textbooks and similar

Criteria for a taxonomy

I suggest (well after 10 minutes of looking at what I wrote) to distinguish three main axis:

1. Built-in pedagogy and navigation

This is also tied to the question whether one can find something in the book and navigate. The less it has pedagogy the better is navigation.

  1. little pedagogy
    • E.g. a typical manual where one can find things (can be used as reference)
    • E.g. an introductory text that summarizes mostly standard knowledge
  2. medium pedagogy
    • E.g. a typical guide book
    • E.g. a cook books that rather target professionals
  3. lots of pedagogy
    • e.g. a typical undergraduate US textbook whose chapters should be read in linear fashion.
2. Main built-in pedagogical strategy

See pedagogic strategy. This does not mean that corresponding teaching has to follow this. E.g. paradoxically, a constructivist teacher may prefer simple expository manuals.

  1. Learning I, i.e mainly expository
  2. Learning II, i.e. problem solving or procedure training, including a lot of hands-on activities
  3. Learning III, i.e. engaging students to apply things in real-life projects
3. Conceptuality

This may relate to a "dumbing down" factor

  1. little, i.e students are exposed to facts or engaged in skills learning without being exposed much principles
  2. medium, i.e. students are exposed to principles
  3. high, i.e. students are exposed to real research or really difficult engineering issues

Of course, there could be more variables, i.e. textbook research and textbook writing tutorial identify some, but useful typologies are difficult to make with too many variables (unless I could hire someone to code textbook structures and contents and the run a cluster analysis program ...)

A provisional taxonomy

If we reduce the pedagogy and conceptuality dimensions to two values (little/much), we get a cube with 12 types (I should draw this cube once I am convinced of this taxonomy ...). Some types are probably empty, i.e. the combination of expository text with lot's of pedagogy probably doesn't make much sense, since good pedagogy would include some problem solving activities. Well, to be discussed. I really wrote this piece in a few hours only...

  1. Expository texts with little pedagogy and little ambition
    • Badly made textbooks (e.g. simple lecture notes)
  2. Expository texts with little pedagogy and high ambition
    • Reviews of literature written by a good domain expert
  3. Problem solving or (complex) procedure training with little pedagogy and little ambition
    • Simple "dumbed down" manuals
  4. Problem solving or (complex) procedure training with lot's of pedagogy and little ambition
    • Introductory textbooks
  5. Problem solving or (complex) procedure training with little pedagogy and high ambition
    • Introductory manuals (e.g. in medicine or computer programming)
  6. Problem solving or (complex) procedure training with lot's of pedagogy and high ambition
    • Maybe some mathematics or history manuals
  7. Learning in action with little pedagogy and little ambition
    • Guidelines
  8. Learning in action with little of pedagogy and high ambition
    • Guidelines with well documented case studies and problem assignments
  9. Learning in action with lots of pedagogy and little ambition
    • Constructivist introductory textbooks
  10. Learning in action with lots of pedagogy and high ambition
    • Constructivist textbooks for advanced levels and professionals

This is a first attempt made by Daniel K. Schneider on 16:30, 10 August 2007 (MEST). I have to let it sit and go over it sometimes ...

A final note on pedagogy

The taxonomy presented above uses words like "little" or "badly made". Such qualifications don't have per se an implication on learning outcomes.

E.g. if I tell one of my students to read this article, read follow up links in textbook, textbook research and textbook writing tutorial and then require him to study either textbooks (using a a serious analysis instrument) or to study the use of textbooks (e.g. with interviews) he'd learn a lot more than by reading a well written textbook chapter about textbooks... What counts is the global pedagogical design and that must be adjusted to teaching goals.

An often heard statement (that probably is even backed up by serious research) is that "Bad texts can be very beneficial, since they require students to think..."

Finally, analysis of the target population and use cases may tell you that a lot of professionals work by a 20/80 % rule, i.e. they only want to learn 20% in order to get 80% done. I have the hypothesis that most teachers, for example, work that way. Therefore, writing simple "how-to" guides may be real option, if you aim at impact.



  • Haynes Anthony, Textbooks as Learning Resources, Eighth International Conference on Learning and Educational Media, PDF
  • Issitt, John (2005) Reflections on the study of textbooks, History Of Education, November, 2004, Vol. 33, No. 6, DOI
  • Johnsen, Egil Børre (2001), Textbooks in the Kaleidoscope, A Critical Survey of Literature and Research on Educational Texts, Translated by Linda Sivesind, Digital Edition Tønsberg: Vestfold College, 2001 HTML

Examples discussed

  • Alessi, Stephen. M. & Trollop, Stanley. R., (2001) Multimedia for Learning (3rd Edition), Pearson Allyn & Bacon, ISBN 0-205-27691-1.
  • Clark, Ruth Colvin and Richard E. Mayer (2003). E-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning, Pfeiffer, ISBN 0787960519
  • Carey, Patrick (2006) New Perspectives on XML, Second Edition, Comprehensive. ISBN 1418860646, 655 pages
  • Deitel, Harvey M., Paul J. Deitel, Andrew B. Goldberg, Internet & World Wide Web How to Program (3rd Edition). Prentice Hall; 3 edition, ISBN 0131450913
  • Dépelteau, François (2000), a démarche d'une recherche en sciences humaines, De Boeck ISBN-10 2804135268
  • Morsund, David (2002) Project-based learning: Using Information Technology, 2nd edition, ISTE. ISBN 1-56484-196-0
  • Reiser Robert A. and John V. Dempsey (eds). (2006). Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology, 2nd edition. Prentice Hall. ISBN 0131708058
  • Veer, E.A. Vander and Chris Grover (2007). Flash CS3: The Missing Manual. ISBN 0596510446