Planning and Development of a Textbook

Planning and development of a textbook is not an easy task; Image source: Pixbay
Planning and development of a textbook is not an easy task; Image source: Pixbay
Tamanna Kalim
Written by Tamanna Kalim

Textbook is a widely used teaching tool (material) which presents the subject matter defined by the curriculum. A university textbook is required to contain the complete overview of the subject, including the theories, as well as to be of a more permanent character and therefore planning for a textbook is very important.

According to Wikipedia, retrieved 19:57, 8 August 2007 (MEST),

A textbook is a manual of instruction or a standard book in any branch of study. They are produced according to the demand of the educational institutions. Textbooks are usually published by one of the four major publishing companies. Although most textbooks are only published in printed format, some can now be viewed online.

Philosophical definition of textbook is “Textbook is nothing but a vehicle of curriculum transport.”

According to the Dictionary of Education, we can define textbook as:

A textbook is: A book deals with a definite subject of study, systematically arranged, intended for use at specified level of instruction and use as a principle source material of study for given course.

Planning stage

There are four major stages in textbook planning. They are:

1)    Considering pre-disposing factors
2)    Structure of textbook
3)    Structure of content area
4)    Organization of content

1) Considering pre-disposing factors

Textbook genre should be adapted to clearly identified set of objectives. These should include an analysis of learning objectives and pedagogical function of the book within potential learning situations/environments. So the pre-disposing factors are the followings:

1.    Aims and objectives of education
2.    Level of education
3.    Physical and psychological characteristics of the target group
4.    Nature of curriculum
5.    Number and characteristics of Ethnic community.

2) Structure of a Textbook

Textbooks are divided into a structure like this:

•    Parts – Parts represent either different major topics (e.g. conceptual vs. technical) or levels.
•    Chapters – Chapters contain a clearly identifiable major topic. In the US teaching university system, a textbook corresponds to a week’s work, e.g. two classes and a homework assignment. This may be the reason why most textbooks are divided into 8-12 chapters.
•    Sections – Sections contain major subtopics, i.e. a independent unit of instruction. Sub-sections usually cover a concept or procedure to be learnt.
•    Sub-sections – Each heading that has subheadings must have at least to of its kind. E.g. a chapter should not have just a single section, but at least 2. In most textbooks, everything is usually divided by three or four chapters with openers and closers.

Again, size, cover page, paper, get-up etc are also considered as the structure of a textbook. Therefore, structuring is not only a pedagogical issue and one may have to give up pedagogical beliefs to comply with external constraints.

3) Structure of Content Areas

Usually Textbooks are divided into the following parts:

•    Textbook naming: Name of the textbook according to the subject matter.
•    Foreword: Generally, writer, publisher or chairman writes forward about the special characteristics of the book and gives thank to related people..
•    Index: Table of contents of the textbook.
•    Summary: The summary has a similar function as the chapter preview. It may be part of the conclusion or be labeled as a separate section or sub-section. It may for instance summarize essential points for each section. “A summary should be a content review, not a catalogue of what has been covered”. (Lepionka 2003:141)
•    General concept about the textbook.
•    Subchapter: Different chapters of the textbook.
•    Illustration: Attractive pictures and illustration related to the content.
•    Example: Interesting quotations and examples related to the content.
•    Short note: Word meaning, definition etc after the chapter.
•    Exercise: Reflective questions and assessments for evaluate the learning outcomes according to the bloom’s taxonomy.
•    Table: Table and graphs if necessary for the content.

4) Organization of content

•    Psychological approach: For preprimary and primary level textbooks are written in a psychological approach, such as: the contents are organized from easy to hard, from known to unknown, from concrete to abstract etc.
•    Logical approach: Logical approaches are mainly used in secondary level textbooks. In this approach, contents are written according to time, event, invention etc. as for example: in history book the language movement of 1952 will place before the independent war of 1971 of Bangladesh.
•    Vertical: Vertical arrangement of content refers to the sequencing of materials in time. It allows the students to concentrate on a particular subject. In other sense it is a kind of cyclical approach, which that the same subjects are repeatedly taught in cycles of 3-5 years, each time in greater depth and scope.  As for example: from grade 3 social science book, one student will know about the basic concept of environment.  The same student will know about the elements of environment and their uses in details, in social science of grade 4.
•    Horizontal: Horizontal arrangement refers to the co-ordination of the learning materials of various contents for the same level of students. There are different subjects in a class. Each and every subject is inter-related with other subject. By horizontal articulation a student may able to discover the relation between various subjects. As for example: students can know about the bad effects of air pollution in science and the awareness and prevention of air pollution in social science at the same level.
•    Spiral: Spiral approach is an approach where certain basic concepts, ideas or topics are repeatedly introduced into the curriculum without a systematic repetition of the entire filed. Suppose learners will gain knowledge about “energy”. Thus the will acquire wider knowledge about energy (concept and use of energy, different types of energy, transmission of energy etc) in each new level.

Development stage

The following five stages are considered as the development stage of a textbook:

1.    writing a text material
2.    development of illustration
3.    vetting of textbook
4.    revision and editing
5.    printing

In case of writing text materials the heading structure should have a function as conceptual organizers. The structure “Reflects the amount of information you are providing, the amount of differentiation you are making within and between topics, and each topic’s relative importance in you scheme of things” (Lepionka: 106). Lepionka (2003:108) outlines a few characteristics of good topical structure that we reproduce here with different wording:

(1) Each major section (chapter, section and sub-section) should include a thesis statement, either typographically marked or in the introductory paragraph. At the chapter level, there may be an introductory section to which this applies.
(2) Ideas or points are grouped into meaningful chunks of information
(3) There should be a balance of topical development and include a reasonable amount of information. E.g. for smaller concept (a sub-section level) between 1/2 and 1 1/2 pages (figures not included).
(4) Topics (sections, subsections, etc.) should lead to each other. In other words, a textbook should not be written like an Encyclopedia.
(5) These transitions should be clear, i.e. made explicit for the novices that the readers are.
(6) Each main concept should be supported, e.g. by data or examples
(7) Each topic should only be treated once and one should avoid forward pointers.

Therefore, the following principles are treated as the major principles of textbook writing:

•    Textbook must fulfill all the conditions or requirements of the concerned curriculum.
•    It should provide all the facilities required to achieve aims and objectives set in the curriculum.
•    Text materials should be simple and precise.
•    Have to provide necessary and relevant example and illustration.
•    Content should be well articulated.
•    Illustration will be as far as possible visible.
•    Textbook should address individual difference as far as possible.
•    Content must be valid.
•    Content or textbook should satisfy the psychological needs of the beneficiary.

When the content is ready different types of illustrations and pictures are added according to content. Most of the times writers select the pictures and illustrations and it is done by artist or institution.

Then experts check the language, spelling, sentence, structure etc of the textbook. They can change any sentence or word which is not applicable for the students of that stage. This part is called the vetting of textbook.

Finally the editor edits the content if necessary and justifies that whether the shape, size, cover page etc are perfect for the certain level. Then the editor sends textbook in any recognize press for print.

Textbook is a widely used teaching tool (material) which presents the subject matter defined by the curriculum. A university textbook is required to contain the complete overview of the subject, including the theories, as well as to be of a more permanent character.

About the author

Tamanna Kalim

Tamanna Kalim

Tamanna Kalim is working in the developmental sector (Health and Education) for over 10 years in different multicultural settings, possess post-graduation both in Public Health (MPH) and Education (MEd). Her current position is Clinical Administrator in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

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