This will not be a popular post. Students have many complaints about textbooks: They cost too much. Professors don’t use them in class. They go to new editions too often. Etc. Etc.
And while all these are true, textbooks are not just there so that authors and publishers can make money. If used correctly, textbooks can help insure that learning takes place for most students.
“But my instructor puts everything I need to know on PowerPoint,” I can hear students exclaiming. “I don’t need the textbook.”
Yes, you do. You should still be reading your text assignments before class. Here’s why:
- By reading your chapters before the lecture, you have laid a foundation for the lecture. This means that learning and remembering have a better chance of happening.
- You get a sense of what areas are going to be more challenging for you, so you know what part of the lecture you should focus on or what questions to ask in advance.
There are various methods for effective reading that are taught in study skills courses, such as:
All reading systems require you to be an active reader, to interact with the text instead of letting the words wash over you. (That’s when you finish a chapter but have no idea what it’s about. It happens to all of us!) You can highlight important ideas. You can underline. Other experts recommend that you actually take notes instead, because simple marking can become too automatic.
But however you choose to use your textbooks, make sure you USE them. At the end of the semester, if a textbook is too marked and written in to be sold back, it’s a good sign that learning has taken place!