Textbooks should not drive instruction

According to Richard W. Paul and Linda Elder, in An Overview of How to Design Instruction Using Critical Thinking Concepts,

Studies have indicated that, on average, 90% of the decisions made about instruction are a result of the textbook chosen. But textbooks should not drive instruction, since most textbooks are not structured to enhance critical thinking in the subject. Our decisions made about the structure and tactics of our courses should be a result of our concept of the course, of our most fundamental objectives in teaching the course.

Paul and Elder suggest there are five structures to a course that you need to think deeply about, and define, to set the stage for your entire course. Also each structure has the tactical elements of how and what you will cover in the course. The structures are:

  1. your concept of the course,
  2. the general plan for implementing that concept,
  3. the requirements the students must meet,
  4. the grading policies in the course (when applicable), and
  5. performance profiles (that correlate with the grade levels).

You set the stage at the beginning of the course by informing learners what they will be doing the course (this should not be passive listening or reading), what exactly is expected of them in their doing, and how they will be assessed.


We can begin to create natural critical learning environment in our online courses by first thinking about the structure of the course and the tactics we will use. When you design your instruction structurally and tactically you will discover practical ways to create a critical learning environment You will not be able to create a climate of critical thinking simply because you choose a textbook and value critical thinking. 


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