Students discuss teacher-written course materials

Ambar Ancira

Students can gain a professional’s perspective when professors use their own published work as teaching tools in the classroom. Some students, however, wonder if their professors’ voice dominating a course through text and lecture might prove  detrimental to receiving a well-rounded education.

Professors commonly provide their own publications as part of the class in effort to enhance the material being taught. Although it can sound like a beneficial idea, it is up to the students to decide whether it was helpful or harmful.

Anthropology freshman Adrienne Brown said she has had classes where professor-written work enhanced the material and another where it fell short. In her biology class, the professor’s book and his lectures contained identical information.

“There’s not really a whole lot more depth that’s in the textbook than there is in the class,” Brown said.

The biology class is designed for liberal arts majors, so it focuses on the critical, thinking side of biology, which leaves room for different perspectives. Brown said her main concern was that there is not a broad range of viewpoints, which limits the class.

“There are zero conflicting opinions,” Brown said.“I don’t feel like we’re getting a whole lot out of the class.”

Radio-television-film freshman Alexa Jones is in an art and entertainment technology class where her professor requires all students to buy his textbook for the course. While Jones said students in her class have mixed thoughts about having to purchase a $65 textbook for the class, she respects her professor’s passion for the material.

“He wasn’t really making any serious bank with this textbook as much as he was just trying to pay for the textbook to exist,” Jones said. “I respect him for that. He wants to educate people without constraint.”

Psychology freshman Briana Long is in the same art and entertainment technology course and said the professor’s textbook gives good examples, but said they are from his same viewpoint.

“His point of view is very alternative,” Long said. “He’s very old-school.”

Long said the class has showed her how technology and art come together but that the class should have outside examples so the material would be easier to understand.

For Brown, her anthropology professor was able to balance the course with three textbooks — one written by her, and two written by two others. Brown said it was helpful to read her professor’s textbook because it applied what they were learning in a detailed case study.

“It’s really fascinating especially because we can read the practical application of her research and then read about different people’s perspectives on that type of work,” Brown said. “And get more detail, get a different, outside look.”

Brown said this setup helped them get the most out of the class by offering multiple viewpoints to learn from, whereas having only the professor’s work would have limited the learning material.

“I feel like when a teacher uses their own textbook, and just their own textbook, then you lose all of that,” Brown said.

As a liberal arts student, Brown said she finds it especially important to have multiple points of view in the classroom.

“It sort of goes counter to the entire idea of the institution,” Brown said, “To just have one stream of consciousness.”