Saturday, January 14, 2017

All books that don't meet the learning criteria must be taken off

Textbook must cover six fundamental instructional strategies, defined by rigorous research.

1) Pairing graphics with words
2) Linking abstract concepts with concrete representations

Why we face difficulty to remember abstract concepts?

"What Makes a Great Question?" rubric
Why, how, what if, how do you know

What if and why not
helps you to find alternatives to a solution

4) Repeatedly alternating problems with their solutions provided and problems that students must solve.
5) Distributing practice
6) Assessing to boost retention

Detailed explanation of the strategies is given here, NCTQ learning about learning

The problem with our education system:
Most (99%) books referred by our teachers (whether its schools or higher education), not even meet a single criterion, most importantly posing probing questions and linking abstract concepts with concrete representations, which are the foundation for learning and comprehension/understanding. 
The result is the student just try to score marks by repeating facts without being critical about it.
The bad books are the main reason why we have bad teachers and bad students. It's not that teacher doesn't work hard, they just don't teach which meet the criteria, so that learning happens.
It's not even fault of the administration, they put the books in the library what teacher recommend to them, and also naive students prefer books recommended by teachers.

Some of the books that previously recommended that meets all the criteria are:

Conceptual Physics, by Paul G. Hewitt
The book is very well written, the book almost unraveling everything in physics with real world examples. You will understand physics with concrete examples rather than just with abstract formulas and equations. Also, it has a practice book equally important. This book is right for understanding physics at the undergraduate and high school level.

Chemistry a Molecular Approach,  Nivaldo J Tro
Books with lots of diagrams, probing questions, all abstract concepts are represented with concrete examples and analogy, repeatedly alternating problems with their solutions provided and problems that students must solve, regular assessments with right questions.

Organic Chemistry as a Second Language, David Klein (First and Second Semester)
Author has terrifically written the book on organic chemistry. You will understand organic chemistry like never before, and no need to memorize just the equations and reactions day and night which are just a junk for students.

Campbell Biology, Reece, Urry, Cain et. al.
In India, biology is taught in most horrible manner. Biology means how much memory you have, how much memorization you can do, not how much you understand the subject.
This book addresses the problem. You will understand biology and connect it to the real world. The diagrams in it are also wonderful. The questions in it promote inquiry and critical thinking.

Genetics A Conceptual Approach, Benjamin Pierce
Even though it's not for high school students, but a must for undergraduate teachers. Teachers should follow the book and come for an inquiry-based lecture.

Molecular Biology of the Cell, Alberts
A must for undergraduate and high school teachers. It has also got a problems book which contains gem like questions, which needs to be discussed among the students at the undergraduate and higher secondary level.

Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry
It's another book, which lazy teachers are scared of. But without making an effort to understand biology, how will a teacher promote understanding among students?

Fundamentals of Anatomy and Physiology, Martinin, Nath
Meticulously well-written book of anatomy and physiology, which an undergraduate teacher must follow.

Here are some of the more features that a book should contain:
1)After the text has explained a concept, it must give few questions on the particular concept in the same place. The questions should be prepared in a manner that, it checks the understanding of the concept, not recall of the concept.
2) Questions should be probing, also many questions should be graphics/diagrams with texts. Most books that are recommended usually don't contain visual questions. For example, if you look our books of biology, very less visual, and almost no probing questions are present, do compare with questions of Campbell Biology, Molecular Biology of the Cell, how they bring probing questions with visuals in them.

Question from Campbell Biology

3)Books should be written that respect the time of students based upon their course time.
4) Books should be written in a manner that they talk with the students, not throwing information like short notes.
5)Questions should have relevance to real problems, concrete situations, application based, not all hypothetical questions detached from reality.

6) Questions and distractor in the case of MQCs should be very clear, that checks the comprehension, without creating confusion. Many times questions are written in a way that is just difficult to understand, you can't even know what the question is actually asking, so how can you even try the question even if you understood the concepts.
7) Each question in the textbook should have its purpose, problems shouldn't be designed just for the sake of doing it, it should improve the understanding of the concept at a deeper level, eliminate misconceptions and fix concept into memory.

8) Real photograph and funny cartoons in explanations and questions (e.g. in case of representing resistance as zigzag wire, it can be represented as bulbs)
9) Scientists interview or how they discovered a particular phenomenon along with their real photographs
Venkatraman Ramakrishnan interview: Nobel prize for chemistry for work on ribosome structure
"I remember reading a Scientific American article about the use of new physical techniques – including neutron scattering – as a method for unraveling the structure of the ribosome. I was fascinated. I knew ribosomes were a big fundamental problem in science and this was a method for chipping away at it."
Proteins carry oxygen in our blood, form antibodies that fight microbes, and even sense light inside our eyes – and each protein that makes up a human is manufactured in a ribosome inside our cells. Each of our genes codes for a particular protein and the ribosome takes that piece of DNA code and uses it to assemble chains of amino acids until a protein is formed. "That is the central dogma which explains how information stored in our DNA is transformed into the proteins that make up a living being," says Venki.
10) Posing a probing question before explaining the topic.

11) Books should include questions that address life skills like collaboration, and 21st-century skills like the ability to analyze and interpret data. It must have questions with section for data interpretation and analysis and questions for group work along with conceptual, mathematical and review questions. 

12) The author should have the liberty to include new relevant chapters, innovate in their subjects and shouldn't be hitched by the syllabus of the board. Students learning according to recent technology is most important. The author should only take that into consideration, not preparing them for syllabus or entrance. 

e.g. Writing mathematics book linking with programming.

Students should be taught according to the availability of quality material not according to the syllabus. A syllabus without quality material is meaningless.

13) And last, books should have least mistakes, in texts as well as questions.

Lecture of the teacher reflects the book they follow. So it's most important they know which criteria a book should meet, and how learning happens.
Students should also be made aware of it, how learning happens.

Books that don't meet the criteria can be known with 10-15 mins of reading and turning pages.
The best, urgent and top most thing our education ministry can do is take way and stop referring all the books and resources that don't meet these criteria.

What are the innovative books that every teacher/student must read in order to become an efficient teacher/student?

Why ncert and other state board books are just toxic junk for our students?

International books are expensive, what the solution?
The solution is to ask the author for low price edition book. A low priced international edition book in India usually costs around Rs 500. For two years one has to spend about Rs 400 for 4 books of NCERT. But single Rs 500 will do, as the international books are written for two years.

Why rewriting ncert science books is not the solution?
To produce such science books it requires rigorous research for many years. Indian authors alone can't reproduce such books in such a short period of time. It also requires collaboration with other researchers throughout the world to write such kind of books.

Syllabus are different that of books, what to do?
Science is same everywhere. Even if you travel any part of the universe, science will remain same. You can still feel newton forces in any part of the universe. If we want international standards, why can't our syllabus match with international standards? If we want to show some scientific data related to the Indian context, that can be provided by supplementary books. Also, books are not the solution for everything. We have to shift to project-based learning, where students can fetch required data of interest from the internet.
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