Class-Testing Your Textbook: Forging a Path for Long-Term Success
Because your textbook is intended to help students achieve their academic goals, class testing your book is an excellent way to support its long-term success. Asking students for feedback at the end of an academic term can help you better understand if your book’s content, pedagogical features, and approach resonate with students and enrich their learning experiences. These insights can help you plan for future revisions or editions of the text. Strategic updates help to ensure your content is accurate and relevant, which in turn, renders your book more competitive within the academic market.
So, how do you go about class testing your book? Here are some tips to guide you through the process.
Encourage the Use of Your Book
To receive quality, actionable feedback, you must first ensure your students engage with your text in a meaningful way. Make sure your students understand that your textbook is a vital learning tool and their success in your course depends upon them reading and interacting with it. If students don’t fully engage with your text, any feedback you request from them could be lacking or incomplete.
On the first day of class, tell your students you will solicit their feedback on the textbook. For some students, this provides them with an additional incentive to read the book and participate in class. Encourage them to take notes throughout the term about which aspects or features of the textbook helped them—and which could be improved. You could even include a statement about soliciting student feedback and your commitment to continuous improvement in your syllabus. By letting your students know that you care about their learning experience and their unique insights, you’re more likely to receive valuable and actionable feedback.
Choose Your Feedback Foci
Choose the key areas of the textbook for which you want to gather student insights. For example, you could ask students to evaluate the effectiveness of:
- The presentation, topic coverage, and/or the sequence of topics
- The correlation of the book to class content
- The accessibility/style of the writing
- The pedagogical features in the text such as key terms, learning objectives, pre- or post-reading questions, etc.
- The connection between content presentation and their retention of the information
- Any unique features/perspectives within the textbook
Here are a few sample questions that could be used to gain student feedback:
- Did the chapters in the book seem relevant to the topics and discussions held in class?
- Were the writing and features consistent between chapters?
- Were there any topics that you felt were discussed in class or that you were tested on that were not covered at all or not covered well in the book?
- Please comment on the end-of-chapter questions. Based on the information provided in the readings, were you able to answer them successfully?
Decide How to Collect Feedback
You can employ a variety of techniques to encourage student to provide feedback on your text, including: creating and sharing a survey at the end of the term; adding questions about the textbook within course/instructors evaluations; offering extra credit for student feedback; or simply asking what features in the book or general learning tools students find most useful.
Evaluate Student Feedback
Your approach to student feedback should be similar to that of peer review comments, with the caveat that you’re absorbing feedback from a different audience. Read our article, What Should I Do With This? Incorporating Peer Review Feedback in Your Manuscript, for helpful advice on approaching and implementing constructive criticism of your work.
As you collect feedback, keep a running document to track the comments that resonate with you and your long-term goals for your textbook. We don’t recommend updating a textbook every academic term (most publishers have recommended timeframes for new and revised editions), so your document will likely grow and evolve over time. If you’re working with a publisher, share the feedback with your project editor and ask for their expertise and partnership, so you can plan together.
Commit to the Long Game
As an academic author, you’ll quickly discover that textbooks are living documents that can, and should, evolve to continually meet the needs of your students and the academic market. Class testing can help you continually improve your textbook and encourage long-term adoptions.