Students wonder if textbooks are just heavy paperweights

Kiera Manion-Fischer

When Nicole Prorock, junior molecular biology major, sits down to study for a test, it’s usually the first time she opens her textbooks.

“Basically, I only use them to study off of,” she said. “If we’re not going to have a test, I don’t just read chapters in my book.”

According to a recent study, students are more likely to read textbooks if they have good visuals and if lectures and class work relate to the books. The study was presented by Regan A. R. Gurung and Ryan C. Martin at the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting.

Marti Hake, sophomore food and nutrition major, said she doesn’t always read her textbooks. She said the words sometimes don’t make sense and one thing that might make textbooks better is pictures that explain the text.

Hake said she took general psychology with professor Benjamin Newberry. She said the tests were based on the lectures as well as the book.

Newberry said he tries to give his students tips on how to study with the textbook.

“I tell them ‘use the chapter summaries as a guide to go back to what to look at in the chapter,'” he said.

Hake said she’ll sometimes only read the vocabulary and the summaries at the back of each chapter.

On the other hand, freshman exploratory major Tashea Anderson said she started reading her textbooks before she came to class.

“I know this isn’t high school,” Anderson said. “They’re not going to tell you to read. You’ve got to read on your own.”

She said she wants to know in advance what her professors are talking about.

“A lot of this is new,” Anderson said. “I really don’t want to be lost. I want to have some type of insight into what the teacher is talking about.”

Robert Morton, sophomore music education major, said he doesn’t read his textbooks unless he has to, but is starting to change his ways. He said there were questions on his exams that could only be answered by reading the textbooks.

“You should have read the book to get a better understanding of what was going on in the course and everything,” Morton said.

Amber Chenoweth, graduate instructor of psychology, said professors have freedom in choosing their class’s textbooks. She said she’s using a textbook cowritten by President Lester Lefton.

“Most general psych textbooks are fairly similar,” she said. “I kind of like how it’s laid out.”

Chenoweth said one thing that might make students more likely to read textbooks is if key terms are defined in the margins. Good visuals help too, she said.

Chenoweth teaches the honors section of general psychology this semester. She said half her questions come from her lectures and half come from the book.

“Being an honors course, it’s pretty much assumed they’re keeping up with the reading,” she said.

Chenoweth said her students need to at least be familiar with the definitions and chapter summaries.

Freshman education major William VanDyke said he just spent $400 on his textbooks – but his professors haven’t assigned any reading.

“I’m pretty much writing everything down that’s coming out of the professor’s mouth,” he said. “A notebook is a lot cheaper than a textbook.”

Contact academics reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at [email protected].