Can I help you in any way? Learning objectives
“Hello, thank you for visiting. Can I help you in any way?” If you’ve browsed our TAA website, you’ve likely seen those words in the chat box that appears on the screen. We’re often asked by visitors if we’re “real” (as opposed to an automated bot). Then those who realize that we are, and that we are there to help, ask questions that you may have as well.
In this series of “Can I help you in any way?” posts, we’ll highlight some of the questions people have asked through the TAA Live Chat feature of our site and the responses we have for those questions.
In this post, we’re focused on a question about the importance of learning objectives when writing a textbook.
Recently a publisher representative contacted TAA through the live chat with the following question, “I’m trying to explain the importance of learning objectives to an author. What resources can you point me to?”
In response to this inquiry, I provided several resource links from our blog archives. Specifically:
- Pedagogy of the book and chapter questions
- How to successfully incorporate text, pictures and audio into your learning materials
- Pedagogy of book and chapter organization
I further offered that “From my experience, the learning objectives help anchor the writing process and maintain a check system during the editing process when things get too long – those items that don’t meet the objectives become easy to cut.”
In this situation, the question was rooted in a desire to convince “a legacy author to add them in a third edition” which, justifiably, is a harder sell when the book has already proven success without the incorporation of learning objectives in earlier editions.
This was further complicated by a niche subject area that lacked consistency in how the courses using the book are taught. “The author argues that every school, every department will define student learning objectives somewhat differently. He expects almost all teachers will skip the textbook learning objectives entirely. He thinks of it as just busy work for no well-documented pedagogical purpose.”
The publisher did note that the book contained “a summary, list of further resources (e.g., TED talks), and a checklist” at the end of the chapters and that an instructor’s manual exists, and they were “hoping to simply add the LOs from that into the text itself, but it’s a hard sell.”
Considering my experience as an instructor and the arguments of both the author and the publisher, I offered that “I agree that even with texts that have established objectives, as an instructor, I often create my own and am selecting textbooks that best align with those objectives for my course.”
That said, I see value in the inclusion of learning objectives in the text itself, and shared these two reasons as final arguments for inclusion: “1) it helps the instructor make an adoption decision by being able to align the book with their course objectives and 2) it helps the student see the alignment when they question why they had to buy the book.”
What do you think? In your role as an author, instructor, student, or some combination of the above, are learning objectives in textbooks beneficial? Comment below.