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Textbooks as scholarship and agents of change

Virtually all faculty in academia, regardless of discipline and institution, are aware of the ongoing debate concerning “what counts” when considering criteria for raises, tenure, and promotion. In more than a few cases, the debate centers on whether textbooks are “real scholarship.” Alred and Thelen, in their 1993 paper outlined some of the common anti-text arguments. In our article in Kinesiology Review (Corbin, Yu, & Gill, 2022), we discuss textbooks as scholarship and address some of the anti-textbook arguments. In addition, we argue that textbooks are agents of change that have influenced both disciplinary and professional studies in academia.

Textbooks as Scholarship

The Anti-text Arguments. The most common anti-text comments as identified by Alred and Thelen (1993) and, as presented in our paper, include: “mass market commodities fall outside a scholar’s proper work, texts merely expand on the body of knowledge rather than contributing through research, text authoring takes time away from ‘real scholarship,’ texts are a commercial venture rather than scholarship for which authors are commercially rewarded, and texts are not truly peer reviewed.” (Corbin, Yu, & Gill, 2022, p. 265). Space does not allow elaboration here, but in our paper, we offer arguments to dispel each of these anti-text comments.

The Scholarship of Integration. In defense of textbooks as scholarship we cite Boyer’s (1990) scholarship of integration. Boyer (1990) indicates that those engaged in discovery ask, “What is to be known, what is yet to be found?” (p. 19). Those engaged in integration ask, “What do the findings mean?” (p. 19). In our paper we elaborate on Boyer’s theme that integration (including textbook writing) “is serious, disciplined work that seeks to interpret, draw together, and bring new insight to bear on original research.” (Boyer, 1989, p. 18).

Citations. Since the turn of the century, publication statistics have been increasingly used in judging the currency of publications.  While it was not the primary purpose of our paper, we felt that citations of kinesiology textbooks worthy of comment. Using the Google Scholar tool, we identified textbook citations from sub-disciplinary and professional areas within kinesiology. The data confirms that textbooks are often cited and are frequently used in subsequent scholarship. Leading textbooks in the eight identified areas of study are widely cited with citations ranging from 1,205 to 9,691. The average citation number for the eight books totaled 37,522 (mean 4690).

Textbooks as Agents of Change

At the turn of the 20th century, physical education became an area of professional study in colleges of the U.S. and a subject of study in K-12 education. The sports oriented “new” American physical education replaced the European programs that featured structured calisthenics and gymnastics. Professional leaders formed American Academy of Physical Education, an honorary society, and highly visible fellows of the AAPE authored most of the textbooks of early 1900s. These texts provided the content and resources for the emerging profession. The 1930 to 1950s saw the development in new programs in related areas such as intramurals, adapted physical education, health and safety education, recreation, and dance all within physical education programs. As with the earlier era, AAPE fellows with high visibility in the professions author texts that helped implement these new programs as the landscape changed.

The scientific (Sputnik) and social (civil rights, women’s rights, student rights) movements brought more change from the 1960s through the 1980s. The science movement fostered the development of disciplinary study to complement the professional programs that dominated the first half of the 20th century. Kinesiology became the name of the discipline (e.g., exercise physiology, sport psychology, biomechanics, motor learning and control) that provided the scientific base for the expanded professions (e.g., physical education, physical therapy, health education, sport management).  Textbook authors, often AAPE fellows, again served as agents of change as they provided content and resources for disciplinary studies.  This was especially important since those trained prior to this time had little disciplinary background. The social movements led to more opportunities and expanded enrollments in addition to paving the way for “service courses” in fitness and wellness. The student movement resulted in relaxed requirements and offered students more options in course selection.  Again, textbooks played a big role in providing content and resources.

Over the next few decades, the discipline of kinesiology and its related professions, matured as evidenced by its recognition by the National Research Council. Textbooks continued to provide content and resources for furthering the field, but there was a noticeable decline in the number of textbooks published in the 20 years after the turn of the 21st century. Still, textbook authors enjoyed wide visibility in the field. Over a 100-year period, there was considerable change in the field of kinesiology and textbooks were dominant as agents of change.

The Importance of Textbooks

When selecting a title for our article we chose “The Importance of Textbooks in Kinesiology” because we wanted to make it clear that textbooks are important for many reasons. Texts are a form of scholarship (scholarship of integration) with demonstrated value over time. Because they have contributed as agents of change by providing content and resources for ever changing programs, it can be argued that they contribute to the scholarship of application and teaching as well.

In the summary section of our paper, we suggest “…that textbooks are worthy of consideration as legitimate forms of scholarship (the scholarship of integration). In addition, they provide visibility and real-world impact for the field of kinesiology. Over time, textbooks, and associated ancillary materials, have made it possible for faculty in institutions of higher learning to adapt and move the field forward.” (Corbin, Yu, & Gill, 2022, p. 267). Just as textbooks have been influential as agents of change within kinesiology, we suggest that they have had similar impact in other areas of study. Textbooks count!


Alred, G.J., & Thelen, E.A. (1993). Are textbooks contributions to scholarship? College
Composition and Communication, 44(4), 466–477.

Boyer, E.L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Carnegie
Foundation for the Advancement of Education.

Corbin, C. B., You, H., & Gill, D. L. (2022). The Importance of Textbooks in Kinesiology.
Kinesiology Review, 11(3), 261-269.

Dr. Charles B. “Chuck” Corbin is Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University. He has published more than 200 journal articles and has authored (or co-authored) more than 100 books including Fitness for Life (7th ed.), McGuffey and Texty Awards; Fitness for Life: Middle School (2nd ed.) Texty Award; Fitness for Life: Elementary School, Texty Award; and Concepts of Fitness and Wellness (13th ed.), McGuffey Award (TAA). Chuck is internationally recognized as an expert in physical activity, health/ wellness promotion, and youth physical fitness. He has presented at meetings in more than 40 states and 15 countries. He is a past president of the National Academy of Kinesiology and the first chair of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition Science Board.  Among his many awards are the Society of Health and Physical Educators Hall of Fame, the Hetherington Award, the highest honor of the National Academy of Kinesiology, and the President’s Council Lifetime Achievement Award.