Professor-penned textbooks met with mixed opinions from students

Before each semester, professors at Central Michigan University build a curriculum and assign textbooks to supplement lecture material. Many decide to utilize their own writing, penning their own textbooks for various assigned coursework.

Along with other benefits, the option allows instructors to design classes around textbooks they are intimately familiar with. Mathematics professor Sidney Graham praised the advantages of using his self-written course pack for his MTH 332: Introduction to Mathematical Proof course.

Generally speaking, Graham said lower level sections are assigned textbooks by a committee selection. For 200 level courses and up, professors are given the freedom to choose their own textbook.

Graham said he had been teaching classes for several years and began to notice he was using the textbook less and less each year, as he found the practice problems insufficient. He began to incorporate his own ideas into the class and eventually decided to write a course pack that would be more in line with his own approach.

”You have your own vision of what the course should be,” Graham said. “I was able to write the course so that each section breaks up nicely alongside the textbook.”

Lansing senior Tyler Wippel, a student of Graham’s, found this to be beneficial for his competency in the course. He said since it was designed to run parallel to the progression of the class, what he was learning could be applied directly to problems in the textbook.

”It was a good book because it introduced the concepts before the math jargon like in a lot of textbooks,” Wippel said. “Often they start with a lot of symbols and concepts that you don’t understand until later, but this was the opposite.”

Graham also uses a paperbound version to minimize the cost for his students. He said this served a dual purpose, as it allowed him to easily make revisions each semester.

Although the strategy works for Graham, such synergy between reading material and class instruction isn’t always the case.

Fowlerville senior Amanda Phillips has had experiences in the past with poorly-written textbook assignments.

“The textbook was poorly written and not relevant to the course,” Phillips said. “The book was very biased, and I do not believe it followed along with the course – often it would have nothing to do with what we were talking about in class.”

While professors do not profit off of royalties incurred from the sales of their textbook at CMU, classroom utilization adds to their notoriety as an author.

”Overall, its their research, so it should be beneficial as long as they consider the cost and weigh their interest versus the students’ interest,” Wippel said.

Phillips shared a similar sentiment of the professors’ responsibility to their students.

”If the course is going to be strictly off the book and the material is covered then its fine,” Phillips said. “Otherwise I believe its just a way to say that many people are buying their book when otherwise their book wouldn’t sell many copies.”

One Comment

  1. Yeah…nothing better than the professor who claims that they are an accomplished author, comparing themselves with some of the biggest literary geniuses who didn’t get the luxury of forcing people to buy their work.

    And with those same profs….don’t disagree with their theories or interpret them different…you know…thinking…or you’re going to get the hammer.

    If you’re going to force people to buy your book to get the numbers then let the students pick their grade so they get something out of it while you make a run out of getting paid for future speaking engagements

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