We have received inspection copies of three different textbooks for (the first year of) the new A-level Business course. It’s been interesting comparing them side-by-side, and there was no immediate front-runner. I think, though, that we’re close to making a decision. Well, actually, I’m close to reaching a decision. I’m interested in seeing what the others in the department think when we all get a chance to discuss it next Wednesday at our department planning day, and what teachers from other schools think too.
For me, the ideal textbook for the new course should have:
- clarity of explanation, particularly for the new theoretical concepts that are being introduced in the course. This is particularly important for our pupils with specific learning difficulties, who find it hard to identify the key information in our current textbook: the explanations are good but long, and they find it hard to sift concepts from illustrative example.
- suitable language. I spend the first month of each academic year banning the word “you” (in the context of “if you cut prices, revenue may increase if you have elastic demand”): it immediately moves speech and work from an academic register into colloquial explanation (more about academic register here: lots of thought-provoking ideas for building literacy).
- activities that reflect the assessment models used in the course. While I have no intention of encouraging teaching to the test, at the same time I’d like pupils to see topics covered in a range of different styles of questions. This is particularly important for the new linear course, where any topic could be assessed in any way. It’s also a better way of assessing understanding – not just about regurgitating a learned answer but having the flexibility of thought to use the information in a variety of ways.
We don’t have a consistent way of using textbooks in the department: some teachers use it simply for setting preparatory reading, consolidation notes and homework activities; others use the activities within lessons. I suspect that some of our Y13 have hardly used their textbooks at all. I’d like to use the textbooks more effectively, but this is something that we need to discuss further at department level; maybe a topic for consider for department day next week.
At first glance, there are quite a few differences between the three inspection copies we’ve received. At least one uses “you” in some of its explanations. One has completely the wrong graphs for correlation. At least one has an excellent set of explanations of a break-even chart. Only one has activities covering the full gamut of question styles found on the A-level paper. One includes lots of detail and extra theories that will help to stretch our most able pupils, but could cause no end of extraneous baggage for those who struggle. It’s not going to be an easy decision!