Finding the Strengths in Alternatives to Textbooks

November 15, 2019

Julie Collins-DogrulWhile textbooks play a significant role in classrooms, a Whittier College professor and alumna are championing the strengths of using alternative texts, too.

Associate professor of sociology Julie Collins-Dogrul teamed up with Kenia Saldaña ’15 on a recently published research article in the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

Collins-Dogrul and Saldaña’s article, “Text Selection and Course Design: Faculty Perspectives on Critical Reading and Critical Thinking,” compares the use of textbooks versus textbook alternatives, such as journal articles and monographs, in undergraduate sociology classes.

After surveying sociology faculty from 12 private colleges and universities, the pair found that the faculty had a strong preference for textbook alternatives. The professors in the study argued that, despite the benefits of textbooks, alternative texts develop students’ critical reading and thinking skills.

Alternative texts’ rigorous, in-depth nature encourages students to practice their critical reading skills as they evaluate the texts’ quality, identify the author’s intent, and synthesize it with their other readings, according to the study.

Furthermore, they argue that when professors design courses with alternative readings, they engage their own critical reading and thinking as they critique and synthesize the literature in their own discipline while curating texts for their classes. According to Saldaña and Collins-Dogrul, teaching courses with alternative readings allows students and faculty to engage with a discipline together and benefit from the experience.

This is not the first time Collins-Dogrul and Saldaña have worked together on a research project. They collaborated on another article, “Social Determinants in Latino Diet and Health,” that was published in the interdisciplinary Latinx studies journal Diálogo in 2015.

Written by Ariel Horton ’21