Purnima Valiathan

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Instructional Design for K-12 Textbooks

Designing textbooks for K-12

Before designing any textbook, it is important to understand the principles for textbook design, and the National Curriculum Framework which serves as the foundation for textbooks used in schools.

The audience for any textbook is the student and the teacher. A good textbook should, therefore help students learn as well as provide support to teachers. It should serve both as a guide to basic principles and also provide extra information for those who want to learn more. Not all students are alike – some may be inquisitive, some apprehensive, and others – impatient. Therefore, a textbook should cater to different student profiles. Last, but not the least it should link facts and concepts with our day to day lives, so that students can see a visible practical connect.

Textbook Attributes

You need to take into account various types of students. The inquisitive ones need to know more about a topic, and are intrinsically motivated. For this type of student, the textbook should have a Reference Value. Therefore, it should include extra information in the form of:

  • Did you know?
  • Interesting Facts and Trivia
  • Exploratory activities
  • Reflection Activities

The apprehensive ones need to be guided through a topic, and require information to be presented as small achievable tasks. For this type of student, the textbook should have a Tutorial Value. Therefore, it should include guidance and support in the form of:

  • Clear Explanations
  • Lucid Examples

The impatient ones need to get the key content points quickly without having to read through the entire topic. The textbook should have a Look Up Value for such students. Therefore, it should include learning aids in the form of:

  • Highlight on key information
  • Definition of new key terms – vocabulary,
  • Visual Representation of detailed information using tables, charts, process-flow diagrams, concept maps etc.

Common Design Elements

1. Relevance & Reflection: Connecting the topic with the day-to-day life of the child – something that the child can see/feel/hear.

  • Read: An Anecdote
  • Reflection Activity: Questions based on the anecdote; exercises that call upon students to observe and think (as against recall and memorize)
  • Think & Discuss

2. Engagement: Some form of learning, which is “by the way” – stories, activities, case –study (senior classes), poem etc.

  • Activity: Just for Fun
  • Suggestions in Teacher Toolbox

3. Exploration: Suggestions and exercises that encourage the child to go beyond the curriculum content

  • Explore – Activity suggestions in Teacher Toolbox

4. Learning Extensions: Did You Know, Interesting trivia or facts that will appeal to the children; information with a high recall value and new vocabulary.

5. Learning Aids: Mind-maps, mnemonics, tables, charts etc.

Note: These design elements can work for primary and the middle school, with minor modifications for the middle school.

In higher classes, students perceive knowledge to be contextual, participate in the construction of knowledge and become independent and lifelong learners. Therefore, the textbooks designed for higher classes should help students develop an in-depth understanding of the subjects that they study, and help them to develop problem solving, critical thinking and decision-making skills, and in addition prepare them for the realities of the workplace.


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