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Professors cite more organized, focused teaching when using own textbooks in class

By Paris Franz, For The Miami Student

At the beginning of each semester, students at Miami spend hundreds of dollars on expensive textbooks. Some of these textbook dollars go straight into the pockets of Miami faculty members.

Richard Campbell, chair of the Department of Media, Journalism and Film, uses his textbook, "Media & Culture" to teach Media and Culture (MAC) 143. He said he uses a self-written textbook out of necessity.

"I wrote this book because I couldn't find a good textbook," Campbell said. "I felt like there needed to be a better textbook for the course."

Campbell's textbook sells new for roughly $100 on Amazon. This fall, over 300 students at Miami's Oxford campus are enrolled in MAC 143.

Other professors choose to write and use their own textbooks because it provides better content for their specific course.

Darrel Davis, associate professor of educational psychology, said he agrees with Campbell that the disconnect between textbooks and courses can be frustrating.

"I've thought tons of times, 'I should write my own book,'" said Davis. "Basically, what I want, how I want, organized how I want it organized."

Campbell said the process of writing a textbook also gives professors a better understanding of the course material.

"It forces me to keep up with the field, to continue to do research," Campbell said. "Writing the textbook causes me to be involved, engages me in the material in a way that for me is much richer than if I hadn't written the textbook."

Campbell believes that teaching his own textbook does not limit the course material.

"I certainly teach the book maybe more than other professors do because I wrote the book," Campbell said. "But I do bring in a lot of material that's not in the book."

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Campbell and Davis said the course's textbook, regardless of the author, should be supplemented with additional materials. Davis explained any textbook is only limiting if it is not adequately supplemented.

"I don't think that the process of writing the book becomes limiting. It's when you organize your course [that] you can limit yourself if you don't look for separate things," Davis said.

Some students have found that courses are more engaging when the professor has written the textbook. Senior Patrick Proctor has taken two courses in which the professor assigned a self-written textbook.

"If [the class] is on a topic that they've bothered to write a textbook on, they tend to be more passionate about it," said Proctor.

Not all experiences with professors assigning their own textbooks leave students feelings positive, though. Junior Nathan Smith said when writing a book, either the professor teaches passionately on the subject, or they tell you to read the book and it'll be like going to a lecture.

"If it's the latter, you feel scammed," Smith said. "If it's the former, it's probably going to be one of the best classes you take."