The increasing use of interactive learning [IL] strategies in Astro 101 classrooms has led some instructors to consider the usefulness of a textbook in such classes. These strategies provide students a learning modality very different from the traditional lecture supplemented by reading a textbook and homework and raise the question of whether the learning that takes place during such interactive activities is enough by itself to teach students what we wish them to know about astronomy. To address this question, assessment data are presented from an interactive class, which was first taught with a required textbook, and then with the textbook being optional. Comparison of test scores before and after this change shows no statistical difference in student achievement whether a textbook is required or not. In addition, comparison of test scores of students who purchased the textbook to those who did not, after the textbook became optional, also show no statistical difference between the two groups. The Light and Spectroscopy Concept Inventory (LSCI; Bardar et al. 2007), a research-validated assessment tool, was given pre-instruction and postinstruction to three classes that had a required textbook, and one for which the textbook was optional, and the results demonstrate that the student learning gains on this central topic were statistically indistinguishable between the two groups. Finally, the Star Properties Concept Inventory (SPCI), another research-validated assessment tool, was administered to a class for which the textbook was optional, and the class performance was higher than that of a group of classes in a national study (Bailey et al. 2011). Taken together, these results suggest that, if research-tested alternative learning modalities are provided, students’ ability to learn the content of an Astronomy 101 course can be independent of a textbook requirement. Details on the course and the methodology used to reach this conclusion are presented.
Rudolph, A. L. (2013). Do You Always Need a Textbook to Teach Astro 101?. arXiv preprint arXiv:1311.3635.