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Division 2 of the American Psychological Association

Lecturers Can Run a Successful Course Without a Textbook

20 May 2014 8:59 AM | Anonymous

 By Hunter Kincaid, PhD student Social/Personality Psychology

We are lucky as instructors that so many textbook representatives are willing to give us free copies and online material to help create lectures.  While they make our job easier, we need to remember that they are in the business of selling expensive textbooks and often have little knowledge about the subject matter or current research in each field.  Since I am lucky/weird enough to be a very young lecturer students often feel more comfortable complaining about other classes and professors to me.  Let me assure you, your students know when you are using the slides textbook companies provide for you...and they are insulted by it.  


Your goal as an instructor is not to teach the whole textbook or to get your students to connect to a textbook.  Your job is to decide what research topics are most important at each level (100-400), and then to find a textbook that provides information on each of those topics in an innovative way.  If you can't find a textbook that does this don't fret, because you DO NOT need a textbook to teach an effective course.  In Europe students are protected against companies charging hundreds of dollars for texts, our students are not.  Hunter college students come to our school because it is affordable, many do not have the extra money to buy your expensive text.  As a lecturer who has given up textbooks quite a few times when there isn't an adequate one on the market, I would like to share a few tips:

1.  Many APA handbooks like the new Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology allow you to create texts for students by selecting what you would like to include only...allowing you to keep costs down for students.

2.  You are supposed to be an expert in your field, that's why you were hired to teach undergrads.  That should mean you are familiar with many pieces of research in that field.  Try selecting articles that are written parsimoniously  to walk students through a research paper, many authors write in an accessible way including many CUNY graduates.  For instance in sexuality and gender studies even in 100 and 200 level classes I can select works from GC graduate Bell Hooks because she intends for her science to be accessed by the masses.


For readings, I love using Hooks's (1997) "Selling Hot Pussy" in gender studies courses to talk not only about basic concepts like objectification but to then take it further by looking at objectification specificity, allowing us to think about gender role expectations in a non dichotomous way.


Also a total classic is Sternberg's (1986) "A Triangular Theory of Love" I use it in social psych and psych of sex.  Its great to be able to go over classic literature with them, and this piece is highly cited/used in research and it's fairly accessible. Its a great piece to talk about methodology like operationalizing big amorphous concepts like Love.  Then after they read it I can have them do a reading response where they have to take the characters and relationships in their favorite tv/web series and describe each relationship using the dimensions of Sternberg's theory.


3.   Post your lecture slides or lecture notes on blackboard. Worried about students not coming? Make your lectures interesting and fun, or make attendance part of their grade.  The lecture slides become a supplementary text in a course without a textbook.  I always include extra links, videos and citations for students in the notes portions of slides

4.  Find visual examples (photo, video, live visitors to the class) that can help make the research articles you select REAL. For example, in my social psychology course students read research on the desire for equity or fairness when we learn about prejudice...and then we also watch video from controlled experiments with animal populations to show the beginning stages of testing these theories.  

Do not be a lazy lecturer and rely on that textbook to do your job for you. You were hired to lecture because you have experience and knowledge in the subject matter, and we are paid to share that knowledge with our students.  So have confidence and share that same excitement with your students that brought you to academia in the first place!



Hooks, B. (1997). Selling hot pussy: Representations of black female sexuality in the cultural marketplace. Writing on the body: female embodiment and feminist theory, 113-128.

Sternberg, R. J. (1986). A triangular theory of love. Psychological Review, 93 (2), 119-135.

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