When selecting a textbook, there are a number of factors to evaluate. In addition to assessing the textbook for appropriate content, one category that I recommend looking at is how inclusive the textbook is. Here are a few guiding questions to ask when evaluating textbooks for inclusion:
- What is the cost of this textbook? Have you looked for open (free) textbooks, perhaps from the Open Textbook Library or considered writing or adapting your own? Affordability is inclusive.
- Do the textbook images of people represent diverse cultural heritage and lived experiences?
- Are the contributions to the field that are highlighted in the textbook from a diverse range of scholars in the field? If not, is there discussion about why certain voices were historically excluded from the field?
- Is the textbook accessible? If there is an e-book, do the images have alt text, for example? Can students with disabilities access all materials in the book?
- If the textbook is an e-book, are the concepts presented in multiple ways, such as text, infographic, slide decks, or multimedia elements? Giving students choices in how they explore the course concepts empowers them to use their existing preferences, and helps them develop new strengths and avenues for learning.
What to Do When the Textbook Is Not Ideal
It’s tough to find a textbook that is inclusive and has all of the concepts you are hoping to teach. What can you do when you find a textbook that has the concepts you need but is lacking in inclusive excellence? Here are some simple ideas for addressing this:
- Consider giving publisher feedback. Write a brief email to the publisher about your concerns around a lack of representation in the book or whatever it is that you see as missing.
- For any text you choose, consider inviting students to write to the publisher if they see areas for improvement, whether that is with cost, bias, or other issues. You could include the contact information for the publisher in your course materials page, inviting students to write in feedback directly to the publisher.
- Acknowledge to your students that the textbook isn’t as inclusive as you would like it to be. Share the ways that you are advocating for better quality. You could also invite students to have a bias hunt discussion about the textbook or course materials. Then you could collect that feedback and send it to the publisher.
- If the textbook lacks contributions from a diverse range of scholars, consider adding scholarly articles, images, or interviews from diverse professionals in your field to your course learning materials pages, in your LMS course site.
- Consider highlighting professional organizations in your field that promote and mentor the professional development of scholars from specific historically underrepresented communities.
Have you had success in this area of evaluating textbooks? Have you found a publisher or textbook that has made gains in this area? If so, please share your resources in the comments.