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Teaching Resources and Selection"Literature Review" Chapter

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Parameters of Teaching Resource Selection

Teachers in the modern university environment have a significantly increased range of options available to them in regards to textbooks, supplementary resources, and/or alternative resources to use in classroom instruction. However, it was identified that the selection process is at least subtle different depending on the discipline and the level of instruction. Different disciplines evolve at different speeds. For example, the textbooks and classroom resources for a MBA program would evolve at a much faster pace that subject such as classical American literature or history for example.

Thus it is hypothesized that there will be a range of different selection processes that vary upon the circumstance of the discipline and the academic level. Although there may be best practices that can guide the selection of textbooks and other materials on a high level, it is suspected that the process include more of a holistic process that includes individual factors related to the discipline and the circumstances related to the individual class as well as its position in the broader curriculum. Thus the broader and more inclusive an interview focus is, the more likely it can account for the specifics of selection involved based on these differences.

The role of the teacher preferences in textbook and classroom resource selection will also likely play a role in the process. Professors and instructors will have different beliefs and academic preferences that might guide their selection. However, the individual preferences of the instructor could also be tempered by the school's requirements or expectations. In some universities, there are only a narrow range of textbooks and resources available for the selection processes and thus individual preferences may not be a dominant factor in the selection process.

Another consideration will likely be the context in which the context of the curriculum in which the class is placed. Some studies identified using the entire department in the textbook selection process as a best practice. It is reasonable to suspect that as students' progress through related class that are taught on different levels and are based on prerequisites that are learned in earlier classes, that a level of coordination might be more effective to the student's education on a whole. Again, this would depend on the classes' position in the curriculum and its interrelatedness that is shared with other classes.

Brief Industry Background

The mainstream university textbook industry has been largely concentrated in a relatively few large publishing companies. Junior publishers typically have limited market power and typically focus on specific niches. The top ten companies in the world in this industry produce the bulk of the industries revenue (Publisher Weekly, 2014). Further on down the list there is more market volatility in regards to industry position. However, the top five publishers generally do not change their market positions frequently. However, recent news has indicated that the market leader, Pearson Publishing, has experience fairly dramatic falling stock prices after they announced their revenues have fallen by roughly four percent (Young & Sandle, 2015). Yet they are still the leading publisher by far. In fact, Pearson is far bigger than other media companies that attract more attention such as AOL or The New York Times Company (and much more profitable) (Carmody, 2012). The top ten industry players are listed position and revenues in the following chart (Publisher Weekly, 2014):

Rank (2013)

Rank (2012)

Publishing Company (Group or Division)

Country

Mother Corporation or Owner

Country of Mother Corporation

2013 Revenue in $M

2012 Revenue in $M

1

1

Pearson

UK

Pearson

UK

$7,801

$9,158

2

2

Reed Elsevier

UK/NL/U.S.

Reed Elsevier

UK/NL/U.S.

$6,093

$5,934

3

3

Thomson-Reuters

US

The Woodbridge Company Ltd.

Canada

$5,576

$5,386

4

4

Wolters Kluwer

NL

Wolters Kluwer

NL

$4,920

$4,766

5

5

Random House

Germany

Bertelsmann AG

Germany

$3,664

$3,328

6

6

Hachette Livre

France

Lagardere

France

$2,851

$2,833

7

10

Holtzbrinck

Germany

Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck

Germany

$2,222

$2,220

8

8

Grupo Planeta

Spain

Grupo Planeta

Spain

$2,161

$2,597

9

11

Cengage*

US

Apax Partners et al.

US/Canada

N/A

$1,993

10

7

McGraw-Hill Education

US

The McGraw-Hill Companies

US

$1,992

$2,292

There have been many factors that have contributed to the overall consolidation of firms in the textbook industry into just a handful of major players. The industry was somewhat competitive and fragmented up until the 1960s and 1970s, however the textbook publishing industry became dominated by a small number of major companies, because of the high investment involved in developing, manufacturing and distributing textbooks (Watt, 2007). There are very few small textbook publishing (small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs)) companies left in the market. The independent publishers that still operate typically focus on a very narrow range of subjects in a specific discipline and compete with a level of expertise in that subject. The other type of small textbook publishers consist of university presses. These presses will typically print books written by their own students and faculty members.

As a result of the contributing factors and the larger firms acquiring smaller publishers, the industry eventually began to take an oligopoly form in the market with a few major players. As a result, there was diminished competition for pricing and the margins for publishers expanded rapidly. For example, a 2005 Government Accountability Office report showed that college textbook prices grew at twice the rate of inflation from 1986 to 2004 (Kurtzleben, 2012). The growth of the margins for publishers is definitely correlated with the reduced amount of overall industry competition. Yet, despite high margins in the current industry environment, it is difficult for new businesses to begin publishing because there are high barriers to entry.

There are many advantages to developing quantiles of scale in the industry through increasing volume. In recent years, there has been an even larger incentive for further consolidation among the remaining firms because achieving larger scale for already-large publishers is to have stronger negotiating positions with partners (like Amazon) and suppliers (like authors) (Greenfield, 2014). There are many emerging sources of competition in the textbook market that come from different ways to purchase textbooks (such as renting textbooks) as well as textbooks produced on different mediums (such as e-readers and tablets) and as a result margins are facing increased competition once more.

The authors of a textbook only receive around twelve percent of the total revenue generated from the textbook's sale (Kurtzleben, 2012). Furthermore, generally the authors do not have considerable negotiating power with the publishers unless they have some form of unique technical expertise or are widely popular. In fact, most textbook publishing companies will actually list detailed guidelines for the specific textbooks they design and publish them online for any potential authors to see. This is especially true for undergraduate courses in which there are a plethora of candidates -- the publishers will provide an outline and information that they require in the book and authors can apply to fill the role in creating the textbook, or more commonly, updating an existing textbook.

In some graduate level course where there is more specialized knowledge that isn't as widely known, authors have a better chance of earning better contracts and greater royalties. There are no statistics available strictly for textbook authors; however, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) lists the median income for writers and authors in 2013 as $57,750 annually with a 3% job growth predicted between 2012 and 2022; college textbook authors might sometimes fit better in the category of technical writers and the median income for technical writers in 2013 is given as $67,900 with an estimated job growth of 15% between 2012 and 2022 (Learn.org, N.d.). However, most of the textbook authors are also professors or researchers and it is often the case that their income from textbooks is a supplementary income to their salaries with their institutions.

Undergraduate Resources

Teachers and educational professionals are faced with a plethora of choices when it comes to selecting a textbook or other related teaching resources. Some researchers have suggested that when selecting textbooks it is critical to involve the entire faculty in a department which can allow for a more comprehensive perspective to be used as well as provide a more consistent transition between materials in different classes in the curriculum (Altman & Pena-Shaff, 2006). Yet involving the entire department in the selection of textbooks and other resources can be a time consuming and complex process that often has to be repeated on an annual basis as new materials become available.

Furthermore, many have promoted the shift from an authoritarian model of teaching, to one that includes the opinions of the students in educational design. In some cases the students can be surveyed to identify the specific concepts and theories that they would like to learn. Although this adds another layer of complexity to classroom instruction and the selection of materials, it can also create a stronger sense of student buy-in and dedication to the class. In parallel to these theories, Adult Learning Theory describes a transition from a pedagogic/instruction-based… [END OF PREVIEW]

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