The debate about the need for textbooks is as old as the textbook itself. Do textbooks provide too much structure? Is textbook learning the best way for students to understand material? Are textbooks relied on too much in the classroom? Although these questions are valid, textbooks do have their advantages for teachers and students.
One primary advantage of using textbooks is that they are written and designed by experts in the topics discussed. Textbook writers keep up-to-date with the research in a particular subject area, which means that teachers and students are presented with the most valuable information in that subject field. If teachers didn't have these experts to rely on, they could miss some of the important advances in a particular area. Textbook writers can be viewed as a teacher's and a student's most valuable aid.
Textbooks have many advantages for students. First among them is the ease at which they allow students to find information. Textbooks are usually written with detailed contents pages and indexes that, if designed properly, can be used to quickly find what the student is looking for. Textbooks also provide structure for a student's learning. Each chapter should have a logical flow, building on the knowledge acquired in previous chapters. The material in each chapter is also usually presented in a similar design, which means the student knows exactly how to approach each topic as it is presented.
There are also advantages for teachers who use textbooks. For young teachers they can be especially helpful because the material and structure of lessons is often very detailed, which means that teachers don't have to spend a lot of time coming up with novel lesson ideas. The information for each chapter or lesson is also usually presented in a straightforward, chronological way, and most textbooks will come with supplementary teacher material that spells out the teaching procedures that should be used for each lesson.
Another advantage of textbooks is that many now come with supplementary materials that complement the lessons a teacher uses. These supplementary materials could be DVDs that have video and audio clips of information relating to the topic of study, companion websites that provide additional information or links to other related web pages or study guides that present students with additional questions relating to the topic. These supplementary materials allow those students who learn in different ways to find their way to the topics of study and achieve learning success.