What is a textbook-independent course, and how does it work?

Oak Meadow has recently developed a couple of textbook-independent high school courses. Here’s what this means and how these courses work.

For all students: In the past, OM has used textbooks mainly as research tools. What is essential to a course is not the textbook used, but the essential questions asked in the course and the ability of students to answer those questions by learning how to evaluate information at its source. Understanding information in the context of a topic or the real world requires students to analyze material from a variety of sources.

Textbook-independent courses encourage and challenge students to develop strong research and technology skills, engage in critical thinking, and take charge of their learning. Rather than seeing students as passive receivers of information, our textbook-independent curriculum is organized around important central questions that challenge students to think critically about subject matter and help them engage with key knowledge by making it relevant to the world in which they live. We achieve this by both freeing our courses from simply following the content of any one textbook and, simultaneously, challenging students to answer questions and complete their lessons by consulting one or more sources.

Textbooks are not courses, they are tools used by teachers as resources to help students find information. While textbooks can be valuable sources of information, the skills and perspectives a student gains by seeking out sources and evaluating information can lead to more meaningful learning than simply turning to a textbook for answers. With textbook-independent courses, Oak Meadow has taken an important next step forward in developing courses that offer students the opportunity to continue an outside-the-box education.

Practical tips: Students can use ANY relevant textbook or other research materials to learn about the lesson topics, which are listed in each lesson. Ideally, students will use a wide variety of print and online sources, such as non-fiction books, educational websites, films, textbooks, journals, novels, artwork, news archives, and podcasts. Students may need help locating relevant sources and developing good research and note-taking skills. Having adult guidance in the first few lessons can help them set up effective habits. The introduction to each course includes tips on how to read research materials and evaluate internet sources.

The OM Bookstore will stock one textbook per course subject that can be used as the primary reading material, but there won’t be one specific textbook attached to the course.

Our curriculum resource page includes vetted resource links to provide a starting point to students who are unfamiliar with internet research or who need assistance.

For enrolled students: The Oak Meadow coursebook contains the course assignments and projects, and the teacher will provide more information and course content via the Google course doc. Teachers can help students locate relevant sources if they are having difficulty and give them tips for developing effective research skills.