Author: Audrey Gyamfi
The term “workbook” means a number of things to different people. For frequent users of Excel, workbook is a computer document containing several linked spreadsheets. To some employers, it is a manual containing guidelines for workers or a book used for documenting the progress of work. Even in the world of education, a workbook can refer to a booklet containing the outline of a course of study.
These definitions notwithstanding, “workbook” is largely used in basic education to refer to a curriculum-based book with problems which students can solve directly on the pages of the book. The activities and exercises presented in workbooks are serialised; they are tailored according to the format of their corresponding textbooks. This is because, the probes therein have been thoroughly taught or studied from the textbook.
According to Ufuk, Azdumiz, Giner and Garbuz (2013), workbooks are instructional tools that consist of a series of questions and information designed to guide students to understand complex ideas. Workbooks are therefore viewed as playing a complementary role in education. It is interesting to note that in our part of the world, this aspect of education has been greatly ignored by stakeholders including publishers, teachers, parents and the ministry of education
In the case of publishers in Ghana, this aspect of publishing isn’t worth the investment due to the low level of workbook patronage. Generally, it takes twice as much time to sell the same quantity of textbooks. In an attempt to fill the gap, some publishers/booksellers peddle foreign workbooks which often only serves as useful only for general practice.
On the part of teachers, it will be reckless to write off their numerous efforts to enrich the teaching and learning process, especially at the basic level, using worksheets from the internet. Some teachers print pages of relevant materials from the internet and share them to students. This is often the case at the Montessori or kindergarten, where learners at this developmental stage need a lot of opportunity to iterate. Publishers of books for kindergarteners are forced to transform textbooks into workbooks. An attempt that is mired by many challenges, including the amount of exercises to incorporate in order not to overburden young learners with voluminous books. Teachers who do not recognise this holistic approach to learning may rely solely on textbooks and their teaching notes.
Learners, on their part, are forced to resort solely to their textbooks. Considering that learners have diverse learning needs and abilities, this prevalent situation makes a mockery of their efforts and at times, that of their teachers and parents. Even though the focus of Kalin (2017) was on the perception of learners with regards to digitalised, interactive student workbooks, she realised that learners generally acknowledged the usefulness of workbooks in their learning process.
Changing the narrative
Ghana’s Ministry of Education, through its independent body, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NaCCA), has with the implementation of the 2019 standards-based curriculum made it mandatory for publishers seeking approval of their new curriculum books to publish accompanying workbooks in the following subject areas: English Language, Science and Mathematics. This is specifically in the case of learners at Keyphase 2 (Basic 1-3) and Keyphase 3 (Basic 4-6). This mandatory requirement accentuates the incomparable role of workbooks in the teaching and learning process. At the formative years, workbooks deepen and cement the knowledge acquired by learners.
As publishers, Kwadwoan Publishing recognises, believes and supports this directive. Hence, all the books published in the indicated subject areas are accompanied by workbooks which have engaging activities, interactive interfaces and delightful illustrations to facilitate the process of exploration and critical thinking. In the hope that learners will, through the use of the workbooks, engage in independent learning, the authors and publishers ensured that the language used in stimulating the minds of learners, as well as the approaches adopted, were appropriate for learners at the various stages.
In 2013, the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture discouraged the use of student workbooks (Lembar Kenja Siswa, simply referred to as LKS) in both public and private institutions as they alleged that it encouraged students to engage passively in the process of teaching and learning. This assertion has been disproved in a research by Utami, Aminatun and Fatriana (2020) which focused on determining the effectiveness of workbooks in the learning process of students in Indonesia. They discovered that, not only were workbooks useful tools in the learning process, but they also promoted learning in students, and were perceived by many students as most significant in their education.
Employing workbooks has been proven to be effective in reinforcing concepts and theories that have been learnt. Their usefulness transcends the classroom and isn’t limited to students alone but also to teachers and parents. Let’s explore these advantages.
Benefits of workbooks to learners
1) They promote independent learning. Learners are able to learn on their own and at a reasonable pace per their competencies and abilities.
2) Although clichéd, practice still makes perfect. Learners are able to gain deeper understanding of topics taught as they practice questions or solve problems found in these workbooks.
3) Learners are able to explore and build their confidence in a particular subject area. This is because, they are able to demonstrate their knowledge as they actively engage with workbooks.
4) Workbooks can be useful tools in teaching young learners important skills such as critical thinking, handwriting, attention and concentration which will serve them well as they grow.
5) Workbooks reduce the stress on young learners as they do not get overwhelmed by exercises. Emphatically, exercises in workbooks are presented in realistic
Benefits of workbooks to parents
1) Parents are afforded the opportunity to participate in their children’s education. Some workbooks, like the Kwadwoan workbooks, require parents to append their signature under their wards’ completed exercises. By so doing, parents have a fair knowledge of what their wards are learning and become involved in the process, an act that is greatly beneficial to young learners.
2) Vacations, holidays and sick days are taking care of as parents do not have to worry about their wards losing learning time. Children can focus on single units of exercises at a relaxed pace during periods when school is not in session.
3) Parents considering home-schooling will also find workbooks to be useful.
4) Unlike the usual assumption, parents can make the time for working with workbooks and make learning a family time—where they bond with their wards over the exercises and projects in the workbooks.
5) Parents, especially stay-at-home or remote working ones who need some space to work can manage to get some free time when children are engaged in their independent exploration.
Benefits of workbooks to teachers
1) By checking students’ workbooks, teachers are able to gather information on the areas learners have difficulties in a subject. This will ensure that they focus on such areas and build the capacity of learners.
2) Most often, teachers need to plan additional activities and exercises to deepen the understanding of learners. With the help of workbooks, they can simply assign tasks or assignments from the workbooks to students. This can save teachers’ time.
3) As instructional tools, teachers can adopt workbooks to make learning fun, easy and adventurous.
4) In the absence of a class teacher, the stand-in teacher can involve learners in activities from workbooks to keep them actively engaged.
In view of all these benefits from employing workbooks at various levels, it is important that all stakeholders put in their very best to ensure that workbooks are well-developed and used effectively. Also, innovative approaches should be considered as to the development of workbooks per the infrastructural capacity of the nation, community or school.
Kalin, U. O., (2017). Creating Interactive Student Workbooks for Primary Education Social Studies Class and Researching Its Efficiency. Journal of Education and Practice. ISSN 2222-1735 (Paper). Vol. 8, No. 12, 2017.
Utami, A. R., Aminatum, D., & Fatriana, N. (2020). Student Workbook Use: Does It Still Matter to the Effectiveness of Students’ Learning? Journal of English Language Teaching and Learning, 1 (1), 7-12.
Shama, N. A., (2001). The Workbook—Is It Still Effective? Pacific Curriculum Network, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2001.
Disclaimer: The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Kwadwoan Publishing.