Using a Teacher’s Manual

Textbooks and casebooks often have accompanying teacher’s manuals. These manuals range from limited, rambling copies of the textbook author’s classroom notes to detailed discussions of the book’s materials and related course structuring issues and classroom questions.

I have not really used a teacher’s manual over the years, in part because it was not an option when I started teaching years ago as I started teaching with a casebook that did not have a teacher’s manual. Later, when I began using books that did have teacher’s manuals, I did not always agree with the manual or the suggestions made therein, so I never really consulted the manuals.

That said, I will be working with a colleague on his teacher’s manual, so I am curious about what other professors find useful in a teacher’s manual. My impression is that a teacher’s manual should be geared toward:
(a) the new teacher who has never taught anything before,
(b) the teacher who is picking up a certain class to fill a curricular need, outside her/his area of primary expertise, or
(c) the teacher who needs help with the basics of a certain limited aspect of his course (such as tax in a mergers & acquisitions class).

Am I correct on the sort of faculty who tend to extensively use a teacher’s manual or are their teachers out there who do not fit the above parameters who find teaching manuals useful?

Perhaps it is best to ask professors who are reading this post: What would the ideal teacher’s manual include, and would an outstanding teacher’s manual sway you in favor of adopting a particular book for your class?

(Does this blog have a “poll” function, and should I know how to use it?)

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11 Responses

  1. Not helpful: repeating the basic facts and holding of the case.

    Helpful: explaining why you picked the case, and what points about it you consider interesting.

    The manual is helpful as a source of ideas and in learning how to work with a book rather than against it. The second time around with a book, I don’t even crack the manual open.

  2. The single most useful thing in a teacher’s manual — and the one most likely to be absent — is detailed information on pacing, and the provision of multiple alternate syllabi depending on what you might want to emphasize, how many credits you have, and where the course falls in the sequence. Usually there’s none or one. Sometimes there’s the 3 or 4 credit version (but the 3 credit never cuts enough).

    The hardest thing for even an experienced teacher to tell with a new subject, or even a new book on old subject, is how to pace it.

    After that, I like cute anecdotes…

  3. Spencer Waller says:

    The most useful feature for me are detailed answers to the problems posed in the book, particularly if the teacher’s manual conveys what the authors thought was important about the problem. Otherwise I don’t really use the manuals.

  4. Jessica Erickson says:

    I agree with the past comments. I like to have detailed answers to the problems, as well as other hypos/lines of discussion that follow from the cases. I also always appreciate any backstory to the cases or information about the proceedings after the decision was handed down.

  5. Bruce Boyden says:

    Akin to what James said, I find it useful when a teacher’s manual indicates where the casebook case fits into the broader law on that issue. Is it an outlier case, an old chestnut, or a typical example? Even in areas I know well, I haven’t researched everything, and that would be helpful.

  6. Paul Horwitz says:

    I second the view that syllabi are a great part of a teacher’s manual. So might be past exam questions, exercises, etc. I also agree that a teacher’s manual that simply recounts the case adds very little. But one that puts the cases in context, draws connections to other cases and other sections of the book (since teachers who are new to a course may be just a few days ahead, and certainly may not grasp the gestalt of either the book or the subject matter), and gives instructive suggestions about *how* to teach a given case or section are much appreciated. That doesn’t guarantee adoption, since one may well use several different TMs but just one book, but it does ensure gratitude and increase the likelihood of adoption.

  7. Bridget Crawford says:

    These are great questions. When I first started teaching, I probably would have benefited from a few “red flags” anticipating material that students likely would find especially difficult or frustrating. The first few times through a course, I was just a few days ahead of my students and didn’t always see the bumps that they would experience.

    I also am always looking for ideas for the very, very first day of class, so if experienced users of the casebook had any exercises, vignettes, etc., those would be helpful, too.

  8. Lori Ringhand says:

    Make it electronic. When I first started teaching, I would build my lecture notes from the basic case/discussion information presented in the manual. So having the manual in electronic form was very helpful.

  9. Joseph Slater says:

    This may seem fairly prosaic, but if the book is anything other than a first edition, a detailed description of what has been added and what has been cut from the previous edition would be helpful. Explaining why the changes were made would be a bonus.

  10. When I was teaching new courses for the first time, I relied heavily on teacher’s manuals. But a big factor in choosing those early casebooks was not only the manual but also the broader “author support system.”

    For example, did the authors send slides, recordings, and other material to use and adapt? Did they track (via blog or website) the latest developments and suggest how and where they might be integrated into the course? In short, I wanted more than a bound book. I wanted a service.

  11. Elizabeth Nowicki says:

    Thank you all for the insight. I had no idea that people were posting in response to this because my e-mail was not receiving your replies.

    I apologize in my delay for thanking you! This feedback is great.

    Thank you, all. This has been helpful.