What A Modern School Textbook Represents: Viewpoints From Pedagogical Studies


The following article regards a modern school textbook, its nature and main properties, which is essential for the study of the development of the student’s linguistic world view in the learning process. Hereby we provide the definition of the textbook within the scientific views of the Institute for Strategy of Education Development of the Russian Academy of Education, in particular of the scientific school Didactics of General Education: M.N. Skatkin, I.Y. Lerner and N.M. Shahmaev’s Scientific School and the scientific school Primary School of the 21st Century: N.F. Vinogradova’s Scientific School. Moreover, we include I.L. Bim’s analysis of a textbook in a foreign language. In order to study textbook content from cognitive linguistic point of view we apply the metaphor of an accurate educational navigator that lays the teacher and student’s route to the world of knowledge. In the result of the study of theoretical background on the subject of the research, the textbook is defined as a fundamental teaching tool, enabling one to conceive effective solutions to learning problems, which concern the development of the student’s cognition and ethics. Thus, the textbook presents a piece of educational discourse, complete in its composition, structure, and content, aiming at engaging the student into the world. The presence of a complete linguistic world view in the textbook remains compulsory and essential, and the study of this linguistic world view is possible to conduct on the basis of the cognitive linguistic approach.

Keywords: Pedagogical semiologyscientific schoolschool textbook


The textbook is a specific type of material that underlies the study of informational and scientific content, which in its turn becomes the foundation for the development of the student’s linguistic consciousness and world view. The textbook represents a medium that captures, stores, and transmits to the student important concepts of life, world, and herself. In this work we study how studying material is categorized and conceptualized in the textbook as well as what world view it construes. In order to respond to these questions, one should apply a cognitive linguistic analysis.

When studying the process of the learner’s linguistic world view formation, it is vital to be aware of the textbook’s nature and essential properties. These issues have always been listed among the key research objectives of pedagogical studies.

Some issues concerning the development tendencies of the modern teaching process and educational studies have been addressed in the works of Russian scientists (Ivanov & Ivanova, 2016; Ivanova & Elkina, 2016; Ivanova & Serikov, 2017; Lukackij, 2016; Osmolovskaya, 2014; and other) as well as foreign researchers (Bloom, 1984; Briguglio, 2014; Bruner, 1990; Caschera, D’Ulizia, Ferri & Grifoni, 2014; Faletta, Meier, Balderas, 2016; Ghinea, 2014; Lorenzo & Gallon 2015; Thindwa, 2015 and other).

The differences between the Russian and non-Russian learning literature throughout different historical periods has been subject to an integrated analysis of pedagogical historians (Barannikova, & Bezrogov, 2013, and other).

The issue concerning the formation of a modern textbook theory and learning materials content has always stayed in the focus of research attention for both Russian scientists (Bespalko, 2008; Kraevskij, 2003; Lerner, 2006; Osmolovskaya, 2014, Uman, 2011, and other) and foreign experts (Doll, 2012; Fuchs, 2014; Killus, 1998; Matthes, 2003; Raunig, 2016; Schmit, 2014, and other).

Problem Statement

One may study the student’s linguistic world view on textbooks relying on the means of the cognitive linguistic approach, which combines a corpus of theoretically, methodologically, and instrumentally proven methods of describing, explaining, and characterizing cognitive procedures performed by people in pursuit of world discovery (including scientific world discovery) and self-realization, where these procedures are language based as language represents a basic means for the conceptualization and categorization of the world, a means that, according to the widely accepted understanding of language in modern science, is a door to the world and human nature.

The student’s linguistic world view is being construed while she is acquiring knowledge from one textbook or another. It is in the textbook that one may find the world construal that the student inherits in the result of the learning process and we perceive the textbook as a piece of educational discourse, complete in its composition, structure, and content, aiming at engaging the student into the world she resides and leads her existence in.

Research Questions

The research includes the following range of research questions,

  • the issue concerning the formation of a modern textbook theory,

  • the issue concerning the content of learning materials,

  • the issue concerning the understanding of the textbook as a foundation for the development of the student’s linguistic consciousness and world view.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study lies in the consideration of textbook nature and essential properties as a foundation for the development of the student’s linguistic consciousness and world view.

Research Methods

In this research, we apply the method of scientific discourse analysis on the textbook theory as well as of classification of perspectives on the issue of study.


With the development of pedagogical ideas, the perception of the textbook has undergone continuous changes. In this country, the issue of the textbook theory development has always been an important objective of the Russian Academy of Education.

The scientific community under V. V. Kraevskij, I. Y. Lerner, and M. N. Skatkin of the Russian Academy of Education developed the cultural perspective on educational content, which regards the textbook as a script for the process of learning and includes both the content of education and specific methods of knowledge acquisition.

In compliance with the cultural perspective, the content of education combines the following five levels:

Level One. This is a level of theoretical understanding of the composition (elements), structure (relations among its elements), and functions of the transferred social experience in its educational context.

Level Two. This is a level of the subject, where one specifies what should be taught and selects the amount of social experience that should be mastered by the student.

Level Three. This is a level of learning material that fills the elements of educational content selected on Level One and presented on Level Two with content specific to each subject.

Level Four. This is a level of the learning process that presupposes the active participation of the teacher and the student as well as the inclusion of educational content not as a prospect but as a part of the learning environment and an integral element of practical learning and teaching.

Level Five. This is a level of the student personality structure, where educational content represents the outcome of the learning process and the student’s personal achievement. It embodies the final outcome of the whole process (Kraevskij, 2003, p. 47–53).

When commenting on the cultural perspective, A.I. Uman says, “The textbook is the main form, which encloses content. There are other additional forms: casebooks, additional materials, various texts and others. But, first, their structure correlates with the textbook structure and, second, the textbook structure mirrors the logic of the learning material exposition. Therefore, one may further completely rely on the textbook while addressing the concept of content. The textbook represents a multi-level structural entity. Among its structural elements one may single out parts, chapters, sections, texts, task blocks and others. Hereby, we need the element that would be an inherent component of the learning process. As a procedural unit of the textbook, one may select a section. It is worth mentioning that on this stage the section is a unity of theoretical background and task block” (Uman, 2011, p. 86).

Developing the ideas of the cultural perspective on educational content, Professor I.M. Osmolovskaya says, “The didactic viewpoint on the textbook has changed from its definition as a book providing a strictly systematic exposition of subject content to a model of the learning process combining educational content with specific methods of knowledge acquisition given in the textbook. Later the definition of the textbook was completed by the concept of the learning-and-teaching complex (LTC), which, besides the textbook itself, could include a reader, a casebook, printed visual aids, handouts, an exercise book for the student’s individual work, a linguaphone course, reference books, books for home reading, electronic textbooks, CDs and DVDs, educational portals in the internet, and so on.

The textbook of the new generation, which enables the realization of the teaching process these days, may be presented as an informational educational environment (IEE) that stands for the unity of informational, methodological and technical resources developed by the subjects of the learning process and aimed at the achievement of educational goals (self-education included)” (Osmolovskaya, 2014, p. 47).

In this respect, I. M. Osmolovskaya juxtaposes types of the subject informational educational environment to the textbook, “The subject informational educational environment may be of three types: 1) a script of the learning process; 2) a construct of the learning process; 3) an integration of the script and construct. In connection to the mentioned above, the environment types may be transferred on the textbook of the new generation.” Hereby, the researcher singles out three types of the textbook:

Type 1. A script textbook. This textbook type “is aimed at the organization and management of the learning process. The textbook content assigns specific actions to the learner and fixates their order: read the text, answer the questions, reflect upon the fact, examine the image, and so on” (Osmolovskaya, 2014, p. 48).

Type 2. A construct textbook. This textbook type presupposes “the presence of various resources in the subject informational educational environment: casebooks, encyclopaedias, reference books, books with assignments for tests and practical works, all focused on the subject content. The key concept of construct textbooks is a navigator that enables one to feel confident in the subject informational educational environment and provides necessary references. At the same time, the navigator should include accurately and rather concisely defined key concepts of the target subject, relying on which the learner might enrich, widen, and practice the material according to her self-selected goals, preferences, and interests. Thereby, the learner builds her learning process individually using the textbook. She develops her personal educational way of achieving the goal that is set by the standard for education and clearly stated in the navigator” (Osmolovskaya, 2014, p. 48).

Type 3. An integrated textbook. This type of textbook combines the previous two types. It is mentioned that “the construct textbook complements the content of the script textbook by providing additional material, drilling exercises, tests showing the student’s level of material absorption” (Osmolovskaya, 2014, p. 49).

Thus, according to I.M. Osmolovskaya, the textbook of the new generation enables students to organize their work and “personally ‘build’ their educational route” (Osmolovskaya, 2014, p. 49).

When defining the nature of the textbook, V.P. Bespalko emphasized its relation not with experience as it is but rather with pedagogical experience, “Apparently, the textbook is an informational model of a certain experience. The difficulty of providing an exact definition for the nature of the textbook lies in determining what experience the model depicts. Evidently, as the textbook should teach something specific, namely, activity, it is definitely a model for this activity. Moreover, different textbooks teach in different ways as they have been developed on different pedagogical ideas. Consequently, the textbook models both a specific experience that is taught and the process of learning itself, in other words, a specific pedagogical experience as well.

This clarifies that the textbook is far from a simple model of human experience, being an extremely complicated and complex model combining substantially different types of this experience. At the same time, it is vital that the model should always represent a familiar pedagogical experience, either little or vast, and this fact is integral for the definition of the nature of the textbook” (Bespalko, 2008, p. 14).

While formulating a textbook theory, V.P. Bespalko relies on the hypothesis that the textbook reflects a model of a pedagogical system, “…human experience in organizing the educational process is instantiated in a pedagogical system as an object and product of this experience. That is why, the textbook as a model of human pedagogical experience always models a certain specific pedagogical system. And this fact is of defining importance for the development of a textbook theory” (Bespalko, 2008, p. 15).

Dwelling upon the issue of a general textbook theory, A.V. Khutorskoy names three ways in the theory and practice of textbook compilation:

“The first way is complementation and improvement of the existing theoretical views on textbooks, correction of existing textbooks, and their adaptation to modern conditions and goals.

The second way is the development of a textbook theory that would be the most suitable one for the epoch and universal for all the occasions.

The third way is in the denial of the general textbook theory and the development of textbooks on the basis of certain educational views, each of which poses individual requirements to them” (Khutorskoy, 2005).

In A.V. Khutorskoy’s opinion, “most scientists and textbook authors follow the first way today. In the result, they have to continuously solve the contradiction that could be formulated as follows: life and textbook do not go together. <…> The second way represents a kind of didactic missionary work and there is no knowing who could possibly set such a noble, though almost unachievable aim today. <…> According to the third way, there are as many textbook theories as there are pedagogical systems. As an example, we may cite pedagogical systems that completely forbid the use of ready-made textbooks in the learning process; these are Waldorf education and Célestin Freinet’s school. Both are applied not only in Europe but in Russia as well. As these systems are focused on the elaboration of the student’s individual educational route, teaching is organized so that educational content ‘is grown’ in the course of the permanently unique learning process. If educational content were given in a form of a stable and universal textbook for all the children, it would violate fundamental principles of the didactic systems in question” (Khutorskoy, 2005).

The third way, according to A.V. Khutorskoy, would be the most suitable one from the viewpoint of student-oriented turn in education and, taking into account the variety of education types and didactic systems, it would lead to the development of various textbooks for each occasion. “It means that before selecting methodological basis for the development of a specific textbook one should choose what educational system it will serve. One does not refer to a subject or the student’s age, but the educational system” (Khutorskoy, 2005).

In A. V. Khutorskoy’s opinion, “the textbook is a complex information-and-activity model of the learning process, where the latter enrolls within the framework of a corresponding didactic system and includes necessary conditions for its realization. Therefore, the textbook is a model depicting the aims, principles, content, and methods of the corresponding teaching process, but it also includes reality as a condition for the realization of this process. The textbook is a model in the sense that it both presents the structure of a specific didactic system in it and plans its realization” (Khutorskoy, 2005).

O. N. Zhuravleva has worked out the didactic perspective on the humanitarization of the modern Russian school textbook that states that the textbook is “the backbone, the core of the educational process – of the environment to discover and comprehend, the one the student actively interacts with in the course of learning” (Zhuravleva, 2013, p. 15).

Upon admitting the general integrity of the concept of the textbook, one should emphasize that its types have fundamental differences.

Thus, in the sphere of primary education, N.F. Vinogradova’s contribution is of undoubted value. One should specifically note the requirements to the modern educational means (among which the main would be the textbook) that are listed by N. F. Vinogradova in the Conception of Primary Education Primary School of the 21st Century:

“1. Educational means, first of all, textbooks, should take into account the main aims and content of potential subject and inter-subject learning outcomes, provide information for its perception, reproduction, and usage for the intellectual (analysis, classification, generalization, comparison, and other) activity; as well as for individual work on its use in practice.

2. Educational means should present different types of educational texts for perception and analysis. The following classification may be suggested: informational, instructive, referential, vocative.

The informational text includes the main information about the object of study (name, description, typical features, place among other objects in space and time). This type of educational texts embraces a popular science article, an educational essay, a literary work (abstract from it), a thesis, a text describing facts, events, and characters.

The instructive text provides different kinds of special information form a definite domain. The forms of this text type include a rule, an algorithm sample, an instruction, a clarification; symbolic texts (models, graphs, tables); task texts (to assignments). One should emphasize that the instructive text appears to rely on the informational interaction between the learner and the teacher (comprehension, organization of the learning dialogue, and participation in it); work with this type of text develops the student’s readiness to solve learning tasks individually.

The referential text offers a summary defining the notion (term) as well as commenting on the object of study, judgement, conclusion or term. In class one turns to the referential text, as a rule, at the stage of the consolidation of the acquired knowledge aiming at precising, systematizing, and generalizing certain data.

Among the forms of the referential text one could list: a dictionary entry; a judgement filled with content, a rule, and an instruction; clarifications below images, models, schemes; footnotes; hints; indices, abstracts.

The vocative text is a specific text type that the teacher or the learner uses as a means of situational interaction. The role of the vocative text for the formation of the motive to accomplish a learning task is evident. On the teacher’s part, it may be a judgement inviting to establish cooperation; setting a motive; giving a hint; giving a piece of advice; reminding of something. On the learner’s part, it may be a judgement requiring assistance; precising the learning task; inviting to establish cooperation.

3. Another obligatory requirement to educational means lies in the creation of the conditions for the organization of various activities. It is supported by special sections suggesting a form of teaching: a game (“Let’s Play”), research (“Let’s Observe”, “Experiment”, “ Let’s Observe: Work with the Text”, “Team Project”), communication (“Discuss All Together”, “Let’s Listen to Each Other”), individual cognition (“For the Curious”, “This Wonderful World”, “That is Interesting”, “Once upon a Time there Lived a Man…”). Special signs remind learners of their opportunity to choose what to do and of task classification.

4. As it has been mentioned above, the cognition of primary school learners develops successfully if children master methods of world discovery. This aspect of education should be included in educational means. The textbook should introduce different methods of language and linguistic, mathematical, natural scientific, social and other domains of education, define the leading methods of cognition within each of them. The textbook should create conditions for the development of universal skills to observe elements of language, literature, nature, mathematics, society and other, to compare, group and classify them, to set plans for simple experiments, to register and analyze their results.

5. The next requirement to educational means, first of all, to textbooks, is to correspond to primary school learners’ peculiarities in the perception of a text, illustration, and their successful combination on one page. One of the conceptual positions of modern primary education is the statement that the primary function of the illustration should be didactic, allowing to operate with the information presented in it.

The illustrative function of the textbook is peripheral, additional; the one that today could easily be fulfilled by various technical means. Here comes the necessity to supplement all textbooks with additional didactic materials, among which one finds means of new informational technologies.

General Conclusion. The suggested conceptual overview on the construal of the didactic process in primary school will enable one to change the quality of primary education in its core, to provide the development of primary school learners’ readiness towards further education on the basis of educational cognitive motivation, high learning outcomes, successful participation in various activities, propensity for self-education and self-development” (Vinogradova, 2017, p. 61–63).

In the sphere of foreign language teaching and the development of foreign language literacy, we find it essential to lay emphasis on I. L. Bim’s ideas.

As I. L. Bim says, a textbook on a foreign language “represents a complex sub-system dictated by subject goals, syllabus, content; educational methods and means; the teaching process itself; as well as interaction with the environment.

Besides these objective factors, it is dictated by a range of subjective factors: the scientific skill and degree of its authors, their practical experience, their propensity for creative thinking in the context of the subject content and structure, for analyzing and generalizing someone else’s experience and, in compliance with it, organizing the material, for correlating modern requirements with real learning conditions, for seeing the future in the present, and so on. Therefore, the link between this system element and the others is tight and manifold. Moreover, within it, these links get materialized and embodied and appear in a more or less clear way. Thus, the textbook does not simply incorporate learning material, but learning material arranged in a particular way (according to the authors views that correspond to the developmental stage of linguistics, didactics, psychology, methodology), as well as a system of activities with the material aimed at the achievement of the previously stated goals, hence one may suggest that the textbook determines the pedagogical progress and educational methods” (Bim, 1977, p. 43).

According to I. L. Bim, “the textbook, a sign product of a particular methodological system, materializes its every key property and, therefore, reflects, as a system of its instantiation, both general objective features of an abstract system of education and subjective features of this or that individual interpretation of this system. As a result, the initial ideal system is transformed and becomes a phenomenon of another level, a lower level of abstraction. At the same time, some components (for instance, goals, means, and methods) are transferred from the abstract macrosystem to the actual system of education and are immediately included in the teaching process. The other components are nominally regarded at this stage as elements of the environment; methodology is regarded as a science, and subject content as an abstract methodological category. Nevertheless, the more important becomes a definite instantiation of subject content in educational means and its practical application. Thereby, the system seems to shift towards the learning-and-teaching process making it the object of research” (Bim, 1977, p. 136).


To sum up the perspectives and ideas of the scholars preoccupied with the development of a textbook theory, we can rather definitively speak about differences in their theoretical views on the nature of educational literature in general.

In these researchers’ works, we may meet the following definitions of the textbook. The textbook is the main form, which encloses content; it is a multilevel structural entity. The textbook is a subject specific informational educational environment (IEE) that is understood as a complex of informational, methodological, and technical resources created by the subjects of education and aimed at achieving educational goals (including those of self-education). Moreover, the textbook is defined as an informational model of human pedagogical experience and a model of a pedagogical system. The textbook is a complex information-and-activity model of the educational process that enrolls within the framework of a corresponding didactic system and includes necessary conditions for its realizations, in other words, the textbook is a model depicting the goals, principles, content, methods of a corresponding teaching process, though also incorporating reality that, in its turn, is a condition for the realization of this process. The textbook represents a model as it both reflects the structure of a definite didactic system and plans its realization. The textbook is one’s route in the world of knowledge with one’s own methodological preferences. The textbook is the backbone, the core of the humanitarian educational space, of the environment to discover and comprehend, the one the student actively interacts with in the course of learning.

In our study, we rely on the definition of the textbook as a didactically accurate navigator that sets the course into the world of knowledge the teacher and the learner share. We assume that the textbook is a basic pedagogical instrument that enables one to effectively solve educational tasks on the consolidation of cognitive and ethical forces in the student. We rest upon the perception of the textbook as a piece of educational discourse, complete in its composition, structure, and content, aiming at engaging the student into the world she resides and leads her existence in. We presuppose that the presence of a complete linguistic world view in the textbook remains compulsory and essential, and the study of this linguistic world view is possible to conduct on the basis of the cognitive linguistic approach.


The present research is conducted in compliance with the State Assignment of the Institute for Strategy of Education Development of the Russian Academy of Education within the project 27.8520.2017/BCh.


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