On Teaching Fashion: Textbook Not Required?

For some courses, there simply isn’t a textbook that fits the curriculum.  Art and design courses typically don’t need textbooks.  These course are focused on the cultivating students’ creativity, craftsmanship, and ability to follow instructions.  Every school has a different policy towards required textbooks.  Many schools pre-select the books for each course.  Other schools allow the instructor to determine the needs of the course and allow them to assign relevant materials.  My experience has always been that the school has determined what textbooks will be used in the courses I teach.  This term, I’m teaching a course in which there is no required textbook.


Honestly, it can be unnerving teaching a class that has no required books.  I was always a student that read and kept my books.  This simply isn’t the case for everyone.  Rising textbook costs and the switch to electronic publishing has also changed the game.  It’s taken me a few weeks to prepare, but here are some strategies I’ve developed for teaching without a required text:

  • Create a master outline:  Generally, there will be a master syllabus given to you before you teach the class.  This syllabus is only a starting point.  It will give you the course objectives and key topic required for the completion of the course.  Take the time to outline what you want to cover in each class meeting.  This will give you a work flow, and a template to find ancillary materials
  • Meet with senior instructors:  A lot can be learned from talking with other instructors.  Find a mentor or seasoned instructor that will give you some tips.  I’ve learned so much from speaking with other professors in the faculty lounge.  They’re eager to share materials because they’ve had to learn the hard way.  On several occasions, other instructors have recommended websites, projects, and resources that made the experience of teaching without a required textbook more manageable.
  • Find revalent case studies: Relying solely on lecturing is never a good strategy because it makes students too passive.  Find case studies that reintroduce the content you’ve covered.  WWD, Vogue, and other fashion publications are great sources to find cases that are relevant to the industry today.  Articles that focus on contemporary designers and brands breath new life into content because they are recognizable to the students.
  • Assign student presentations:   Activities like presentation make the students active participants in the learning process.  They have to read and research independently to contribute meaningful content.  The performance anxiety of presentations also give students an extra push to do more work, since all eyes will be on them.  Student presentations also allow dialog to occur, because you can comment and ask questions about their research.


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