Collaborating on Contemporary Families

Liz Pearce and students develop open-source textbook

Contemporary families book coverLiz Pearce portrait photo

“We’re not just saying to our students ‘you’re supposed to be a sponge,’ we’re telling them ‘you’re a thinker.’” Liz Pearce said with a smile. She recently wrapped up her work with 13 other students on Contemporary Families: An Equity Lens, an open-source textbook for Difference, Power and Discrimination courses taught at Linn-Benton Community College and Oregon State University. 

Pearce, who is the department chair and faculty for the Department of Education/Child and Family Studies, sought to write a more modern textbook about family life that, according to her, didn’t “other,” or unintentionally alienate families who didn’t fit the demographics that other sources typically centered on. To help her create the most current, diverse book possible, she turned to her students.

“I basically was allowed to do an independent study class,” Pearce said. “I invited any student who had ever taken a class with me to participate, although I found that many students responded like ‘me? I can’t do that,’ so I ended up reaching out and recruiting more and found 13 students.”

The independent study project allowed Pearce’s students to not only have a compelling addition to their resumes, but also come together in a collaborative environment, experience the highs and lows of a real workplace and improve their design and writing skills.

“I wanted this book to be written in an approachable language,” Pearce said. “We looked at different ways of writing, and I think that helped students get more comfortable with the project, because they didn’t have to worry about their writing being perfect, they could write in a way their peers understood.”

Pearce also mentioned that her students were able to address difficult and current issues in the book that affect families today. “You’re writing for a broad audience,” she remarked. “Some students reading this book don’t believe any of these inequities exist, and some have lived them.”

Students who take courses offered by LBCC’s Department of Education/Child & Family Studies go on to hold a wide range of jobs, from K-12 teachers to social workers to preschool teachers, all of which are currently in high demand.

Pearce has already begun incorporating the new book into her current curriculum.

“Now that I have the base of the book, I’m using it, but I’m also having class discussions and graded activities for students to critique the textbook,” Pearce said. “I want people to be able to see themselves doing activities like this in a regular class.”

While still getting feedback on the first book, Pearce is already working on a second textbook. It's not too late for students to join her in the process. Those who are interested may contact Liz.

Contemporary Families: An Equity Lens, is available online for download and attribution under a Creative Commons license.