The New Prep 2: The Textbook

In the previous post in this series, I described the rationale behind the new PSYCO 282: Behavior Modification course, and how I came to be involved.

PSYCO 282 was introduced to replace PSYCO 281: Learning and Behaviour, but it also obviated PSYCO 385: Applications of Learning. This latter course was interesting in that it wasn’t all theoretical, but was about, well, application. Here’s the official course description: “An examination of the ways in which principles of conditioning and learning have been applied to areas of human concern. Biomedical and behavioural implications of learning principles will be examined in terms of the empirical foundations of the principles, and the successes or problems encountered in applying the principles to the understanding or treatment of human behaviour.”

Behaviour modification, although based in scientific principles of the science of learning, is all about application of those principles in procedures of behaviour change. A key word in that, for me, was “application.” I have always been interested in the application of scientific psychology--this is the basis for my PSYCO 494: Human Factors and Ergonomics course. Maybe that’s another reason why I was asked to teach the new b-mod course: my background in learning theory along with my interest in application. Plus, y’know, my inability to say no.

This “new course” is really a reintroduction of an old course. In the 1970s, the Department of Psychology offered a course in behaviour modification, titled “Behavior Change Techniques.” This course eventually evolved into PSYCO 281, which, over time, gradually placed a greater focus on the experimental analysis of behaviour, rather than its application. Now, in a weird twist, PSYCO 282 is replacing PSYCO 281.

With PSYCO 282: Behavior Modification becoming an actual new course, one of my first challenges was choosing a textbook. After a few emails to various different publishers, I had a box full of books. Yay! Er, wait. I’m going to have to go through all of those books. In detail. *sigh*

It was pretty easy to whittle the textbooks down to a shortlist of about six books. But how to narrow them down further? I took my box full of books to Prof. Chris Sturdy’s office and asked him to help me pare them down further. After all, part of the rationale for PSYCO 282 was to reduce overlap with PSYCO 381, which is Prof. Sturdy’s course. He helped immensely, giving input on which books were stronger, and which books overlapped too much. Takeaway tip: When you have a hard job to do, ask someone else to do it for you. No, wait--that can’t be right. Cooperation--yeah, that’s it.

In late 2012, I finally decided on a textbook written by two professors in Manitoba (Canadian content!), published by an American educational publisher. It was a relatively thin book at 400 pages, but the price was attractive: about $125, plus the inevitable Bookstore markup. However, a few days after selecting this textbook, I had a meeting with a rep and the Senior Regional Sales Manager of Nelson Education, a Canadian textbook publisher. I mentioned my textbook choice, and lamented the fact that their textbook was nice, but was much more expensive (about $180) compared to the other textbook.

The Sales Manager immediately said, “What if we match the price?” What the--? Match the price? A $45 price drop? How could they offer that? (I don’t know, but the fact that there will be around 600 students taking PSYCO 282 every year has something to do with it.) I did like their book--it was more substantial and included a free companion website with flashcards, glossary, and multiple choice quiz questions. After considering the offer, I decided to switch textbooks, choosing Raymond G. Miltenberger’s Behavior Modification: Principles & Procedures (5th edition). Yay! Except...

I forgot about the Bookstore markup. The “shelf price” at the UofA Bookstore is not based on the list price (like MSRP) of the textbook; it’s based on the net price (divided by 0.75). In other words, it didn’t matter that the publisher had offered to cut their list price, because the Bookstore price would be based on the net price. Argh!

Here’s the hero part. After I explained this situation to Nelson Education, they still managed to find some way to cut the cost of the textbook. (If you’re not impressed by this, let me tell you: it’s like magic + rainbows + unicorns.) Although the shelf price won’t be $125 (remember, the Bookstore would have added their cut to that number anyway), it will be pretty decent: $135.30. Plus GST.

See? I care about the high cost of textbooks--a lot. (Switching textbooks meant that I had to throw away a couple of months of work and start over.) And, I work really hard to get you the best deal possible. (You’re welcome.)

Coming up next: The New Prep 3: The Self-Management Project.

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