Creating an Open Textbook: The Science of Sleep

Published on February 27th, 2023

Estimated reading time for this article: 4 minutes.

At Kapi‘olani Community College in Honolulu, professor Sheryl Shook, Ph.D., instructs undergrad students enrolled in PHYL 160: The Science of Sleep. Through this course and others, she’s been effectively reaching Kapi‘olani students for 13 years, exploring physiology in a manner that conveys her inherent respect for the indigenous culture on the island of Hawai‘i.

Woven with Social Justice

Indigenization; storytelling; environmental advocacy; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); and social justice are woven into her lectures, occasionally drawing lighthearted feedback, according to Sheryl. “My students have teased me,” she says, “with comments like, ‘Doc Shook, if you’re going to explain to me how the kidney works, you’re going to get me involved in some social justice.’ And it’s true. That’s how I teach. That’s how my brain works.”

As a reflection of author Sheryl Shook’s advocacy, The Science of Sleep textbook encourages readers to apply what they’ve learned and take steps to advance social justice. 

Eyes Wide Open

With the goal of creating a new textbook for her Kapi‘olani Science of Sleep course, Sheryl pondered how she might capture her teaching style in written word, and began contacting commercial textbook publishers in 2018.

Sheryl’s plans changed, however, thanks to an impromptu conversation with colleague Sunyeen “Sunny” Pai. Sunny is the Kapi‘olani Digital Initiatives Librarian who, as Sheryl writes in her acknowledgments, “opened my eyes to the social justice impact of OER and the myriad benefits of zero-cost textbooks.”

Serendipity at Work 

On a beautiful day outside the campus library, Sunny convincingly relayed the impacts of open educational resources (OER). “I have goosebumps even now talking about it,” Sheryl says. “I wasn’t interested. Then Sunny started explaining how OER is so much more than what I knew, how it helps our students and plays a big role in anti-racism work and DEI.”

Sunny, too, looks back on what she calls the “serendipity moment” when she randomly bumped into Sheryl and, in so doing, found the science author she needed to move forward with her scheduled sabbatical and help someone create an open textbook.

“Sheryl is a highly motivated and passionate human being, so that really explains the energy of that conversation,” said Sunny, who ultimately managed The Science of Sleep textbook workflow and development timeline. “There’s just so many things that line up for me, that make it a logical and morally good decision to support OER. So that’s what I try to talk to the instructional faculty about.”

Sleepy Learning Outcomes 

After three years of writing, editing, collaboration, and pandemic delays, The Science of Sleep was published in 2022 and is now available at no cost from the Open Textbook Library and as a paperback from Amazon for only the cost of printing.

Sheryl’s first openly licensed textbook features chapters she researched and wrote on sleep wellness, circadian rhythm, dreams, sleep disorders, and more. For each topic, she would start by thinking, what do I want my students to learn? What do I want my students to be able to do when they’re done with this class?” 

Shook said her development process was supported by extensive research, outstanding collaboration, and self-drawn concept maps allowing her the creative space to consider content ideas like these for Chapter 7: Politics, Sleep, and You. 

Classroom in a Book 

Sheryl also notes that diversity and social justice are woven in, not added on. She intentionally included thought-provoking points of indigenous wisdom, local context, and social justice, formatted as integrated pedagogical devices (IPDs) throughout the book. 

Sunny had suggested that Sheryl might like IPDs as an effective way to infuse her own voice into the book’s content, enabling her style and values to shine through. 

Sunny originally learned about IPDs through the Open Education Network’s Pub101 and Publishing Cooperative, where she heard Dave Ernst, OEN Executive Director, and David Rech, Scribe President and CEO, discuss specific elements of textbook design. “[Textbooks] use repetition, highlights, integrated pedagogical devices, and structure to reinforce learning,” Sunny recalled. “That really made a lot of sense to me.”

The idea made sense to Sheryl, as well. “I realized that IPD is the word for how to do what I do when I teach in the classroom. That’s the word for how to put it into a textbook,” she said.

Language of Hawai‘i integrated pedagogical devices appear throughout author Sheryl Shook’s first open textbook, The Science of Sleep, including this one from Chapter 6: Sleep Disorders.

Collaborative Style 

Sheryl’s collaborative, inclusive style also brought Kapi‘olani students into the work, helping create original images for the IPDs, commenting on selected rough drafts, and acquiring photography. Notably, Jason Ford, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Library School graduate student, tracked all citations and worked with more than 126 illustrations for the book.

Sheryl and Sunny said they felt fortunate to work with Scribe, and were particularly glad they had access to the publishing company’s professional layout services and skilled editing. Sheryl concluded that the book is “significantly better” for it.

Writing to Make a Difference 

Already moving forward with her next open textbook project, Sheryl is now leading authors from 10 campuses across the University of Hawai‘i System. Together, they’re developing a system-wide open textbook on anatomy and physiology that may be used by thousands of students when completed next year. 

And for Sheryl, it’s the students who remain at the center of her work. “It means so much when they tell me they feel like they can do science, they understand it now. It’s hearing back that they enjoy the book, they feel like they belong because of reading it, and they’re motivated to make change in their community because they see how they can do it,” she reflects. “They care more. They care differently.”

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