Change “is” into “may be” ? Maybe…..


Honestly, I agree with most of the opinion mentioned in this week’s reading. Teaching is a process of inviting. By teaching the knowledge, we are inviting the students to vigorously participating in the learning and at the same time developing their own understanding. Mindful learning requires mindful teaching and mindful textbook to open the possibility for student’s mental engagement. How to frame knowledge in an inviting way? To me, that’s a crucial and artful skill.


However, in the book the author mentioned the way they frame a textbook into a mindful textbook seems contradictory to what I learnt in writing. In the book, the author gives example of change “is” in textbook into “may be”. But, in my own experience in writing papers or essays or dissertations, I was recommended (both by my professor, or other writing instructions) to write in affirmative way. Otherwise, too much “maybe”, “would”, “possible” weakens my research conclusions and reduces my research significance. So I am wondering, whether this is the right way to write a textbook.


Some may argue that writing paper is different from writing a text book. But almost all text books are writing based on results from published research papers. It will be wield when the paper says “is” while the book says “may be”. I understand the need to open student’s mind in teaching, to invite their participation. So when the textbook says “may be”, it leave room for students own exploration. But if all knowledge is delivered in uncertainty, at least, as a freshman, I will feel frightened.


In my opinion, for certain basic knowledge, which requires understanding and comprehension, we need to state in affirmation. So that students, at the entry level, will have a clue on the structure of the subject. After that, for knowledge requires higher level of learning such as application, evaluation and creation, which is naturally conditional, we can adapt conditional statement to engage students.

9 thoughts on “Change “is” into “may be” ? Maybe…..”

  1. It’s interesting to compare writing academic papers and the textbook. I think we need to be affirmative in papers because we are stating our arguments. We only present what we regard true in academic papers. These arguments maybe not correct for every body, but we at least believe them as correct by ourselves. On the other hand, text books are inviting people to think the questions in different ways. It is not to say the knowledge in the text books are incorrect, but inviting is an approach to learning for most of people. “May be” in text books does not challenge the knowledge.

    1. Hi, Xiao. Thanks for commenting. I think “may be” has already challenged the original “is” knowledge. “is” means universally true, while “may be” says conditional true. I guess, that’s what this mindful teaching is all about: challenging the original stereotyped knowledge. Anyway, it is good to know a different perspective 🙂

  2. I think you have raised a good point here. Until certain age of a student, we need to present things in a certain manner. Too much uncertainty might confuse their understanding. But in these ages, students need to be engaged in creative thinking so that they can apply the knowledge in creative ways. which will help them to use their mind to actually comprehend how the knowledge is being implemented in practice. However, when a student progresses from novice to experts, they should be guided to regard knowledge more as “may be” than “is”.

    1. Hi, Debarati, thanks for your input. That’s something also in my mind while I was writing the blog. Yes, in teaching, we need to keep in mind the cognitive learning level of our students. And then adapt teaching method accordingly.

  3. I had the same feeling when I read the book chapter, especially because the biggest critical feedback I’ve been receiving from my advisor of late is to be concrete in what I am saying.

    The target of writing in a way that is mindful is to engage the reader, and while using statements like ‘may be’ is one way to do it, there are certain truths that are known with certainty and they shouldn’t be muddled. I think it would be better to stimulate the reader in a way that she critically examines the situation that she is studying. In other words, the conditions under which a truth holds, the reasons to believe that it holds, and the possibilities under which it may not hold need to be included in the text instead of providing just a ‘maybe’

    1. Hi, Aritra, thanks for commenting. I agree with you that other possible situation should be listed when the conclusion doesn’t hold. It is more scientific and it also opens the possibility for students to explore later. I am just afraid it will make the book heavier and cost us more money~~

  4. I agree with you that for the entry level students, it is better to give them affirm text “is” rather than too many “maybe”. In the text book, it can say “is” when citing a research results. However, when discussing the possible conclusion that summarized from literature, test book may use “maybe” and leave students more space to think their own answer. On the other hand, teachers play an important role in guiding students to learn “is” or “maybe”. Some basic science subjects are suitable to use “is”. While other classes that based on how to apply basic science knowledge to solve real world problems, may try to use “maybe” to inspire students for more possibilities.

  5. I think a great conversation is going on here. Just to motivate the conversation a little further let me ask you all this question: in a world where students have access to “unlimited information,” do we really need a textbook for a class? what if we decide not to use the fixed textbook where all the valid information is and instead we guide students on where to find interesting resources that point the topics we want to cover in an “attractive” way?

    I really want to hear your thoughts

  6. I think it may depend on the subject. In Sociology, there are certain definitions students need to understand, but my whole goal is to challenge students’ perceptions of what is true and natural.
    An example I often get in my Intro to Women’s and Gender Studies class period on sex and gender is “women are just naturally more delicate then men, or, men are just naturally better at strong things because they’re strong.”
    My answer to the student(s) who write these statements is automatically “says who? Let’s unpack that a little bit.”
    Science also has a way of changing over time, so maybe ‘maybe’ is an okay word to use. I agree with what another commenter mentioned above about the ‘universally’ v. the ‘conditional’ true statements. It’s not so much about being absolutely right, but rather allowing for a little wiggle room sometimes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *