Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Evaluating ELT Materials
Chapter 2. Principles and Procedures in Material Development
Chapter 3.Second Language Acquisition and Materials Development
Chapter 4. Needs Analysis
Chapter 5. Selection and Gradation in Materials Development
Chapter 6. The ELT Textbook
Chapter 7. Adapting Materials
Chapter 8. Humanizing the Coursebook
Chapter 9. Developing Digital Language Learning Materials
Chapter 10. Corpora and Materials: Towards a Working Relationship
Chapter 11. Teacher Identity in Language Teaching: Integrating Personal, Contextual, and Professional Factors
Every veteran EFL teacher is quite familiar with the importance of syllabus design, materials preparation, curriculum development and textbook evaluation. Being able to construct a language curriculum is an important aspect of professionalism in TESOL. This book will help you develop the knowledge and the skills required for a professional English-language instructor.
This book can help the readers to acquire the preliminary knowledge which is related to curriculum development and curriculum planning area of studying in a short period of time.
Evaluating ELT Materials
The context of evaluation
Materials evaluation (Tomlinson, 2003c): Materials evaluation is a procedure that involves measuring the value of a set of learning materials.
Selecting ELT materials in two types of situation:
- Situations where ‘open-market’ materials are chosen by the teachers
- Situations where a Ministry of Education produces materials that are subsequently passed on to the teacher for classroom
Some journals which have regular reviews of recently published materials: ELT Journal, Modern English Teacher, English Teaching Professional, TESOL Journal and RELC Journal.
Why we need to evaluate materials:
- Materials are often seen as being the core of a particular program
- Materials are often the most visible representation of what happens in the classroom
- Wider choice means more need for evaluation prior to selection
- Inappropriate choice may waste funds and time (demotivating effect on students)
Evaluation procedures should not be too demanding in terms of time and expertise and must be realistically useful to teachers (Mukundan and Ahour, 2010).
Two stages of evaluating ELT materials:
- External evaluation: A brief overview of the materials from the outside (cover, introduction, table of contents)
- Internal evaluation: closer and more detailed evaluation
The evaluation process is never static; when materials are deemed appropriate for a particular course after a preliminary evaluation, their ultimate success or failure may only be determined after a certain amount of classroom use (while- and post-use evaluation).
Our aim is basically that of examining the organization of the materials as stated explicitly by the author/publisher by looking at
- the blurb, or the claims made on the cover of the teacher’s/students’ book
- the introduction and table of contents
It enables the evaluator to assess what the materials contain, what they aim to achieve and what they ask learners to do (Tomlinson, 2003c).
It is useful to look at the table of contents page in that it often represents a bridge between the external claim made for the materials and what will actually be presented inside the materials themselves.
The date of publication of the material is important.
Claims made for the materials by the author/publisher can be quite strong and will need critical evaluation in order to see if they can be justified. From the blurb and the introduction we can normally expect following comments:
- The intended audience. We need to ascertain who the materials are targeted at
- The proficiency level. Most materials claim to aim at a particular level.
- The context in which the materials are to be used. We need to establish whether the materials are for teaching general learners or perhaps for teaching English for Specific Purposes (ESP).
- How the language has been presented and organized into units or lessons. The materials will contain a number of units or lessons, and their lengths need to be investigated to see whether they are suitable for your educational program or not.
- The author’s views on language and methodology and the relationship between the language, the learning process and the learner.
Some factors that we should take into account at the external stage are:
- Are the materials to be used as the main ‘core’ course or to be supplementary to it?
- Is a teacher’s book in print and locally available? It is also worth considering whether it is sufficiently clear for non-native speaker teachers to use.
- Is a vocabulary list/index included?
- What visual material does the book contain (photographs, charts, diagrams)
- Is the layout and presentation clear or cluttered?
- Is the material too culturally biased or specific?
- Do the materials represent minority groups and/or women in a negative way?
- What is the cost of the inclusion of digital materials (e.g. CD, DVD, interactive games, quizzes and downloadable materials from the web)?
- The inclusion of tests in the teaching materials (diagnostic, progress, achievement).
After completing external evaluation, if our evaluation shows that the materials are potentially appropriate and worthy of a more detailed inspection, then we can continue with our internal or more detailed evaluation. If not, then we can exit at this stage and start to evaluate other materials.
In order to perform an effective internal inspection of the materials, we need to examine at least two units of a book or set of materials to investigate the following factors:
- The presentation of the skills in the materials.
- The grading and sequencing of the materials.
- Where reading/‘discourse’ skills are involved, is there much in the way of appropriate text beyond the sentence?
- Where listening skills are involved, are recordings ‘authentic’ or artificial?
- Do speaking materials incorporate what we know about the nature of real interaction or are artificial dialogues offered instead?
- The relationship of tests and exercises to learner needs and what is taught by the course material.
- Do you feel that the material is suitable for different learning styles?
- Are the materials engaging to motivate both students and teachers alike?
At this stage we hope that we make an overall assessment as to the suitability of the materials by considering the following parameters:
- The usability factor.
- The generalizability factor.
- The adaptability factor.
- The flexibility factor.
Principles and Procedures in Material Development
Depending on what we think language is for and how we think people learn languages, so our materials will differ. So we cannot separate materials from more general issues to do with language and language learning. Materials are just one strand among others: the teachers who will use them, the learners who will hopefully learn from them, the sponsors who will pay for them, the publishers who will publish them, the curriculum and syllabus which prescribe their content, the system which will decide on the length and intensity of class time and assess the outcomes, the material and economic conditions in which they are produced and used, and the culture in which the learning is embedded. The moment we set out to design any materials, we are in the web of interrelated and often conflicting factors. Like so many things, it is not as simple as it looks.
Proponents of course-books claim that they provide an essential supporting structure for both teachers and students. Without them, it is claimed, the language would be a bewildering, confusing and disorganized mosaic of fragments of phonology, lexis, syntax and meaning. They offer content (linguistic and factual), organized into a graded sequence, with opportunities for language practice and use, which is supposed to lead to the efficient acquisition of the language.
There has however been widespread criticism of such materials. All classes are heterogeneous however much some teachers might wish they were not. All learners are different in terms of aptitude, maturity, stage of language development, motivation, personal experience, and a lot of other factors. Learners progress at different rates and are interested in different things. We must not forget that published course-book materials, designed on the one-size-fit-all principle have been challenged as unsuitable and irrelevant (Allright, 1981; Tomlinson & Masuhara, 2013). Some recommend the use of resource materials (Maley, 1998 onward; Prabhu, 1989) rather than course materials. Others suggest teacher-made or student-made materials as a solution.