The title of the thesis is The Analysis of EFL Textbooks for Adults. As the name suggests, the aim of the thesis is to analyze and evaluate several EFL textbooks for adults used by Brno language schools.
The thesis itself is divided into seven chapters. It commences with rather theoretical and general topics such as ‘The Role of Textbooks in an English course’ and develops to more specific ones, for instance ‘Description of Learners’ and ‘How to Choose an Appropriate Textbook’ to comparison and contrast of two selected textbooks, Global by Macmillan and New English File by Oxford University Press.
The textbooks for the analysis were chosen on the basis of a questionnaire which was sent to language schools in Brno. The description of the questionnaire and the analysis of the results can be found in the chapter called ‘The Selection of Textbooks for this Thesis’.
The thesis intends to help teachers in deciding how to choose an appropriate textbook and what it should contain. There are plenty of ESL textbooks available on the market so how should teachers choose the most appropriate one for their course? A detailed evaluation is needed. However, to choose an appropriate textbook is not as easy as it sounds. There are many features of the textbooks that should be taken into consideration and it is crucial to decide at the beginning of the process which of the features will be considered as important and which not. As Leslie E. Sheldon suggests in his essay Evaluating ELT Textbooks and Materials, a checklist may be a great help. Although it might seem that creating a checklist is a time-demanding activity as well, in the long term perspective it is evidently time-saving as the checklists can be reused many times.
However, some teachers may simply choose the most popular textbook without any proper scrutiny. Others might have no right of choice as some language schools have already set their textbooks for given courses and do not allow any changes. Even in these cases when the textbook is assigned to a teacher, there still are ways to deal with the fact that important features are missing in the textbook. The textbook may and should be adapted to the teachers’ and learners’ needs.
The purpose of this thesis is to help teachers with the process of evaluation from the very beginning.
The first chapter of the thesis is dedicated to the reasons for using textbooks and also discusses what benefits their usage brings to both teachers and students.
The second chapter is rather a descriptive one as it deals with different types of textbooks of general English for adults focusing on pre-intermediate level only. Some of the features are examined more closely and they are, later on, examined in the selected textbooks as well. The covered features are design, reading, speaking, and functional language.
After a description of the textbook a closer look is taken on another element involved in language learning, the students. Aspects influencing language learning, such as age, language level, motivation, and some more are discussed in the third chapter.
The fourth chapter is in fact an interconnection between the previous two chapters. It deals with the problem of selection of an appropriate textbook for the students to match their needs.
The following chapter is predominantly concerned with the questionnaire. It served as a source to obtain data about textbooks used currently in language schools in Brno. The individual sections are described together with the results of the questionnaire.
The sixth chapter is divided into several sub-chapters. First, the general descriptions of both Global and New English File are provided and then the distinctive features discussed in the second chapter are analysed in more detail.
The final chapter provides a contrast and comparison of the two textbooks that were selected on the basis of the questionnaire.
The outcomes of the thesis are then summarised in the conclusion.
Chapter 1: The role of Textbooks in an English course
The aim of this chapter is to examine the role of textbooks in English courses namely to compare them with and contrast to teacher-developed materials and to describe their advantages and disadvantages for both teachers and students respectively.
1.1 Textbooks versus Teacher-Developed Materials
Julian Edge, one of the authors of the Longman series Keys to Language Teaching, claims that if someone looks into a classroom where English is taught, they probably expect to see three things: the students, the teacher (all of them conducting activities in English), and also some teaching materials (Edge, 43). One of the most common materials for English teaching are textbooks. But the problem Edge mentions is that some teachers “try to fit themselves and their students into the demands made by their materials” (Edge, 43). The solution for this problem is to take it the other way round and try to fit the materials to the students’ needs. Nonetheless, it does not mean that published materials should be discarded.
When looking at a page in a textbook and considering its usefulness, according to Neville Grant teachers have basically four options what to do with it. They can omit it, replace it, add something to it, or adapt it.
There is nothing wrong with omitting or replacing a page from a textbook. On the contrary, “[e]xclusive use of a [text]book can become a straitjacket; it can be very predictable and boring for the students” (Gower, 78). Jeremy Harmer in his book How to Teach English mentions that “however good the material is, most experienced teachers do not go through it word for word” (Harmer, 112). He compares a textbook to a springboard teachers use for their lessons and explains that “while they base much of their teaching on the contents of the coursebook, they reserve the right to decide when and how to use its constituent parts” (Harmer 2007, 182).
Harmer, unlike Grant, states only two groups of changes that can be done to a textbook. The number of the groups refers to the numbers of possible answers to the question whether to use the textbook or not. If a teacher decides not to use the textbook, then they can either replace or omit a textbook page or even the whole lesson. If a teacher decides to use the textbook, the question then is whether to use it as it is or change it somehow. In this point, he offers five possible changes: Adding, re-writing, replacing activities, re-ordering, and reducing (Harmer 2007, 182-3).
The question whether to replace or omit a page completely (Grant’s first two options) depends on the usefulness of the lesson. If it “does not teach anything fundamentally necessary and it is not especially interesting” (Harmer 2007, 182), then the choice is quite simple and the lesson can be omitted. On the other hand, if the topic or language presented and practised in the lesson is essential, then it is appropriate to replace it with some other materials relevant to the students and covering the same area.
Replacing some pages of the textbook seems to be a better choice than simply omitting them. The students get what they have in the textbook (e.g. the same part of grammar or vocabulary) and they can use the textbook for example for self-study or revision of the subject.
The third option, adding some material to the textbook, is according to Harmer “a good alternative since it uses the textbook’s strengths but [intertwines] them with the teacher’s own skills and perception of the class in front of him or her” (Harmer, 111-2).
The last option mentioned by Harmer, adapting the textbook, is based on using the core material from the textbook but in a different way which brings the teacher’s personality into the classroom so that the subject becomes more attractive and intriguing to the students.
Teacher-developed materials are very tightly connected with all of these changes to the textbooks. When a teacher wants to replace something in the book, the first question that comes to mind is where he or she should take the material to cover the same language area. Of course it is possible to use some pages or exercises from other textbooks but some teachers feel the need to fit the materials they use just for their class because no textbook can “cater equally to the requirements of every classroom setting” (Williams, 251). Thus, they develop their own material for their own class. Developing one’s own material for teaching is not an easy task because there still are several issues to be considered.
When making a decision whether to use a textbook or teacher-developed material in a course, one should consider several issues. The most obvious one is the amount of time and energy teachers have at their disposal to invest into preparing for the lessons. Kathleen Graves in her book Designing Language Courses: A Guide for Teachers mentions that teaching a course without a textbook is sometimes impossible since “[t]he majority of teachers are not paid or do not have the time in their schedules to develop all the materials for every course they teach” (Graves, 149).
Even though using a textbook in a course does not mean that a teacher should not devote any time to his or her preparation, evaluating and adapting a textbook is “less time-consuming than designing a syllabus and creating materials from scratch. So it takes some of the preparation load off teachers” (Gower, 77).
Developing specific materials for every course is by all means very time-consuming and in some cases even impossible. Nevertheless, it is not the only issue that should be considered. The most important participant of both language teaching and language learning is definitely a student, thus, the material used in a classroom should match especially students’ needs. Authors of published textbooks often invest a great deal of effort into making it attractive, reliable, and user-friendly (Edge, 44). Anyone who decides to create a teaching material by his or her own should try to do the same.
The attractiveness mentioned by Edge means that not only the pictures are nice to look at, but also the topics and the overall design of the textbook are pleasing. It is important to remember that what seems attractive to a teacher does not have to appeal to the student as well.
The second term, reliability, Edge explains as “the overall choice and sequencing of what is taught, the correctness of information, and the dependability of the exercises and activities” (Edge, 44). He also warns that it is crucial to proof-read any text or handout a teacher creates as “mistakes will creep into any text” (Edge, 44).
The third term refers to the security the material should provide. As long as published textbooks are concerned, obtaining a copy of a teacher’s book gives the teacher more options and ideas to exploit the textbook.
Unfortunately, choosing teacher-developed material over a published textbook does not always have to seem to be a good option for the students. Leslie E. Sheldon mentions in his paper Evaluating ELT textbooks and materials that “[i]t is a cruel paradox that for students, teacher-generated material (which potentially has a dynamic and maximal relevance to local needs) often has less credibility than a published textbook, no matter how inadequate that may be” (Sheldon, 238). Penny Ur also shares her experience with teaching a course without a textbook. She reports that her students “have complained of a sense of lack of purpose, and, interestingly, that they feel that their learning is not taken seriously” (Ur, 193). It is pity that although teacher-created handouts and worksheets are results of the popular communicative approach, they are often badly received by students who tend to trust books which are officially published yet not tailor made for their needs.
Two requirements teacher-developed materials should fulfil according to Edge are the connection between the artificial classroom setting and the real world outside the classroom and they should stimulate “authentic communication between the learners” (Edge, 46).
Although it might seem that using teacher-developed material has no advantages over using textbook, it is not true. As Sheldon says, even the newest textbook is always “a little outdated [...] because of the long delays between writing and publication” (Sheldon, 239). This delay does not occur when producing ‘home-grown’ material, a teacher can use it as soon the material is ready to use. Another unquestionable advantage has already been mentioned above. It is the possibility to fit the material to the needs of a particular group of students which is not possible with a textbook without any adaptation.
On the contrary, using textbooks has numerous benefits as well. They can be basically divided into two categories – benefits for teachers and benefits for students which are further discussed in the following two sub-chapters.