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There are many elements to consider when evaluating the efficacy of a course book. In my opinion, of primary importance (from both a student and teacher point of view) is the overall user experience. My initial reaction on the first reading of the ‘Cutting Edge Advanced’ unit sample was to reach for an aspirin. The sample unit is dense and intense, and it felt a bit like wandering through a maze. But after several slower readings, the dots appeared and the fundamental principles and techniques of teaching English as a foreign language began to reveal themselves. Pitched appropriately at advanced learners, the topics and texts are interesting and relevant enough to appeal across the board to students anywhere in the world. The activities and tasks are varied and progressively challenging. They also ensure that grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation are being constantly revised and tested, requiring students to use all four skills. It is evident that there is a strong focus on speaking and listening – skills which are of primary importance in using English to communicate effectively, fluently and functionally in the world.
Overall, there is a good balance of receptive and productive skills practice, and it appears as if there are extra resources available (CD for audio, grammar references, vocabulary lists) which would enable the students to review, consolidate, research and work independently. Without seeing the actual book and extra material, it’s difficult to offer a fair opinion on the overall structure, order and layout. Some of the content does seem a bit crammed, cluttered and disassociated which necessitates a lot of jumping from point to point, paragraph to paragraph and page to page to progress and/or access further information. However, a good teacher with a solid lesson plan would harness the PPP procedure in order to guide, instruct, monitor and obviate any potential confusion. Before deciding if I’d use ‘Cutting Edge Advanced’ with a class, I’d want to review a sample of its ‘Teacher Guide’. Comparatively, at this stage, I prefer the Scope & Sequence of MacMillan’s course book, ‘Global Advanced’, specifically in respect of its compelling topics, intriguing material and the amount of detail it offers. Its ‘Teacher Guide’ is clear and engaging, and it brims with insightful advice and useful tips. To arrive at a final decision, I’d need to evaluate one of the ‘Global Advanced’ unit samples to compare it fairly with ‘Cutting Edge Advanced’.
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