Text Book Selection and Evaluation for an ESL Classroom: [Essay Example], 2346 words GradesFixer
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Text Book Selection and Evaluation for an Esl Classroom

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Textbook selection is a daunting, sometimes overwhelming prospect for both program administrators and teachers teaching English as a second language. Quereshi (1981) suggests that for “the instructor the textbook is usually the single most pervasive influence in a course” and O’Neill (1982) believes that “no other medium is as easy to use as a book” (p.107). Never the less, it’s a prospect that has a significant impact on the ability of students to achieve their language objectives, define their learning ability and inevitably affects the learning outcomes. All the stakeholders in a programme, from policymakers and administrators to teachers and students, rely heavily on textbooks to realize prescribed goals and objectives. Therefore, it’s important to make informed decisions and to effectively align textbook selection with the academic needs of the Learners.

In assignment 1text book “General Certificate English” will be scrutinized for evaluation. The contents of the textbook are based on the syllabuses and past papers of the University of Cambridge and the University of London for ‘O’level students who are preparing for the GCE English Language examination in Pakistan. The evaluation will hold an overview of the basic organization of the textbook and of individual chapters; the significance is given to general approach and language learning [accuracy/ structure/grammar /Vocabulary & fluency / communicative learning/proficiency].

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I will be investigating textbook teaching, its limitations, and the importance of cultural context in language learning. There will be a focus on strengths and weaknesses of textbook teaching, keeping in view the goals and objectives set in relevance to the needs analysis of the students. Cunningsworth (1995) and Ellis (1997) believe that textbook evaluation assists teachers to engage beyond impressionistic assessments and enables them to achieve systematic and contextual insights into the overall nature of a textbook material.

For Task 4 ‘Literature Review’ I want to focus on the ‘Use of textbook teaching in ESL classroom’. Literature Review will cover the relevance of textbook teaching and its wider impact on language learning. Does textbook teaching provide social and contextual dimensions to language learning? How does textbook teaching comply with the socio-constructivist approach towards learning while contextualizing the conceptual understanding of the learners?

Educators and researchers agree that the availability of textbooks in schools in developing countries is associated with student achievement: Students do better on tests when there are textbooks in the classroom (Heyneman et al. (1978), Fuller (1987) and Clarke (1993). Yet, we know very little about how teachers actually use these textbooks to help students learn. Despite the fact that textbooks are a staple in almost every ESL class, it is surprising that limited investigation has been conducted in terms of how and why materials are selected by the teachers. One reason could be that in 21st-century communicative teaching experts who advocate and advice on the use of textbooks may seem out of step with the socio-constructivist teaching methodologies. Yet, regardless of how great an emphasis is placed on the use of authentic materials, teachers frequently do not have the additional time, or the administrative support, to adopt all the necessary materials for their classes.

ELT materials (textbooks) play a crucial role in language classrooms; in recent years, there has been a lot of debate throughout the ELT profession on the significance of using diverse teaching materials in English as a Second/Foreign Language (TESL/TEFL) classroom. Issues of consequence in recent years include textbook design and practicality with an open discussion on methodological validity. There is a key focus on the role of textbooks in innovation, the authenticity of materials in terms of their representation of language, and the appropriateness of gender representation, subject matter, and cultural components.

Why Teachers Use Textbooks?

When investigating the textbook selection, it is important to contemplate why teachers use textbooks and how have they become the central focus of so many classrooms?
Use of textbooks in teaching English as a second language plays a crucial role in language teaching and learning and is considered to be the second important factor in the second/foreign language classroom compared to the teacher. As Hutchinson and Torres (1994) suggest: The textbook is an almost universal element of [English language] teaching. Millions of copies are sold every year, and numerous aid projects have been set up to produce them in [various] countries…No teaching-learning situation, it seems, is complete until it has its relevant textbook (p.315).

Haycroft (1998) indicates that there are many advantages of using textbooks in an ESL classroom; they are psychologically essential for students since their progress and achievement can be measured concretely against the prescribed objectives. O’Neill (1982) suggests that textbooks are sensitive to students’ needs, even if they are not made specifically for them, they are efficient in terms of time and money, and they should allow for adaptation and improvisation. Another advantage highlighted by Cunningsworth (1995) is the potential that textbooks have for serving additional roles within the ELT program. He argues that they are a good source of independent learning, a convenient resource for the presentation of concepts and activities, a good reference point for students. Hutchinson and Torres (1994) have pointed out that textbooks play a key role in innovation. They conclude that textbooks support teachers by demonstrating new and untried methodologies to create scaffolding upon which teachers can build their own creative activities utilizing diverse teaching strategies.

Sheldon (1988) identified three main reasons he believes textbooks are so heavily utilized. Firstly, developing the classroom materials from scratch is an arduous task for the teachers. Secondly, marking and planning takes central focus in the teaching process and is time-consuming, therefore limiting teacher time to develop new materials. Thirdly, external pressures restrict many teachers. It is a realistic reflection of the strains teachers feel and using a textbook is one of the most efficient and readily available ways in which to combat these obstacles. On one hand, use of textbook lessons preparation time and on the other provides ready-made activities and concrete samples of classroom progress through which management/administrators can be satisfied.

However, there are other less positive reasons for textbook use. Often, instead of selecting course books that fulfill the goals of the curriculum, “An approved textbook may easily become the curriculum in the classroom” (Lamie, 1999). Anytime a teacher permits this to occur it is unfortunate because the learners’ needs and learners’ wants are defeated in favor of the restricted prospects of the text. As Cunningsworth asserts “course materials for English should be seen as teacher’s servant and not his master” {p.15, 1984} which leads to the issue of how texts are or should be used in a classroom.

How Teachers use Textbooks?

Experts advocate a variety of methods for how teachers should use textbooks. Many authors believe textbooks are only a starting point from which teachers are stimulated and provoked to create lessons for their classes. Allwright (1990) views texts as “resource books for ideas and activities rather than as instructional material”. This perspective is supported by Cunningsworth as he believes that published material provides the initial framework which must be adopted by each individual teacher to match the needs of their students. While these viewpoints may represent the ideal model of how texts can simply enhance the teacher’s effectiveness, they probably do not reflect actual classroom practices.

Skierso concedes that “most teachers tend to follow the text’s sequence, methodology, pacing, and vocabulary to the letter” (p.432, 1991). This situation occurs for a variety of reasons: ease of organization of lessons, to provide stability for students or by the will of program administrators to assure that comparable instruction is being presented across courses. While few experts would advocate such adherence to any text, O’Neill believes that course books may meet students’ needs although they were not specifically designed for any particular group of students and therefore benefit both the instructor and the learner (Kitao, 1999).

Although the beliefs on textbook use may be as dichotomous as never bringing them into the classroom to using every page each day, the middle ground between these two is the most practical and useful approach for teachers and most reflective of what primarily occurs in ESL classrooms, yet, due to the growth of the ESL publishing market, teachers need to be increasingly knowledgeable and sophisticated concerning textbooks in order to sort through the masses of books available.

Methods of Textbook Evaluation

Although several academics might feel the foremost effective manner by which to judge textbooks is to look at the language objectives contained in them, specialists have provided a variety of approaches that may be used. Most often, an analysis of the content of the text is advocated, however underneath this broad topic, what ought to be included? Hartley sees three content areas that have to be addressed and advises assessors to raise the subsequent questions: Firstly, will the book meet their teaching objectives? Secondly, is there a depth and breadth of material in the textbook? And finally, does it have the capacity to be supplemented? (Hartley,1994, p. 163). This final question raises concerns with regards to many experts discouraging teachers from using textbooks to a great degree in the classroom. For them, Hartley’s question would not even be a consideration. However, when faced with a decision to design curriculum and choose a relevant text, teachers need to be aware of the contextual considerations along with the learner needs. Therefore, Hartley’s question has significant practical concerns because if teachers are spending substantial amounts of time preparing supplementary material, what purpose is the text serving them? There is always this question of financial constraints on the students to purchase textbooks that will not be used for their maximum benefit.

Many experts advocate a very detailed examination of a course book’s language content, which has led to the production of extensive evaluation checklists that will be further examined in the assignment 1. Cunningsworth (1984) touches upon the importance of relating materials to course objectives and the learner’s needs and processes. Sheldon’s (1988) checklist is incredibly expansive and tries to assess all aspects of content as well as various factors such as graphics and physical characteristics to authenticity and flexibility. Though these approaches are the most common and likely straightforward, other writers promote evaluating language teaching material beyond simply their contents and instead focusing on cognitive and affective factors.

Both Skierso (1991) and Chall and Conard (1991) utilize Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain to assess the processes and skills textbooks require learners to perform. The rating of a textbook will directly reflect the level of skill it demands, for example, a book that uses synthesis and analysis would rate higher than one that demands the only comprehension. Chall and Conard have adapted Bloom’s Taxonomy to create a “Question Complexity Rating Scale”. They use this to evaluate individual questions in order to analyze the difficulty of questions and to display the range of cognitive skills needed by the students to complete textbook activities. These issues highlight the increasing significance that professionals place on the method of learning and also the recognition that focusing entirely on outcomes usually doesn’t address all the second language learner needs.

This approach is further extended by Littlejohn and Windeatt (1989) who seek to “look beyond the goals of language learning itself” (p. 174) and therefore include issues such as “learners’ perceptions of knowledge” (p. 174). “Language learning and roles” (p.174) and learners’ worldview and general knowledge, as well as their effective and cognitive development. These authors stress the need for positioning language learning within the broader framework of all learning and emphasize how knowledge and cognitive ability should be addressed in the creation and evaluation of materials. As revealed by this review, experts demand a great deal from the textbook, although their beliefs may not exactly reflect a view of the situation in the classroom. However, an understanding of such issues is significant for boosting one’s capability to judge and choose the best textbooks.

The role of the textbook in the language classroom is a difficult one to define. Using only textbooks, from cover to cover, without the supplemental material is not the most satisfactory method for meeting students’ needs. However, both teachers and students desire a framework for language learning and textbooks definitely provide this. It is important that teachers strike a balance between being hostage to their textbooks and providing organized, objective – based instructions. While evaluating a textbook it is important to accept the fact that most language classrooms will be using course books to meet many of the goals of the program. Consequently, the books must provide students with language and tasks that are authentic and effective in facilitating communicative competence. A textbook can be seen as the window through which students come to know, little by little, of their chosen second language and the wider cultural context of the language. They alone cannot provide students with the knowledge and skills required; nonetheless, they are a significant tool in enabling learners to build on their language skills.

Collectively, these evaluation lists may or may not include the issues or elements that reflect the concerns of teachers choosing textbooks. Therefore, selecting particular items to create a personal evaluation index is the best way of ensuring that the realities of each individual learning situation are addressed.

Decisions related to textbook selection will affect teachers, students, and the overall classroom dynamics. It is probably one of the most difficult tasks facing the ESL educators. They need to employ an evaluation procedure or checklist that can determine a more systematic and thorough examination of potential textbooks to align learning needs with the content. The subsequent evaluative method may be used to help ESL educators in the textbook selection that are appropriate for their individual classes.

When thinking about textbook selection the following can be considered:

  • The textbook can be used as a resource for students, but not the only point of reference
  • The textbook should be used serve as a guide, not an instructor
  • The material in the textbook can be modified to tailor learner needs
  • Outside readings, integrated tasks, and interactive activities must supplement the textbook.

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Text Book Selection and Evaluation for an ESL Classroom. (2018, October 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 11, 2021, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/text-book-selection-and-evaluation-for-an-esl-classroom/
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Text Book Selection and Evaluation for an ESL Classroom. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/text-book-selection-and-evaluation-for-an-esl-classroom/> [Accessed 11 May 2021].
Text Book Selection and Evaluation for an ESL Classroom [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Oct 17 [cited 2021 May 11]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/text-book-selection-and-evaluation-for-an-esl-classroom/
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