Educators of the use of textbook with a keen

Educators and researchers share the view that
provision of textbooks in schools in developing countries is closely linked to
the achievement level among learners: ‘Students do better on tests when there
are textbooks in the classroom’ (Heyneman et al. (1978), Fuller (1987) and
Clarke (1993). Yet, there is very little known how these textbooks are being
utilized in the classroom to support active learning. 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 adapt all the necessary materials for their
classes.

ESL textbooks have a significant role to play in
language learning, however textbook teaching needs to be supported by other
relevant authentic materials. There is an ongoing debate throughout the ELT
profession on the relevance of using diverse teaching materials in English as a
Second Language classroom. Some issues of consequence have emerged in recent
years regarding textbook design and practicality of the use of textbook with a
keen discussion on methodological validity. Use of textbooks need to be innovative
and there needs to be an authentic representation of language, course content,
gender representation and cultural features of the language.

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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 without doubt an
essential tool for teachers and students as progress and ongoing achievement
can be measured against the assessment 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. An 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
for 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 supporting
language learning. They conclude that textbooks provide teachers with the
scaffolding to structure their own activities, promoting creativity and 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 lessens 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.

 

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