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Evaluating materials and textbooks Evaluation and Testing in Language Education Session 4 Dr. Kia Karavas Issues to be discussed The nature of textbooks

Advantages and drawbacks of textbooks Why is textbook evaluation important? Stages in the textbook evaluation process Identifying criteria Using checklists for textbook evaluation Phases in the textbook evaluation process Involving learners in textbook evaluation Textbooks, coursebooks, materials.. In many cases the term materials is used in place of textbooks, which refers to anything that is used by teachers or students to facilitate the learning of a language. The term textbooks is still widely used, but its reference has expanded from books to all the materials used around or independent of the books. What is a textbook?

A textbook is meant to provide the core materials for a course. It aims to provide as much as possible in one book and is designed so that it could serve as the only book learners use during a course The textbook is an almost universal element of [English language] teaching. No teachinglearning situation, it seems, is complete until it has its relevant textbook. Types of EFL materials Printed materials ex. books, workbooks, worksheets, readers Nonprint materials ex. cassette, audio materials, videos Both print and nonprint sources ex. self-access materials, materials on the Internet Magazines, newspapers, TV programs

The nature of textbooks While a syllabus specifies the goals and objectives of a language programme, materials translate these goals into pedagogical action. They embody the aims and values of a particular language teaching/learning context. For many teachers around the world, the syllabus is the textbook. Even if an official syllabus exists, teachers may have no knowledge of it or may not have access to it. The textbook is the most tangible and visible aspect of the curriculum (Nunan 1998). The nature of textbooks

Materials define what is worth knowing. what gets included in materials largely defines what may count as legitimate knowledge. The way materials are organised and presented, as well as the types of content and activities, will help shape a learners view of language Nunan 1998:210 Materials also convey particular cultural values and stereotypes. ELT materials produced in Britain and the US for use in classrooms around the world are sources not only of grammar, lexis, activities for language practice, but like Levis Jeans and Coca Cola, commodities which are imbued with cultural promise. In the case of ELT coursebooks, it is the promise of entry into an international speech community which is represented in what tend to be very idealised terms. Gray (2000:274) Choosing textbooks Thus, the choice of a particular textbook signals a major educational decision since a textbook will define, to a large extent, what

teachers will teach, how they will teach and even what students will learn. The advantages of textbooks They provide structure and a syllabus for a program They help standardize instruction They maintain quality

They provide a variety of learning resources They can provide effective language models and input They can train teachers They are visually appealing They are an effective resource for self-directed learning; an effective resource for presentation material; a source of ideas and activities; They allow the teacher to manage and organise the learning process more efficiently. They give direction to lessons, they guide discussions, they provide continuity to the learning process and provide a plan of action to the teacher. The advantages of textbooks In short, they offer security to teachers; the teacher does not have to make important decisions on what to teach, in which order and how to teach (this is particularly useful for inexperienced teachers who lack the skills and confidence for developing materials of their own). Textbooks can also save teachers a lot of time since they offer

a wealth of activities and ideas for language development and practice. One of the primary advantages of using textbooks is that they are psychologically essential for students since their progress and achievement can be measured concretely when we use them. The advantages of textbooks For learners, textbooks act as reference books and guides. On the basis of their textbook, students know what has been covered (and thus what they should have learnt) and what needs to be covered (i.e. what they still need to learn). Textbooks can also facilitate the introduction of an innovation and can act as agents of change (see Hutchinson and Torres, 1994). New ideas and methods can be embodied in a textbook and introduced gradually enabling teachers to become familiar and comfortable with new ideas

Problems with textbooks Failure to adequately describe the levels of learners. Textbooks often use the terms beginner intermediate etc. rather loosely and indiscriminately. Omission of course rationale. Many textbooks fail to identify who the book is intended for (i.e. age and assumed background of learners), what theoretical principles have informed its design and how the material has been sequenced and graded. Looseness in the use of terms. In order to appear up to date many textbooks claim to be communicative, task-based and contain authentic

materials but examination of their contents proves the contrary. Distortion of content. In order to make textbooks acceptable in different teaching contexts, topics and content in general which can be considered taboo or controversial are avoided. As result students are presented with a idealised middle-class view of the world. Problems with textbooks Adoption of traditional language learning processes. Many textbooks are not up-to-date with current research in Second Language Acquisition and may include language learning activities which have proved to be ineffective. Unhelpful teacher guides. Many coursebooks are accompanied by teacher guides which essentially provide a key to the textbook activities and no substantial support or guidance on how to implement the course. Failure to recognise constraints present in most teaching contexts. [Based on Richards 2001, Sheldon 1988]

Problems with textbooks Textbooks are often too inflexible and generally reflect the pedagogic, psychological, and linguistic preferences and biases of their authors. Textbooks essentially determine and control the methods, processes and procedures of language teaching and learning. More recent authors have criticized textbooks for their inherent social and cultural biases. Researchers have demonstrated that many EFL/ESL textbooks still contain rampant examples of gender bias, sexism, and stereotyping. many ELT textbooks are often regarded as the "tainted endproduct of an author's or a publisher's desire for quick profit". So, taking all this into account Textbooks are necessary evils. No textbook is perfect. It is rather difficult, if not impossible for any one textbook to cater for the diverse needs of your learners, the aims of your syllabus, the constraints of your

situation and your teaching style. In any case, a textbook will be a compromise between what you need and what is available. No commercial book will ever be a perfect fit for a language program (Richards, 2007) Bearing these faults in mind and the fact that the selection and use of a particular textbook is a major educational decision which has immediate implications for the quality of student learning, it can easily be appreciated how important textbook evaluation is. An appropriate textbook No perfect textbook exists but the most appropriate book for you and your students does. An appropriate textbook must satisfy at least three conditions:

It should suit the needs, interests and abilities of your students It should meet the requirements of the official curriculum/syllabus It should suit you In order to decide whether a particular textbook is indeed appropriate, textbook evaluation is necessary. Textbook evaluation, like any other evaluation activity, should be focused, systematic and principled. Textbook evaluation helps teachers move beyond impressionistic assessments and it helps them to acquire useful, accurate, systematic, and contextual insights into the overall nature of textbook material Purposes of textbook evaluation a) to select the most appropriate textbook from the array of textbooks available on the market, b) to adopt and revise textbooks which are being used in class. c) Textbook evaluation can also serve the purpose of teacher development (Hutchinson 1987). When teachers are involved in developing their own criteria for evaluating their materials,

they are obliged to analyse their own presuppositions and clarify their theories as to the nature of language and learning. Analyse the nature and underlying principles of the available materials. Compare the results of the two analyses: How far do the materials fulfil your chosen criteria? On the basis of the results of your analysis, define criteria on which the evaluation will be based Prioritise criteria. Analyse the nature and underlying principles of the teaching/learning situation: analysis of student needs identification of the goals of the curriculum and aims of the syllabus identification of the constraints of the classroom context 3

2 1 Steps in textbook evaluation The importance of identifying criteria the identification and definition of your criteria is one of the most important steps in the textbook evaluation process. Criteria will change from context to context and even from teacher to teacher since they are defined on the basis of particular student needs and the constraints of particular classroom contexts

Textbooks are evaluated according to the following criteria: A/ Practical Considerations B/ Layout and Design C/ Activities D/ Skills E/ Language Type F/ Subject and Content G/ Miscellaneous Textbook evaluation checklists They are systematic (all issues deemed important are considered) They are cost effective (a great deal of information can be recorded in a relatively short space) They are convenient (allowing for easy comparison between different sets of material) They are explicit provided that all categories are understood

by all those involved in the evaluation Based on McGrath 2002:27 The problem with ready made checklists However, no off the shelf checklist can be used without adapting it to the needs of your students, the goals of your syllabus and the constraints of your context the criteria included in many checklists are problematic: they may be based on outdated language theories/language learning theories, they may not be transparent, they may be impractical or they may be based on the authors assumptions of what is desirable in materials. checklists in the literature should be regarded as illustrative and suggestive only, and never as prescriptive. While some of the criteria they embody may be relevant to ones own teaching situation, perhaps their most valuable aspect is that they stimulate thought about the system of evaluation and the modus operandi to be adopted (Roberts, 1996:381).

McDonough and Shaw checklist The External evaluation focuses mainly on the introduction, blurb and table of contents Intended audience: Who are the materials targeted at? Proficiency level: For which particular language level? In which context are the materials to be used? (EGP or EAP?) How has the language been presented and organised into teachable

units? How many units and how many hours per unit? What is the authors view on language and methodology? Are the materials to be used as the main core course or to be supplementary to it? Is a teachers book in print and locally available? Is a vocabulary list/index included? McDonough and Shaw checklist What visual material does the textbook contain? Is it there

for cosmetic value or is it actually integrated in the text? 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? Do they present a balanced picture of a particular country/society? Is the textbook accompanied by audio/video material? Is it essential to possess this extra material in order to use the textbook successfully? If tests are included are they useful for your particular learners? Internal evaluation (based on 2 units) 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

6. 7. 8. Are all the skills covered? In what proportion? Are skills integrated? Is integration natural? In what way are the materials graded and sequenced? Where reading/discourse skills are involved is there much in the way of appropriate text beyond the sentence? Are listening texts/recordings authentic or artificial? Do speaking materials incorporate what we know about the nature of real interaction or are there artificial dialogues? Are exercises and tests related to learner needs and to what is taught in course material? Are materials suitable for different learning styles? Is there a claim for self-study and is this claim justified? Are the materials sufficiently transparent to motivate both teacher and students?

Grants (1987) checklist: CATALYST Stage 1 Communicative? Is the textbook communicative? Will the students be able to use the language to communicate as a result of using the textbook? Aims? Does it fit in with our aims and objectives? Teachable? Does the course seem reasonably easy to use, well-organised

and easy to find your way around? Available add-ons? Are there available additional materials such as teachers book, tapes, workbooks? Level? Does the level seem about right? Your impression? What is you overall impression of the book? Student interest? Are your students likely to find the textbook interesting? Tried and tested? Has the course been tried and tested in real classrooms? Where? By whom? What were the results? How do you know? Grants (1987) checklist: CATALYST Stage 2 Questionnaire Part 1: Does the book suit your students? 1. Is the textbook attractive given the average age of your students? 2. Does it reflect what you know about

your students needs and interests? 3. Is it about the right level of difficulty? 4. Are there enough authentic materials so that students can see that the book is relevant to real life? 5. Does it achieve an acceptable balance between the relevant language skills and integrate them so that work in one skill are helps the other? YES PARTLY NO YES


PARTLY NO Grants (1987) checklist: CATALYST Stage 2 Questionnaire Part 2: Does the book suit the teacher? 1. Is there a good, clear teachers guide with answers and help on methods and additional activities? 2. Are the recommended methods and approaches suitable for you, your students and your classroom? 3. Does the book use a spiral approach so that items are regularly revised and used again in different contexts? 4. Are the approaches easily adaptable if

necessary? 5. Does using the course require little or no time-consuming preparation? YES PARTLY NO YES PARTLY NO YES


Questionnaire Part 3: Does the textbook suit the syllabus and examination? 1. Does the book follow the official syllabus in a creative manner? 2. Is the course well-graded so that it gives wellstructured and systematic coverage of the language? 3. If it does more than the syllabus requires, is the result an improvement? 4. Do the courses methods help the students prepare for the exam? 5. Is there a good balance between what the examination requires and what the students need? YES PARTLY


NO YES PARTLY NO Phases in the textbook evaluation process Textbook appraisal is not a once-only activity. When a coursebook is selected, its success or failure can only be meaningfully determined during and after its period of classroom use. Learners are not taught in a vacuum, but come from somewhere and are proceeding towards specific educational goals and future training. The coursebook ultimately needs to be appraised in terms of its integration

with, and contribution to, these longer-term goals. Sheldon (1988: 245-246) Phases in the textbook evaluation process Evaluation of materials as workplan: This entails the evaluation of the theoretical value of the materials; their potential appropriateness and relevance. (baseline evaluation) Evaluation of materials in process: This entails the evaluation of the teaching/learning process and of the ways the teacher and the learner respond and react to the materials (formative evaluation)

Evaluation of learner outcomes from materials: This entails the evaluation of what has been achieved by learners (summative evaluation). (Dickins and Germaine 1992) Involving learners in the textbook evaluation process Learners, after all, are the main consumers of materials. It is they, as much as you, the teacher, who have to try and make any materials work for them in their learning. The more we involve them in exploring learning materials with use the more likely it is that they will want to refine the materials for their use. (Breen and Candlin 1987:28)

Types of material adaptation Maley (1998:281) omission: the teacher leaves out things deemed inappropriate, offensive, unproductive, etc., for the particular group. addition: where there seems to be inadequate coverage, teachers may decide to add to textbooks, either in the form of texts or exercise material. reduction: where the teacher shortens an activity to give it less weight or emphasis. extension: where an activity is lengthened in order to give it an additional dimension. (For example, a vocabulary activity is extended to draw attention to some syntactic patterning.) Types of material adaptation rewriting/modification: teacher may occasionally decide to rewrite material, especially exercise

material, to make it more appropriate, more communicative, more demanding, more accessible to their students, etc. replacement: text or exercise material which is considered inadequate, for whatever reason, may be replaced by more suitable material. This is often culled from other resource materials. Types of material adaptation reordering: teachers may decide that the order in which the textbooks are presented is not suitable for their students. They can then decide to plot a different course through the textbooks from the one the writer has laid down. branching: teachers may decide to add options to the existing activity or to suggest alternative pathways through the activities.

NINE CRITERIA FOR EVALUATING EDUCATIONAL WEB SITES 1. AUDIENCE Clearly states the academic level of target audience. Contains content and activities that match the academic level of the web sites target audience. Recognizes that students learn in different ways. 2. CREDIBILITY Author has appropriate credentials to author the content of the web site. Authors name, email/contact info, or address/phone number is provided.

The educational credentials or expertise of the author is stated on web site. The web master/web designer is credible and provides contact information. Author responds to queries about the web sites content. NINE CRITERIA FOR EVALUATING EDUCATIONAL WEB SITES 3. ACCURACY Web site should state the educational background of the author. Web site should distinguish between the author of the content and the designer of the web site because lack of accurate information can be masked by the print of an expert web designer or web master. The web sites information clearly matches the web sites intended purpose. Web site is free from grammatical and typographical errors. 4. OBJECTIVITY Content is free from commercial, political, gender, or racial bias. The web sites stated curricular goals, objectives, and motives should match its content. If the content is based upon personal opinion, the author should make it known to the

reader. The content contains a neutral or positive tone. Affiliations with other educational organizations/companies are stated. Check the web site address or URL/domain to locate the organizational source of the web site. NINE CRITERIA FOR EVALUATING EDUCATIONAL WEB SITES 5. COVERAGE The scope of information is stated. Evaluated links complement the web sites content. The information is cited properly to allow access to a larger information base. 6. CURRENCY Web site clearly indicates the publishing date as well as when the content was last updated. 7. AESTHETIC OR VISUAL APPEAL The use of graphics and colors enhance the web sites information. There is a balance of text and graphics corresponding to the ability of the

audience . NINE CRITERIA FOR EVALUATING EDUCATIONAL WEB SITES 8. NAVIGATION Home page contains direct links to all other parts of the web site. Useful content is no more than 3 clicks away from home page. All links are kept current and active and the links take user to valid and appropriate content. Each page or section on the web site is clearly labeled 9. ACCESSIBILITY Any special software requirements to view web sites content is stated clearly. Web site has text-only option to accommodate visually impaired users. Web site loading time is minimal/web designer informs the user of length of download time. Access to content should be free user should not have to pay a fee or provide

personal information (name, e-mail address) to gain access to educational content. EVALUATION OF EDUCATIONAL WEB SITES Thank you for attending!

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