Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Coursebooks: What Good are They? By Dr Luke Prodromou - Report

The use of coursebooks in the ELT classroom is a rather controversial issue. Should we rely on the coursebook? To what extent? Or should we dispose of it altogether and create our own teaching materials? In his, as always, entertaining talk delivered at the 22nd TESOL Macedonia-Thrace, Northern Greece Annual International Convention, Dr Luke Prodromou engaged in a critique of coursebooks, presented a brief history of coursebooks which made us realize that coursebooks reflect an image of the times in which they were written, and discussed why some coursebooks are more successful than others and how some may even become all-time-classics, remembered for decades.

Concern about teaching and learning of foreign languages goes back a long way and has been marked by the emergence of diverse teaching methods and by the developments in the use of technology. However, the surprising fact is that, despite those long years and the many changes in teaching approaches, the content and structure of coursebooks has always included a core of similar components: grammar, vocabulary, functional dialogues, comprehension questions, and so on.

Should we dispose of the coursebook, then? The answer is "no". There are arguments in favor of coursebooks the existence of which we cannot deny. Well-researched modern coursebooks provide a clear lesson structure both for the teacher and for the learner; the content in modern books is often attractive, colorful and diverse; they provide graded content appropriate for the level of your students; they (sometimes) present interesting ideas; and, last but not least, they make our lives easier by saving us time and effort. A good communicative coursebook leaves room for students' self-expression and interaction, but also provides meaningful context and a wide choice of authentic materials.

Right from the start of his presentation, however, Dr Luke Prodromou emphasized that the coursebook should not be the only source of learning for learners.

The limitations of the coursebook are numerous. Many coursebooks seem to follow the same recipe with a similar design and following the same syllabus. The topics selected are still frequently Anglo-centric and the intercultural element is often missing. In other words, some authors do not take into account the fact that English is spoken not necessarily by native-speakers but by L2 users all over the world.. Dr Prodromou also discussed a rather lengthy list of taboo topics which are avoided in ELT coursebooks.

All this discussion led to reflection - and a question: what are the characteristics of a good teacher in relation to the use of the coursebook? It is easy to blame everything on the coursebook if the lesson does not go as planned. However, we should remember that the book should be just a starting point and each of us should add their own personal element to adapt the textbook and make it a really valuable tool. In this way, we will make the book come alive, we will breathe life into it, and our students will take pleasure in the process of learning.

By Margarita Kosior

Interviewed by Lana Lemeshko

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