Academic journal article Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication

Textbook Use Training in EFL Teacher Education

Academic journal article Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication

Textbook Use Training in EFL Teacher Education

Article excerpt

1 Introduction

When being about to delve into the universe of EFL textbooks, their role, significance and reputation, it seems essential to start by making explicit reference to a fact that cannot go unnoticed: the importance of this business (Edge, 1993). These days, the considerable sums of money involved in the publishing of foreign language (FL) textbooks and coursebooks, together with the huge range of supplementary materials -particularly those relating to ELTis simply impressive. This fact should be interpreted as a token of the high level of quality generally achieved:

- in the first instance, as the natural result of the massive effort made in producing these materials that mirror the great advances made in the study of language and its acquisition, and how it can be maximized; and

- because the healthy competitiveness among the different publishing companies is unquestionably an asset which spurs the development and rapid growth of this field.


Huge efforts and a significant amount of time and money are invested in putting high-quality products at the disposal of teachers that may use them as useful tools to enhance performance-oriented EFL teaching which leads to actual language learning.

2 Why should textbook use training be included in a teacher education programme?

Many views, even apparently opposing ideas, can be said about textbooks, relating to whether they really support teachers or the extent to which they do so (O'Neil, 1982; Grant, 1987; Cunningsworth, 1995; Ellis, 1997; McGrath, 2006; Tomlinson, 2008; Banegas, 2011, among others). Most of these beliefs will be justified, at least in part. But what cannot be doubted or denied regarding textbooks and what they mean in foreign language teaching (FLT) is that they bring about a colossal source of practical ideas on how to sequence the different linguistic constituents to teach, and that the expertise of the professionals who invest their expertise, time, effort and goodwill in producing such tools aimed to be helpful when teaching non-native languages is simply impressive. Publishing FLT materials is challenging. There are many who voice their concern that textbooks are not perfect. However, would it realistically be feasible to satisfy everyone's needs? Can the "one size fits all" principle apply here? After all, no two teachers are the same or work under the same conditions. Constraints of very different natures also vary considerably in different parts of the world and the manifold teaching styles simply verify the existence of a wealth of differing priorities which consequently lead to different approaches when teaching.

These, along with many other considerations, all point to the relevance of continuing to produce standard textbook materials which, despite being designed with no actual student in mind, can still prove to be useful in offering teachers a sound reference map that can be exploited in a wide range of ways, from faithful adoption to free adaptation, depending on the teacher's criteria, which can be diverse. In some learning contexts the use of textbooks is virtually taken for granted. In others, however, they are never or hardly ever used because the teacher prefers to develop his/her own personallydesigned materials, resorting only occasionally perhaps to a coursebook, but without following it consistently and systematically.


Given the obvious fact that the teacher's aim is to teach students, not materials, teaching practitioners are expected to become skillful in discerning how and when to use which materials to support teaching and learning.

3 How necessary is a textbook in an EFL learning context?

Who does not immediately associate a FL class with memories of being in a situation which, as a minimum, had a teacher and a textbook of some kind? Actually, anything learnt in this kind of context is the outcome of the interaction between learners, teachers and the materials used. …

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