Kathleen Graves has worked on curriculum renewal and language teacher education in many countries around the world, and has focused her research on curriculum renewal based on classroom practice, among other important ELT aspects. She is also the author, co-author and/or editor of many ELT/EFL books, such as Teachers as Course Developers (CUP), A guide for Teachers (Heinle Cengage), East West (OUP) or ICON (McGraw-Hill). You can find more information about her professional career here.
Graves is at IATEFL 2015 to talk about the mismatches of coursebooks and contexts. In the interview I am reviewing, which you can find here, she summarises the main issues her talk will be addressing. These are outlined below:
- Level and goals. It is often that there is a mismatch between the level of the students and the goals of the coursebook. This may also happen when the any given coursebook is used with a mixed-ability group. In this case, the problem the teacher may face will have to do with how to adapt the very same coursebook to the different levels within his or her particular group.
- Culture. Culture is another difficult topic when using a coursebook. Sometimes, coursebooks provide culturally relevant sections to work with, but fail to provide teachers with appropriate tools or insight on how to fully exploit it. This can be difficult for the teacher to overcome, as he or she may even not “belong” to the same culture that is being dealt with.
- De facto curriculum. Coursebooks are being used worldwide as a de facto curriculum or syllabus. This is not necessarily something negative, but one should be aware of the need to be able to adapt it to the particular context.
- Teachers as co-authors. In relation to the previous point, every coursebook should be in a way co-authored by teachers in order to ensure that it is realistic about its aims and well adapted to the needs of the students.
- Adapting coursebooks. In general, teachers lack training in how to adapt coursebook material to their specific context and students’ needs. In fact, some teachers even think that they are not legally allowed to do so.
- Prescriptive guidelines. Prescriptive mindsets should be questioned. Although publishers tend to provide guidelines on how to use their textbooks, it is the teachers’ responsibility design their own plan.
It is certainly an interesting topic. As an English teacher I find that there is a wide variety of coursebooks to choose from. However, there is always something wrong with them, whether it be the methodological approach that it adopts, a mismatch between its goals and the level of my students, the lack of a particular aspect I find important, etc. That’s why I agree with Kathleen Graves on the fact that we, as teachers, need to know how we can perfect a textbook to make it suitable for our students and ourselves.
If you’d like to know more about Kathleen’s talk and other interesting interviews, visit http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2015 and browse the different video sessions and interviews, or watch the live stream to get all the info instantly.
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