coursebooks

  • ADAPTING READING ACTIVITIES FOR THE ONLINE CLASSROOM

     

    The new classroom environment, the online classroom, involves adapting the printed coursebookwe have been using so far, to fit the needs and demands of online teaching and learning. When adapting materials for online use, the teacher goes through the usual procedure but with some added stages-considerations. Reading materials in particular, whether asynchronous or synchronous, can be quite challenging for the learners because of the need for on-screen reading.
    Therefore, it is of paramount importance to follow certain guidelines built around the relevant considerations. Within this framework, this article will attempt to assist teachers with adapting reading comprehension activities for online use in a way so as to better serve both learners and teachers. More specifically, it will offer practical tips for every section of a reading comprehension task, starting with fitting the text to screen-use, and moving on with the adaptation of pre-reading and post-reading tasks, including vocabulary activities.

    Text by Panagiota Frytzala - Free-lance ESP/EAP and Translation Tutor, Official Translator


    First of all, the teacher needs to keep in mind the principles for the development or adaptation of materials in general, though they may mean something different when it comes to online materials. One principle to bear in mind is interactivity, which means the ability of giving the chance to learners to use the language actively and get instant feedback. The second principle is the flexibility of materials, which will allow learners to not be hindered by the technology.
    Content appropriateness is another principle which, together with effectiveness, aims at materials being easily understood and learning objectives being achieved. The most important principle, though, is attractiveness, and here is where online materials can have an advantage.


    In relation to reading materials, some additional considerations when adapting them for the computer screen are, first of all, the fact that they must be easily learned autonomously by the learners and the content must include not only the materials, but also how to use them. Secondly, the teacher must be aware of the two types of presenting materials for the screen, namely the linear and branching. The former prevents learners from going to the next level without completing the previous one first, whereas the latter means that learners can skip to any task.


    Ideally, reading tasks should follow the linear type, just as they would in the printed coursebook. Other considerations pertain to the selection of the appropriate software or platforms where materials will become available for the students, and the fact that tasks should be selected bearing in mind their ability to stimulate learner-learner or learner-computer interaction.


    Moving on to the practical recommendations when adapting reading materials for the online classroom, the first one is that text-based material should be enriched with multimedia elements (i.e.: visuals). A great advantage that online reading tasks can offer in relation to printed ones is the ability to include hyperlinks or links so as to embed dictionary entries for words and phrases, or even video and audio components. Thus, learners will be able to understand the reading and the accompanying tasks in a more graphic way, and teachers will spend less classroom time trying to explain lexical or pragmatic elements of the text or the tasks.


    As was already mentioned, the major challenge of online reading materials is on-screen reading that can be tiresome for learners. In order to make it easier and less demotivating for them, the pages need to be organized into meaningful, self-contained chunks that do not spread out onto the next page. In addition, it is important to include visuals to enhance comprehension on the part of learners, as well as bookmarks so that they can keep track of the progress of the material.
    Finally, help and hint buttons together with colours to highlight points can render on-screen reading less cumbersome for students and help them visualize and recall recurrent information.


    Apart from adapting texts to fit online viewing, splitting them in parts or even decreasing the number of words will help learners follow the reading in a more efficient way. This together with the support of the text through visuals, hyperlinks and links geared towards, but not limited to, illustrating vocabulary, is bound to make the experience more motivating for learners.


    However, a reading task is not limited to the text alone. So, pre- and post-tasks should also be adapted. Starting with the lead-in activity, the title and accompanying visuals can render this part more realistic as students do not have access to the text yet, and therefore their guesswork on the text becomes more attractive and real. Discussion fora or breakout rooms can add to the experience as learners will have the chance to interact with their peers, thus making the lead-in activity more interesting for them.


    As for the post-tasks, it is more efficient to present them in a linear way and include mostly True-False and Multiple Choice questions rather than open-ended ones, both for comprehension and vocabulary tasks. Thus, learners will not be burdened with having to type in their answers, which may not always be easy, especially for younger learners. Instead, open-ended questions can serve as talking prompts in discussion fora or breakout rooms, thus combining reading with speaking. One additional suggestion for vocabulary tasks is to again include hyperlinks so that students do not have to scroll up and down in order to find the meaning of a word. Grammar tasks can also include hyperlinks that can help learners have instant access to the presentation of the particular grammatical phenomenon.


    In conclusion, it is a fact that reading tasks need to be adapted bearing in mind the benefits and limitations of on-screen viewing. This will render them more user-friendly and thus less cumbersome and demotivating for the learners. Therefore, although the teacher may have to spend quite a bit of time adapting them, the result can be rewarding for both the teacher and the learner. •

  • Choosing the Right Coursebook: The Eternal Dilemma of Every ELT Educator

    Have you ever found yourself in a state of displeasure as regards the choice of the ELT material you are using? Are your students struggling to learn, or even worse, uninspired? It’s common knowledge that as educators, we are on the constant lookout for that new ELT content which will miraculously set a new standard in learning and in turn, make our lives easier in class. One would wonder though, is there such content available and if so, how can we actually get our hands on it?
    In answer to the aforementioned questions, the ELT market has been constantly blossoming since its conception and it would be not only immature but also unprofessional to discard any sort of educational content as weak or lacking. As educators, it falls upon our shoulders to meticulously examine what the market has to offer and in turn, choose that which is best tailored to our students’ educational needs.

    Text by Katherine Reilly - Teacher Trainer and Author


    ELT Learners’ Level


    Even though this is a no-brainer, you’ll be surprised by the fact that the proposed level of a coursebook might not be the most suitable for your students. Many a time, educators would switch to another publisher, simply because their students found a coursebook facile or in most cases strenuous to work on. Bumping up or down a level or two might just be the answer, as the coursebook’s approach may be ideal for our students, whereas, our selection of difficulty was not.


    Theme and Content


    It’s common knowledge that every coursebook follows a specific theme. The main characters of a book are more important than you might realize. Will my students relate to them? Are the stories included thought provoking, humorous or even inspirational? Characters that might appeal to us, may not necessarily do the same for our students. Before switching to a new coursebook, why not ask the students themselves what they think? Publishing representatives are more than eager to do presentations or hand out free samples of their work. These samples unfortunately never reach our students’ hands, which is ironic, since the students themselves are the ones who will be using this material to learn.


    New Skills Perspectives


    A coursebook usually follows a specific pattern of representing the proposed content of learning. Sections dedicated to grammar, vocabulary and reading are a staple but what about other aspects of ELT? Is there enough content available for enhancing their verbal communicative skills? What about critical thought? Rote learning has become a thing of the past and we are all aware of the fact that our ever-developing society depends on individual initiative, social interaction and the stimulation of the now highly regarded soft skills; all necessary qualifications for entering the job market.


    Content & Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)


    CLIL in itself would require an article of its own to fully analyze, nonetheless, to put it briefly, it is an educational approach for learning content through an additional language, thus teaching both the subject and the language at the same time. To be more specific, any subjects like physics, geography, history or even life skills learned in a classroom context, can be taught in a foreign language. Are your students interested in one of the aforementioned subjects? Does the coursebook incorporate CLIL themes which would invest them in the learning procedure?
    CLIL can definitely add a new flavour in the learning procedure as it is a unique approach to integrating a student’s interests with the ultimate goal of expanding both his general knowledge, as well as the assimilation of the language taught.


    The Dawn of e-Learning


    A coursebook is intricately dependent on its accompanying components which amplify the content being practiced. Gone are the days of relying solely on extra, albeit repetitive content, found in workbooks as ELT has fully embraced the digital age and is thriving in its own right. Downloadable apps and software not only stimulate, but further motivate a learner to embrace and adopt the language as his own. One must now consider the potential offered by online interactive content and put it to the best of use both in class and mostly, in the palm of our students’ hands.


    Teacher’s Material


    The final ingredient to putting this all together is to look in the mirror and ask ourselves as educators, “Am I fully prepared to deliver the material the publisher has offered me?” It is a sad truth that many educators rely solely on their own experience; a highly respected experience that spans over decades of teaching a foreign language to classes of all ages and levels. Experience, however, comes at a high price, as in many cases overshadows new breakthroughs in ELT which are most often than not, fully represented in accompanying textbooks provided to us with the sole purpose of making or lives easier in class. You would be surprised by the amount of effort put into an ELT series Teacher’s Book and how it can change our teaching experience for the better.


    Just remember to keep both yourselves and your students inspired, to take advantage of new ideas and approaches and remember that every coursebook has something unique and wonderful to offer us all.•

     

  • Coursebooks

  • Coursebooks: Can we live with or without them?

     

     

    As a child I was so happy when my parents had to buy me a new textbook when the new academic year was to start in the frontistirio I was going to. However, this was not the case for my parents. Now I assume that I was curious about finding what these books included as they were something new. I liked the images, the short stories and especially whatever was not a grammar or a vocabulary exercise. Unfortunately, coursebooksback then did not include DVDs, ebooks or any kind of interactive software. I can totally relate with my students when they get their new books and they are super excited when they take a look at them, when they watch the videos and the pictures or play games on the ebooks.
    The abovementioned excitement changed when I started working as a teacher in 2011. From an exciting search of ideas and images, coursebooks ended up being only a tool which I could use in order to teach. Hopefully, this lasted only one year as I was trying to find ways of bringing that excitement that I had as a kid into my life as a teacher. Then, I started reading books and research papers and looking into the why we ‘should’ use coursebooks and why our students, our students’ parents and even ourselves feel positive towards having a coursebook.

    TEXT BY TANYA LIVARDA - (BA/ MA IN TESOL, CELTA), EFL TEACHER, ORAL EXAMINER

    Why coursebooks?


    1. “Coursebooks are popular because they reduce the time needed for lesson preparation, they provide a visible, coherent programme of work, they provide support, they are a convenient resource for learners, they make standardized instruction possible, they are visually appealing and coursebook packages contain a wealth of extra material” (McGrath, 2013 pp. 5-6).
    2. “Provide a framework for teachers in achieving the aims and objectives of the course” (Tok, 2010 p.508).
    3. Cunningsworth states that “textbooks are an effective resource for presentational materials, a source of ideas and activities, a reference source for students, a syllabus where they reflect pre-determined learning objectives, and support less experienced teachers who are yet to gain confidence” (cited in Tok, 2010 p. 508).
    4. Hycroft argues that “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” (cited in Tok, 2010 p. 508).
    5. Tomlinson, states that coursebooks “concentrated on the linguistic and analytical aspects of learning and made insufficient use of the learners’ ability to learn through doing things physically, to learn through feeling emotion, to learn through experiencing things in the mind” (cited in McGrath, 2013 p. 9).
    6. Another criticism is found to be in the context of coursebooks, where we can see that reality is being “misrepresented […] and depicted a world that is free of problems and sanitized” (McGrath, 2013 p.12).

    Based on the above short literature review, it is evident that coursebooks are visually appealing, they provide a source of ideas and activities, they support not only less experienced teachers but also experienced ones and students can feel secure because in this way they can ‘measure’ their progress. On the other hand, critics see coursebooks as artificial tools in which texts and exercises do not depict the real world but instead they focus solely on the language itself. In my opinion, the truth lies somewhere in between. Whether you are in favour or against coursebooks, we have to admit that coursebooks, nowadays, follow the CEFR and a certain methodology; they also give us lots of ideas and support. They incorporate videos, images, texts that reflect on the reality (e.g. healthy eating, bullying, festivals, travelling etc.). However, they still have fixed grammar and vocabulary activities and artificial texts and to be honest this is my main objection. Nevertheless, every problem has its own solution.


    So, what did I do? I changed or to be more politically correct I adapted my materials. This is what I am still doing.


    Why adapting the existing materials?


    1.In order to become more authentic. In this way, students feel that there is “a relation between the classroom and the outside world” (Gebhard, 2006 p.105).
    2. We need to add some more activities because we feel that our students need more practice.
    3. We have to change the way something is presented, because we think that it is not suitable for our learners’ needs, interests, age or level of English.
    4. We feel that we must omit certain content because it is confusing or we do not need to dedicate more time to it.
    5. Perhaps we follow a certain procedure or we use a certain method and approach, so it might be useful if we add or omit some tasks.
    6. To make it fun, simpler or ‘humanise’ it.
    7. To increase interaction among our students.


    What to adapt?


    Anything that we can find in coursebooks. From the order of the activities to the questions and tests. We can add, omit, modify, simplify and re-order (McDonough et al, 2013) the existing tasks/texts.


    How to adapt?


    1. Use a video/song (e.g. Ted Talks, Film English, ESL Brains-for adults, British Council Learn English Kids, British Council Learn English Teens).
    2. Use pictures/ paintings related to the text. First let your students brainstorm, then read and discuss (e.g. how can you connect the pictures with the text/audio?).
    3. Play games or use online tools (e.g. Kahoot, Wordwall, Quizizz, Nearpod, Edpuzzle, Educandy, Kwot, Readworks, Tubequizard, Gimkit and many more) to practice grammar/vocabulary or to set a speaking/writing task.
    4. Create mind maps or word clouds in order to generate ideas on writing (canva, wordclouds.com).
    5. Change the writing topics. For example, you can give a funny topic, or a real life situation which addresses your students’ interests and needs.
    6. Let the class decide what to do and what to leave from the coursebooks. At the beginning of the school year discuss with the students the expectations that they have from the lesson. After that, you present briefly what you are going to cover this year. You can also present the coursebook and its components. Then, you can let your students decide. This is a way to train your students to be responsible for their learning. However, we are always there to assist and of course facilitate the learning process. That means that the decision that your students have made is subject to change during the year.
    7. Readings can be turned into jigsaw readings or it can be the beginning of searching for similar texts on a specific topic and then discuss and perhaps write an article. The same applies to speaking, writing and listening.
    8. Leave out exercises that your students find easy and create more challenging ones.
    9. Simplify grammar. Grammar can be taught in different ways. You can create a Powerpoint marking the main points, you can expose your students to authentic materials (e.g. a video/story) and then let students discover the rules or perhaps you may not teach grammar at all. You can also play and/or create grammar games, you can create projects or carry out research and then let your students identify the grammar points they have used. It is up to you.
    10. Change the order of the book. I love this idea and I do it all the time. It might sound confusing but if you first identify your students’ needs, after conducting a needs analysis, then you will be able to structure the syllabus in a way that your students can follow.
    11. Talk about the CEFR’s ‘can do statements’ and what comes at the next level. Most grammar points and topics are repeated, so why not adding a more creative task or modifying a grammar point?
    12. Re-write or summarise the text using your students’ mistakes or even better let your students do that. The same applies to tests.
    13. Be the student for one day (or more!). Let your students create a lesson in the way they want.
    14. Students take a text and write other questions based on the text, perhaps more creative ones. For example, if the text is about air pollution a question might be, ‘what would you do, if you were the prime minister?’.
    15. Use infographics to present main points of a reading text or an audio.
    16. Take a dialogue. Students read it using different voices. You might change the situation and then read the same dialogue but within a different context.

    And of course there are many more ways to adapt.

    Coursebooks are our teaching tools. We have the power to decide how to use them. Before you adapt, think about your students’ needs and interests. Think about your class (e.g. a mixed ability class, an exam class, children, teenagers). Think about what you want to achieve by adapting (e.g. make it fun, engaging and motivating). Think of your students’ age, personality and learning/ cultural background. As you might have noticed you actually supplement the coursebook and not necessarily ‘ignore’ it. “Effective adaptation is a matter of achieving congruence. The good teacher is constantly striving for congruence among several related variables: teaching materials, methodology, students, course objectives, the target language and its context and the teachers’ own personality and teaching style” (McDonough et al., 2013 p. 65). In other words, the lifelong learner teachers (I do not agree with the terms good and bad teachers) adapt based on what their students actually need. •

    Bibliography
    1. Gebhard,J.G. (2006), “EFL/ESL Materials, Media and Technology”, In: Gebhard,J.G. Teaching English as a Foreign or Second Language, U.S.A: University of Michigan Press pp. 101-118.
    2. McDonough, J., Masuhara, H., Shaw, C. (2013), “Adapting Materials”, In: McDonough, J., Masuhara, H., Shaw, C. Materials and Methods in ELT, Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, pp.63-78.
    3. McGrath, I. (2013), “Introduction: Material, the roles of teachers and learners, and teacher education”, In: McGrath, I. Teaching Materials and the Roles of EFL/ESL Teachers: Practice and Theory, London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 1-26.
    4. Tok, H. (2010), “TEFL textbook evaluation: From teachers’ perspectives”, Educational Research and Reviews, Vol. 5, No.9, September 2010, pp.508-517

  • Improvise, adapt and overcome: transforming coursebook material to meet the contemporary needs (and beyond)

    It is said that there is an unofficial mantra of the U.S. Marine Corps which urges soldiers to improvise, adapt and overcome (Booth-Houle, 2020). As you wonder what marines and educators could possibly have in common, think of what we have been through all these months, the almost impossible missions that we have to carry out against a deadly invisible enemy and the necessity to stay alive keeping our -and our students’- spirits high. At once, the similarities are becoming more profound.
    Apparently, hard times push people to the limits of their endurance. Under these circumstances, resilience and adaptation might be the key to ensure our physical, emotional and mental well-being. What about our educational well-being? Maybe, the only way to withstand and meet the demands of this unprecedented situation is to develop a mindset that helps us focus on what we control instead of worrying about things beyond the scope of our influence. In other words, instead of constantly complaining about online courses, it would be more constructive to concentrate on the domains in which we can have meaningful, positive impact like our practices and the material we use. Such attitude can not only help us set goals and take the necessary steps towards them but also see that there is a silver lining in every cloud. While not always obvious, it is still very possible for crisis to create opportunities that provide future benefits.

    text by Vassiliki Lismani - (B.Ed., MA in Special & Inclusive Education, MA in TESOL)


    Apparently, during these months, change has been the only way forward and the willingness to improvise and adapt are the stepping stones towards overcoming the challenges. Besides our own practices, the available material has also come under close scrutiny regarding the effectiveness to rise to the occasion. Every year, publishers boast about releasing new, state-of-the-art material. Most of the times, they have every reason to do so as their books are the result of years of research on second language acquisition and L2 pedagogy. Additionally, on teachers’ behalf, when working on a syllabus designed around a coursebook, we might feel “a certain pressure from management, parents or students themselves to ‘get through’ the whole thing” (Malek, 2015, para. 1). However, the current situation has created unpredictable changes. Without abandoning coursebooks, teachers need to be creative and flexible enough to adapt them and improvise in order to keep students engaged and at the same time, cover their educational needs. By the way, the need to adapt existing material is nothing but new. Even in the pre-pandemic times, EFL teachers decided to alter, to some extent, the books they used for a variety of reasons like mismatched methods, the cultural context or the visual appeal (Petrie, 2015). Accordingly, teachers who had chosen to work online even before the pandemic (mostly for practical reasons) were well aware of the fact that online lessons have their own pedagogy and require certain changes.


    Considering online classes, we should consider specific barriers, how our practices are affected by them and to what extent books can determine these practices or it is the other way round. The barriers can be summarized in mainly two: lack of physical presence and technical issues. Inevitably, our choices and whatever we plan to do in our classes has been filtered through these parametres. Being away from their classes, students have responded to the new educational reality in different ways: some seem to be more flexible and have adapted to the new conditions smoothly; others seem to perform better as if the familiar home environment and the fact that they are behind a screen function as a kind of a protective shield for them. Accordingly, there are students who seem to be so demotivated that their performance, especially in more communicative activities like speaking, has plummeted. And above all, technical problems which can get out of control and frustrate students and teachers alike.


    Under these circumstances, teachers still have to work with a coursebook and a lesson plan with clear goals and objectives. However, the key to keeping track with the students’ current needs and the problems that might come up unpredictably during an online lesson is to adopt a flexible mindset and make adjustments in order to reach our goals. In any case, we need to adapt our material to such extent that we keep our students constantly engaged and motivated. Of course, one might claim that this is nothing but new. True! But nowadays, it is so easy for a student to skip classes claiming that the Internet connection has dropped. Therefore, the point is to make our students want to join the meeting, not because they have to but because they know that something interesting is happening there or is about to take place and they don’t want to miss it.


    What teachers do not always realize is that the opposite is also true: “If YOU aren’t motivated by the lesson, you’re not going to engage your students” (Malanek, 2015, para. 3). Knowing that we have to deal with problems that might not be easily anticipated and can be very stressful. So, instead of focusing on the problems, why not anticipating learning opportunities as given through online classes? For example, we must be aware of the fact that if we expect to practice speaking during a “so called” speaking class, we might never have the chance to do so as no one can reassure us that on that particular day everyone will be able to contribute due to technical issues. On the contrary, if we make the most of the learning opportunities offered by the integrated language skills approach and practice all language skills in conjunction and not separately (Pardede, 2019), then we offer our students ample opportunities to practice their speaking skills online on a daily basis.
    Apparently, in order to motivate students and put changes into practice, creativity and flexibility to adopt coursebook material must be in the core of our discussion. Here are some ideas that might help us move a step forward and serve the goals of our lessons:

    • Invest in the pre-/after- teaching stages to incorporate all skills!
    • Personalize learning: Turn typical activities into tasks with a personal item!
    • Make use of your students’ curiosity! Don’t be afraid to improvise!
    • Use image based activities (e.g. infographics) to support you students’ learning and increase engagement.
    • Build on and develop students’ digital literacy.

    Most importantly, we should always keep in mind that we teach through the screen and not to the screen. The fact that we can’t see our students most of the times, it does not mean that we should not always think of their needs and interests and deliver our lesson accordingly. Equally important, when this pandemic crisis is well over, the decision to adapt coursebooks might be a lasting legacy to free teachers from strict adherence to coursebooks- based curriculums when/if required and make sure that the material we use serves the needs of the particular group of students at a given moment. •

  • What is there to choose when you choose a coursebook?

    Author: George Vassilakis

    Most teachers use a coursebook as the backbone of the course. More often than not, the coursebook provides the syllabus as well as the majority of the materials to be used in the classroom: usually accompanied by a number of related books and resources (for example, workbooks, learning companions, online reference and practice materials, tests, grammar books, etc.), the coursebook, or more accurately the coursebook package, has clearly become much more than just a set of materials that can help teachers do their job – it is rather the basis on which almost everything done in the classroom is based.

    Text by George Vassilakis - Teacher, Teacher Trainer & Author

    This is problematic in principle, but it doesn’t necessarily look like bad news in practice. In principle, it makes sense that decisions about the form and content of the syllabus and the methods to be used in teaching should come first, while the coursebook should just be one of the means of implementation of these decisions available to the teacher. In principle, therefore, allowing the coursebook package to determine and dictate both the syllabus content and the teaching approach is problematic: surely such decisions should be made by the people involved in the specific learning context, taking into account the parameters and limitations of that specific learning context.

    In practice, however, it could be claimed that coursebook packages, at least those produced by major publishers, are based on the perceived needs of the market, i.e. of the schools that are going to use them: the linguistic content is based on the CEFR specifications and associated research (for example, English Profile); the methodology is based on well-known and widely accepted linear paradigms, and the non-linguistic content is based on the commonsense idea that topics and audiovisual material should be mildly interesting, but under no circumstances capable of offending anyone in any of the markets in which the material will be used. In a nutshell, coursebook packages are generally safe. No matter which coursebook a teacher chooses, as long as it has been published by a reputable publisher, they can be fairly certain that the topics will not cause trouble, that the main features of language and skills appropriate for the level will be ‘covered,’ and that the techniques and activities used will not challenge conventional perceptions of what constitutes good practice in language teaching.

    Content decisions

    Unsurprisingly, what this all means is that there are only very small differences among the coursebooks different publishers publish these days. Even if a publisher wanted to produce something radically different, even if an enlightened editor or author came up with an idea for a book that could make a difference, there is no way the market forces would allow it to be published. Teachers and school directors and owners have very specific expectations, which publishers make sure to identify and satisfy: the present perfect must appear in Level A2, because that’s where it is in the Bible, i.e. the CEFR, or at least that’s what we have been told by unnamed experts; the word weird can’t appear before Level B2, because that’s where it is in the Cambridge dictionary, or the English Profile vocabulary list; topics like the environment and shopping must be there at all levels, not only because they’re supposed to be “in the CEFR” but also, and perhaps more importantly, because that’s what students are asked to talk and write about in exams; there have to be at least three exercises per unit practicing the main grammar taught in the unit and at least one freer speaking activity, because that’s how students will learn the grammar (this last claim doesn’t really need to be substantiated; it is always presented as a self-understood, axiomatic truth).

    The vicious circle


    Whether these beliefs and expectations are legitimate is actually immaterial. For example, the fact that a word is said to be an A2 or a C2 word has nothing to do with the nature of the word itself, or with the nature of vocabulary acquisition. The CEFR-associated lists of words and grammatical structures are themselves based on the opinions of teachers who filled in relevant questionnaires. What the obsession with quantifiable data embodied in the “CEFR” ideology has resulted in is that these opinions are then used as if they were facts for other teachers to base their opinions on. These teachers constitute the market that publishers will then research. Publishers will do their market research and find out what the market wants; they will then make sure their product does what the market wants; the market, that is teachers, school directors and school owners, will buy and use the product; by using books (products) that are based on the exact same philosophy year after year, the users’ belief in the truth of that philosophy will be strengthened; next time they are asked to select a coursebook they will expect to see the same kind of content that they have inevitably come to consider normal. There does not seem to be a way to break this vicious circle.

    Can we be optimistic?


    What, then, should we look for when evaluating a coursebook with a view to adopting it? If all coursebooks are essentially, substantially the same, the criteria that we can use to select among them will have to be limited to purely aesthetic or purely mercenary ones: which book has a more impressive cover? Which publisher will give us more free copies?

    Or we may want to take a harder look at the books themselves, but instead of checking things off a mental or actual checklist (does it have listening in every unit? does it have videos in every unit? does it have grammar explanations?), ask ourselves the question in what ways is this coursebook different from all the others? What material does it contain that might excite the learners? If we were prepared to do that, at the risk of deviating from standard practice and conventional wisdom, that might be a way out of the vicious circle! Choosing a coursebook because it is not what everyone expects it to be would certainly prove the market research wrong. I don’t have any hope that during my lifetime this might result in liberating education from the corrosive influence of market forces, but perhaps younger teachers might see the day when this happens.•