Book: Evaluating ELT textbooks and materials
Author: Leslie E. Sheldon
In the article the author has discussed different perspectives from teachers, students and other educators about what they think of ELT course book. The author has emphasized that there is a group of teachers who think that these books are unnecessary as they are not in line with the cultural backgrounds in which they are used. They think that these books are just a multi-million pound industry and a money grabbing machine. On the other hand there are people who think that these books are very helpful in managing large classes with more number of students. They believe that it won’t be possible to manage these classes without these textbooks. In the end the author gives some suggestions about how a good textbook should look like.
There are several points that got my attention. The first is about the behavior of teachers towards the books published by ETL. Some of them consider these books to be nothing but evil. In my opinion these books provide them much ease in managing the class activities. If we suppose that these teachers are given free hand to prepare their own class material, how would they produce standardized material? In the same paragraph the author has quoted another research that suggests that a greater conflict of interest exist related to the publishing of these books. These textbooks compromise on the educationally desirable material that is worth the money that is spent on these books. In my opinion the author has hit the nail on the head at this point. This has been my personal experience during my educational career to have read textbooks that were very old and full of junk that was not related to the present age.
It is also a fact that sometimes the educational authorities or the teacher who has the power to choose a certain textbooks do not fulfill their duties. They might not choose a book that is culturally adoptable. Also there are instances that the books that are taught at a certain level is not exactly for that level. Especially in teaching language, the book that is sometimes taught in a certain class is well above the current skills of that class or is well below.
The author has shed some light on the importance of getting teachers, student and administrator on board and producing a textbook that appeals to the needs of all. I think this is a very good suggestion. Thought I think that it is a hard task to do. I mean what would be the sampling technique and what kind of data collection techniques would be used is my main concern.
Strengths and weaknesses
The article is appealing at some instances but at some points the article lead me to an uncertain situation. I was lost at some points about what the author suggests should be done. I believe the literature review could have been more extensive in terms of posing more questions to the readers and somehow answering these questions so that the readers had a clear idea of what should be done to get the text books more productive.
In the article, the author at one point quotes another research that the textbooks are poor compromises in terms of the money spent on them and the quality of these books. I believe that instead of quoting a generalize statement, the author should have discussed the method that was used by the researcher to land at this decision.
In the last part of the article the author has presented an evaluation sheet that he thinks can be used at ELT departments to assess different textbooks. I have been thorough this criteria and I believe that the ingredients of this checklist can be helpful in producing quality textbooks. Textbooks can be graded in accordance with this guide and practical decisions can be made on how to improve these books.