A Very Brief History of ELT Coursebooks

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In this talk I highlight past developments which have contributed to the contemporary ‘shape’ of ‘the global coursebook’. I focus in particular on books issued by UK publishers, and on developments up to the 1980s, illustrating both achievements and ‘roads not taken’ with reference to books in the Warwick ELT Archive (www.warwick.ac.uk/go/elt_archive), and with an emphasis throughout on the present-day value of historical research.

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Member since:
18 March 2010
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1 year 46 weeks

This presentation is part of the Symposium on 'ELT Coursebooks: Past, Present and Possible', organized and moderated by Dr Richard Smith (University of Warwick) and Dr John Gray (Institute of Education London). The Symposium will be on Wednesday March 21st, from 16.10, in Dochart 1. Here are further details of the Symposium as a whole:

ELT Coursebooks: Past, Present and Possible

Moderated by Richard Smith and John Gray

It is surprising that so little research has been carried out into ELT coursebooks, despite their continuing importance to teachers and students in so many classrooms around the world. This symposium has been arranged by way of redress - to showcase some recent research into coursebooks, to illustrate different kinds of research that can be undertaken; and to encourage more such research. The six presentations report on recent investigations of both ‘global’ and ‘locally produced’ coursebooks and will be of interest to teachers, materials writers and publishers alike. After each presentation there will be 5 minutes for questions, and some time for overall discussion at the end.

Richard Smith (University of Warwick) begins with A Very Brief History of ELT Coursebooks, highlighting past developments which have contributed to the contemporary ‘shape’ of ‘the global coursebook’. Richard focuses in particular on books issued by UK publishers, and on developments up to the 1980s, illustrating both achievements and ‘roads not taken’ with reference to books in the ELT Archive (www.warwick.ac.uk/go/elt_archive), and with an emphasis throughout on the present-day value of historical research.

Diana Freeman (University of Essex) examines questions accompanying coursebook readings in her paper It’s a Question of Questions?. What should such questions achieve? Are some ‘better’ than others? Diana presents her taxonomy of question types, demonstrates its practical application for teachers and analyses the questions accompanying readings in the four editions of Headway Intermediate (Soars & Soars 1986, 1996, 2003 and 2009), revealing some perhaps surprising results.

John Gray (Institute of Education, University of London) next considers Neoliberalism, Celebrity and ‘Aspirational Content’ in ELT Textbooks for the Global Market. He takes the view that popular UK-produced ELT textbooks for the global market reproduce and seek to legitimise views of the world through the use of ‘aspirational content’ which is concomitant with the neoliberal ideology of self-branding. The talk focuses on pervasive representations of celebrity from the 1970s onwards and reports the responses of practising teachers.

Following a short break, Alice Wanjira Kiai (Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Kenya / University of Warwick) recounts ‘An English Language Textbook Story from the “House of TESEP”’. Suggesting that to fully ‘understand’ a coursebook we need to explore all the links from conceptualization to consumption, Alice follows these links in presenting a biography of one secondary school English textbook. Her story unfolds against the backdrop of recent market liberalization in educational publishing in Kenya.

Mayumi Tanakai (Nagaoka National College of Technology, Japan / University of Warwick) also considers ‘locally published’ materials in her paper on ‘Dealing with Constructed Cultural 'Reality' in Japanese High School Coursebooks’. She describes a critical reading course she has developed, reports on how the students interpreted texts, and presents their feedback as well as that of other teachers, indicating how these perspectives will influence the next phase of her action research project.

Dario Banegas (Ministerio de Educación, Argentina / University of Warwick) presents the concluding paper, on ‘Combining Marketed Coursebooks and Teacher-developed Materials: Reasons, Possibilities and Challenges’. Dario describes an action research project undertaken in response to students in his context suggesting that learning English could be more fruitful if teachers combined a grammar coursebook with teacher-developed materials featuring authentic sources and context-responsive topics.

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