You can listen to the episode, or follow links to your preferred podcast platforms, here. Many thanks to Nick White, Matthew Ellman and Geoff Jordan for their contributions.

NB: all views expressed on the podcast are the individual opinions of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of SLB as a cooperative.

Background reading & listening

Here is Nick White’s blogpost, “Challenging the Coursebook” – Challenge Accepted, which responded to Geoff’s presentation at Innovate 2015, to be found here. Further posts by Nick are on the ‘redux’ version of his blog here.

The point-counterpoint exchange on coursebooks by Geoff and Stacey Holliday Hughes is on ELTJ, unfortunately behind a paywall unless you have institutional access. Here are the references:

  • Jordan, G., & Gray, H. (2019). We need to talk about coursebooks. ELT Journal, 73(4), 438–446. //
  • Hughes, S. H. (2019). Coursebooks: Is there more than meets the eye? ELT Journal, 73(4), 447–455. //
  • Jordan, G. (2019). A response to Hughes. ELT Journal, 73(4), 456–458. //

A selection of other critical analyses of coursebooks follows. The Tomlinson article is free to download if you follow the link, and please get in touch if you’re interested in Tom Flaherty’s thesis.

  • Flaherty, T. (2018). An exploratory case-study into tensions between classroom practices and EFL teachers’, learners’ and coursebook writers’ beliefs on grammar instruction (M.A. Thesis). Universitat de Barcelona.
  • Gray, J. (2010). The Construction of English Culture: Consumerism and Promotion in the ELT Global Coursebook. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Tomlinson, B., & Masuhara, H. (2013). Adult coursebooks. ELT Journal, 67(2), 233–249. //

The reference to Marije Michel on the washback effects of exams is from Episode 24 of the excellent Teacher Talking Time podcast.

Regarding the use of coursebooks and TBLT in Japan and East Asia

Geoff and Matt disagreed about the role of coursebooks, and the existence of student needs outside of passing exams, in Japan. It is interesting here to note several TBLT-related studies on Japan and neighbouring regions. Of 47 studies of TBLT programmes, Bryfonski & McKay (2019) found a total of 16 studies of programmes in East and Southeast Asia, with encouraging learning outcomes and stakeholder satisfaction.

Programs in East Asia (k = 7) reported overall medium effects. This finding is encouraging in light of previous studies that have questioned the compatibility of TBLT in East Asian countries (e.g. Carless, 2003) due to socio-cultural differences in learning and teaching styles.

(p. 19)

Two further strong cases for the suitability of TBLT approaches in East Asia come from Watanabe (2006) and Park (2010). Watanabe evaluated the EFL programme of a Japanese high school and identified the needs and objectives both of students and the national curriculum. The results suggest that students (even in so general a context) do have communicative needs in the L2 beyond the requirements of the college entrance exam, and that both can be combined in a TBLT approach.

Based on Watanabe’s study, Park (2010) ran a needs analysis of a Korean middle school, with similar results. His paper concludes with a proposal for a computer-assisted TBLT course. However, both Park and Watanabe recognise the difficulty of transitioning to such an approach, especially in the light of teachers’ and students’ coursebook dependence:

Short of calling for the restructuring of the entire Japanese educational system, which is an unrealistic goal based solely on the results of this study, teachers need to be made aware of their roles as educators, not just textbook re-enforcers. As educators responsible for improving the quality of education and not just responsible for students, teachers may have to expand their repertoire beyond the textbook. They have to look to each other for innovative ideas in activities and materials development. They have to be willing and able to share techniques if they are to be considered a community of learners.

Watanabe, 2006, p. 133

We will look further at the role of teacher education in the next part of this discussion.

  • Watanabe, Y. (2006). A Needs Analysis for a Japanese High School EFL General Education Curriculum. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 25(1), 83–163.
  • Park, M. (2010). A needs analysis for a Korean middle school EFL general education curriculum. In J. Davis & G. Lamb (Eds.), Proceedings of the 14th College-Wide Conference for Graduate Students in Languages, Linguistics and Literature. (pp. 12–24). University of Hawai’i.

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