students. Finally, evaluation is necessary for the use of instructional materials such as textbooks.
Although no instructional material is perfect and coursebook evaluation is basically a subjective activity, and there is no clear formula or system to provide a definite yardstick (Sheldon, 1988), we nevertheless need a model for instructors and course planners which will be brief, practical to use and yet comprehensive in its coverage of criteria. Consequently, we have to do our best to set and apply a wide range of relevant and contextually suitable criteria for the assessment of the coursebooks which we make use of in our language classes. As Cunningsworth (1995, p. 7) stated, we should make certain “that careful selection is made, and that the materials selected closely reflect [the needs of the learners and] the aims, methods, and values of the teaching program.”
McDonough and Shaw (2003) proposed two situations in which we need to assess materials. In the first situation, teachers may have the opportunity to develop materials and in the second one, teachers just take advantage of others’ products. Both in the first and second situations some degree of assessment is needed. Therefore, one of the most significant tasks of teachers is choosing a proper coursebook. To make use of a coursebook, teachers should first select a book and then take appropriate steps to use the coursebook in classroom. It is still controversial whether teachers should be free to choose the materials for evaluation or not. However, it is clear that evaluation is usually done and no one denies its necessity.
Several reasons have been suggested by Sheldon (1988) for coursebook evaluation. In his view, choosing a coursebook indicates a significant instructional and educational decision in which there is noticeable financial, professional, or even political investment. Therefore, a good assessment makes the managers and teachers of a particular institute or organization capable of discriminating all accessible coursebooks on the market. In addition, it makes them familiar with a coursebook’s content and helps teachers and instructors to identify strengths and weaknesses in coursebooks already in use.It also ultimately helps teachers to make optimum use of a coursebook’s strong points and to identify the weak points of particular tasks and exercises.
Evaluating coursebooks assists teachers not only to improve themselves, but also to get helpful insights into the nature of the coursebook. In addition, as Hutchinson (1987) stated, coursebook evaluation not only serves the immediate practical purpose of choosing teaching materials but also is of vital significance in improving the awareness of teacher in several ways that are providing teachers to analyze their own presuppositions about learning and language, making teachers set their prerequisites and assisting them to consider materials as a necessary part of the whole teaching/ learning situation.
Two kinds of evaluation, predictive evaluation and retrospective evaluation are distinguished by Ellis (1997). In predictive evaluation, a decision is made about what coursebook to use. Teachers who conduct a predictive evaluation identify which coursebooks are most suitable for their aims. When the coursebook has been used, a retrospective evaluation might be carried out to determine whether the coursebook has worked out for them. Ellis (1997) argued that there are two ways in which teachers can conduct predictive evaluation. One way is to confide in expert reviewers’ evaluations who determine particular criteria for coursebook evaluation. The second way is that teachers can conduct their own predictive evaluations by taking advantage of many checklists and guidelines accessible in the literature. Using such guides is due to helping teachers conduct a predictive evaluation systematically; yet Ellis (1997) stated that “there are limits to how scientific such an evaluation can be”(p.37).
Yumuk (1998) also argued that coursebook evaluation is assumed to be as an ‘interactive process’ in the literature, which deals with deeper analyses of the coursebooks used. It also implies “the dimension of focusing more closely on the interaction between teacher, learners and materials as an integral part of materials evaluation” (p.11).
From Cunningsworth’s (1995) point of view, there are three kinds of evaluation. In his view, evaluation can occur before using coursebook, during its use, and after its use which depends on the aims for which the assessment is being carried out. The purpose for evaluation of a coursebook before its use is to find out the potential performance of the coursebook. On the other hand, evaluation of a coursebook during its use refers to a kind of assessment that is conducted when the book is in use. However, post-use assessment provides retrospective evaluation to find out strengths and weaknesses of the used coursebook after a period of its use. Cunningsworth (1995) further asserted that post-use assessment is helpful in assisting to decide whether or not to use the same coursebook on future programs.
2.3 Criteria for coursebook evaluation
Coursebook evaluation is not a simple matter since many variables exist which might influence coursebooks’ success or failure when they are used. Thus, several authors proposed various criteria for evaluation considering the variables that are of great importance in coursebook evaluation. Therefore, developing criteria for assessing coursebooks is one of the main steps which should be taken in all models for coursebook evaluation.
Due to not having strict criteria which might be appropriate for the evaluation of all coursebooks, choosing the criteria might be pretty subjective. As Sheldon (1988) stated, “no one is really certain what criteria and constraints are actually operatives in ELT context, worldwide, and textbook criteria are emphatically local” (p.241).
Thus, regarding coursebook evaluation, we have to consider the needs of particular learners in particular teaching situations. Several authors have proposed different criteria for ELT situations, some of which are presented below.
In a coursebook evaluation model, McDonough and Shaw (1993) investigated the criteria in two supplementary steps: internal and external steps. They stated that the criteria developed for evaluating the specific language teaching coursebook is meant to be “as comprehensive as possible for the majority of ELT situations on worldwide basis” (p. 66). However, the process of coursebook evaluation is not a static, but a dynamic process. When coursebook is considered suitable for a particular program after preliminary assessment, its final success or failure might only be understood after using it in the classroom.
McDonough and Shaw (1993) proposed some criteria for coursebook evaluation. They stated that criteria for internal inspection are
the treatment and presentation of the skills, the sequencing and grading of the materials, the suitability of reading, listening, speaking and writing materials involved in the materials, the relationships of texts and exercises to learner needs and what’s taught by the course material, the suitability of the material for different learning styles, provision for self-study to develop learner autonomy, and teacher-learner balances in use of the materials (p. 67).
McDonough and Shaw (1993) further suggested the criteria for external evaluation. They stated that the criteria for external evaluation are based on “intended audience, the proficiency level, the context in which the materials are to be based, the presentation and organization of the teaching units/lessons, and the author’s views on language and methodology” (p. 68).These factors should be considered in evaluating the coursebooks to be used. They also proposed other factors for external evaluation that are to be questioned, some of which are listed in the following:
• Are the materials to be used as the main
“core” of course or to be supplementary to it?
• Is a teacher’s book in print and locally available?
• Is a vocabulary list/index included?
• What visual material does the book contain (photographs, charts, diagrams)?
• Is the layout and presentation clear and cluttered?
• Is the material too culturally biased or specific?
• Do the materials represent minority groups and for women in a negative way? Do they present a balanced picture of a particular country or society?
• The inclusion of audio or video material and resultant cost. Is it essential to possess this extra material in order to use the textbook successfully?
• The inclusion of tests in the teaching materials (diagnostic, progress, achievement) would they be useful for your particular learners?(McDonough & Shaw, 1993, pp. 68-74)
Grant (1987) offered a test named “CATALYST” in which each letter presents each criterion that helps to decide if the coursebook is suitable for using in the classroom. The test attempts to find out the following issues:
Communicative? Is the textbook communicative?
This question attempts to find out if the learners after using this book will be able to use the language communicatively.
Aims? Does it fit in with the aims and objectives?
Teachable? Does the course seem teachable? Does it seem reasonably easy to use, well organized, and easy to find your way round?
Available Adds-ons? Are there any useful adds-ons, additional materials, such as teacher’s books, tapes, workbooks, etc.?
Level? Does the level seem out right?
Your impression? What is your overall impression of the course?
Student interest? Are the students likely to find the book interesting?
Tried and tested? Has the course been tried and tested in real classrooms?
Where? By whom? What were the results? How do you know? (pp.119-120)
However, Garinger (2001)