language practice which takes place in the class. In addition, they serve as the basis for the content and skills to be taught and other types of language practice that the learners participate in. Richards also stated that without textbooks a program might have no path; therefore, they provide structure and syllabus.
Hutchinson and Torres (1994) stated that coursebooks play a significant role in teaching and learning English. They proposed that coursebooks provide the needed input into lessons to be taught by means of various activities, readings and explanations. Therefore, they will always survive on the grounds that they meet certain needs.
In addition, coursebooks have a significant role to play in language classes in all educational settings: public schools, universities, and language schools. Razmjoo (2007) stated that working with a coursebook gives most students a sense of progress and achievement. Coursebooks are identified as an ineffective resource for self-directed learning and an effective resource for teacher-directed learning. Moreover, they are considered as a source of ideas and activities, a reference source for students, a syllabus that reflects predetermined learning objectives. They also serve as a support for the beginning teachers who have yet to gain in confidence (Cunningsworth, 1995).Therefore, it can be concluded that the basic role of coursebooks is to be at the service of teachers and learners but not their boss.
Allwright (1981) argued that another role of textbook is characterizing the lesson as an interaction among the three elements of teacher, learners, and materials. This interaction increases the chances to learn.
In his book, Grant (1990) presented teachers’ and instructors’ ideas about coursebook. Most of them said that a coursebook indicates what is to be taught and learned and in which order it is to be taught and learned. Coursebooks help teachers in selecting the methods to be used. A textbook saves the teacher an extraordinary amount of time (Richards, 2001).
Moreover, making use of a coursebook in a program makes us certain that students in different classes get a similar lesson and can be assessed in the same way. Coursebooks contain various learning materials including CDs, videos, workbooks, etc. that creates an interesting and pleasant learning environment for the students. Richards (2001) argued that coursebooks could serve as an instrument for training less experienced teachers. He also stated that coursebooks give teachers much more time to concentrate on teaching rather than the production of materials.
Hutchinson and Torres (1994) stated that a good coursebook, as long as it is correctly used, could be a great instrument for effective and lasting change. Coursebook is a significant means of contenting a wide range of needs which students have. No one can ignore coursebooks’ role in education since they make teachers and learners have easier, more secure and fruitful lives.
In spite of the effect of new technologies, coursebooks undoubtedly have an important role to play in language teaching and can be used as an effective resource for both teachers and learners. Coursebooks provide both teachers and learners a framework on which to build the teaching and learning process. They also have an important effect on the learners to meet their learning objectives.
According to Daud and Celce-Murcia (1979, as cited in Sahragard, Rahimi, & Zaremoayeddi, 2008), it is useful to know some information on coursebook selection as sometimes it is teachers’ duty to choose a coursebook which is going to be taught in a class. This selection should not be arbitrary; rather, it has to be careful and systematic. They also stated that even in places where teachers are not directly involved in coursebook selection, they might be asked to give reports on the effectiveness of the coursebooks they are already taking advantage of. Several criteria for selecting an appropriate coursebook have been offered although carrying out a sound selection of appropriate coursebooks is not a fully objective process. In spite of various guidelines which are offered, teachers’ subjective judgments are central to coursebook selection. In materials selection, the materials have to be matched with goals and objectives of the program, and it is important to make certain that they are in line with one’s beliefs about the nature of language and learning, as well as with one’s learners’ attitudes, beliefs, and preferences (ibid.).
Nowadays, as Richards (1998) stated, language teaching is greatly tied to commercial materials all over the world and coursebooks have the greatest portion among them with an attractive and appealing design and supplementary resources. Appropriate coursebook selection is a difficult task and needs a lot of effort for teachers because of the abundance of published books for language teaching available in the market. In addition, coursebook selection for a language program “signals an executive educational decision in which there is considerable professional, financial and even political investment” (Sheldon, 1988, p. 237). Some experts consider coursebook evaluation to be tied to coursebook selection. The evaluation aids selection that serves as a significant process in decision-making.
Whether it is believed that a coursebook is an effective tool for teaching and learning or that it is too biased to be used as instructional material, it is undoubtedly extremely popular and it will maintain this popularity. It is worth mentioning, however, that due to a trend to make learner-centered language instruction in 1970, coursebooks’ position in educational system has changed.
Coursebooks should be considered as materials in achieving the goals and objectives which have already been set considering learners’ needs. In other words, coursebooks should not necessarily set the objectives themselves or become the objectives; rather, they should be at the service of the teachers and learners (Brown, 1995).According to Hutchinson and Waters (1987), what is being taught should be relevant to learners. In other words, they should be consistent with learners’ experiences and needs, and the aims and goals of the instructional program. As Williams (1983) stated, “any textbook should be used judiciously, since it cannot cater equally to the requirements of every classroom setting” (p. 251).
2.2 Evaluating ELT Coursebooks
Coursebook evaluation is an approximately new phenomenon in language teaching field. If coursebooks’ values are accepted in English language teaching, it has to be with the qualification that they have acceptable level of quality, usefulness, and appropriateness for the context and people with whom they are being used. Coursebook evaluation and material selection is not an easy job. Effective evaluation of teaching materials is a very significant professional activity for all EFL/ESL teachers. Low (1989) stated that “designing appropriate material is not a science; it is a strange mixture of imagination, insight and analytical reasoning, and this fact must be recognized when materials are assessed” (p. 153).
Ellis (1997) and Cunningsworth (1995) also indicated that evaluation of coursebooks aids teachers go beyond impressionistic assessments and it helps them gain accurate, useful, contextual, and systematic insights into the overall nature of coursebook. In addition, coursebook evaluation could be a valuable constituent of teacher training courses since it makes trainees aware of significant features to search in coursebooks while making them familiar with a wide range of published language coursebook materials.
Several scholars proposed various definitions and interpretations for coursebook evaluation. Coursebook evaluation typically functions as a sort of educational judgment. Richards, Platt, and Weber (1985) defined evaluation as “the systematic gathering of information for purposes of making decisi
ons” (p. 98). Hutchinson and Waters (1987, p. 41) considered evaluation as “a matter of judging the fitness of something for a particular purpose.” From Tomlinson’s (1998) point of view, evaluation is the systematic judgment of the value of materials in relation to the purposes of the materials and the learners who are using them. Rea-Dickins and Germaine (1992) also considered evaluation “as the means by which we can gain a better understanding of what’s effective, what’s less effective and what appears to be no use at all”(p.28).In addition, Brown (1989) defined evaluation more comprehensively. In his view, evaluation refers to “the systematic collection and analysis of all relevant information necessary to promote the improvement of a curriculum and assess its effectiveness within the context of the particular institutions involved” (p.223).Lynch (1996) also defined evaluation as “the systematic attempt to gather information in order to make judgments or decisions” (p. 2).Evaluation is a quite significant component of the educational process. Rea-Dickins and Germaine (1992) stated that
evaluation is an intrinsic part of teaching and learning. […] There is a need to evaluate language teaching methods, materials, and effectiveness as teachers and also how materials are presented to learners, the types of learning tasks used and the way the courses are designed. They are all part of the curriculum taking place both prior to and during the implementation of a learning program and they all must be evaluated. (pp. 4-5)
Coursebook evaluation is of great significance as it manages to a better understanding of the nature of a specific teaching/learning situation. In addition, it is of vital importance in education and for teachers as it gives them precious information for the future going of classroom practice, for the course planning, and for the management of learning tasks and