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EFL textbooks in the market makes choosing them more difficult (Cunningsworth, 1995). This difficulty will increase if you are going to choose the textbook systematically because all teachers don’t have the knowledge of evaluating and selecting a textbook and even if they have this knowledge; it is not an easy job to be done by the teachers who are involved in everyday teaching activities.
There are many aspects that are needed to be evaluated in an EFL textbook, like rationale, availability, layout/graphics, authenticity, cultural bias, etc. The important point is that it is not enough to evaluate all aspects of only one book and it needs to do the same job for other books and compare them with each other.
Today, ELT is largely tied to commercial materials around the world and coursebooks have the biggest share among them with an appealing and sophisticated design and supplementary resources (Richards, 2001). Choosing the best coursebook is a difficult task for teachers due to a large amount of the published materials for ELT available in the market.
In spite of the significance of coursebook evaluation in language teaching and learning, few studies nationwide have been conducted in order to highlight these important aspects. Moreover, few studies evaluated four coursebooks based on both teachers’ and students’ perspectives.
1.2 Significance of the Study
McDonough and Shaw (2003) believe that there are several circumstances that it is needed to evaluate textbooks. The first is when the teachers might be given the choice to adopt or develop their materials and the second is when they are just users of other people’s products. In both of these circumstances, some degree of evaluation is necessary. In EFL settings it can be discussed that the teacher and the textbook are the two most significant and immediate cultural links between the student’s innate culture and the target foreign culture. If the dominant roles of the teacher and the textbook are accepted, then the way the textbook portrays the role of several people in the target society and the way they use language to express their meanings directly affect EFL students’ choices of language when communicating with native speakers. Therefore, the materials and textbooks of each era in the history of ELT reflect the ethics and philosophies of a teaching method which were trendy at that time.
According to Sheldon (1988), we need to evaluate textbooks for two reasons; first, the evaluation will help the teacher or program developer in making decisions on selecting the appropriate textbook. Furthermore, evaluation of the merits and demerits of a textbook will familiarize the teacher with its probable weaknesses and strengths. This will enable teachers to make appropriate adaptations to the material in their future instruction.
Since various coursebooks are being used in different institutes in Iran, it seems so helpful to reach an agreement with the best one. The present study will provide new insights into the way teachers choose the most appropriate coursebook for their students. It also evaluates and compares four common English coursebooks (English Result, Total English, Top Notch and Interchange series) used in Iran’s institutes in order to make teachers and instructors familiar with their probable weaknesses and strengths.
1.3 Objectives of the study
As mentioned earlier, since the textbook plays a crucial role in students’ success or failure, it should be paid much more attention. Textbooks, in fact, serve as guides teachers can refer to in order to make their teaching more effective. Without a textbook available, it is really difficult, if not impossible, for a teacher to deliver his teaching to the students. Teachers and instructors have to do their best to select the best coursebook for their students which is not an easy job.
Undoubtedly, there is no perfect textbook. Every single textbook suffers from some shortcomings. Therefore, teachers should have the potential to supplement a textbook with certain materials based on their learners’ learning styles and needs. In ELT, many new commercial textbooks are regularly published in order to meet the changing focuses of instruction and the changing language needs of learners. As a result of this situation, it is important to decide on which language textbooks are most useful for students in particular settings (Ansary & Babaii, 2002).Therefore, the present study attempts to determine the overall pedagogical value and suitability of the four common textbooks (Interchange, English Result, Top Notch and Total English) towards Iranian EFL learners’ and teachers’ needs and comparing them to each other to reach an appropriate model for preparing a suitable general English coursebook for Iranian EFL learners and teachers.
1.4 Research Questions/Hypotheses
The study seeks answers to the following questions:
1: How are four major English textbooks in use in Iran, namely, English Result, Total English, Top Notch and Interchange series viewed from language teachers’ and students’ perspectives?
2: What are the strengths and weaknesses of four major English textbooks (English Result, Total English, Top Notch and Interchange series) currently in use in Iran?
Since this is an exploratory study and the questions are of descriptive nature, no hypotheses are proposed in this study.
1.5 Definition of Key Terms
There are four key terms used in this study which are clarified and elucidated in this section. These terms are: 1) Coursebook, 2) Evaluation, 3)Material Evaluation, and 4) Checklist
According to Ur (1996), the term ‘coursebook’ means a textbook of which the teacher and, usually, each student has a copy, and which is in principle to be followed systematically as the basis for a language course.
Brown (1989) defines evaluation as “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).
1.5.3 Material Evaluation
Material evaluation is a dynamic process which is “fundamentally a subjective, rule-of-thumb activity” where “no neat formula, grid, or system will ever provide a definitive yardstick” (Sheldon, 1988, p. 245). Material evaluation consists of establishing criteria for the curriculum and its match to the syllabus. Sheldon claims that the criteria and the key questions central for setting up a material evaluation scheme partly depends on “the swings of linguistic fashion” (p. 240).
A checklist is an instrument that helps practitioners in ELT evaluate language teaching materials, like textbooks. It allows a more sophisticated evaluation of the textbook in reference to a set of generalizable evaluative criteria. (Mukundan, Nimehchisalem, & Hajimohammadi, 2011)
1.6Outline of the Study
This study includes the following chapters:
Chapter one is Introduction in which the variables under investigation are defined. Also, significance of the study, objectives, research questions and hypotheses, theoretical framework, and definition of key terms are stated.
Chapter two is Literature Review in which the most important studies on evaluation of EFL and ESL coursebooks are cited.
Chapter three is concerned with the Methodology of the study which includes relevant information about the participants, instruments, data collection and data analysis of this study.
Chapter four is the Results section in which the results of the study are presented.
Chapter five is the Discussion of the study in which the findings of the study are discussed with respect to the questions already stated, their pedagogical implications are presented, and the related limitations are given. In addition, some suggestions for further research are proposed.
The following chapter is divided into four sections. The first section deals with the role of textbooks in English language teaching. The second section presents an overview of coursebook evaluation. In the section three, criteria for coursebook evaluation in ELT are discussed in detail. Finally, the last section focuses on previous studies which have been done in this field of study.
2.1 The role of textbooks in English language teaching
English language teaching consists of significant components among which coursebooks and instructional materials are of vital importance in EFL/ESL classes and courses and are often employed by language teachers. Coursebook is a universal constituent of English language teaching. In ELT, coursebooks have always been one of the most preferred instructional resources. They are best viewed as a material in achieving goals and aims that have already been set concerning learner needs (Cunningsworth, 1995). In spite of the development of new technologies which makes high-quality teacher-generated materials possible, a need for coursebooks grows every day, and new series of coursebooks are published every year (Lamie, 1999).
Ur (1996) defined coursebook as a textbook of which the teacher and, usually, each student has a copy, and which is in principle to be followed systematically as the basis for a language course. It also provides a clear framework. She proposed that coursebooks clarify subsequent materials and learners know where they are going. Due to having ready-made texts and tasks, coursebooks save the time of the teacher. In addition, it guides the inexperienced teachers. Ur added that a textbook could provide the learner with some degree of autonomy. In other words, a learner without a textbook becomes more teacher-dependent.
From Richards’ (2001) point of view, coursebooks act as a key component in most language classrooms. They give the students the necessary input and the