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Advantages and disadvantages of using course books
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Sâmbătă, 08 Iulie 2017 16:14


Prof. Felherț Monica, Gradul Didactic I

Liceul Tehnologic Nr.1 Salonta, Bihor

Discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of teacher-designed materials usually centre on a comparison with using text or course books. Rather than focusing on course books, we have turned our focus to teacher-produced materials and consider that the disadvantages of course books can become advantages for teacher-produced materials.

First and foremost, textbooks provide a readily available source of English Learning Teaching materials for teachers to focus on doing the real work of teaching, and not having their energy dispersed by preparation of teaching material (Edge & Wharton, 1998:59). The way textbook chapters are designed and structured can provide a blueprint of how lessons shall be conducted (Hutchinson&Torres, 1994:58).

Textbooks can also serve as a tool to motivate and stimulate language learning. In a learning environment in which learners are motivated and positive about their learning environment, the speed of language acquisition can be greatly enhanced, making language learning more effective (Tomlinson, 2008:5). Secondly, textbooks can serve as a reference point for teachers managing their teaching progress, and also help to provide a focus for teaching.

One of the major motivations in using textbooks in the ELT environment is that textbooks can serve as a good monitor for measuring progress of teaching and learning. Textbooks can have similar function of a map, showing the teaching progress (McGrath, 2002, O’Neil, 1982, Ur, 1996) and can provide for direction and ideas in how lessons can be delivered. They are effective tools in terms of allowing for carefully planned and systematic presentation of the syllabus of an ELT program (Ur, 1996:125) and can facilitate curriculum change (McGrath, 2002:96). Thirdly, textbooks are particularly useful in providing support and security for new inexperienced teachers, who have relatively low confidence to deliver ELT lessons in a communicative way (Edge &Wharton, 1998, Mares, 2003, Tomlinson, 2008, Ur, 1996). A good textbook can be an extremely valuable ELT device, especially in situations where interesting and motivating authentic materials are difficult to compile in an organized manner (McDonough & Shaw, 1993:48).

Students can also benefit from using textbooks in many different ways. Similar to the case of teachers, textbooks can act as a reference point for their learning process and keep track of their development. Students can use the textbook as a tool for revision of previously taught items, and at the same time, familiarize themselves with the new items that will be taught soon. Textbooks are also one of the more economic and convenient forms of access to carefully structured packaged learning materials (Ur, 1996:126). According to (Cunningsworth, 1995:125), textbooks provide additional benefits to students as they are an efficient collection of materials for self-accessed learning and for knowledge consolidation. Textbooks can also potentially save learners from teacher’s incompetency and deficiencies (Litz, 2005:88).

One of the advantages as suggested by (Hutchinson, 1994:95) was that textbooks can provide a basic framework on how a lesson can be delivered. In reality, many teachers would, therefore, develop reliance on the textbook and become uncreative in teaching (Tomlinson 2008, Ur 1996) and uncritical of content and values portrayed any textbook (McGrath, 2002:45). Although textbooks can function as a framework for the learning and teaching process for both students and teachers, no textbook can effectively address individual learning styles, differences of learners, and the requirements of every classroom setting (Tomlinson 2003, Ur 1996). At its worst, the teacher may become totally reliant on the textbook (Ur 1996), and not spend time preparing their lessons (Tomlinson, 2008:56). This would ultimately lead to an adverse situation which the teacher “teaches the book” rather than teaching the language itself (McGrath, 2002:76).

Some teachers have a very poor opinion of course books. They say they are boring, stifling (for both teacher and students) and often inappropriate for the class in front of them. Such people would prefer to rely on their own ideas, snippets from reference books, pages from magazines, ideas from the students themselves and a variety of other sources.

Other teachers feel much more positive about course books. For them, course books provide good teaching material which is often attractively presented. The course book has been carefully researched and has a consistent grammar syllabus as well as providing appropriate vocabulary exposure and practice, together with pronunciation work and writing tasks. Good course books have a range of reading and listening material and workbooks, for example, to back them up (to say nothing of Internet tie-ins and other extras). It takes less time to prepare a good course book lesson than to start from the beginning each time and prepare brand new material; however ideal such freshness might be, many teachers simply do not have the time to prepare and plan as much as they would like to. (Harmer, 2007:152)

A growing body of research examines the advantages of using a course book. In the relevant literature the following positive outcomes of the effective exploitation of course books in the English classroom are mentioned:

Apart from the above benefits, course books provide structure and a syllabus for a program, they help standardize instruction, maintain quality, provide a variety of learning resources, are efficient because they save teachers' time, can provide effective language models and input, and are usually visually appealing and attractive for students. Furthermore, they can provide the initial framework which can be adapted by teachers to suit the needs and learning style of students. Empirical research in ELT settings has provided strong evidence that course books can provide practice activities, a structured language program for teachers to follow, present language models, and information about the language (Richards, Tung, and Ng, 1992).

Despite the above undeniable benefits of course books, however, course books have also been criticized for the following reasons.











Among the main negative effects of the use of course books is that they may contain inauthentic language, may distort content, they may not satisfy students' needs and they may be expensive to buy.

The advantages and disadvantages of using course books can be summarized as follows:

Summarising the above research findings, it should be noted that both the benefits and limitations of the use of course books need to be considered in the critical process of course book selection for the teaching of English as a second or foreign language. If the course books that are being used in a program are judged to have some negative consequences (e.g. they do not stimulate the students; interest, and/or they contain a few authentic reading texts), remedial action should be taken, e.g. by adapting or supplementing books or by providing appropriate guidance and support for teachers in how to use them appropriately.


Harmer, J. How to Teach English (New ed.)”. Oxford: Pearson/Longman, 2007

Hutchinson, T., & Torres, E. “The Textbooks as Agent of Change”. ELT Journal 48(4) 1994

Richards, J. and Rodgers, T. “Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching.” CUP, 1986

Singleton, D. Language and the Lexicon: An Introduction.” Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000

Thornbury, S. How to Teach Vocabulary.” Harlow: Longman, 2002

Ur, P. “A course in language teaching: Practice and theory.” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991



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