Published 27th April 2017

Coursebooks. New English File. Cutting Edge. Total English. SpeakOut. Touchstone. Inside Out. Outcomes.

Some teachers love them and some hate them. What’s the big deal?

Coursebooks present language in a linear fashion.

Coursebooks assume that we learn in a straight line. First we learn the first conditional, then the second conditional and only then can we understand and manipulate the third conditional. This makes planning and teaching a lot easier, of course, but it doesn’t necessarily mimic the way we really learn language.

Coursebooks present language to be learnt in bite-sized chunks.

Each unit in a coursebook presents a snippet of language to be presented, practised and produced on demand. Again this makes assumptions about the learning process which is not supported by the research. Noticing, understanding and producing a language structure in 60 minutes will not mean that it is forever etched in our students’ minds. There are many other factors at play which need to be realised before a language structure can be classified as “learnt”, and coursebooks don’t seem to take these into consideration.

Coursebooks are teacher-centred.

Coursebooks assume that teachers have control over the classroom. Coursebooks give the power to teachers to decide what should be taught, when and how. They do not take into account the fact that classrooms differ according to the students in it and materials may work for some students but not for others, or that students don’t always learn at the same pace.

Coursebooks are a rich source of materials.

Finding materials for your lessons can be incredibly time-consuming. We all know it’s possible and it contributes to our lessons being personal and relevant and all those other good things, but who really has the time to find age- and level-appropriate materials for all our lessons?

Coursebooks provide us with structure.

Having a coursebook allows us to plan relatively easily in advance. We don’t need to spend ages coming up with our own curriculum because we can assume the coursebooks have been based on research so they have a good foundation for their structure.

As you can see, there are definite pros and cons to using coursebooks. You may find you actually don’t have a choice in the matter – whether or not you use a coursebook or which coursebook you use. You will have to get to know your coursebook and find a way to make it work for you and your classroom.

Remember, even though it starts on Page 1, there is no reason why you have to use a coursebook in the way it was intended. It is a resource and should be utilised as such. You have more experience than the coursebook, so trust your instincts and use it as you see fit, to complement not dominate your lessons.