This blog is dedicated to criticism. It offers

  1. Critical suggestions and resources for those doing post graduate courses in teaching English as a foreign language.
  2. A critical appraisal of what’s happening in the world of English Language Teaching.

The commercialisation of the ELT industry (estimated to be worth more than $20 billion) and the corresponding weakening of genuinely educational concerns, means that today most teachers are forced to teach in a way that shows scant regard for their worth, their training, their opinions, their job satisfaction, or the use of appropriate methods and materials. The biggest single reason for this sorry state of affairs, and the biggest single obstacle to good ELT, is the coursebook.

Using a coursebook entails teachers leading students through successive units of a book. Each unit of the book concentrates on a certain topic where isolated bits of grammar and vocabulary are dealt with, on the assumption that students will learn them in the order that they’re presented. Such an approach to ELT flies in the face of research which suggest that SLA is a process whereby the learner’s interlanguage (a dynamic, idiosyncratic, evolving linguistic system approximating to the target language) develops as a result of communicating in the target language, and is impervious to attempts to impose the sequences found in coursebooks.

The publishing companies that produce coursebooks spend enormous sums of money on marketing, aimed at persuading stakeholders that coursebooks represent the best practical way to manage ELT. As an example, key  players in the British ELT establishment, the British Council, the Cambridge Examination Boards, the Cambridge CELTA and DELTA teacher training bodies among them, accept the coursebook as central to ELT practice. Worse still, TESOL and IATEFL, bodies that are supposed to represent teachers’ interests, have also succumbed to the influence of the big publishers, as their annual conferences make clear. So the coursebook rules, at the expense of teachers, of good educational practice, and of language learners.

By critically assessing the published views of those in the ELT establishment who promote coursebook-driven ELT, this blog hopes to lend support to those who fight for a less commercial, less centralised, more egalitarian, more learner-centred approach to ELT.


9 thoughts on “HI,

  1. Hi, Geoff,

    Not sure where to put this comment.

    Anyway, you might be interested (given your position that language cannot be taught in a prescriptive sequence) in this book.


    The link goes to an article, with a link to the book contained within.

    The author basically contends that emotion and cognition are interdependent, and that learners are literally unable to learn what they are not emotionally primed to learn, or don’t want to learn.


      • I suppose you’d have to take that one up with the author.

        Maybe you saw some value in learning quadratic equations? On that note, the scope of ’emotion priming’ might be widened enough to become trivial.


  2. Geoff, while I agree with the principles of your mission I’m frequently at some level of disagreement with the specifics, for a variety of different types of reasons, which I’d say are fairly common to academics (as contrasted with commercial publisher or teachers). Here’s a few, and you are not alone in these, I’d say they are fairly standard among academics…

    1.Creating strawmen, just to knock them down. Surely no-one advocates the slavish following of coursebooks any more.

    2. Real teacher wants. Those of us, like myself, who are, among other things, tasked with hiring TEFL teachers, are aware of the real teacher wants in the TEFL business. It’s usually along the lines of minimum class hours and as much time off as possible when not in class. This obviously presupposes minimal preparation time, which requires slavish following of a coursebook.

    3. 1st worldism. Too big a topic to want to give a few soundbites here.

    4. Ivory towerism. Ditto.

    5. CLT is great. Sadly, in many EFL situations it’s just a sexy label for cultural insensitivity and imperialism.

    6. TEFL should be principled, based on research. Sure, but much of the research is poorly defined, poorly designed, poorly implemented, poorly interpreted, and most of it is not replicable.

    Actually it’s so much worse than that – some of the basic “axioms” are grounded in just about as much reality and empirical evidence as is Abrahamism.

    I really do agree with your core mission, though possibly for different reasons. But I see no evidence that academics might do a better job than international publishers. If they believe they can, then there’s nothing to stop them trying.


  3. Tom, your whole attitude reminds me of a poster in a gym,

    “Scientists tell us how to exercise, but has a scientist ever pressed 175kg?”

    Infer from that what you will


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