07 March 2007

Teachers should make their own coursebooks

Perhaps most teachers use coursebooks. They like the ease the coursebook provides. They like the authority the coursebook presents. (S1: "Why are we learning this?" S2: "Because it's in the coursebook, stupid.") They like the systematic approach of the coursebook.

At the same time they know that the coursebook they are using is boring, sometimes missing the mark, has redundant material, is using outdated methodology which is not very effective with students, etc. These teachers complain about their coursebooks but wait patiently for a better book to come along. Coursebook publishers and authors always assure us that we can always skip parts of their books, modify parts, take away or add to parts of their book. The fact is, they really don't care what we do to their books as long as we buy them. Their number one job is to sell books, not educate the world.

It is claimed that Mark Twain said, "What is the chief end of man?--to get rich. In what way?--dishonestly if he can; honestly if he must." Applied to publishers we would have to say that their chief job is to sell books any way they can and if necessary they will have to publish books that will educate people. It's a business and the goal has to be to make money, not love your student. We cannot blame the publishers for being like this.

Teachers better not hold their breath for a better coursebook. It's going to be a long time before a coursebook that is exactly right for them and their students comes along, if ever.

So what can teachers do about it? First, stop complaining! And second, make their own. After teaching for five years you should know coursebooks pretty well. You should be able to recognize the approach the book is using. You should be able to recognize how various exercises are being used to reach a certain objective. You should see how various material is being recycled to promote retention. You should also be familiar with all methodologies and their strengths and weaknesses. You should be able to critique the coursebooks on a methodological level and also be able to say what works really well with your students and what doesn't work with your students and why.

You will become a coursebook author. Of course, the only user may be yourself and your students. But finally you will have a coursebook that is an exact marriage of what your students need and the way you like to teach.

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