Material design evaluation
Mitchell’s and Malkogianni’s “KSA-Edition Traveller 4 Student’s Book” provides important domains for material design evaluation. Accordingly, English language teaching materials discovered to play vital role in numerous language classrooms. Dahmarden (2009) noted that in recent times, numerous debates have emerged among English language teaching professionals concerning the manner in which the textbooks play in the learning of English as foreign language. Textbooks argued to be highly irrelevant and were rigid in the language learning process. Writings by Hutchinson and Torres, (1994) explain that textbooks are “strait jackets” that negatively affect diminishing effect on classroom creativity which will eventually make them redundant. However, the prediction has failed with the thriving of textbooks that brings organisation to the entire learning lesson. Cunningsworth (1995) highlighted that textbooks supports the language course in material presentation, communicative interaction, ideas and activities stimulation, and provide reference source for pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary.
Accordingly, textbooks create the platform concerning the manner in which language input learners receive and practice language within a classroom. Some of the areas, which they influence, include lessons content, taught skill balancing, and the practice type which student engages. Parrish (2004) noted that textbooks ensure consistency, logical progression, and structure within a language classroom. The aspects of learning English in high school have become a fundamental wish and focus of individuals across the globe. Mehrak and Masoumeh (2012) highlighted the increasing demand of English language learning across the globe. This has made the extensive relevance of English language textbooks in order to enhance the learning experience of individuals. An example of the rising appreciation of English language learning as a second language is the introduction of English language into the academic syllabus of Saudi Arabia at the secondary level.
The wide range of English language textbooks often provides learners and teachers with choices for the optimum learning experience. However, there remains difficulty in selecting the most suitable materials for the English learning process. Grant (1987) highlighted that there is no perfect textbook as adaptability to features vary across the books. Relating the teaching style with the textbook is a major focus for evaluating textbooks for suitability in the classroom learning. Epstein and Ormiston (2007) explained that evaluation should be carefully conducted in order to determine the suitability with the style of the teachers. There are numerous evaluation methods for English language textbooks as various checklists and requirements for selecting the appropriate material.
Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) or English as Foreign Language (EFL) students have made it imperative to conduct the evaluation of textbooks in determining their suitability. This report will be evaluating the section 1b of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia version of high school English Language. This module taught in 45 minutes with focus on vocabulary, grammar, and learning for teenagers ESOL learners. The motivation for this ESOL learner is to become proficient in English language to the level, which they can be of international relevance and contribute to the global participation of KSA. Considering that English is a major language in international relations, according to Mehrak and colleague, it has become evident that these learners become the new generation of Saudis with high level of English language proficiency for global participation.
Ozsevic (2010) asserted that communicative language teaching (CLT) is important to enable learners focus on communication and better exchange of ideas through the learnt language. CLT often enable improved language learning through continuous communication. The Epstein et al. (2007) proposed the evaluation checklist would be used for the CLT in the classroom. This is based on the presence of suitable items in the checklist with respect to the focus of this paper. This report initiated by discussing the class profile and the lesson justification. The criteria present within the checklist discussed using relevant theories after which the application conducted. Hutchinson (1987) asserts that evaluation to be “matter of judging the fitness of something for a particular purpose” (p. 41). This highlighted the purpose of this report in discovering whether the lesson evaluated in this material is fit or the purpose of language learning.
Understanding the class profile provide a vivid context for which the evaluation can be conducted. This provides an intricate insight into the nature of the learners in terms of age, gender, current proficiency level, socio-cultural background. In this lesson, the learners are between 14 and 15 years of age. These are college students who have limited English language proficiency. Undeniably, main goal of their learning is to acquire sufficient proficiency in order to be able to express them at the University, communicate with foreigners, and get jobs. Some of the learners focused on learning English language in order to pass international language proficiency test such as IELTS in order to study abroad. The classroom consists of 35 students. The classroom is female only and the entire nationalities are Saudi Arabia. The learners are at the intermediate level. The learners have basic literacy skills as they have prior formal teaching of EFL. In this light, they are seeking improvements in order to be more proficient. The entire class is single with different degree of enthusiasm among the learners.
Learning English based on the CLT involve the reading and speaking session. As indicated, the session enhances the communication ability based on the topic read. Evans et al. (2010) asserted that the desire to read by students is based on interest in a particular topic or the presence of viable information. What’s more, use of reading in the language class hinged on enabling the students to understanding the concepts they read. Goodman was cited by Gibbons (2002) that reading provides three types of language knowledge which include world’s knowledge (semantic knowledge), Knowledge of the language structure (syntactic knowledge), and knowledge of sound-letter relationships (graphophonic knowledge). This enables the simultaneous use of the three knowledge concepts in enhancing their proficiency during communication. Because reading does not require any device, it enables effective classroom based conduct while achieving the desired result. Reading is the conscious and unconscious process through the application of strategies for reconstructing the meaning of the assumed intention of the author (Mikulecky, 2008).
Furthermore it offers the language learners to formulate independent pattern of understanding which form the basis for communication with colleagues in a class. In this light, the lesson is justified to enhance the English learning of the participants as it enhances the understanding and various language components of participants.
CLT based Evaluation Criteria
Epstien et al. (2007) identified 11 factors in form of a checklist for evaluating language materials. This checklist contains detail features that a material must possess certified and provide effective language learning experience. In essence, these checklists provide the basis for evaluating the materials in this report.
First, Language Teaching Materials (LTM) should reflect context and ensure that language is learnt beyond the level of sentence alone: The major focus of CLT is to ensure that the process of language teaching emphasize communication that is entrenched in the understanding and meaning formulation of texts by individual students (Weddel, 2009). In this light, the material unnecessarily focused on just the sentence but corresponding support into the communicative ability of learners. The LTM should ensure that communication competence enhanced more than the textual context of the materials.
Integrating the skills will ensure that students will be able to engage in effective communication. Communication and proficiency in a language require proficiency in reading, writing, and pronunciation, listening and speaking (Cunningsworth, 1995). In terms of language learning development, language-learning materials should incorporate the manner in which the grammar of learners developed. The skills should be fundamental focus of LTMs. Hong (2009) asserted that the language skills must be included within the learning context of the students. Another way, which the skills integration of the skills appreciated, is the allowance for flexibility in communication in a particular language. The integration will ensure that learners can enhance their communication in different aspects and media.
Third, the implementation of LTM should stimulate the motivation of students by adopting activities and techniques of student interest.Topics that used by teachers must be that which will stimulate the interest and enthusiasm of students. Hong (2009) emphasised that when the topics being used interest students, learning will be more enjoyable and enhanced. Motivation of students is important language teaching and topics used should directly contribute to achieving it. Language skills are imperative in the use of CLT in a class. According to Stoller (2004), the content of language teaching should be interesting in order to enhance both the content knowledge and language skills.
Furthermore, LTM should enable the expression of ideas by learners using their creativity, knowledge, experience, and intelligence. According to Ketabi & Talebinezhad (2009) noted that the reading material during language learning must be able to stimulate the understanding in which the experience of the learner can present what was read in their own views. LTM should be able to enhance the ability of the learners to create their own understanding patterns used to present their knowledge. The materials should enable the extension of proficiency beyond linguistic structure concretised in the experience of learners in order to enable intelligent and creative driven communication.
As shown, LTM must demonstrate authenticity. Within the CLT practice, LTM must be able to stimulate the communication in an authentic manner. The authenticity of the LTM should be in an understandable manner in order to enable learners have that communicative relationship with them. Harwood (2010) highlighted that materials including newspaper front page, an airport scene and a television program can be used to develop communication in a realistic manner despite the content being authentic. The authenticity of the LTM enables it to be a viable supplement to teaching.
Subsequently, instructions for both teachers and students should be included in a clear manner within the LTM. As indicated, LTM should contain distinct instructions on how to go about use and what is expected from the teachers and students. — asserted that individual lesson and activity should contain instructions for teachers and students concerning the methods to adopt. Having the instruction will enable the role and responsibility for the activities and lessons is easier to define while enhancing the learning patterns of students. The instruction will bring the desire and objectives of the LTM concerning each lesson into reality with the enhanced proficiency of learner. Instruction should be able to direct the learning pattern associated with lessons in an LTM. It is expected that every instruction in LTM would have been tested and piloted in order to fine tune it towards making it clear and distinct.
The activities in LTM should be sequenced suitably and address the objectives. A distinct separation of each learning stage conducted. This includes clear definition of the beginning and ending of each stage. Parrish (2004) noted that LTM must be designed in a manner in which stages dovetail into each other as the learners’ progress. With each part of the LTM having objectives, defining the lessons in a sequential manner will ensure a serial development of students.
Next, LTM should avoid cultural bias and stereotyping by becoming culturally sensitive. It is asserted that learning activities should accommodate the difference in language, literacy and cognitive levels. LTM must be able to accommodate different learning dimensions, styles, preferences and intelligences. The accommodation of the differences in learners should reflect in the type of topics and discussions in LTM considering that it might be offensive to students. In essence, evaluating a material should focus on the absence of topics that are racially, politically, socially or religiously sensitive (Safarnavadeh, 2004).
LTM must demonstrate flexibility which will enable the adaptation of the learning and teaching contexts that is suitable for individuals. LTM must enable the teacher creativity in a way in which teaching can be adapted towards the individual context of the needs of each learner. LTM must show their focus on individualised learning in this feature. In essence, teachers must be able to use LTM to fashion out the best way in which both teaching and learning conducted in an individualised context. In essence, LTM must provide avenue in which users can localised the learning experience with respect to individual needs of learners (Stoller, 2004). In some cases, the LTM should be able to support the use of supplementary aids as required for individual learners.
Additionally, LTM should be attractive with respect to design and layout. In language learning, LTM primarily presented in a manner in which it attracts the learner is essential. The LTM layout and design mainly conducted in a manner that exudes quality and shows various fascinating illustrative designs. Masuhara et al. (2008) explained that LTM must combine variety of exciting features including diagrams, paintings, simulated documents and intriguing illustrations. In this light, the interest of the learners supported and enhanced. When the design and layout of a book is attractive, it makes learners become fascinated and willing to use for learning language.
Finally, LTM should focus on the development of oral communication towards achieving accuracy and fluency. Since CLT is concerned with communication, interaction in the new language is fundamental to the learning process. Rahman (2010) noted that oral communication is fundamental in the language learning process. Lessons within LTM should enable the achievement of language fluency and accuracy that exhibit correct grammatical structure. The LTM should enhance the communicative abilities of learners through oral communication. In essence, activities and lessons in the LTM should focus on the oral communication competence of learners.
The evaluation of the material depicted in table 1 using the eleven criteria discussed earlier.
|Language Teaching Materials (LTM) should reflect context and ensure that language is learnt beyond the level of sentence alone.||The material was discovered to offer language learning listening and speaking. It enables students to exercise their pronunciation skills through the speaking exercise. New grammatical expressions and ways of using English words are developed in the listening exercises.|
|Language Skills such as speaking and listening requires integration within the LTM||The entire exercise in the focused on developing the different language skills. With direct emphasis on writing, reading, listening, vocabulary and speaking as individual activity, it can be expressed that the integration is effective.|
|The implementation of LTM should stimulate the motivation of students by adopting activities and techniques of student interest||The use of foreign language as the topic for discussion will enable students to express themselves on the best way to learn. The techniques adopted will stimulate the students with exercises such as vocabulary replacement, asking about their language learning feelings and essay writing.|
|LTM should enable the expression of ideas by learners through the use of their creativity, knowledge, experience and intelligence||The lesson enable flexibility at every activity for example, the listening activity allows students to create their own words in answering the question. The expression of ideas is free as the lesson does not allow rigid and strictness in participation. The experience, knowledge and intelligence of students are accepted in the essay, vocabulary and grammar exercise.|
|LTM must demonstrate Authenticity||The lesson within the LTM is authentic through the use of various means for depicting learning. The use of pictures during the reading activity is evidence. The use of audio, picture and text in the lesson demonstrate authenticity in the learning.|
|Instructions for both teachers and students should be included in a clear manner within the LTM||Clear instruction on each aspect of the lesson was clearly defined. The lesson prepares a background briefing or question with respect to each activity before initiation. This enables the teachers to prepare the students while the students have abundant preparation for each activity.|
|Activities in LTM should be sequenced suitably and address the objectives||The lesson is structured in a sequential manner. Starting with reading and concluding with writing, it shows the support for increasing cognitive language learning which will climax in the written presentation of ability.|
|LTM should avoid cultural bias and stereotyping by becoming culturally sensitive||The content of the lesson does not exhibit any sort of bias, preference, or stereotyping. The topic used is not of any sort of offensive nature.|
|LTM must demonstrate flexibility which will enable the adaptation of the learning and teaching contexts that is suitable for individuals||This lesson enables the adaptation of the teaching contexts for individuals. This is evident in the manner in which the tasks and activities were structured. For example, the listening task can be done individually. This will enable individualised learning process. The writing activity can be done in an individualised manner through the selection of different topics for each student. The reading activity is another means of contextual adaptation that can be tailored to individual area of interest.|
|LTM should be attractive with respect to design and layout||This material in the design and layout is attractive. The use of colour, placement of content and images makes it attractive. The content layout supports the distinctive nature of each lesson area together with details concerning each activity. The separation of the pages and colour coding for each task aspect is impressive and increase the quality of the handbook as a whole. The use of signage in terms of arrows, line number and cut out in each lesson is impressive.|
|LTM should focus on the development of oral communication towards achieving accuracy and fluency||This lesson is evidently focused on building more than language structure into language fluency and accuracy. The vocabulary, grammar and speaking activity focuses on improving oral communication.|
Conclusively, it remains evident that evaluating LTM must be a function of more than one checklist highlighting criteria for quality and suitability. It is evident that lessons within and LTM when evaluated against the features will provide the basis for making recommendations. It demonstrated that effective language learning require LTM that enhance and support the teachers’ effort. The lesson evaluated in this report showed that the material is of high academic value. It shows qualities, which makes it suitable for the language learning in Saudi Arabia. It became evident that the design of the lesson reflects effective piloting of the steps together with sequential detailing of activities. It is clear that this material is of high standard and quality. Nevertheless, some critical points highlighted in the improvement of the lesson are important. The size of the material would have become bigger in order to give more space for the content in each page. This will provide additional allowance for content layout. This will enhance the allowance of users to have space for specific lesson notes and improved content size.
Harwood, N. (2010). English language teaching materials: Theory and Practice.