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An ESOL materials evaluation framework
with a learning transfer focus
Mark Andrew James
Arizona State University
[email protected]
www.drmjames.info
Summary
• Transfer of learning beyond the ESOL classroom is a
basic goal of ESOL instruction. ESOL materials can be
designed to support this goal in a number of ways. This
presentation describes and demonstrates a practical tool
for evaluating existing ESOL materials (e.g., commercial
textbooks) from a learning transfer perspective.
Why evaluate TESOL materials from a
learning transfer perspective?
• Materials are pervasive and influential in TESOL, so evaluating them
is worthwhile.
•
... and textbooks may be the most common kind (Richards, 2001). They
are “an almost universal element of ELT” (Rubdy, 2003, p.37), and are
“perceived by many to be the route map of any ELT programme”
(Sheldon, 1988, p.238).
•
... textbooks may be leaned on heavily by busy teachers, novice
teachers, and students working independently.
• Materials evaluation frameworks are available, but have gaps.
•
... frameworks focus on factors like ease of navigation, attractiveness,
potential to motivate, lower anxiety, stimulate student interaction (e.g.,
Reinders & Lewis, 2006; Tomlinson, 2011).
•
... but, they don’t focus on learning transfer.
Why evaluate TESOL materials from a
learning transfer perspective?
• Learning transfer is a goal of TESOL.
•
... it is the process by which ”something learned in one context has
helped in another” (Perkins & Salomon, 1988, p.22).
•
... learning doesn’t inevitably transfer, and can be difficult to promote
(Haskell, 2001).
• TESOL materials can be designed to promote transfer.
•
... teaching-for-transfer techniques have been suggested for use by
teachers in general education (Fogarty et al, 1992) and in TESOL
(James, 2006).
•
... these techniques can be reflected in TESOL materials.
What does the framework look like?
• Main question 1: Does the textbook make connections to situations
where students can apply what they have learned? (i.e., hugging)
• Main question 2: Does the textbook get students to make conscious
abstractions and seek applications of learning? (i.e., bridging)
(“Bridging” and “hugging” come from Perkins & Salomon, 1988.)
What does the framework look like?
• Main question 1: Does the textbook make connections to situations
where students can apply what they have learned? (i.e., hugging)
• More specifically, how (if at all) does the textbook ...
• tell students that learning can be applied outside ESOL classrooms? (i.e.,
setting expectations)
• get students to work with (i.e., read/listen, produce) English texts that
occur outside ESOL classrooms? (i.e., matching)
• get students to use English while pretending to be in situations outside
ESOL classrooms? (i.e., simulating)
• demonstrate the use of English? (i.e., modeling)
• get students to use English to solve problems that occur outside ESOL
classrooms? (i.e., problem-based learning)
What does the framework look like?
• Main question 2: Does the textbook get students to make conscious
abstractions and seek applications of learning? (i.e., bridging)
• More specifically, how (if at all) does the textbook get students to ...
•
look for situations where learning can be applied outside ESOL
classrooms? (i.e., anticipating applications)
•
look for general rules, principles, or patterns behind English use? (i.e.,
generalizing concepts)
•
look for similarities between English use and something else they know?
(i.e., using analogies)
•
use English to solve multiple problems that are superficially different but
structurally similar? (i.e., parallel problem solving)
•
plan, monitor, and reflect on their use of English? (i.e., metacognitive
reflection)
How does the framework work?
• Demonstrate by comparing two textbooks, for adults at the low
intermediate level:
Four corners, student book 2
(Richards & Bohlke)
Network, student book 2
(Hutchinson & Sherman)
1. How (if at all) does the textbook tell students that
learning can be applied outside ESOL classrooms?
(i.e., setting expectations)
Four corners:
• pictures of people talking
during a video conference,
and in a kitchen.
Network:
• pictures of people talking
during a phone call, and in a
cafeteria.
2. How (if at all) does the textbook get students to
work with (i.e., read/listen, produce) English texts
that occur outside ESOL classrooms?
(i.e., matching)
Four corners:
• listening and speaking in
conversations;
• listening to conversations;
• reading a tourist brochure,
an email, and the textbook;
• writing an email.
Network:
• listening and speaking in
conversations;
• listening to conversations and to
a tv report;
• reading a magazine article and
the textbook.
3. How (if at all) does the textbook get students to
use English while pretending to be outside ESOL
classrooms? (i.e., simulating)
Four corners:
• pretend to be looking out a
window, and decide with a
partner what to do outside;
• pretend to be making
summer plans with a friend,
and write an email to
her/him.
Network:
• pretend one partner is a
character from an article,
and interview him.
4. How (if at all) does the textbook demonstrate the
use of English? (i.e., modeling)
Four corners:
• listen to recordings of
conversations or sentences,
then repeat;
• read conversations showing
people comparing answers,
making plans together,
asking for more information,
or guessing, then have a
conversation with same
purpose;
• listen to recordings of people
talking about seasons or the
best time to visit cities, then
talk about the same thing;
• read email, then write one.
Network:
• listen to recordings of
conversations or
sentences, then repeat;
• read conversations showing
people asking each other
about jobs, or guessing, or
interviewing, then have a
conversation with same
purpose.
5. How (if at all) does the textbook get students to
use English to solve problems that occur outside
ESOL classrooms? (i.e., problem-based learning*)
Four corners:
• guess the name of a place a
partner is describing;
• guess which of a partner’s
sentences about hometown
are false;
• find out if one’s opinion is
same as partner’s;
• agree on future plans with a
partner;
Network:
• guess what job a partner is
thinking of.
* Mathews-Aydinli (2007) suggested that PBL in TESOL should involve not
just getting information but using it to make decisions and judgments.
6. How (if at all) does the textbook get students to
look for situations where learning can be applied
outside ESOL classrooms? (i.e., anticipating
applications)
Four corners:
• listen to a conversation and
answer the open-ended
question, “Where are the
people?”;
• read an article and answer
the multiple-choice question
“Where is it from?” (e.g.,
tourist brochure, vacation
blog).
Network:
---
7. How (if at all) does the textbook get students to
look for general rules, patterns, or principles behind
English use? (i.e., generalizing concepts)
Four corners:
• match weather words with
pictures of weather;
• match game words with
pictures of games.
Network:
• match job words with
definitions.
8. How (if at all) does the textbook get students to
look for similarities between English use and
something else they know? (i.e., using analogies)
Four corners:
---
Network:
---
9. How (if at all) does the textbook get students to
use English to solve multiple problems that are
superficially different but structurally similar? (i.e.,
parallel problem solving)
Four corners:
• guess about different things
a partner is talking about
(i.e., the weather in her/his
country, a famous place in
her/his country);
• with a partner, agree on
plans for different occasions
(i.e., today, this weekend).
Network:
---
10. How (if at all) does the textbook get students to
plan, monitor, and reflect on their use of English?
(i.e., metacognitive reflection)
Four corners:
• compare answers with a
partner (i.e., grammar and
vocab exercises);
• check answers by listening
to a recording again;
• complete self-evaluation
statements (e.g., “I can talk
about a place I’d like to
visit”);
• brainstorm a list of words
(i.e., weather) to see how
many one knows;
• identify questions one can
ask to get opinions.
Network:
• compare answers with a
partner (i.e., listening
comprehension exercises);
• check answers by listening
to a recording again;
• complete self-evaluation
statements (e.g., “I can talk
about a place I’d like to
visit”).
Summary
• Both of these textbooks reflect a range of hugging techniques and a
range of bridging techniques.
• ... but, there are also gaps in both:
•
... no explicit setting expectations;
•
... no using analogies;
•
... modeling is only for speaking and writing;
•
... generalizing concepts is only for vocabulary.
• And there are differences between the two units:
•
... Four corners has a relatively broad range for half the techniques (i.e.,
metacognitive reflection, parallel problem solving, problem based
learning, modeling, and matching), and includes some anticipating
applications, and matching for writing skills.
Conclusion
• This materials evaluation framework can provide useful information
from a small sample of materials (e.g., 1 textbook unit); but, a small
sample may mean other useful information is missed.
• This evaluation framework shows how materials reflect teaching-fortransfer techniques; but, reflecting these techniques does not
necessarily lead to transfer.
•
.... research that looks at the relationship between (a) teaching-fortransfer techniques in materials and (b) actual transfer would be
worthwhile.
•
... for example, do materials that reflect more techniques lead to more
transfer? Or more of a certain kind of technique? Or certain
combinations of techniques? Or certain kinds of activities for a particular
technique?
References
•
Fogarty, R., Perkins, D., & Barell, J. (1992). How to teach for transfer. Palatine: Skylight.
•
Haskell, R.E. (2001). Transfer of learning. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
•
Hutchinson, T., & Sherman, K. (2012). Network (student book 2). Oxford, UK: Oxford University
Press.
•
James, M.A. (2006). Teaching for transfer in ELT. ELT Journal, 60, 151-159.
•
Mathews-Aydinli, J. (2007). Problem based learning and adult English language learners.
Washington, DC: CAELA.
•
Perkins, D.N., & Salomon, G. (1988). Teaching for transfer. Educational Leadership, 46, 22-32.
•
Reinders, H., & Lewis, M. (2006). An evaluative checklist for self-access materials. ELT Journal, 60,
272-278.
•
Richards, J.C. (2001). Curriculum development in language teaching. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press.
•
Richards, J.C., & Bohlke, D. (2012). Four corners (student book 2). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press.
•
Rubdy, R. (2003). Selection of materials. In B. Tomlinson (Ed.), Developing materials for language
teaching. London, UK: Continuum.
•
Sheldon, L.E. (1988). Evaluation of ELT textbooks and materials. ELT Journal, 42, 237-246.
•
Tomlinson, B. (Ed.) (2011). Materials development in language teaching (2nd ed.). Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge University Press.
... thank you!
Feel free to contact me with any remaining
questions/comments: [email protected]
Presentation recording and slides can be downloaded at:
www.drmjames.info

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