How do you feel about using coursebooks?

How do you feel about using coursebooks? What a loaded question, especially to someone that writes them…

Actually, I don’t think coursebooks are the answer to everything [except the ones I’ve written of course ;) ]

I don’t particularly like the fact that the grammar syllabus is usually constrained by exams at that level, which makes all the books seem very samey, and doesn’t necessarily reflect what learners in any particular context will want to use. Nor am I keen on the increasing insistence that vocabulary items also have to be at a particular level, which leads to lessons about the extreme weather which can’t include the word ‘drought’, ‘because it isn’t B1’.

I don’t like the fact that practical constraints such as copyright and recording costs mean that most audio material is still scripted, and that videos are still only making brief appearances.

And I find the whole PARNSIP* issue deeply irritating, though I can see why it’s necessary when you’re trying to appeal to a global market.

However, I still think that there is a lot to be said for coursebooks. What is important, is how they are used. A coursebook, to my mind, is something like a recipe book. The recipes have been put together by someone with a lot of experience and the time to really sit and think things through. They’ve also been drafted and redrafted with the help of an editor, readers in different contexts, and often teachers have trialled the material too. This doesn’t mean it will work perfectly in your context, but it’s a good starting point, surely?

PARSNIP free material doesn’t have to be bland. In fact, the challenge is writing something which feels fresh and interesting without offending anyone. The teachers themselves can decide whether they want to push at certain boundaries.

And the rather prescriptive syllabus doesn’t have to be followed blindly, but it’s useful to have it there as a loose framework.

But, you may argue, many teachers are forced to follow the coursebook blindly, covering the entire syllabus and not being allowed to deviate or improvise. This may be true, but it isn’t an argument against coursebooks. If someone made me cook my way through a recipe book from start to finish, forcing me to eat everything in it, I wouldn’t like it, but it wouldn’t be an argument for getting rid of recipe books.

Used properly a good recipe book is like a good coursebook. It gives you ideas, teaches you techniques, encourages you to try things you might not have thought of before, provides support when you need it. But you are also perfectly at liberty to adapt the recipe to your own tastes, cook something from an old family recipe, download a recipe from the internet, make up your own recipe or throw together whatever is in the fridge

*Topics to be avoided in writing global coursebooks: Politics, Alcohol, Religion, Sex, Narcotics, Isms, Pork

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