Teacher development and coursebooks

Prompted by a tweet from @michaelegriffin, here are some thoughts on how coursebooks/published materials/in-house resources can aid teacher development.

Michael asked this:

I shared some examples of how I provide development tips in published resources, such as these two from One Stop English:

I can’t say these are examples of teacher tips done well, just that they represent tips for teachers shared through published resources!

Michael asked whether teacher development should be a focus of coursebook materials. I think yes. In my experience this is common these days. The coursebook package as a whole generally includes quite a lot of support for teachers and opportunities to develop. This isn’t something that’s always made explicit and may be just a by-product of using a resource.

An example can be found in the intro of the teacher’s guide for a recent CLIL coursebook from Macmillan. Light Up Science follows a ‘cognitive acceleration’ approach (I mentioned this in another post recently). This is explained to teachers and mapped to stages in each lesson/unit segment:

It’s good to see publishers clearly outline their approach in this way. This gives teachers a chance to research the approach and consider whether it is commonplace, evidence-informed, critiqued, etc. Is this a contribution to teacher development? Yes, I think it can be if teachers are willing to invest time in exploring the principles that underpin the resource they are using. If teachers don’t choose to do that then blind faith in a teacher’s guide may be problematic. No offence, English in Mind – you’ll redeem yourself in a bit…

Anyhow, I worked on Light Up Science producing lesson plans with tips for how teachers can adapt the resource for large classes – common in one target market for the book. This is another example of how coursebooks might contribute to development – by providing suggestions for adapting content based on context.

The coursebook ‘offer’ is pretty comprehensive these days. Check out all the stuff included in a teacher’s book for a newish global product:

In fact, I think they even missed a few things. Roadmap also includes photocopiable pronunciation worksheets at some levels. The teacher’s guide for these is useful – not only do the activities provide more examples of pronunciation features in context, the notes offer brief yet useful tips for teachers on what to focus on.

Roadmap mentions ‘alternative suggestions’ for every unit. I’ve come across this in other teacher’s guides too. I tweeted about Rinvolucri’s alternatives from EiM. Looking back to find an example (couldn’t on Google Books ☹) I actually realised how detailed the support was at certain levels of that coursebook. They go beyond your basic procedures and answers, giving up half-pages to optional activities and more detailed language notes. The latter I feel would be particularly useful for developing teachers.

Similarly, the procedural details for introducing grammar points often provide great support for teachers. I do love a good timeline!

Support and development go hand-in-hand for me. I found the support provided in teacher’s guides very useful as a new teacher; the explanations of language points helped develop my subject knowledge and gave me an idea of how much detail I might need to provide at certain levels. Naturally, as I’ve become more experienced I lean less on teacher guides (ha, less on coursebooks actually!). Still, I think they play an important role for teachers, and may be one of the main sources for subject knowledge development for some. With that in mind…

  • we should be careful what we say in them and try to ensure methods/approaches are evidence informed.
  • we should make sure we are providing the right support for teachers. That means going beyond procedures and answer keys (most books do), but not going for sheer quantity of alternative ideas which may only suit a few contexts… less is more sometimes! And keep going with the pronunciation tips, much needed by many!
  • we should be aware of ‘the voice of the notes’ (something John Hughes has mentioned), striking the balance between supportive, familiar, no overly technical, etc. That’s a tough one.

Encouraging teachers to use guides for more than just the answer key would also help! Publishers seem to put a lot of time and energy into the development webinars these days. That’s cool, but these can end up promo-driven, you know the whole ‘videos are great in the classroom for XYZ… and check out how we use them in our new book! YOU CAN TOO!’ There’s something more sincere about teacher’s guides. But I would say that, wouldn’t I? I’m a teacher that writes them…

(Feature image: a running joke with What Kate and Kris Did)

2 comments

  1. I agree with you that some teacher’s guides do include useful tips. That first example from English in Mind is very disappointing to see, though. Many teachers trust their coursebook and probably won’t question what the guide says.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, especially when we are just starting out. To be fair, EiM isn’t a recent book. Still not an excuse.
      There was a large chunk of an EiM unit exploring multiple intelligences. My learners at the time enjoyed discussing the topic but I made sure there was ample chance to critique the content! Questionable topics like that often draw out some interesting language so are still worth exploring IMO.
      Even so, that was the student book. Mentioning it in the teachers books as something to address in our practice is different…

      Liked by 1 person

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