Category Archives: textbooks

Augmented Reality in and beyond the EFL Classroom

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

The 7th International CLS Conference CLaSIC will be held at the National University of Singapore, December 1-3, 2016, hosted by the Centre for Language Studies. The conference theme is “Learning in and beyond the classroom: Ubiquity in foreign language education”.  I am pleased to note that my proposal for a paper entitled “Employing augmented reality for adaptive learning in and beyond the EFL classroom” has been accepted for presentation. This is the abstract:

“Crafting a vision of the future is a challenging task. Since future developments are difficult to anticipate, visions are often vague, deficient or even turn out to be completely mistaken. And since they evolve out of interpretations of the past and the present, they are also subjective to a large degree. Even if visions are based on powerful theoretical frameworks, backed up by solid empirical evidence, and developed in ways, they remain uncertain and controversial. How convincing and useful a vision is, however, does not depend on its predictive potential. The value of a vision lies rather in its projective power and in its potential to raise questions that already are or might become increasingly important. Taking this into consideration, this talk reports on current research into the development of a future generation of EFL textbooks and accompanying materials and media in Germany. The vision for the project is to create a mobile, interactive, and adaptive learning and teaching assistance system for personalized use in and beyond the EFL classroom. The talk will culminate in the presentation of the ‘Zoom-App’, a multimodal prototype software application designed to enhance self-regulated learning by overlaying supportive digital content onto the physical textbook page.”

German-speaking readers will find a brief video introduction to the technology and its potentials for foreign language learning and teaching on this website.



Issues and Options in Textbook Development, Selection and Consumption

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

Textbooks play an important role in foreign and second language learning and teaching. In many instructional contexts, they constitute the syllabus teachers are inclined (or even expected) to follow. Furthermore, exams are often based on textbook content (see Harwood 2013: 2). Viewed from this perspective, I think that textbooks need to be given much more attention in research, in pre-service and in-service teacher education.

The following presentation builds on textbook research conducted in many countries, including Germany (click on image to open). Please feel free to use it in your professional context, but consider it as work in progress.


More to come on this, stay tuned …

Harwood, Nigel (ed.) (2013). English Language Teaching Textbooks. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave.

The Role of the Textbook in the EFL Classroom (9)

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

A new scholarly publication on textbook analysis, development, and use in the EFL/ESL classroom is out now. Edited by Nigel Harwood, it focuses on what I have referred to as the three pillars of textbook resesarch (see Kurtz 2010, 2011), i.e. on a) textbook content analysis, b) textbook development and production, and c) textbook use or ‘consumption’:

English Language Teaching Textbooks

Harwood, Nigel (ed.) (2013). English Language Teaching Textbooks: Content, Consumption, Production. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.

I have read the book with great interest and wish to recommend it to anyone interested in textbook critique, development, and use. However, while going through this valuable collection of papers, written by an international cast of teachers and textbook writers, I noticed that references to research conducted in Germany over the last 125 years are (largely) missing. This is irritating, since the book addresses an international readership.

Furthermore, local EFL textbooks and accompanying teaching and learning aids produced in Germany (such as, for instance, Camden Town, Green Line or English G Access) are not taken into account at all. Why not? Is this, perhaps, because these textbooks are mainly produced by German publishers for EFL instruction in Germany? In view of the continuing international debate on the strenghts and weaknesses of global and local textbooks, I think textbook research needs to adopt a wider perspective.

In order to encourage  and support research in this direction, I would like to add the following bibliography to this post. Compiled by Carolin Borchardt at JLU Giessen last year, it comprises a considerable number of thematic articles which appeared in some of the most important TEFL journals in Germany, including DNS (Die Neueren Sprachen, first published in 1894). If this is of interest to you, please click here: JLU Giessen_EFL Textbook Research in Germany.


Kurtz, Jürgen (2010). Zum Umgang mit dem Lehrwerk im Englischunterricht. [Using a Textbook in the EFL Classroom]. In: Fuchs, Eckhardt; Kahlert, Joachim & Sandfuchs, Uwe (Hrsg.) (2010). Schulbuch konkret. Kontexte, Produktion, Unterricht. Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt, 149-163.

Kurtz, Jürgen (Koord.) (2011). Lehrwerkkritik, Lehrwerkverwendung, Lehrwerkentwicklung. [Textbook Analysis, Textbook Use, and Textbook Development]. Tübingen: Narr. [Claus Gnutzmann, Lutz Küster & Frank G. Königs (Hg.) (2011). Fremdsprachen Lehren und Lernen, 40, Band 2].


Call for Papers: 25th DGFF Conference, Session 7: Textbooks and Classroom Interaction

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus-Liebig-University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

The 25th Biennial Conference of the German Association of Foreign Language Research (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Fremdsprachenforschung, DGFF) will be held at the University of Augsburg, Germany, September 25-28, 2013. The conference theme is: SPRACHENAUSBILDUNG – SPRACHEN BILDEN AUS – BILDUNG AUS SPRACHEN. The main thrust of the conference lies in looking both at the training side of language instruction ( “Ausbildung” = making people competent in languages for further study and jobs) and the idea that learning a new or additional language leads to self-formation (“Bildung” in German).

The conference program is now almost complete and available in English here. Session 7, chaired by Hermann Funk (University of Jena, Germany) and me, will be devoted to FL/SL textbook research, more specifically, to FL/SL textbook analysis, critique, and development, focusing in particular on the role of the textbook in orchestrating classroom interaction. This is our session abstract (in its English translation):

“If quantity and quality of classroom interaction are crucial factors for successful language teaching and learning, the factors surrounding and influencing classroom interaction, then, deserve our attention. In this regard, classroom management by the foreign language instructor is at the center of interest in today’s research. Textbooks, however, have not received much attention in recent classroom-oriented research in terms of analyzing their relevance for interaction. For this section, papers investigating the ways in which textbooks affect classroom interaction, both positively and negatively, are welcome. The following questions could be addressed:

• In what way does the textbook, with its numerous additional print and digital teaching resources, impact foreign language classroom interaction?
• In which ways can textbooks as a whole or particular additional teaching material be used to facilitate learning-centered classroom interaction? Which textbook-related competences (concerning lesson planning, instruction and reflective evaluation) should be taught and developed in academic teacher training?
• How do future textbooks need to be designed in order to be up-to-date with the current standards of foreign language teaching and modern technology? In addition to this, how can this design meet the conditions of learning-centered classroom interaction in the age of increasing linguistic and cultural diversity and the hybridity of language learners?
• Which qualitative, quantitative and mixed research methods can help systematically illuminate the complex relationship between what textbooks have to offer (in this case e.g. types and sequencing of tasks and exercises), the usage of textbooks in the classroom and the textbook-related classroom interaction?”

The call for papers is still open. For further details, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

25th Biennial DGFF Conference

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

The 25th Biennial Conference of the German Association of Foreign Language Research (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Fremdsprachenforschung, DGFF) will be held at the University of Augsburg, Germany, September 25-28, 2013. The conference theme is: SPRACHENAUSBILDUNG  –  SPRACHEN BILDEN AUS – BILDUNG AUS SPRACHEN.  The main thrust of the conference lies in looking both at the training side of language instruction ( “Ausbildung” = making people competent in languages for further study and jobs) and the idea that learning a new or additional language leads to self-formation (“Bildung” in German).

The conference program has not yet been finalized, and the call for papers is not open yet. Nevertheless, it is my great pleasure to announce that one conference session, chaired by Hermann Funk (University of Jena, Germany) and me, will be devoted to FL/SL textbook research, more specifically, to FL/SL textbook analysis and critique, textbook use, and textbook development in the Internet Age (cf. my series of posts on this blog).

Stepping up research in these three areas is of fundamental importance to advancing FL/SL education in everyday classrooms. Apple (TM) recently announced its entrance into the digital textbook market, and against this background it is important to discuss if so-called ‘dead-tree’ textbooks are a thing of the past (to read more on this, please click here). On the other hand, Scott Thurnbury argues on his blog that teachers and/or learners (?) “don’t actually need textbooks […]. Not for language learning, at least. Maths, history, economics – maybe. But ESOL? No way.”

Taking into account that textbooks and related materials and media are widely used in FL/SL classrooms around the globe, I think we need to gain a much better understanding of how frontline teachers actually use the textbook and related materials and media. This is an area crying for empirical (qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods) research. I am very  interested in getting to know what you have to say about all this. If you are currently working on a research project in this direction, please let me know.

More to come. Please stay tuned.

6th Biennial UC Language Consortium Conference in San Diego

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

I needed surgery on my left leg three weeks ago, just a few days after returning from the 6th UC Language Consortium Conference on SLA Theoretical and Pedagogical Perspectives which was held at Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines, San Diego, from Friday, April 20 to Sunday, April 22, 2012. This is why this post comes later than intended.

The UCCLLT conference was truly remarkable again, all the more because I was given an excellent opportunity to share, compare, and learn lots of exciting things I did not know before. Earlier this year, I had attended the EmMeth 2012 in Jena, Germany, where I gave a keynote speech on current issues in EFL textbook research. At that conference in Jena (see my brief review on this blog), I heard some thought-provoking presentations from promising doctoral and post-doctoral students, discussed posters with them and, apart from all this, I was brought up to date on computerized ways of analyzing classroom data. In San Diego, I gave a talk on the same topic, i.e. on “Textbook Innovation and Use in FL/SL Classrooms”, which is currently at the top of my research agenda. I argued that actual textbook use in everyday practice is an area crying for empirical, classroom-based research, and sketched future avenues for qualitative, mixed-methods studies in secondary school environments, based on what we have been doing at JLU Giessen over the last twelve months.

To put it this way, my ‘secondary’ focus in San Diego was on exploring what (kind of) research talented young minds in some parts of the US are currently involved in, comparing their research interests and projects to those previously presented at the University of Jena. I was quite impressed by the diversity and quality of research studies conducted on both sides of the Atlantic (so to speak), and noticed that many young scholars, in the US and in Germany, appear to be particularly interested in those issues and challenges that have emerged in recent years. These are, for instance, culture-sensitive instruction in FL/SL classrooms, bilingual/multilingual education, optimal use of technology and digital resources in the classroom, the role of literature in FL/SL instruction, standards and outcome orientation, possible consequences for FL/SL teacher education, etc.

Looking back at both conferences, I feel that some ‘bread-and-butter’-topics and related, pressing questions of learning and teaching foreign/second languages, especially those related to ‘hands-on didactics’ in secondary schools such as holistic grammar and vocabulary instruction, teaching the five skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing, and mediating) in integrated ways, communicative language learning and teaching in all its variants and manifestations (CLT, TBI, CBI, project-oriented learning, etc.), balancing scripted (pre-planned and largely predictable) and unscripted (improvised and widely unpredictable) classroom interaction, promoting differentiation and inclusion, etc. are currently under-represented in many of those research projects undertaken by the young scholars I listened and talked to. This is, of course, just my personal experience. In my view, it is perfectly clear that sooner or later all these issues will (have to) be given more attention again, and I look forward to seeing how they will be re-addressed, then based on the knowledge and experience accumulated at present.

EmMeth 2012 – A Quick Look Back

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany

I have just returned from a small, ‘intimate’ two-day conference for PhD-students and Post-Docs held at the University of Jena in Germany (February 24-25, 2012). The focus of the conference, which was extraordinarily well organized by the Jena team around my esteemed colleague, Prof. Hermann Funk, was on discussing and choosing appropriate (not only empirical) research methods in the field of German as a second or foreign language (broadly conceived).

The event was framed by two keynotes. I was generously invited to deliver the first one. In my talk, I problematized textbook use in school contexts (and how little we actually know about all this), as well as the future of the textbook and textbook research in second or foreign language school education. I argued that marketing slogans such as ‘dead-tree textbooks are a thing of the past’  (Apple computers) are premature,  but that we are definitely faced with new opportunities and challenges in all areas of FL/SL textbook research (i.e. in researching textbook use, in evaluating existing textbooks, and in devoloping new language learning media and materials for the classroom of the future). New challenges for textbook research are, for instance,  transmediality,  media hybridity, and integrative diversification (of underlying methodology, print and digital materials, etc.), to name just a few.

The second keynote speech, delivered by Michael H. Long (University of Maryland) on the final day of the conference, was clearly a highlight. Based on his own research on classroom interaction and error correction, on implicit as well as explicit learning, Mike argued convincingly for ‘matched studies’ (i.e. studies on one particular issue conducted both in laboratory and in naturalistic environments). I agree that combined studies such as these can potentially enhance the (external/ecological) validity of research findings, making it easier for practitioners to translate these findings into actual day-by-day classroom practice.

In between the keynotes, there was plenty of time to discuss all aspects of relevance to FL/SL research and methodology, in workshops and seminars, during the poster sessions and in hallway exchanges. Personally, I learned a lot about MaxQDA (a very interesting software package for text analytical research, both quantitative and qualitative), and I was also able to update my knowledge about transcription systems, language archiving and text analysis, and related software like ELAN (MPI Nijmegen), EXMARaLDA (Hamburg University), FOLKER (IDS Mannheim), and Praat  (University of Amsterdam).

So, all in all, the EmMeth 2012 was well worth a visit. The next conference will be held in Vienna, Austria in 2013.