Tag Archives: textbook analysis and use

13th BAAL SIG LLT Conference 2017

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

The 13th BAAL Language Learning and Teaching SIG will come together again at the University of Central Lancashire (Preston, UK) from Thursday 6th July to Friday 7th July 2017. The conference theme will be: ‘Celebrating the diversity of language teaching’.

Language learning and teaching takes place in diverse settings around the world. The variety of contexts and acronyms such as MFL, EFL, EAL and ESOL can sometimes serve to highlight the differences within this diversity rather than the commonalities. Yet despite the apparent differences such as class size, language(s) learned, age of learners and reasons for language learning, there are many shared concerns. These relate, for example, to target language use, motivation, assessment, role of L1, language learning processes and teacher education.

This conference will encourage participants to consider how the realities of these different contexts throw light upon the many shared concerns that practitioners may have, and how we might all learn from one another.

  • What does research into language learning processes tell us about the impact of pedagogy in different contexts?
  • How does the learning of additional languages affect first language development?
  • What are the shared concerns of teachers of learners of different ages?
  • How do we assess language learning in different contexts?
  • What are the challenges facing teacher education?

Confirmed plenary speakers:

Professor Victoria Murphy, University of Oxford (EAL)
Dr Chris Jones, University of Liverpool (EFL/ELT)
Professor Suzanne Graham, University of Reading (MFL).

For further information, please click here. This is what I am going to talk about:

‘Employing augmented reality for adaptive learning in and beyond the EFL classroom’  

In many EFL classrooms in Germany, teachers use (and frequently overuse) textbooks and related materials and media. In consequence, classroom discourse is often textbook- and teacher-driven, with a strong focus on form and on accuracy. Taking this into consideration, this talk reports on current research into the development of a future generation of EFL textbooks and accompanying digital 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 language and culture learning by overlaying supportive digital content onto the physical textbook page.

 

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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.

References

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].

 

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.

Researching Textbook Development and Use in FL/SL and Multilingual Classrooms

by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University, Giessen, Germany

About a year ago,  I launched a research project on textbook use in German EFL classrooms. I was astounded to see how relatively little attention this fundamental aspect of everyday teaching and learning practice has received in German TEFL research in recent years. Up to date, systematic, especially large-scale empirical studies on this are virtually non-existent (not only in Germany). In other words, this is a ‘grey’ area world-wide, dominated by the assumption that introducing and using innovative textbooks is conducive to enhancing the ‘quality’ (i.e. the efficiency and effectiveness) of teaching and learning foreign languages in schools.

For a brief overview of research in the three most important areas of EFL textbook research (i.e. textbook analysis/critique, textbook use and textbook development), see my most recent publication (written in German) – in combination, perhaps, with my views on the role of the textbook in the EFL classroom, published in an eight-part series of posts on this blog:

Kurtz, Jürgen (2010): „Zum Umgang mit dem Lehrwerk im Englischunterricht“. In: Fuchs, Eckhardt / Kahlert, Joachim / Sandfuchs, Uwe (Hrsg.) (2010): Schulbuch konkret. Kontexte. Produktion. Unterricht. Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt, 149-163.

Coming up in a few weeks is a special issue on textbook analysis, development and actual classroom use in the German FL/SL journal “Fremdsprachen Lehren und Lernen” (FLuL), guest edited by me. Here, the focus is on current textbooks, their analysis and use in English, French, Spanish, and Russian as a Foreign language classrooms as well as on research dealing with multilingual approaches to FL teaching, learning and materials/media. The contributors to this issue are Engelbert Thaler (University of Augsburg, Germany); Members of The English Academy, Andreas Grünewald (University of Bremen, Germany), Britta Hufeisen (University of Darmstadt, Germany), Grit Mehlhorn (University of Leipzig, Germany) & Heike Wapenhans (Humboldt-University Berlin, Germany), Hélène Martinez (University of Kassel, Germany), and Markus Bohnensteffen (Carolus-Magnus-Gymnasium Marsberg, Germany, an academic high school leading to the Abitur, the central German university entrance qualification).

English abstracts of the papers (which are written in German):

Engelbert Thaler addresses important issues concerning ‘the future of the textbook’ as well the as ‘the textbook of the future’ in the EFL classroom. Beginning with a brief outline of what is presently known about textbook use in EFL classrooms in the current ‘Internet Age’, he goes on to present findings from two case studies that point to emerging trends in textbook development. Pulling these strands together, the paper concludes with some useful insights into the development and use of textbooks and their supplementary materials in the future.

Members of The English Academy look at the current state and the future of foreign language textbook development and research, focusing on major achievements as well as new challenges. In this context, the authors problematize the opportunities and interactive potential that electronic media have added to textbook development and use, particularly those of interest for foreign language teaching in schools.

Andreas Grünewald argues that promoting intercultural competence has gained considerable momentum since the introduction of Foreign Language Education Standards in Germany in 2004. So what does today’s foreign language classroom look like with respect to cultural and intercultural learning? Few
empirical studies have addressed this question, as the cognitive-affective processes involved are exceedingly complex and nearly impossible to depict fully in an objective way. However, the content of textbooks can give a good indication of what could be learned from them. Accordingly, he analyzes recently published school textbooks for French and Spanish for their promotion of intercultural competence. The paper presents his findings, highlighting the degree to which these recent textbooks now incorporate promotion of intercultural competence as an actual objective.

Grit Mehlhorn & Heike Wapenhans point out that the year 2008 saw the introduction of a new generation of textbooks for Russian as a second or third foreign language. From a methodological standpoint, these new textbooks are comparable to many being used for the instruction of other foreign languages. In their article, they take a look at how these textbooks are designed to support teachers in the difficult task of developing communicative and intercultural competence, in addition to language skills. They extend their discussion to approaches that have been recommended for tertiary language learning, suggestions for self-reflection and self-assessment by learners, and
considerations of authenticity and media in textbooks. Finally, they identify the
strengths of these new textbooks and note those areas that still need
improvement.

Hélène Martinez states that in the course of the implementation of the Common
European Framework of Reference (CEFR), the definition of the term ‘competence’ in  foreign language teaching and learning and the issue of its measurability have  been controversially discussed. In her paper she questions to what extent the development of the different types of competence and skills required by the  CEFR, e.g. intercultural communicative competence, is embedded in current French and Spanish textbooks and how exemplary units reflect this underlying  principle. Her paper emphasizes the importance of process-oriented and  learner-centered textbook and task design and also calls attention to the high demands competence-oriented approaches put on teachers and learners.

Markus Bohnensteffen argues that textbooks are undoubtedly the most widely-used classroom materials in the teaching of English as a Foreign Language. However, research on English textbooks focuses almost exclusively on examining their potential. The question of how students and teachers actually
use the materials is rarely addressed. His article begins with an overview of
the advantages and disadvantages of using textbooks in the EFL classroom
and suggests reasons for their popularity as a teaching medium. It then looks
at the attitudes of German learners of English and their teachers towards the
textbooks they use and goes on to report on an informal study, conducted in two
German grammar schools, on what students and teachers thought about their
English textbooks and supplementary materials. The findings serve as input for
a more empirically-based discussion of what future English textbooks should
look like.

Stay tuned for more …