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Evaluation of Unit 1, Level 3 of English for Business Studies in Higher Education Studies.

Course Book

What is Materials Evaluation?


Materials evaluation has been defined by Tomlinson (2003: 15) as a procedure
that involves measuring the value (or potential value) of a set of learning
materials. 'Evaluation is a way of judging the suitability of something for a
specific purpose. There is no complete good or bad - only degrees of suitability
for the required resolution' (Hutchinson and Waters: 1987). Material evaluation is
a dynamic process which is "fundamentally a subjective, rule-of-thumb activity"
where "no neat formula, grid, or system will ever provide a definitive yardstick"
(Sheldon, 1988, p. 245). Simply, While materials evaluation is perceived as a
procedure that incorporates examining learning materials to state its worth,
materials development refers to anything which is done by writer, teachers or
learners to provide sources of language input (Tomlinson, 1998, p.2).
An evaluation includes fundamental questions such as is the literature able to
engage learners/readers sufficiently?, which yields answers that contain an
essentially intuitive value judgement. Evaluations can be classified according to
what phase they are being implemented during : pre-use, in-use or post-use. The
main aim of evaluating materials pre-use, according to Rubdy (2003: 42), 'is to
measure the potential of what teachers and learners can do with them in the
classroom.' Whilst the primary focus of In-use and post-use evaluations is to
gauge how much have the learning materials accomplished.

Fundamental Questions of Materials Evaluation:


What should we do differently to get better learning results in our collaborative
effort to learn? How to plan and execute evaluation of different aspects of our
learning material or programme to perform better and reach higher levels of
success progressively? Were our past methods actually successful at all? How
was the response of the various participants towards it?
Hutchinson and Torres (1994) argues that it is vital for teachers to evaluate,
select and adapt teaching materials to meet our teaching and students learning
needs for enlarging learning capacities

The need to Evaluate Materials?


Whenever we plan on some form of change, Evaluation is a necessity without
exception. As all aspects of learning are in a continuous change nowadays, the
need to evaluate our educational texts, projects and other materials regularly,
has increased drastically. This phenomena is evident every time we try to
introduce a new learning methodology and after first avid try, we plan to follow it
on a regular bases, so as to make this new method more efficient in terms of
design, organization, smoothness and effectiveness, useful not only to us, but to

anyone who intends to gain out of it.


These subjects many consist of anyone in the educational process: students,
academicians, schools, universities and organisations etc.

The process of Materials Evaluation:


In evaluating materials, we need to put a framework from which a set of criteria
can be developed. In Addition, we have to consider the objective of evaluating
materials. This will limit the focus to aspects or criteria used in this evaluation. In
our context, the focus is on materials as one of the sources in the teaching and
learning a foreign language. According to Hutchinson and Waters (1987), the
evaluation process can be divided into four major steps:
1. Defining criteria
2. Subjective analysis
3. Objective analysis
4. Matching

1. Defining Criteria:

On what bases will you judge materials? Which criteria will be more important? It
could be assured that there will be a clash in one course book, it might pair your
criteria in one area such as language or skills, but it might have the more
appropriate methodology in another one. We have to consider which one is more
suitable to the target group. After a brief introduction of the importance of
materials evaluation, an evaluation of a section of the chosen course book will be
carried out from both the subjective and objective point of view.

2. Subjective Analysis:

What realisations of the criteria do you want in your course, analysis of your
course, in terms of materials requirements? Sheldon (1988) suggests the course
book evaluation sheet including a list of factors, i.e., the rational, availability,
layout, rating, comments, and so on, which is a subjective analysis, consisting of
materials requirements.
English for Business Studies in Higher Education Studies is a skills-based course
designed particularly for level 3 business students. It provides carefully graded
practice and progressions in the key academic skills that all students need, such
as listening to lectures and speaking in seminars. It also equips students with the
specialist business language they need to participate successfully within a

business studies faculty. Extensive listening exercises come from business


studies lectures, and all reading texts are taken from the same field of study.
There is also a focus throughout on the key business vocabulary that students
will need.
- Walker, C.
and Harvey, P. (2008)
3. Objective analysis:
How does the material being evaluated realise the criteria? What is the analysis
of materials being evaluated? Hutchinson and Waters (1987) highlight the
importance of objective analysis in evaluation to prevent the danger of
permitting subjective elements to impact the decision in the primary period of
analysis.
4. Matching :
How far does the material match your needs? It is best to look at the needs and
solutions separately if matching is to be done as objectively as possible, since
evaluation is basically a matching procedure, i.e., matching the needs to
available solutions (Hutchinson and Waters 1987).

SUBJECTIVE
ANALYSIS
(i.e. analysis of your course, in
terms of materials requirements)

OBJECTIVE
ANALYSIS
(i.e. analysis of materials
being evaluated)
AUDIENCE

1A) Who are your learners?


For e.g.
- ages
- sex
- nationality/ies
- study or work specialism(s)
(e.g. banking, medicine etc.)
- status/role with respect to
specialism (e.g. trainee cashier,
qualified anaesthetist etc.)
- knowledge of
(i) English
(ii) specialism
(iii) other (e.g. knowledge of
'the world etc.)
- educational backgrounds
- interests (etc.)

1B) Who is the material intended for?

AIMS
2A) What are the aims of your course?
2B) What are the aims of the
materials?
(Note: check that the aims are

actually what they are said to be,


by looking carefully at the material
itself.)
CONTENT
3A) What kind of language description 3B What type(s) of linguistic
do you require? Should it be
description is/are used in the
structural, notional, functional,
materials?
discourse-based, some other kind,
a combination of one or more of
these? (seech.4).

4A) What language points should be


covered? (i.e. What particular
structures, functions, vocabulary
areas etc?)

4B) What language points do the


materials cover?

5 A) What proportion of work on each


macro-skill (e.g. reading) is
desired? Should there be skills
integrated
work?

5B) What is the proportion of work on


each skill? Is there skills-integrated
work?

6A) What micro-skills do you need?


(e.g. deducing the
meanings of unfamiliar words see Munby (1978), pages
116-132)
7A) What text-types should be
included?
e.g.
- manuals?
- letters?
- dialogues?
- experimental reports?
- visual texts (pictures,
diagrams, charts, graphs,
cartoons etc.)?
- listening texts?
- any other kind?
8A) What subject-matter area(s) is/are
required (e.g. medicine, biology
etc.)?
What level of knowledge should
be assumed (e.g. secondary
school, first year college/university,
post-graduate etc.)?
What types of topics are needed?
(e.g. in medicine: hospital

6B) What micro-skills are covered in


the material?

7B) What kinds of texts are there in the


materials?
IOO

8B) What is/are the subject-matter


area(s), assumed level of
knowledge, and types of topics in
the materials?
What treatment are the topics
given?

organisation, medical technology


etc.)?
What treatment should the topics
be given (e.g. 'straightforward',
factual; 'human interest' angle;
humorous; unusual perspective;
taking into account issues,
controversy, etc.)
9A) How should the content be
organised throughout the course?
- around language points?
- by subject-matter?
- by some other means
(e.g. study skills)?
- by a combination of
means?
10A) How should the content be
organised within the course units?
- by a set pattern of components?
- by a variety of patterns?
- by some other means?
- to allow a clear focus on
e.g. certain skill areas, a
communication task etc.?
11A) How should the content be
sequenced throughout the course?
e.g. - from easier to more difficult?
- to create variety?
- to provide recycling?
- by other criteria?
Should there be no obvious
sequence?
12A) How should the content be
sequenced within a unit?
e.g. - from guided to free?
- from comprehension
to production?
- accuracy to fluency?
(see Brumfit, 1984,
p.52-7)
- by some other
means?
Should there be no obvious
sequence?

Fig. : A checklist for materials evaluation

9B) How is the content organised


throughout the materials?

10B) How is the content organised


within the units?

11B) How is the content sequenced


throughout the book?

12B) How is the content sequenced


within a unit?

The course book was shaped with a view as follows to help students/teachers
know the sphere and its functions:
a) Listening: how to understand and take effective notes on extended lectures,
including how to follow the argument and identify the speaker's point of view.
b) Speaking: how to participate effectively in a variety of realistic situations,
from seminars to presentations, including how to develop an argument and use
stance markers.
c) Reading: how to understand a wide range of texts, from academic textbooks
to Internet articles, including how to analyze complex sentences and identify
such things as the writer's stance.
d) Writing: how to produce coherent and well-structured assignments, including
such skills as paraphrasing and the use of the appropriate academic phrases.
e) Vocabulary: a wide range of activities to develop students' knowledge and
use of key vocabulary, both in the field of business studies and of academic
study in general.
f) Vocabulary and Skills banks: a reference source to provide students with
revision of the key words and phrases and skills presented in each unit.
g) Full transcripts of all listening exercises.

Conclusion:
To sum up, even though the evaluation of materials course book is a complicated topic, it does not
only help us learn more about teaching and learning, but also help us handpicked appropriate teaching
materials from professional judgment and adjust the inadequate ones, raise awareness of or reflect on
the teaching and learning experience.

Cunningworth (1984: 6) : "No course book will totally be suited to a particular teaching situation. The
teacher will have to find his own way of using it and adapting it if necessary. So we should not be
looking for the perfect course book which meets all our requirements, but rather the best possible fit
that the book offers and what we as teachers and students need."

References:
1. Cunningsworth, A. (1995). Choosing Your Coursebook. Oxford: Heinemann.

2. Rubdy, R. (2003). Selection of materials. In Tomlinson, B. (ed.) Developing


Materials for Language Teaching. London: Continuum. pp. 3757.

3. Skierso, A. (1991). Textbook Selection and Evaluation. In M. Celce-Murcia (Ed.),


Teaching English as a second or foreign language, 432-453. Boston: Heinle and
Heinle Publishers.

4. Tomlinson, B. (ed.) (1998). Materials Development in Language Teaching.


Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

5. Tomlinson, B. (2008). Language Acquisition and Language Learning Materials.


In Tomlinson, B. (ed.) English Language Learning Materials. A Critical Review.
London/New York, NY: Continuum.

6. Tomlinson, B. (2010). Principles of effective materials development. In


Harwood, N. (ed.) English Language Teaching Materials. Theory and Practice.

7. Allwright, R. L. (1981) What do we want teaching materials for? ELT Journal,


36/1, 518.

8. Sheldon, L. (1988) Evaluating ELT textbooks and materials. ELT Journal, 42/4,
237246.

b) Describe how you could adapt the materials or design your own activity to complement the section
you described in part A for a specific cohort of learners. For this group of learners, identify their
needs, level and the cultural context.

I would adapt the materials in the following way to support my findings in the
earlier part:
1) Course Outline:
Course outline gives the students an overview of the goals of the course, and to
help them make sense of how the learning activities and assessments contribute
to their learning. I would incorporate the following points in my outline:

the learning outcomes, which includes what students should understand or


be able to do by the end of the course

the schedule of activities for the semester

the assessments and how they relate to the learning outcomes

2) Websites
I would digitalize the data and store it in a remotely accessible repository:

for controlling access to learning materials

to enable students to communicate with other students and staff

to enable students to use quizzes to test their understanding

for email and calendars which are confidential to the unit

to link to other technologies used in the course

3) Text books and readings


Almost every course has one or more set text books. I would also suggest a list
of recommended texts or readings, to increase breadth in coverage.
Also the textbook would contain a host of visual aids:

Block, tree and flow diagrams;

Graphs;

Maps;

Photos; and

Cartoons that illustrate a point or an issue.

Visual materials help you emphasize on certain topics and thus make the content
easier and simpler to understand by breaking it into logical pieces. I would use
visual images to augment rather than repeat what is mentioned in the text.

4) Handouts
Handouts will help my students to focus on what I wish to explain rather that
concentrating on noting everything down. These handouts will be made available
on the Internet for the student to print and bring to the lecture.
6) Lecture Recordings
I would try to provide students with recordings of the lectures for later reference
and also a copy of the presentation slides/videos/animations that I use to teach
in the class to help them revise when and as necessary.

References

1. Biggs, J. (2003) Teaching for Quality Learning at University. Buckingham:


Society for Research in Higher Education/Open University Press
2. Brabrand, C. and Andersen, J (2006) Teaching Teaching and Understanding
Understanding University of Aarhus: Aarhus University Press.
3. Gibbs, G. (1992) Improving the Quality of Student Learning Bristol: Technical
and Educational Services Limited.

4. Ramsden, P. (2003). Learning to Teach in Higher Education. 2nd edition.


London: Routledge.