Challenging Current Practices in ELT Materials Design

This month we published Creativity and Innovations in ELT Materials Development edited by Dat Bao. In this post Dat introduces his book and explains what inspired him to put it together.

I am lucky to have been involved in many materials projects with scholars who have taught me a great deal about this field: Brian Tomlinson, Alan Maley, Hitomi Masuhara, Rani Rubdy, Martin Cortazzi, to name a few. From 2000, as a student at Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK, until the present day, as a lecturer at Monash University in Australia, I have worked together with these scholars in evaluating course materials, writing textbooks, conducting research and publishing the outcomes.

Knowledge, however, does not come only from the expert. Sometimes those with less experience but with a passion for materials development, such as teachers, students and colleagues, can also have a say. These practitioners sometimes make insightful comments about things that I have never thought of. By interacting together, they exchange views, question practices, reject routine, and support or challenge one another.

Having worked closely with both experts and practitioners, I can’t help thinking that these two groups could learn from one another, and help reduce the sense of hierarchy between them. For example, sometimes studying an updated theory can help teachers improve classroom tasks; at other times, observing teaching practice or listening to a teacher’s perspective can make theorists rethink their ideas.

It was this thinking that inspired my new book, Creativity and Innovations in ELT Materials Development, which began to take shape three years ago. In my own experience, this is a rare occasion on which I have managed to bring together well-known theorists and new researchers; experienced textbook writers and teachers who are users of those textbooks; and lecturers in materials development and their students.

The unusual combination of contributors has produced a range of fresh ideas about how to make English textbooks less boring and mundane. It must be said that a certain degree of negotiation among co-authors was needed to ensure that messages were clearly articulated. But in the end, the book is full of good ideas presented in a neat package with an array of helpful suggestions that are worth trying. Some examples include: what makes technology work best in a textbook, how to choose online resources with an effective learning impact, and in what ways can students be guided to become more creative.

Dat Bao (far left) teaching in the classroom at Monash University

I would encourage teachers, when going through chapters in the book, to visualise how ideas can be adapted to suit their tastes. I would also encourage readers to take notes and challenge what we say with your insights and questions. As they say, sometimes rules are made to be broken. Sometimes recommendations are made to be argued with. In this way, there should no end to what we can do to bring about optimal teaching and learning impact. I would very much like to see more debate around the topics that we raise, so that the field never settles, but remains active, in the same way that riding a bicycle requires the rider to be constantly moving forward to keep their balance.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Preparing Teachers to Teach English as an International Language edited by Aya Matsuda.

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