Syllabus Design: Instructional Materials

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Instructional Materials

Instructional Materials are a key component in most language programs. Whether the teacher uses a textbook, institutionally prepared materials, or his or her own materials, instructional materials generally serve as the basis for much of the language input learners receive and the language practice that occurs in the classroom.

In the case of inexperierienced teachers materials may also serve as a form of teacher training because they provide ideas on how to plan and teach lessons as well as formats that teachers can use. Much of the language teaching that occurs throughout the world today could not take place without the extensive use of commercial materials. These may take the form of

  1. printed materials such as books, workbooks, worksheets, or readers
  2. nonprint materials such as cassette or audio materials, videos or computer-based materials
  3. materials that comprise both print and nonprint sources such as self-access materials and materials on the Internet.

In addition, materials not designed for instructional use such as magazines, newspapers, and TV materials may also play a role in the curriculum.

Authentic Vs Created Materials

When plans regarding the role of materials in a language progam are made, an initial decision concerns the use of authentic materials versus created materials. Authentic materials refers to the use in teaching of texts, photographs, video selections, and other teaching resources that were not specially prepared for pedagogical purposes. Created materials refers to textbooks and other specially developed instructional resources. Some have argued that authentic materials are preferred over created materials, because they contain authentic language and reflect real-world uses of language compared with the contrived content of much created material. Allwright

Advantages of Authentic Materials

  1. They  have a positive effect on learner motivation because they are more motivating than created materials.
  2. They provide authentic cultural information about the target culture.
  3. They provide exposure to real language.
  4. They relate more closely to learner’s needs.
  5. They support more creative approach to teaching.

Criticism of the use of Authentic Materials

  1. Created materials can also be motivating for learners
  2. Authentic material often contain difficult language
  3. Created materials can be superior to authentic materials because they provide a systematic teaching of the contents found in a syllabus
  4. Creatiing authentic materials is a burden for teachers

Advantages of Comercial Textbooks

  1. They provide structure and syllabus for a program
  2. They help standarize instruction
  3. They mantain quality
  4. They provide a varierty of learning resources
  5. They are efficient
  6. They can provide efffective language models and input
  7. They can train teachers
  8. They are visually appealing

Disadvantages of Comercial Textbooks

  1. They may contain inauthentic language
  2. They may distort content
  3. They may not reflect students’ needs
  4. They can deskill teachers
  5. They are expensive

Criteria for Textbook Evaluation

Four criteria for evaluating textbooks, particularly course books:

  1. They should correspond to learners’ needs.
  2. They should match the aims and objectives of the language learning program.
  3. They should reflect the uses (present or future) that learners will make of the language.
  4. Textbooks should be chosen that will help equip students to use language effectively for their own purposes.
  5. They should take account of students’ needs as learners and should facilitate their learning processes, without dogmatically imposing a rigid “method.”
  6. They should have a clear role as a support for learning. Like teachers, they mediate between the target language and the learner. ‘

Preparing Materials for a program

Advantages of building a materials development component into a program include:

  1. Relevance: Materials can be produced that are directly relevant to students’ and institutional needs and that reflect local content, issues, and concerns.
  2. Develop expertise: Developing materials can help develop expertise among staff, giving them a greater understanding of the characteristics of effective materials.
  3. Reputation: Institutionally developed materials may enhance the reputa-tion of the institution by demonstrating its commitment to providing mate-rials developed specifically for its students.
  4. Flexibility: Materials produced within the institution can be revised or adapted as needed, giving them greater flexibility than a commercial course book.

Disadvantages also need to be considered before embarking on materials development:

  1. Cost: Quality materials take time to produce and adequate staff time as well as resources need to be allocated to such a project
  2. Quality: Teacher-made materials will not normally have the same standard of design and production as commercial materials and hence may not present the same image as commercial materials.
  3. Training: To prepare teachers for materials writing projects, adequate training should be provided.

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