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This material is given to ELT teachers and student-teachers for educational purposes ONLY.

DEVELOPING MATERIALS TO DEVELOP YOURSELF

Brian Tomlinson (Leeds Metropolitan University)

http://www.matsda.org.uk/links_brian.html#articles

:: Introduction

My claim in this article is that helping teachers to develop effective materials for themselves can help them to
become more positive and confident and to become more effective teachers too.

In my experience of education in over forty countries, many language teachers seem to be suffering from a lack
of creativity, energy, confidence and self-esteem. In ten of those countries I have run materials development
courses for teachers ranging in duration from one week to a year and many of the participants seemed to have
developed and grown considerably by the end of the course. For example, on the PKG Project in Indonesia many
teachers progressed during their in-on service course from being uncritical and inflexible users of official
methodology and materials to being confident innovators of principled materials and methodology themselves
(Tomlinson, 1990). And after a year on our MA in Materials Development for Language Teaching at Leeds
Metropolitan University many of the participants had developed into much more imaginative and effective
teachers, into confident conference presenters and article writers and into expert materials developers. The magic
ingredient was not the quality of the tuition nor just the focus on materials development but the
experiential/reflective mode of delivery and the way that a focus on developing materials was able to enhance
this mode by providing meaningful and liberating experiences for the participants.

:: Ways of Running Courses for Teachers and Trainees

Teacher Training
In a teacher training approach teachers or trainee teachers are given procedures and advice to follow. This
approach assumes a relationship of experts to novices and characterises many pre-service courses in which the
participants are trained to teach a particular textbook, methodology or curriculum. In the best type of teacher
training courses, the participants are provided with a range of options to choose from; in the worst they are given
a set script to follow. The result is often teachers who know what to do but who do not know when and how not
to do it. In other words, conformists who have little initiative or creativity of their own and who find it difficult
to respond to the unexpected.

Teacher training helps institutions and countries to achieve convergence and uniformity, but ultimately it is not
very useful for learners, who need teachers who can respond to their divergent needs and wants. Training
teachers to write materials might help them to become a little more organised and to write clearer instructions
but it is not going to lead to increased confidence, creativity, flexibility or self-esteem.

Teacher Education
In a teacher education approach, teachers are given new knowledge and the means to discover new knowledge
for themselves. In the best type of teacher education course, the teachers are given sufficient relevant and
comprehensible knowledge to help them to apply it to their own teaching situations. In the worst type they are
given irrelevant and incomprehensible knowledge and are not helped to apply it to themselves. The result is
often that teachers feel empowered by their new knowledge but frustrated at their inability to apply it and
sometimes that they feel disempowered by a new sense of inadequacy from finding out how much they do not
know.
In my experience, teacher education is of potentially more value than teacher training but it is inevitably
inadequate in that it overrates what teachers know and under-values what they think and do. Giving teachers new
knowledge about materials development might provide them with some interesting new insights into teaching
and learning, but it would not help them to develop expertise in actually developing materials themselves and
would be unlikely to have a positive effect on their confidence, creativity, flexibility or self-esteem.

Teacher Development
In a teacher development approach, teachers are given new experiences to reflect on and learn from. Their prior
experience and expertise is valued but they are encouraged to add to their repertoires and to develop their
awareness of the processes of learning and teaching. The emphasis is not on finite, articulated knowledge
coming from outside, but on dynamic, multi-dimensional awareness developing in the mind, and on the ability to
apply this awareness to their actual contexts of teaching.

In the best type of teacher development course, the teachers are helped to decide what to think and do for
themselves and are encouraged to develop novel approaches themselves. In the worst type of teacher
development course, the teachers are surreptitiously pushed in pre-determined directions.

Teacher development is potentially more valuable than teacher education or teacher training (even for trainee
teachers) because it can lead to the development of teachers with confidence, creativity, flexibility and self-
esteem who can respond to the actual needs and wants of their learners. Providing teachers (and even trainee
teachers) with the opportunity to develop expertise for themselves as materials developers can quite definitely
help them to develop and grow.

The Aims of a Teacher Development Course


I think the main objective of a teacher development course is simply to help the participants to become good
teachers. But what is a Good Language Teacher? Are the characteristics of a Good Language Teacher self-
evident or is there disagreement about them? Are they universal or are they culture specific?

In a workshop which I ran at the MELTA 2003 Conference in Subang, I asked the participants to complete a
questionnaire about their view of the Good Teacher. What do you think were the five main characteristics of the
Good Language Teacher which were specified by this group of 30 Malaysian teachers and teacher trainers?

In his PhD thesis on learner reticence in Vietnam, Bao Dat characterised the Good Language Teacher as
"cheerful, approachable and dedicated" (Dat, 2002). I have taught in seven countries and visited classrooms in
40. I basically agree with Dat and think his definition is universally true. The 30 Malaysian respondents to my
questionnaire seemed to agree too. When asked to say what they think is the main characteristic of the Good
Language Teacher there were many different answers. Those responses receiving more than one mention were:

The Good Language Teacher

Characteristic Grade
1 has positive self-esteem 92%
1 takes initiative 92%
1 bases their teaching on the needs, wants and responses of their learners 92%
4 is flexible 88%
4 is creative 88%
4 is patient 88%
7 has a good sense of humour
84%
7 is well-organised 84%
7 is an expert on the target language
84%
10 has a large and varied repertoire of pedagogical procedures 80%
11 makes principled selections from their repertoire in relation to their own
personality, beliefs and teaching style preferences 72%
12 provides thorough preparation for exams 71%
13 times their lessons well 70%
14 has authority 68%
15 is able to cover the coursebook in the time allocated 52%

The respondents were also asked to rate 15 characteristics of the Good Language Teacher on a scale of 1-5, in
which 1 indicates complete disagreement and 5 indicates complete agreement. This is how they responded:

:: Adaptable (5)
:: Knowledgeable about the target language (5)
:: Innovative (3)
:: Positive (3)
:: Motivating (3)
:: Proficient in the target language (3)
:: Enthusiastic (2)
:: "Enjoyable" (2)
:: Creative (2)

My own characterisation of the Good Language Teacher (which I listed before the MELTA Conference) is that
the Good Language Teacher:

:: is patient and supportive


:: has a good sense of humour
:: is enthusiastic about teaching and positive towards their learners
:: is a confident teacher with positive self-esteem
:: is interesting, stimulating and creative
:: is a good communicator
:: is flexible
:: takes initiative
:: is sensitive to the needs and wants of each of their learners
:: teaches responsively
:: is critically aware of current theoretical and methodological developments
::has a large and varied repertoire of pedagogical procedures
::makes principled and modified selections from their repertoire in relation to the needs, wants, learning style
preferences and expectations of their learners, their own personality, beliefs and teaching style preferences, and
the social and educational cultures of their teaching context
:: is a proficient user of the target language
:: is positively aware of how the target language is used for communication
:: is positively aware of the cultures of the learners and of users of the target language

Would you add to, delete or modify any of these characteristics? Notice how many of them relate to personal
attitudes and characteristics rather than to expertise in the theory and practice of language teaching. In my view,
such attributes cannot be given to teachers through training or education approaches; they can only be nurtured
and supported through a teacher development approach.

Materials Development for Teacher Development


There are many useful ways of giving teachers new experience to reflect on in order to achieve personal and
professional development (for example, through peer teaching, experimental teaching and focussed observation
of other teachers). In my experience though, by far the most effective way to achieve this is through a course in
materials development.
What Materials Development Can Achieve
I have found that materials development can help teachers to develop the following characteristics of the Good
Language Teacher in the following ways:

Characteristic Procedure
Is patient and supportive Asked to:

:: write materials in which learning points are


recycled, the effects of instruction are assumed
to be delayed and only partial achievement is
expected

:: be supportive and realistic in the way they


write task instructions and give advice
Has a good sense of humour Asked to find and exploit texts which might
make students laugh
Is enthusiastic, positive and Helped to achieve challenges which result in
confident innovative materials likely to engage both
teacher and learners
Is interesting, stimulating Challenged to develop original materials in
and creative novel ways
Is a good communicator Frequent peer and mentor feedback leading to
improved clarity, cohesion and coherence
Is flexible and takes initiative Asked to use a flexible framework variably in
relation to different target needs and wants and
to develop flexible frameworks for themselves
Is sensitive to the needs and Is asked to:
wants of each of her learners and
teaches responsively :: conduct learner needs and wants analyses

:: anticipate learner responses to texts and


activities and to advise teachers how to respond
to them in Teachers’ Guides
Is critically aware of current Asked to evaluate articles and chapters and to
theoretical and methodological make use of them in evaluation, adaptation and
developments production tasks
Has a large and varied repertoire Introduced to many novel task types and asked
of pedagogical procedures to develop materials based on them

Makes principled selections from her repertoire


in relation to:

:: the needs, wants, learning style preferences


and expectations of her learners

:: her personality, beliefs and teaching style


preferences

:: the social and educational cultures

Given varying learner profiles and asked to


design and justify differing materials for them
Is a proficient user of the target Rich exposure to language in use + focussed
language attention on the features being ‘taught’
Has awareness of the realities of Given awareness tasks to do themselves prior to
the target language and of the L1 developing awareness tasks for learners
and L2 cultures

The Principles of Materials Development for Teacher Development


In the ten years that I have been running materials development courses for teacher development, I have come to
the conclusion that for a materials development course to contribute to the development of Good Language
Teachers it should:

:: provide rich and varied experience so that the teachers have concrete experience to base their developing
principles, conceptualisations and theories on

:: provide a variety of context specific briefs, so that the teachers are aware of the need for variability in
materials development and in teaching, and in order to help them become flexible and versatile

:: set achievable challenges so that the teachers are pushed into thinking in new ways, and developing new skills
within a supportive environment which makes ultimate attainment feasible

:: encourage cooperative learning, so that the teachers can learn from each other and can learn how to work
together in teams

:: encourage peer monitoring and feedback, so that the teachers can share their innovations and can gain from
peer insights

:: encourage reflection and self-evaluation, so that the teachers can learn from themselves and can develop the
habit of positive but critical reflection on their attempts to help their learners

:: provide constructive feedback, so that the teachers are encouraged and can learn from the experience and
expertise of their facilitators

An Example Framework for Materials Development for Teacher Development


As a result of my ten years’ experience of running materials development for teacher development courses I
have developed a number of flexible course frameworks. Here is an example of the one that I have found to be
the most powerful for longer courses.

1. Experience as learners of demonstrations of novel approaches and tasks


I usually start my courses by using some of my own materials to give the participants experience of approaches
and tasks they are unlikely to have encountered before. Depending on the actual group of teachers, the
approaches include TPR Plus (Tomlinson, 1994b; Islam, 2003), the Multi-Dimensional Approach (Tomlinson,
2001; Masuhara, 2003) and Language Awareness approaches (Bolitho and Tomlinson, 1995; Tomlinson, 1994;
Bolitho et al, 2003). The objective is not to train the participants to use these approaches, but to give them new
experiences to reflect on.
2. Analysis and evaluation of the approaches and tasks
After experiencing a novel approach or task, the participants are asked to analyse it by listing its stages and
specifying the principles and objectives for each stage. They are then asked to evaluate it in relation to specified
criteria (e.g. the validity of the principles; the coherence of the principles; the likelihood of achieving the
objectives; the suitability for a specific context of learning). As they evaluate an approach or task the participants
are encouraged to suggest improvements.

This procedure helps the participants to become more aware of principles and objectives and to become more
critical and perceptive about the materials and approaches available to them.

3. Impressionistic evaluation of textbook materials


This stage is usually done in groups and provides a way of helping the participants to articulate their principles
and theories about language learning and teaching. It is also a preparation for Stage 5.

4. Development of criteria for materials evaluation


This is a long and difficult stage during which the participants are helped to develop a number of answerable and
informative criteria according to the following categories:

:: Universal Criteria (i.e. those applicable to any instance of language learning material)

:: Content Specific Criteria (i.e. those applicable to the type of materials (e.g. business English; listening skills;
extensive reading)

:: Medium Specific Criteria (i.e. those applicable to the medium of the materials (e.g. textbook; video course;
computer assisted course)

:: Local Criteria (i.e. those related to specific contexts of learning)

This stage is done in groups and gets the participants to think very carefully about the characteristics of good
language learning materials.

For a more detailed description of the development of evaluation criteria see Tomlinson (2003b).

5. Criterion referenced evaluation of the same material as in 3 above


In the same groups as in 3 above, the participants evaluate the same materials again. This time they evaluate the
materials in relation to a specified context of learning and they use the criteria they have developed in 4 above.
As they conduct the evaluation, they invariably add extra criteria and go back to modify or even delete the
criteria they developed in 4 above.

Often the results of the evaluation are very different from those of the impressionistic evaluation and the
participants learn the importance of evaluating materials and methods in relation to specific contexts of learning
rather than in isolation.

6. Reading of relevant articles, extracts and chapters


The participants are guided towards relevant literature on language acquisition, on materials development and on
language teaching methodology. Because of their experience of actually considering and applying principles of
language acquisition, the participants are usually able to be constructively critical of what they read and to really
appreciate anything which they had not thought of before which is of potential benefit to them as teachers and as
materials developers.
7. Evaluation of relevant articles, extracts and chapters
In groups, the participants formalise the process of evaluation begun in 6 and note down anything which they
think might be useful for them on and after the course.

8. Context specific adaptation of materials


The participants are given demonstrations of adaptations of material and work together to develop sets of
principles and procedures for effective adaptation. They then use them to develop adaptations of specified
materials for specific learning contexts using the following stages of development:

:: Profile of target audience

:: Specification of evaluation criteria* Evaluation of the materials

:: Specification of sections of the materials for deletion, replacement, reduction, addition, expansion,
modification and supplementation

:: Adaptation of the materials

:: Evaluation of the adapted materials

9. Context specific design and production of materials


The participants are given target contexts of learning (either related to their teaching contexts or in deliberately
divergent simulations) and are given time to design and produce principled materials for those contexts.
Normally, this is done in groups and the facilitators are available to give feedback and advice.

10. Self- and peer-evaluation of the materials produced


At intervals, the writers evaluate their own materials against predetermined criteria and give their materials for
further evaluation to a peer monitor group as well.

11. Revision of the materials


The materials are revised in relation to the feedback from the evaluations.

12. Demonstration and theoretical justification of the materials


The participants demonstrate their materials to their peers and explain the principles which have driven them.
They also answer questions from their facilitators and peers and listen to suggestions for improvement. Or they
write up their materials and their theoretical justification for them and submit them to their facilitators for
feedback. On the MA in Materials Development for Language Teaching, for example, the participants produce a
complete course of materials plus a theoretical justification in lieu of a dissertation.

13. Further Revision


Materials are never perfect and the participants continue to revise their materials for use in the classroom or for
publication.

For a more detailed description of the use of this framework see Tomlinson (2003a).

Conclusion
A 'materials development as teacher development' course can not only help teachers to develop useful expertise
as materials developers. It can also help teachers to articulate and develop their own theories of language
learning and teaching, to develop skills which can enable them to apply these theories to practice, and to develop
personal attributes which can help them to become more confident and positive people and more effective
teachers too.
Further Reading
Books, chapters and articles which give differing perspectives on using materials development for teacher
development include:

Canniveng, C. and Martinez, M. Materials development and teacher training. In B. Tomlinson. (ed.) Developing
Materials for Language Teaching. London: Continuum Press.
McGrath, I. 2002. Materials Evaluation and Design for Language Teaching. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh
Press.
Popovici, R. and Bolitho, R. Personal and professional development through writing: the Romanian textbook
project. In B. Tomlinson (ed.) Developing Materials for Language Teaching. London: Continuum Press.
Tomlinson, B. 1990. Managing change in Indonesian high schools. ELT Journal, 44/1.
Tomlinson, B. 1995. Work in progress: textbook projects. FOLIO 2/2, 26-31.
Tomlinson, B. (ed.) 2003. Developing Materials for Language Teaching. London: Continuum Press.
Tomlinson, B. 2003. Materials development courses. In B. Tomlinson (ed.) Developing Materials for Language
Teaching. London: Continuum Press.
Tomlinson, B. and Masuhara, H. 2003a. Simulations in materials development. In B. Tomlinson (ed.)
Developing Materials for Language Teaching. London: Continuum Press.
Tomlinson, B. and Masuhara, H. 2003b Materials Development. Singapore: RELC Portfolio Series.
References
Bolitho, R. and Tomlinson, B. 1995. Discover English. (New Edition) Oxford: Heinemann.
Bolitho, R., Carter, R., Hughes, R., Ivanic, R., Masuhara, H. and Tomlinson, B. 2003. Ten questions about
language awareness. ELT Journal. 57/2.
Dat, B. 2002. Understanding Reticence: An Action Research Project Aiming at Increasing Verbal Participation
in the EFL Classroom in Vietnam. Unpublished PhD thesis, Leeds Metropolitan University. Islam, C. 2003.
Materials for beginners. In B. Tomlinson (ed.) Developing Materials for Language Teaching. London:
Continuum Press.Masuhara, H. 2003. Materials for developing reading skills. In B. Tomlinson (ed.) Developing
Materials for Language Teaching. London: Continuum Press.
Tomlinson, B. 1990. Managing change in Indonesian high schools. ELT Journal, 44/1.
Tomlinson, B. 1994a Pragmatic awareness materials. Language Awareness, 3/4, 119-29.
Tomlinson, B. 1994b TPR materials. FOLIO 1/2, 8-10.
Tomlinson, B. 2001. Conecting the mind: a multi-dimensional approach to teaching language through literature.
The English Teacher. 4/2, 105-115.
Tomlinson, B. 2003a. Materials development courses. In B. Tomlinson (ed.) Developing Materials for Language
Teaching. London: Continuum Press.
Tomlinson, B. 2003b. Materials evaluation. In B. Tomlinson (ed.) Developing Materials for Language Teaching.
London: Continuum Press.

© Brian Tomlinson, 2003