Scott Thornbury’s Definitive (200-Word) Dismissal of Coursebooks

I can’t resist cutting and pasting Scott’s comment below, which I’ve just read on Steve Brown’s blog.  It’s brilliantly concise and “bang on”,  as I think they say in Oz land.

“If it’s syllabuses that teachers want, these can be fabricated out of existing coursebook syllabuses and printed on a sheet of A4. No violation of copyright is involved since all coursebook syllabuses are clones of one another anyway (and will be even more so once the English Profile checklist is mandated). And if it’s a semantic or functional or task-based syllabus they want, they will have to design it themselves anyway (but the exercise could do wonders for in-service development and staff morale).

If it’s texts that teachers want, they need only do what coursebooks writers do anyway: trawl the internet. At least the texts that they plunder themselves are likely to be more up-to-date than those in even a recently-published coursebook, and can be selected to match their learners’ needs and interests.

If it’s activities the teachers want, there are any number of excellent resource books available, and a school’s materials budget might be better spent on the complete Cambridge Handbooks series (I declare an interest) than on a truckload of Headway.

Syllabus. Texts. Activities. Is there anything else a coursebook offers? Comfort. Complacency. Conformity. Professional atrophy. Institutional malaise. Student boredom. Slow death by mcnuggets.”

Scott Thornbury, July 2015, commenting on Steve Brown’s post “Concerning Coursebooks” 

3 thoughts on “Scott Thornbury’s Definitive (200-Word) Dismissal of Coursebooks

  1. I’ve always thought there isn’t the perfect book. That’s why I thank technology and our surroundings because they are great tools to teach a language.


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