IATEFL Belfast 2022 – Teacher education and textbooks: a study of materials design – Luis Carabantes

[I missed the start of the talk, setting the context – sorry Luis!]

In Chile, where Luis did his study most university teacher training courses didn’t include specific modules on materials design, though it might have been included in other methodology modules (I think that’s what was said as I arrived!)

Many of the methodology materials talk about how to use and adapt coursebooks, rather than how to make their own materials. So how do language teachers learn to do this?

The apprenticeship of observation is now seen as one of the main obstacles to teachers implementing innovations.

Materials – what do we know?

Materials as curricular artefacts: how can they promote the learning and teaching of English?

Materials as cultural artefacts: representational repertoires in materials.

Materials in use: use of the textbook as syllabus, textbook reification – novice teachers particularly assume things work without questioning it.

Activity theory

This is a kind of sociocultural theory which Luis used to frame his study.

The activity Luis is focussing on is ‘learning to design materials’.

(Luis explained this very quickly, and I couldn’t keep up!)

Research questions

Research methods

8 pre-service teachers in their final year in year 5, doing their practicum, and working to get their BA in English language teaching.

He used stimulated recall interviews based on materials the students sent him. For example: ‘What were you thinking about when you decided to create this activity?’


Much of the design of the materials by these teachers was mediated by the idea that the materials needed to resemble course books.

He found an important tension between the pre-service teachers and their use of coursebooks. There was a need to cover the textbook as it was used as the syllabus, which somewhat removed the agency of the teachers in creating their materials.

Teachers have an average of 27 teaching hours per week, and sometimes as many as 40. This creates big challenges.

Influence of the settting

Mentor teachers from the school sometimes critiqued the teachers for creating their own materials and moving too far from the coursebook.

The teachers are taught English at the university while they are learning to teach too. They experienced these methods in their own learning, so used it in their teaching too:

ELT as teaching the textbook

Many novice teachers rely on the coursebook. The coursebook becomes the goal. If I need to cover the coursebook, everything needs to be geared towards that.

Influence from the school setting

Classrooms often have 40+ students and 25+ hours, so there is very little time to plan. Teachers learn how to teach, but can’t use this in the context, so rely on the coursebook.

Their own learning of English is textbook mediated, and therefore their practice is likely to be like this too.



Is a school seen as only a place where students learn? Or is it seen as a place where teachers learn too?

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