Materials Development in Language Learning By Brian Tomlinson

December 15, 2017
materials development


Materials Development in Language Teaching
by Brian Tomlinson

  1. Introduction: principles and procedures of materials development
  • Introduction
This book concerns itself with what we could do in order to improve the quality of materials which are used for the teaching and learning of second languages.

  • Terms and concepts
1. Materials
Materials can be anything which is deliberately used to increase the learners’ knowledge and/or experience of the language. Materials not only refer to coursebooks but also could obviously be videos, DVDs, emails, YouTube, dictionaries, grammar books, readers, workbooks or photocopied exercises. They could also be newspapers, food packages, photographs, live talks by invited native speakers, instructions given by a teacher, tasks written on cards or discussions between learners

2. Materials development
Materials development is both a field of study and a practical undertaking. As a field it studies the principles and procedures of the design, implementation and evaluation of language teaching materials’. As a practical undertaking it refers to anything which is done by writers, teachers or learners to provide sources of language input, to exploit those sources in ways which maximize the likelihood of intake and to stimulate purposeful output. Materials developers might write textbooks, tell stories, bring advertisements into the classroom, express an opinion, provide samples of language use or read a poem aloud.

3. Materials Evaluation
The systematic appraisal of the value of materials in relation to their objectives and to the objectives of the learners using them. Evaluation can be pre-use and therefore focused on predictions of potential value. It can be whilst-use and therefore focused on awareness and description of what the learners are actually doing whilst the materials are being used. And it can also be post-use and therefore focused on evaluation of what happened as a result of using the materials.

4. Language teaching
The term ‘teaching’ is used to refer to anything done by materials developers or teachers to facilitate the learning of the language. This could include;
  1. The teacher standing at the front of the classroom explaining the conventions of direct speech in English
  2. A textbook providing samples of language use and guiding learners to make discoveries from them.
  3.  A textbook inviting learner to reflect on the way they have just read a passage
  4. The teacher providing the vocabulary a learner needs whilst participating in a challenging task
Teaching can be direct, indirect, pre-emptive (in that it aims to prevent problems), facilitative (in that it aims to help the learners do something), responsive (in that it responds to a need for language when it occurs) or remedial in that it aims to remedy problems.

5. Language learning
Learning is normally considered to be a conscious process which consists of the committing to memory of information relevant to what is being learned. Language learning can be explicit (i.e. the learners are aware of when and what they are learning) or it can be implicit (i.e. the learners are not aware of when and what they are learning). Language learning can also be of declarative knowledge (i.e. knowledge about the language system) or of procedural knowledge (i.e. knowledge of how the language is used

  • Systematic evaluation of materials
The materials writing should be informed by experience of what is valuable to learners of a language and in many cases, they lead to the development of valuable materials. But how useful it would be if we were able to carry out long-term, systematic evaluations of materials which are generally considered to be successful.

  • Second language acquisition research and materials development
Some  researchers  argue  that  the  best  way  to  acquire a language is to do so naturally without formal lessons or conscious study of the language; others argue that conscious attention to distinctive features of the language is necessary for successful language learning. Such disagreements are inevitable, given our limited  access  to  the  actual  mental  processes  involved  in  the  learning  and using of languages, and often the intensity of the arguments provoke additional and illuminating research. The following is a summary of what writer think many SLA  researchers would agree to be some of the basic principles of second language acquisition relevant to the development of materials for the teaching of languages.

  1. “Materials should achieve impact.” which means they should have attractive presentation and appealing content to target learners.
  2. “Materials should help learners to feel at ease.” which means texts & illustration in materials should make learners feel comfortable, relaxed and being supportive.
  3. “Materials should help learners to develop confidence.” which means they should make learners feel successful and push learners to develop their skills.
  4. “What is being taught should be perceived by learners as relevant and useful.” which means materials should convince learners that teaching points are useful whereby teachers need to find what the learners are interested in.
  5. “Materials should require & facilitate learner’s self-investment.” which means they should encourage learners to invest their interests, efforts and attentions.
  6. “Learners must be ready to acquire the points being taught.” which means using materials to prepare learners to focus on features of target language which they haven’t learnt yet, so they might be attentive to learn these features.
  7. “Materials should expose learners to language in authentic use.” which means they should provide learners with advice and instructions for their activities, spoken language and written text.
  8. “The learners’ attention should be drawn to linguistic features of the input.” which means materials should include grammar and how the language is actually used.
  9. “Materials should provide learners with opportunities to use target language to achieve communication process.”
  10. “Materials should take in account that learners differ in learning style.” which means they should provide a variety of activities and should support all learning styles, such as, visual learners, auditory learners, kinesthetic learners, stadial learners, experiential learners, analytic learners, global learners, dependent learners and independent learners.
  11. “Materials should take in account that learners differ in affective attitudes.” which means they should provide different types of text and activities, as well as should be aware of cultural sensitivities of target learners.
  12. “Materials should permit a silent period at the beginning of instruction.” which means they should not force learners to speak until they are ready.
  13. “Materials should maximize learning potential by encouraging intellectual, aesthetic & emotional involvement which stimulates both right and left-brain activities.”
  14. “Materials should not reply too much on controlled practice.” which means they should focus on language use.
  15. “Materials should provide opportunities for outcome feedback, especially feedback on the effectiveness of use of language rather than accuracy of language.”
Read Also: Consciousness In Learning
  • What teachers and learner believe and want
The writer argues that in materials development should pay attention to what teachers and learners believe about the best ways to learn a language ad also to what they want from the materials they use.

  • Collaboration
In our experience about the materials of learning is not productive at all, because there are a lot of complaining. The teachers have complained without making effort to exert an influence, the learners have complained that materials are not interesting at all, the researchers have made theoretical claims without developing applications of materials and so on. Collaboration is the solution to make better materials development, the curriculum developers, publishers, administrators, lectures, researchers, examiners, teachers, trainers, writers, and all of them should make a significant contribution to the development of the materials in effective ways.

  • New directions in materials development
The learning material will continue to change and evolve according to the needs of the times. The most obvious one is the increase in quantity and quality of language learning materials delivered though new technologies.

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