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European Journal of Scientific Research ISSN 1450-216X Vol.58 No.1 (2011), pp.56-58 EuroJournals Publishing, Inc. 2011 http://www.eurojournals.com/ejsr.


Language Teachers as Developers of Instructional Materials

Mahdi Dehghan Freelance University Teacher, Iran E-mail: m1prospect@gmail.com Muhammad Reza Afshar Islamic Azad University, Science and Research Branch,Tehran Iran Abstract Traditionally language teachers have been regarded as the "consumers" of materials developed by language authorities and policy makers. While recent studies place a more important role on the shoulders of teachers and change their position from passive to active. In this article, the researchers reviewed the recent literature regarding the role of language teachers as the developers of instructional materials rather than pure consumers.

Keywords: Language Teaching, Materials Development, SLA A quick look at the materials development literature clearly indicates the differing views on the role of language teachers in materials development. Masuhara(1993) states that teachers can even be said to play crucial role in materials development as they are the ones who select materials or, at least, have some influence in the selection process, who actually teach the materials and who sometimes have to rewrite materials. Also,.Richards & Rodgers(2003) mentions that the majority of studies thus far on teachers variables have focused on their roles in acting as the facilitator of learning and language model provider. Teachers appear to be often regarded and treated as passive beings in both language teaching and language learning. They are often expected to adapt flexibly to the roles determined by the objectives of the method and by the learning theory on which the method is based. Meanwhile, Richards & Rodgers (2003) declare that the lack of studies on teacher variables seems distressing in that teachers are in a fundamental position in language teaching and learning and are often anticipated to be in charge of essential stages of curriculum development. The teacher population is the most significant factor in determining success of a new syllabus or materials (Dublin and Olshtain, 1992). Cunningsworth(1998) has interesting views and mentions that the main role of teachers in regard to the choice of the course book is recognized as a guide, a facilitator, and a monitor. The teacher is seen as guiding learners through the learning process, with support from the course book, and monitoring student progress, correcting errors when this is useful for the learning process.Cunningsworth(1998) also adds that teaching and learning are not predictable activities, and even teachers, no matter how well they know their classes, often need to make adjustments to their planned lessons so as to provide somewhere to stay an unexpected difficulty faced while teaching an item, or to respond to the mood of a class on a particular day. Bartlett and Butler (1985) as cited in Nunan(1988) assert that each language classroom can be looked on as a rather unique learning environment in which the teacher needs to feel free to insert the

Language Teachers as Developers of Instructional Materials


required adjustments and modifications in the designed syllabus and the curriculum with respect to goal, objective, the learners and teachers variables, and other situational factors in order to pave the ground for leading the learners towards fulfilling their needs and expectations as they often find necessary to add a new element to materials at hand. They also refer to the type curriculum in which teachers adjustments are permissible as thenegotiated curriculum. The negotiated curriculum refers to those curriculum activities which involve negotiation and consultation between teachers and students. It includes such processes as needs analysis, jointly conducted goal and objective, exercises set by teachers and learners, selection of preferred methodology through negotiation, materials and learning activities, and the sharing of evaluation and self-evaluation procedures. The teacher should not hesitate to make the necessary decisions if they seem appropriate. Decisions like selecting a whole course, omitting certain exercises, and adapting a communicative activity all lie with the teacher. The learners would benefit from teachers adjustments if teachers feel free to make them where they feel necessary. On receiving feedback from students, it is ultimately the teacher who makes decisions. These decisions may be macro decisions, such as deciding which course to use or planning a years work, or they might be micro decisions which are taken quickly as a lesson progress, such as deciding to do an extra exercise on a grammar topic or postponing a listening activity until a later lesson (Cunningsworth, 1998). Richards (2000)states that a leading factor in the successful implementation of curriculum changes is the teacher.In planning a language program it is momentous to know the kinds of teachers the program will depend on and the kinds of teachers needed to guarantee that the program achieves its ends. Richards (2000) also points out that in any institution, teachers may vary according to language proficiency, teaching experience, skill and expertise, training and qualifications, morale and motivation, teaching style, and beliefs and principles. The attitudes of the teachers and their abilities to adjust to new thinking and what it involves in practical terms are crucial. Now the question is that are the teachers willing to take on the role of materials developers? In expanding this point Nunan (1988) in a study of an educational system where classroom teachers were expected to design, apply, and evaluate their own curriculum realized that one group of teachers were quite willing to develop their role as a teacher so as to indentify learners communicative needs, select and grade syllabus content, select and create materials and learning activities, and evaluate their course. This is while another group felt that they were being asked to assume tasks for which they were not trained for (p. 8). Therefore, it can be deduced that if teachers are to develop materials and design syllabi, they need to take related training courses. It would be unrealistic to expect them develop materials when even they themselves feel lacking expertise and experience. Breed and Littlejohn (2000) maintain that teachers are obliged to mediate for their students a language syllabus or curriculum over the design of which they had little or no control. However, they can make the range of decisions they wish more or less autonomously. In essence, negotiated decisionmaking can more overtly locate responsibility for learning in a classroom with the class as a working group including the teacher rather than with the teacher alone. In the context of negotiation, even negotiation about one or two aspects of the classroom curriculum, the teacher has the opportunity to act as a role model for active learning. Breed and Littlejohn also suggest that the teacher can welcome learners alternative interpretations and proposals as equal but also identify them as open to the groups judgments, selection and agreement. The teacher can encourage learners own gradual explicitness and greater precision in the identification of preferred learning purposes, content, ways of working and ways of evaluating outcomes so that such preferences become available for everyone as reference points and alternatives for action. Graves (2000) also believes that teachers are the best to design the courses they teach. Graves also regards the teacher as the person who is in charge of the processes rather than the receiver of the products. This does not prevent collaborating with students, other teachers, and administrators. This collaboration is noteworthy because a course is usually part of a larger system of a curriculum and an institution. Teachers who teach within explicit curriculum principles can be active agents in the courses they teach if they are aware of the processes. Successful teachers can often compensate for the poor-


Mahdi Dehghan and Muhammad Reza Afshar

quality resources and materials they have to work on. But insufficiently trained teachers may not be able to make effective use of teaching materials no matter how well they are designed. Willis and Willis (2007) refer to the job of the course designer and teacher as four dimensions: the first is to provide a pedagogic corpus made up of texts that contain adequate and suitable raw material for learners to create the insights they need about the target language to enable them to operate effectively as language users. So texts need to contain appropriate vocabulary which covers the areas in which learners are likely to operate. They need also to show the grammatical knowledge learners will need to acquire; to provide activities which support learners to analyze the language they are exposed to in a way which will boost learning and make it more efficient; and to encourage learners to practice the language they have been exposed to; to provide learners with guidance or instruction to help them make appropriate generalizations about the language they are exposed to. Dublin and Olshtain (1992) consider that teachers who were trained traditionally and who have only worked with rather conservative materials may not be equipped professionally or emotionally to handle modern teaching materials which leave a considerable amount of decision making to the teacher. A period of sensitizing may be necessary for both teachers and students before new ideas can be introduced effectively.

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