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INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MODERN MANAGEMENT & FORESIGHT

JOURNAL HOMEPAGE: IJMMF.COM, ISSN: 2204-0072.


VOL.2. ISSUE 1, PUBLISHED ONLINE on June 2015, pp 59-64.

THE EFFICIENCY OF INTERCHANGE VS. TOP NOTCH


ENGLISH TEXTBOOKS IN THE EFL CONTEXT OF IRAN
GHASEM TAYYEBI* & NEGIN KARAMI
*Corresponding Author
English Department, Kazerun Branch, Islamic Azad University, Kazerun, Iran

ABSTRACT
This study attempted at finding which of the Top-Notch and Interchange series are more efficient in Iranian
EFL teachers point of view. To this end, Alamris (2008) questionnaire with the following categories was
employed: general appearance, design and illustrations, accompanying materials, objectives,
topic/language/social and cultural contents, language skills, teachability, flexibility, teaching methods, practices
and finally the way of testing. 75 EFL teachers teaching at Gachsaran, Kazerun and Borazjan English language
institutes answered the above-mentioned 64-question checklist. Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS.16)
was used to analyze the data. In general, the results indicated that Top-Notch series were totally more efficient
in teachers point of view. However, in design and illustration, topic contents, social and cultural contexts,
teachability and flexibility the two series were not statistically different from each other.
KEYWORDS: Textbook Evaluation, Top-Notch, Interchange, EFL Context

1. INTRODUCTION
According to Richards (2001), one of the key elements in most language contexts which form the basis of
language input are textbooks. They serve the learners with language practices, the lessons content, the balanced
skills that are tough and different kinds of practices the students taken part in. they also may supplement the
teachers instruction. Apart from teachers talk they may function as the source of contact with the target
language, they may function as presenter of new ideas on how to plan and teach the lessons for inexperienced
teachers. Most of English language courses cannot be held without these commercial textbooks. Apart from
these beneficial uses they have some disadvantages that Richards (2001) list them in his paper.
Considering the above mentioned issues and with taking into considerations both benefits and limitations of
textbooks, experts must evaluate these books and decide on some remedial plans like supplementary materials
and books or so, or change the books if the ratio of limitations is more than the benefits that learners can gain by
studding them. The importance of book evaluation is underscored here, but this job must be done carefully with
taking the textbooks role, the teachers (their experience, etc.) and the learners in the learning program into
consideration. There are some criteria for textbook evaluation like keeping an eye on the learners needs,
supporter or pedagogic roles etc. All of these above mentioned points in Richards paper demonstrate the
importance of book evaluation and reveal the objective steps that must be taken to do this difficult and sensitive
job effectively.
Objectives
This study aimed at finding out the advantages and disadvantages that the Interchange Series (developed by
Richards) and Top Notch Series ( developed by Saslow and Ascher) regarding their general appearance, design

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and illustrations, accompanying materials, objectives, topic/language/social and cultural contents, language
skills, teachability, flexibility, teaching methods, practices and finally the way of testing their materials ,and
also suitability of one of these two series in EFL context of Iran in comparison to its counterpart. In line with
these objectives, the fallowing null hypotheses was formulated:
There is no difference between Top-Notch and Interchange series in terms of the categories mentioned in
Alamris (2008) checklist and their efficacy in EFL context of Iran.
Significance
Textbook evaluation is very important in EFL contexts because the textbooks used in such situations are
designed mostly by native speakers or at least by the writers who are not familiar with some circumstances the
users of these books are in, for instance, cultural and religious (morals and mentality) circumstances,
educational system, the learners objectives of attending English classes and their needs (because these books
consider some general needs and focus on some general notions, functions, structures, etc. of language). So, this
paper intended to reveal which series were more satisfying from the viewpoint of Iranian EFL teachers who
have the experience of teaching them.

2. LITERATURE REVIEW
There are fairly many studies on the issue that this paper is going to scrutinize. Davidson (1975) says that
besides the teacher, the textbook is the most important factor in the foreign language classrooms. Few teachers
enter the class without a textbook which provides content and teaching/learning activities that determine most
of the events in the classroom. Some students in Mukundan and Ahours (2010) words depend on the textbook
as an essential component of their learning material without which they do not consider the learning situation
to be serious. Textbooks, according to Tomlinson (2010), prepare learners for examination, help teachers by
reducing their preparation time, help administrators to devote lessons to teachers, standardize teaching and
provide teaching that would be that would be useful to any learner at any language level. Tomlinson (2011) also
believes that a textbook helps provide a lesson plan for both teachers and learners, making it possible for them
to look forward to what will be done in a lesson. They are seen as sources of achieving learners needs and
matching the aims and their needs. Ahour and Ahmadi (2012) claimed that textbooks are the main sources that
convey the knowledge and information to the learners in an easy and organized way. Evaluating textbooks
have many reasons. Hutchinson and Waters (1993) shows that materials evaluation should be perform to
determine the adequacy of the materials to our particular purpose. In other words, Hutchinson (1987) says
that material evaluation help the teachers in choosing teaching materials and the development of their
knowledge regarding the nature of language and learning.
According to Sheldon (1988), there are so many reasons for evaluating textbooks. It can help the teachers to
have a good knowledge of the content of the textbooks and to identify the advantages and disadvantages of the
textbooks that are being used in advance. For Sheldon all the textbooks in ELT should have noticeable features
and qualifications, effectiveness and suitability for people who use them. Otherwise, Cunningworth (1995)
mentions two reasons for textbook evaluation including accepting new course books and finding out the specific
strength and weaknesses in course books in use. In this case, there are some advantages of materials evaluation
to be to be mentioned. Littlejohn (2011), for example, claims that materials analysis and evaluation enable us
to look inside the materials and to take more control over their design and use. McDonough and Shaw (2003)
declare that evaluation is a useful process in its own right because it gives teachers ideas about the
organizational principles of the materials and helps them to get along with developments in the field. This will
help teachers to change the materials according to real situations.
Many empirical studies have been done on the textbook evaluation in different contexts. Different researchers
have used different textbook evaluation checklist to evaluate different textbooks or materials. In the Iranian
context, Ansary (2004) investigated the merits and demerits of Iranian High School English textbooks. He
concluded that the shapes of these books are not designed in a way that makes them attractive and usable. There
is little use of pictures and illustrations to make them attractive enough for the students. Even when some
illustrations are given, they are not clear enough for the students to completely understand what they should do.
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Ansary also found that the reading parts of these books have not been organized according to their level of
difficulty and that background knowledge of the learners has not been considered.
Considering teaching methodology, Hosseini (2007) evaluated ELT materials in Iran High schools. He
concluded that the main focus of English education, especially at the pre-university and senior high school
levels, is on reading skills and the textbooks lack listening and speaking activities. Therefore, the Grammar
Translation teaching as the prominent method is used by the teacher at these levels. According to Hosseini
(2007), even the less consideration is on writing because writing activities change into grammatical exercises
including making passive sentences or unscrambling the disordered words and phrases.
In another study, Ghaderi and Soleimani (2013) examined Interchange and American English File. Thirty
Iranian English teachers helped the collection of data via answering a changed version of Litzs (2005)
questionnaire. They used descriptive statistics to analyze the data and concluded that both series were
satisfactory in teachers point of view since both have high mean (more than the median= 5.5). Multivariate
Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) showed that the difference between the means was not significant in features
like practical considerations, layout and design, activities and skills. For language type and subject and content
the difference was significant (P0.05). The findings of their study revealed that both series were satisfactory,
but about the last tree features teachers were more satisfied with American English File.
Moreover, Azizifar and Baghelani (2014) used Theins (2006) questionnaire to evaluate Top Notch Series.
There were 25male and female subjects (English teachers from western part of Iran, Ilam) who answered the
questionnaires. The findings of their study revealed that the series were well-developed according to students
needs and satisfied the teachers expectations regarding the aspects like general appearance, design and
illustration, objectives and the practices and testing, but were not satisfactory regarding critical topics and
writing materials aspects.
Moreover, Riazati and Zare (2010) weighted New Interchange Series with educational values and the books
suitability in view. Thirty-five male and female Iranian English teachers participated in data collection through
answering Litzs questionnaire (2000). The research indicated some strong points like practical considerations
of the series (its reasonable price, accessibility and existence of teachers guide and audio tapes), their layout
and design, communicative practices and a balance of activities and four skills and weak points like lack of
supplementary teaching material, cultural disconformities of some the content, high level of linguistic
difficulties regarding students capacity, extra number of testing exercises etc.
In another study, Rezaee, Kouhpaeenejad and Mohammadi (2012) evaluated Interchange and Top-Notch books
(respectively 3rd and 2nd editions) using Litzs (2000) questionnaire. There were 42 EFL learners with different
proficiency level in their study. The results of their study showed that Top-Notch books were expensive and not
easy to find.
Finally, Moradi (2013) evaluated High School English books (1, 2, and 3) and New Interchange books (1, 2,
and 3) regarding speech acts (via Searles (1976) model) and functions. The number of speech acts in New
Interchange books vs. high school books was 1100 vs. 275. The number of language functions in the former
books was much more than the latter one in which they lacked a distinct pattern. The study revealed that since
High School English books were not designed communicatively, they could not build/improve learners
pragmatic competence. So it suggested some changes to these books designers considering speech acts in
English books taught in Irans high schools.

3. METHODOLOGY
Participant
75 male and female EFL teachers from different English language institutes of Gachsaran, Kazerun and
Borazjan participated in this study. They were in their 20s to 60s. They were all Persian with different ethnicity,
culture as well as educational background. As it was beyond the scope of this study, their level of proficiency
was not taken into account.

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Instrument
The researcher used a modified and validated version of the questionnaire developed by Alamri (2008). Based
on the comments of EFL experts, some minor modifications were applied. To measure the internal consistency,
Cronbachs Alpha was employed (r= 0.83). The checklist had twelve categories containing questions about the
general appearance of the textbooks, their design and illustrations, accompanying materials, objectives, topic/
language/ social and cultural contents, language skills, teachability, flexibility, teaching methods, practice and
testing. Totally it had 64 subcategories and a Likert scale of 5 numerical codes (1. Strongly disagree, 2.
Disagree, 3. Not decided 4. Agree, 5. Strongly agree). Two separate questionnaires of the same categories (12
categories) and subcategories (64 subcategories) were used to evaluate each book.
Procedure
This research was conducted in February and May. The researcher sent the questionnaires to the subjects via
email and WhatsApp software, met them in person or had someone else to give them to the subjects. The
questionnaires were distributed among 150 EFL teachers; some were reluctant to cooperate or to take part in the
study. At the end of the process of data collection, 75 were collected.

4. RESULTS & DATA ANALYSIS


The researchers ran an independent samples t-test to compare the general perception about each series (TopNotch and Interchange) first. Based on the data given in the following table, the researchers concluded that
totally the difference between Top-Notch (M=17.6, SD= 1.07) and Interchange (M=13.41, SD=1.53) was
statistically significant [t (7.387) = 0.000]. As a result, the null hypothesis of the study, i.e., there is no
difference between Top-Notch and Interchange series in terms of the categories mentioned in Alamris (2008)
checklist and their efficacy in EFL context of Iran can safely be rejected.
Table1. Total statistical evaluation of two series in comparison to each other
Top-Notch
Interchange
t
df
17.6
13.41
(1.07)
(1.53)
Note: *P.05, SD appear in parentheses below the means
Total evaluation

7.387

73

Sig
.000*

Then, to the number of categories, independent samples t-tests were run. The results are reported in the
following tables. On the whole, in the following categories, statistically significant differences were observed in
favor of Top Notch Series: general appearance, objectives, language contents, language skills, teaching
methods, Accompanying materials as well as Practice and testing. In other categories, the differences were not
significant. The results are reported in the following table.
On the whole, it can be claimed that Iranian EFL teachers had a far better perception about Top Notch Series in
the categories under investigation.
Table2. Statistical evaluation of two series regarding different categories presented in the questionnaire
Top-Notch
Interchange
t
df
Sig
23
16.80
1.323
73
.000*
General appearance
(13.19)
(2.25)
21.40
18.20
1.897
73
.084
Design and
(1.95)
(5.18)
illustration
13
11
3.111
73
.043*
Accompanying
(2.21)
(1.88)
materials
33.20
24
0. 111
73
.000*
Objectives
(3.73)
(3.46)
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TAYYEBI & KARAMI (2015)

12.40
11.60
(.51)
(1.57)
22
9.60
Language contents
(5.69)
(1.42)
12
10.80
Social and cultural
(1.49)
(2.14)
contexts
20.60
14
Language skills
(1.71)
(2.30)
7.60
8
Teachability
(1.07)
(1.76)
11
11.45
Flexibility
(.66)
(1.42)
12.60
7.60
Teaching Methods
(.84)
(.516)
22.40
19.20
Practice and testing
(1.83)
(3.22)
211.2
116
Total
(12.85)
(18.37)
*P.05, SD appear in parentheses below the means
Topic contents

VOL2, NO.1, PP. 59-64

2.198

73

.145

-1.321

73

.000*

6.231

73

.164

1. 221

73

.000*

-1. 333

73

.548

2. 458

73

.433

-2. 141

73

.000*

2.432

73

.014*

3.222

73

.000*

5. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION


Despite the limitations that every commercial textbook like Top-Notch and Interchange might have, based on
the findings of the current study and in line with the findings of Azizifar and Baghelanis (2014) study, it can be
claimed that Top-Notch series are more satisfying from the viewpoint of Iranian EFL teachers. Although these
series cannot be looked as a perfect model, they might be a better substitute of Interchange books. Riazati and
Zare (2010) listed some weak points of the Interchange series, to add some others it can be said that these series
should be revised regarding general appearance, accompanying materials, objectives, language content and
skills, teaching method and practice and testing. The teachers should be aware of the shortcomings of the books
they teach (no matter what it is) and try to compensate for them with appropriate supplementary materials, or if
the communication doors between them and the author are open (usually it is) they can suggest improvement
points for their ease at work and their students sake. Each individual teacher can be an evaluator of the book
that (s)he is/was teaching because as Davidson (1975) argues besides the teacher, the textbook is the most
important factor in the foreign language classrooms that includes content and teaching/learning activities and
determines classroom events.
Taking into account the limitations that every researcher might face when conducting a research such as
sampling model, limited number of lack of control over all variables that might interfere and so on, the research
gates are open to a more detailed research in this field to find out whether the result remains the same. If yes,
what should be done to improve the quality of English textbooks that are available in Iran or with which
materials these books must be substituted?

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Azizifar, A. & Baghelani, E. (2014). Textbook Evaluation from EFL Teachers Perspectives: The Case of TopNotch Series. International SAMANM Journal of Business and Social Sciences. Vol. 2
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