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A Summary on the Analysis of Language Teaching Materials

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Introduction

To examine how appropriate or inappropriate the methodology and content of materials used for a specific learning or teaching material is, the author aims at enabling a close analysis of materials and to investigate their nature. This will entail exploring the Trojan Horse to determine what lies within. Investigating the nature of language teaching materials will aid in examining their worth with respect to the purposes of their context.

What Aspects of Materials Should We Examine When Analyzing Materials?

The author identifies many aspects of the materials that researchers, teachers, material designers, educational administrators and learners can examine in a set of materials. Aspects of any set of material can be examined based on the framework consisting of two sections: publication and design. Publication relates to the physical aspect of materials including their appearance as a complete set, either on paper or electronically. It involves consideration of various areas: existing relationship between students’ materials and any other component; actual form of material, for instance, durable or consumable; their division into sections and subsections; the maintenance of a sense of continuity or coherence;  whether the order of material usage can be predetermined; how access into the materials is supported, for instance, whether there are wordlists or a content list (Harwood, 2010). Design relates to the thinking underlying the materials. This takes into consideration certain areas including the apparent aims of the materials, selection and sequencing of the tasks, language and contents in the materials, nature and focus of contents in the materials such as topics, nature of teaching and learning activities suggested by the material, focusing on what  learners are asked to do and the relation of what they do to the learners capacity to draw on different realms of concepts, attitudes and abilities, modes of classroom participation as suggested by teaching and learning activities, whether teachers and learners work together as they plan or select from the ideas provided by the materials.

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How Can We Examine the Materials to Find the Information Required?

This is done through the analysis of materials on three different levels: selections of objective facts regarding the materials subjectively; deducting demands likely to be made by teachers and learners; and making conclusions about the underlying principles and philosophies of the materials (Harwood, 2010).

What is the Nature of Teaching Materials?

The nature of the learning materials is determined by various factors, mainly, the date the publication was made, the audiences that were targeted, the type of the material in use (e.g. whether it is a general purpose or specific purpose), the amount of classroom time required and usage of the materials. Materials could be used for teaching or for studying individually. Other factors include physical aspect of the material, for instance, the form in which the materials has been published (e.g. the materials could be in paper form or electronic form like an email), the number of pages of a material, the color usage and the overall number of components in a complete set. The internal aspect of a material includes division into sections like units or scripts, the means of access of the material in use through indexes, the distribution of various sections and meas of access into the material between teachers and learners, examination on the subdivision criteria of units and modules, the extent of these units in terms of length and whether their design follows a known standard pattern (Harwood, 2010).

What is Required of Users?

Materials are divided into their specific tasks, and each task is keenly analyzed in order to enable deducting that learners, teachers or other users of the material are required to do. The task in this case refers to proposals that have been outlined by a material on the actions that should be undertaken by the users of the material with a clear aim of promoting knowledge of foreign language. Based on the ideas mentioned above, three key aspects of tasks are identified. Thus, these aspects include the process that teachers and students are supposed to go through, which asks the question ‘how’. There is a three section process involved in this first aspect, first being the turn-take that clearly explains the role to be taken in a classroom course. It could comprise responding to questions asked as directed by material using the language advocated for by the material, or initiating their own language, hence ignoring the one supplied. This implies free writing or having the liberty to ask individually perceived questions. The learners have the option of not taking any role and concentrating on listening only. Secondly, the role outlined could be that requiring learners to attend to the form of the language inclusive of the meaning of each. The role also is inclusive of the mental process to be followed. These mental operations could be repetition, language rules formulation, negotiation or formulating hypothesis (Harwood, 2010). Apart from the process, another aspect entails classroom participation and asks the question ‘with whom’ the learners are to work, whether in groups, pairs or with the whole class. The final aspect entails the content nature of the material, whether the input of the learners or their output, and asks the question ‘what about’. This seeks to find out whether the content is written or oral, whether it is in the form of individual sentences or an extension, whether the content originates from the material, teachers or individual learners, and finally what the content is all about, whether fiction or general knowledge.

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Why is Task Analysis Required?

It is necessary to analyze the various tasks outlined by the material for many reasons. It is supposed to enable creating an explanatory picture of the classroom work in reference to implementation of what has been proposed in the material (Harwood, 2010). Other benefits derived from the analysis of the tasks include; help in revealing the underlying character of the materials after implementation, help in making clear the assumptions made by material designers on the best criteria to use in classroom language learning. As a result, the learners and teachers roles are practically defined. Helps in effectively testing out the various claims made for the materials, for instance, a mismatch in the tasks defined by the material due to what the materials have narrowed down as opposed to what the interests of the learners are.

What is Implied under the Findings at Level 1 and 2?

Findings at level 1 and 2 imply that making statements about the targeted objectives of the material will be possible. This makes it easier in forming a basis for the criteria of both tasks and content selection and sequencing. It will be possible to conclude on the roles proposed for teachers and learners as a result of the third description level. In order for the learners to accomplish what they are learning, some demands are placed upon them. As a result of the findings of level 1 and 2, it will be possible to provide a general statement on the nature of those demands. A conclusion on the general role of materials in facilitating language learning and teaching can now be reached (Harwood, 2010).

How can We Make Use of the Findings from the Analysis?

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This question generally further seeks to explain how the analytical framework can be relevant in evaluating the material and making of decisions, development of teachers’ individual career, critical self evaluation of the designers of the materials and in the researchers’ study of the teaching language. Material evaluation is done through the three levels of analysis that examines the complete set of materials. This analysis provides a powerful means of revealing the underlying nature of a material set. It also provides a basis for testing the extent both aims and claims in materials are met helping anyone involved in material selection. As a way of ensuring full evaluation of materials, careful analysis of what teachers and learners expect from materials is and the extent to which they relate or outmatch each other is needed. Identification of the cultural aspects, for instance views on what learning should entail and the nature of teachers and students. Meeting the language needs of a proposed course where the materials are used is a requirement in material evaluating (Harwood, 2010). Material evaluation will also include matching and evaluation of the material, followed by distinguishing between the appropriate and inappropriate aspects of the material. The findings of the analysis can also be used in teachers’ own professional development. This analysis of a material provides insight on how learning is supposed to be done by facilitating teachers deep understanding of what is involved in a teaching/learning institution, in facilitating understanding of why some tasks fail in classrooms, and provides insight on why other tasks succeed in the classroom. It helps teachers in understanding their own teaching style and in understanding why teachers are comfortable or uncomfortable with the working scheme proposed by a material. The findings also help improve the self improvement of the materials’ designers through critical self-evaluation. This entails the process of applying the schedules for analysis of their own work under development (Harwood, 2010). Writers can reconsider the design of the materials by asking themselves basic questions relating to what he/she is aiming at, his/her objective, which objectives he/she has not achieved, what would be the right way to capture those limitations, what the future holds for him/her are.

Lastly, the findings are significant in researchers’ study of language teaching. A language teaching theory may be enhanced by schedules as a framework for analyzing material. The schedules can be used in implementing the SLA theory-derived features in the designing of materials. The three questions of how, with whom and what content provide a basic structure for a data collection framework for instance through observation  with the aim of getting to know the reality as opposed or in creating a foundation to what has been proposed. The framework empowers teachers, learners and administrators to voice their needs as they empower teachers and learners to take control of the materials they fit (Harwood, 2010).

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