Once again the course book issue has raised its head in the blogosphere. It probably started with Kalinago’s Dogme Challenge meme and now with one of Jason Renshaw’s latest post. There is an excellent discussion there and I highly recommend checking it out. There are a number of really important issues to come out of it that I would like to take a look at.
The first one is this old argument that dogme or any materials light methodology are only for experienced teachers. I find this idea very questionable. I think of my own TEFL course, courses I’ve trained on, and courses I’ve seen. How many TEFL or CELTA courses have large segments on using a course book effectively? Very few that I’ve seen. Most courses teach teachers to create lessons from scratch.
If they were able to create lessons with almost no experience and no course book in training, why do we assume they lose this ability when they suddenly enter a real teaching position? I would argue that most teachers start to learn how to teach on initial certificate courses and forget once they enter the industry with its reliance on course books, disinterest in supporting and developing teachers, and lack of a career-oriented community of teachers and many schools.
I really just don’t buy this idea that new teachers on the block cannot teach without a course book (although I would consider a well-thought out curriculum as a guide to be useful for new teachers). If initial training courses focus on lessons from scratch and educating teachers on how to find and build materials, I see no reason why this would be a problem.
Of course at first it may take more time to be able to build lessons quickly, but that’s the case with any teacher. Even in schools where a book is used, I still often see new teachers spending 4 hours planning a 2-hour lesson. Having the book didn’t seem to diminish planning time unless the teacher did no more than grab the book and run through the exercises in order, which, in that case, you don’t even need the teacher there!
I remember when I first got rid of a book. I spent hours finding material and creating lessons, but I had no guidance. Through practice and experience I learned how to do it very quickly. It takes me very little time to create lessons these day regardless of if I use materials in the class or not.
I am also currently running a TESOL training course which pushes an anti-course book methodology. None of the trainees are having undo trouble creating lessons. Sure it takes a while, but even after their first week of practice teaching they start to get better and quicker at it.
In the end, this idea that new teachers need a course book as a crutch is not supported by the way we train teachers nor by claims that it somehow takes less work to create good lessons with them.