A few thoughts on the subject of textbooks from Robert Harrell:
Most evaluators and administrators place a great deal of emphasis on student-centered instruction. Many TCI/TPRS teachers take a hit on this because administrators believe that “student-centered” instruction means that students are doing all of the talking. This is an area for administrator education. TCI/TPRS is student centered because it explores what students bring as their interests, takes student input and incorporates it into the instruction, and responds to students’ questions about the language as they arise.
How, then, can a textbook possibly be student centered?
– It was designed with zero input from the students to whom it is being presented, and was probably designed before those students were even born (no matter how up-to-date it is purported to be or how many times it has been “revised”).
– It was heavily influenced by the “needs” of New York, Texas, and California and written to be acceptable to the politicians of those states with little regard for other states and their needs.
– It attempts to meet the interest of the “average student”, but how many of our students are the “average student”? Is the “average student” urban, suburban, or rural? Is the “average student” in first year a freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior? Does the “average student” have an IEP, ADHD, ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), dyslexia, or Specific Learning Disorder? Does the “average student” suffer from asthma, epilepsy, migraines, anxiety attacks, or other physical disorder? Is the “average student” in Special Education? Does the “average student” have a parent with cancer? Did the “average student’s” grandmother pass away this week? Does the “average student” have a family in which divorce and remarriage have occurred? Does the “average student” have a father who is dating another “average student’s” mother?
– It has a grammar-based scope and sequence that was adopted without regard to the natural order of acquisition, second-language acquisition research, cognitive psychology, or the interests of the students actually “using” the text.
– The cultural component is often presented in English using chara
cters that are bland and generic doing things that are not only strange but often inherently boring and told in a way that is unengaging.
– The vocabulary is overwhelming because the textbook is trying to be encyclopedic and has been chosen without regard to applicability, frequency, or student interest (certainly not the interests of your students)
– The vocabulary is presented in semantic sets (topics) placed in an arbitrary order without regard to the particular students’ setting or interests.
– The grammar is presented in English as discrete items and part of a system that the student neither understands nor has the requisite language to understand; thus it is boring to the vast majority of students.
If an administrator can explain to me how a textbook created within the above parameters is more student centered than a curriculum built around characters that the students have created and whose actions and activities the students determine, then we have a basis on which to consider the textbook.