Foreign Language Textbook Evaluation Chart



Michał B. Paradowski

Virtually every teacher, no matter whether a private tutor or a language or state school instructor, sooner or later has to make a decision with regard to the choice of the textbook to be used during a course. In such situations inexperienced teachers frequently fall back on course books that are either currently en vogue, have been recommended, or caught their eye because of attractive layout and seemingly valuable content. Yet even if a good-quality textbook is selected as a result, it may turn out to be unsuited to the students’ needs and inappropriate for the aims of the course. It is therefore more desirable to follow established guidelines which allow for a recognition of the strengths (and deficiencies) of the textbooks available, for their comparison, and eventually for the choice of the most suitable one. The following is an inventory of criteria for textbook assessment (largely developed after Komorowska (1993), supplemented by ideas by Halliwell (1994), Tanner and Green (1998), Ur (1996), and author’s own suggestions) to be considered in the process of textbook selection. Following Halliwell’s (ibid.:114 ff.) recommendation the questions have been arranged in the form of a chart which can be completed by indicating (e.g. shading in or ticking off) a score from 1 (poor) to 5 (very good) [1] . You can thus get a more lucid indication of any textbook’s potential, and by applying this method to a number of course books you obtain a comparative basis for making a decision.


Textbook Evaluation Chart

Course book:……………………………………………………………………………







the Structure of the Book

Does the book have a wisely designed Framework and a transparent layout? Is the content clearly organised and sequenced?






Is the structure of the unit lucid? Is there a logical progression of activities within each unit?






Are the units not overloaded?






Syllabus Content

Does the textbook meet your syllabus’ requirements?






Does it cover a balanced selection of all the language Skills (listening/speaking/reading/writing/interaction/mediation) your students will need?






Are the subsystems your syllabus aims to develop (morphosyntax, lexicon, phonetics, phonology, pragmatics) provided for?






Does the book seem appealing and enjoyable?






Is it the appropriate age level?






Is the difficulty Level appropriate? If need be, is it adaptable for use with a varied-level class?






Does it link with previous and continuation courses?






Does the book suit the size of your group? Is it designed for group work or private tuition?






Does the number of teaching hours it is calculated for meet your course’s specifications?






Does it suit the learners’ L1 background? Is the approach to teaching grammar contrastive?






Do you approve of the Approach and teaching Method implemented in the textbook?






Are the topics and tasks varied, so that they accommodate different learner levels, learning needs, styles and strategies, interests, etc.?






Presentation of New Grammatical Structures:

Are the presentations systematic? Are they linked to what has been taught earlier? Are they related to the learners’ L1?






Are the rules true and reliable? Do they represent the underlying grammar rules satisfactorily?






Are the rules clear and conceptually parsimonious (i.e. devoid of metalinguistic jargon)?






Are they simple enough, but not at the expense of truth?






Is grammar taught in a logical, purposeful, meaningful way? Does the book, apart from low-order rules (i.e. rules of formation) also present higher-order rules (i.e. rules of use)?






Are there sufficient visual illustrations of grammar points (in the form of diagrams, tables, flowcharts, colours…) to aid learners with preference for the visual modality?






Language Practice and Tasks (activities, exercises):

Does the book contain an adequate amount of activities to ensure ample practice in all the skills the students are supposed to master?






Is there the right proportion between accuracy and fluency practice?






Does the book present situations and tasks which are appealing, motivating and purposeful in themselves and which are not merely mechanical language drills?






Are they purposeful, pertinent to and useful for your classes? Are the learners likely to perform similar tasks in real life situations?






Does the book include enough communicative tasks to ensure plentiful learner activity and independent language use? Does it allow moving away from the teacher-centred model?






Simultaneously, does it allow for sufficient control, or are the tasks likely to pose classroom organisation and management problems? Are these likely to overshadow the utility of the tasks?






Are the particular activity types suitably chosen?






Is the length of the tasks appropriate? If they are long – are they broken up into digestible chunks?






Are the instructions unambiguous and understandable (if appropriate, in the learners’ L1)?






Is the language recycled? Are progressive revision units or regular test sections provided?






the Teacher’s Perspective

Is your overall Impression of the book favourable?






Is it Teacher-Friendly? Is it easy for the teacher to use? Is it well organised, with an alphabetical index and a table of contents? Is there a Teacher’s Book with an answer key to help you plan your activity? Does it provide adequate guidance?






If the book does more than your syllabus requires, does it offer you more possibilities and room for manoeuvre, or just additional redundant burden?






Does using the course entail arduous and time-consuming preparation?






Is it accompanied by supplementary resources (a workbook, audio cassettes/CDs and/or video tapes/DVD, etc.)? Are these materials useful and interesting? Can the book be easily used without the Extras?






Does it help you to prepare tests if such are required by your school?






the Students’ Needs

Do the topics reflect or relate to the students’ lives and needs? Does the book present situations in which they are likely to find themselves?






If not – is the content still likely to be genuinely Interesting for the learners?






Is the communication in the book genuine? Are the texts in the book taken from Authentic sources? Is the language up to date and true to life? Do the speakers in the recording change?






Is the book’s Appearance – its cover, graphic design, illustrations, and colour – appealing and Attractive for your students, or does it seem unexciting and trivial in content?






Is there enough diversity?






Does the coursebook facilitate autonomous self-study? Are clear language summaries provided? Can it be used by the student unaided, e.g. during his/her illness and consequent absence from classes?






Is the book Affordable, within the means of the learners, parents or school? Are the extra materials costly or included in the price of the book?






Does the book succeed in avoiding detrimental gender, racial, national, cultural and religious stereotypes and prejudices?






plus, if you Prepare your Students for an Examination, Consider the Following Questions

Has the book been geared specifically toward the target examination?






Does it really help students prepare for the exam?






Does it acquaint and familiarise your students with the examination formats?






Is there enough examination practice (‘mock exams’)?







As Halliday (1994:116) points out, the rationale behind drawing up and filling in a chart like the one above is that it allows us to notice where the assets and failings of any textbook rest considerably more distinctly than by merely answering the questions mentally. The results on the chart can then be evaluated against your individual circumstances, needs and preferences. Better still, consult them with your colleagues.

The inventory of the criteria above should not be treated as fully exhaustive, nor is it intended as such, and can no doubt be extended as every teacher can add any further criteria s/he considers essential or modify the list otherwise according to his/her context, needs and priorities. Still, in the majority of teaching scenarios the guidelines provided should suffice to examine and subsequently choose the best textbook available for a given course. The teacher may then also decide to adjust the book to his/her needs and supplement it with additional materials, and there are several areas in which s/he can outclass any course book, particularly when it involves establishing genuine communication in the classroom. And even if you have been relieved of the decision concerning the choice of the textbook, filling in a chart like the one above will give you a clearer idea of the book you will be/are using and the demands it is going to make on you to offset or neutralise its deficiencies (ibid.:117).



Halliwell, S. 1994. Teaching English in the Primary Classroom. Longman

Komorowska, H. (ed.). 1984. Wybrane problemy nauczania języków obcych. Warszawa: Wydawnictwa Szkolne i Pedagogiczne.

           1993. Podstawy Metodyki Nauczania Języków Obcych. Materiały Uzupełniające. Warszawa: EDE-Poland.

Tanner, R. and C. Green. 1998. Tasks for Teacher Education: A reflective approach. Addison-Wesley Longman.

Ur, P. 1996. A Course in English Language Teaching: Practice and theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[1] Naturally we need to bear in mind the fact that different aspects will carry different weight depending on the purpose of the course; in order to account for that, more important facets can be assigned e.g. a double score, so that during the calculation of the final result for the benchmarking of the course books considered a relevant and reliable score is obtained.