Teacher’s guides have a significant role in enhancing teachers’ professional knowledge and can assist them in developing lesson plans and classroom activities. In EFL settings, where exposure to a foreign language is limited, the function of teacher’s guides is more prominent. Fortunately, the developers of Prospect series have acknowledged the importance of teacher’s manuals by developing such guides, which can help teachers in dealing with the content of the books as well as conducting their classes. The current study aimed to explore whether the characteristics of Prospect series teacher manuals conform to the criteria recognized and utilized by different scholars in the field. Therefore, Miekley’s evaluation checklist (2005) was selected to collect data from 100 female English language teachers of Tehran high schools in different educational districts. The results showed that the teacher’s guides had an acceptable status regarding the criteria proposed by the evaluation checklist.
Key Words: Prospect teacher’s guide, Miekley’s checklist, surveying English language teachers
Teachers use various materials to support instruction and encourage students to understand the concept of each lesson. Materials developers can assist teachers by designing comprehensible models such as teacher’s guides/ guides. Such books not only can facilitate teachers’ classroom activities but also can enhance students’ learning. As Cunnings worth (1995) points out, such books have a decisive role in the professional development of teachers. However, studies on the characteristics and content of teacher’s guides can help materials developers and syllabus designers in preparing manuals that can help teachers promote the quality of their teaching.
Teacher’s guide is a source of pedagogical advice and instruction and helps teachers find out about the course objectives, the course content, implementation, methodology, and assessment procedures (Halilou, 1993). Besides, a teacher’s guide should provide linguistic and cultural information to the teachers while suggesting how to use supplementary materials (Cunningsworth, 1995). Richards (2009) believes that English teachers demand materials that provide support for both trained and novice teachers as well as those for whom English is not a native language. Lansford (2014) also argues that any suitable teacher’s guide is expected to detect the goals of teaching implemented by the writer and should have three characteristics. First, teacher’s guides should provide ideas for teachers who do not prepare lesson plans before their classes. Second, they should consist of extra exercises and activities to help novice teachers. Third, they should contribute to teachers’ education by presenting them with appropriate lesson plans that, in turn, will help them teach with higher self-confidence. Besides, teacher’s guides can involve teachers in making educational decisions that lead to the success of their students. Selecting individual, group, and peer work or activities that involve the cooperation of the whole class depending on the lesson of the day are among the choices that a teacher can make based on the guidelines provided in the teacher's guide (Good, 2006).
For Tomlinson (2001), teacher’s guides fall into three groups. The first group consists of teacher’s guides that he calls uninteresting and useless. The second group is the useful teacher’s guides, which provide a considerable amount of helpful information, without tips on adapting the materials, and the third group contains worthwhile teacher’s guides that give not only additional activities to the teachers but also tips on adjusting the materials. Similarly, Weddle (2009) maintains that a teacher’s guide should be a note to the teacher, should have a specific scope, follow a logical sequence, and contain the objectives for each unit and the lists of vocabulary or skills.
Iran’s Ministry of Education introduced the new series of EFL textbooks, namely Prospect (1, 2, 3) in 2013, which focuses on learning to communicate following the new curriculum standards in Iranian junior high schools (7th, 8th, and 9th grades). The series includes a Student’s Book, a Workbook, and Listening Materials on CD, a Teacher’s Guide, Teacher Flash Cards, and a Website. These materials are based on the new curriculum standards under the English curriculum in Iran.
Teacher’s Guides in the Context of Iran
Teacher’s guide is a source of feedback for Iranian high school teachers and can help them put the theories of language teaching into practice. The contradiction between teaching materials, language learners’ needs, and language teachers’ expectations would bring about a plethora of problems such as lack of motivation and interest, loss of financial resources, and emotional disturbance both for teachers and students. Therefore, assessing the quality of EFL teacher’s guides and examining whether they encompass the standards that are accepted worldwide would be useful for people working in language teaching programs. The current study aimed to explore the characteristics of the teacher’s guides developed for Prospect series and sought to answer the following research question:
RQ: Does the content of Prospect teacher’s guides conform to the criteria offered by Miekley (2005)?
A hundred female high school teachers volunteered to participate in the present study. They were teaching English in different educational districts of Tehran. Twenty of the participants were teaching in districts 17, 19, and 22, twenty-five were teaching in districts 5, 6, and 8, and fifty-five of the teachers were teaching in districts 1, 2, 3, and 4. They were between 25 and 45 years old and had 3 to 15 years of experience in teaching English. Regarding their educational background, 52 of them had a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in English related majors (TEFL, English Translation, English Literature) while 15 had a Bachelor degree in non-English majors. Twenty-eight teachers had a Master of Arts (MA) in TEFL, and five had a master degree in non-English majors. Besides, three of the participants were Ph.D candidates studying TEFL. From among the participants, 53 of them had taught in the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades of junior high school (Prospect 1, 2, 3), 22 had taught only in the seventh grade (Prospect 1), 12 had only taught in the eighth grade (Prospect 2), and 13 teachers had taught only in the ninth grade (Prospect 3).
The researchers of the present study used Miekley’s (2005) evaluation checklist (see Appendix) that seems more comprehensive than the ones proposed by other researchers (e.g., Alamri, 2008; Litz, 2005) to collect the required data. The components of the checklist, as Miekley asserts, have been prepared after an extensive literature review, and its items have been developed to conform to similar ones proposed by well-known researchers in the field (e.g., Byrd, 2001; Daoud &Celce-Murcia, 1979; Lynch, 2001; Nation, 2000; Skierso, 1991). Each question in the checklist is followed by numbers that signify the name of the researchers who have used the item before. For example, in question number one, the numbers (1, 2, 3) refer to Byrd (2001), Skierso (1991), and Daoud and Celce-Murcia (1979). Miekley provides the name of the scholars at the end of the checklist (For an online version of the checklist and the complete list of the researchers visit:
The checklist has two sections, one for the evaluation of a textbook and another for a teacher manual. Thus, in the current study, the second section was employed. The checklist is in five-point Likert-type-scale ranging from Excellent (4), to Good (3), Adequate (2), Poor (1), and to Totally Lacking (0). The scale also includes the categories of, Mandatory (M), Optional (O), and Not Applicable (N). It consists of four sections of general features, background information, methodological guidance, and supplementary materials. General features refer to the extent to which the teachers could be helped with lesson goals and objectives. The background information refers to the degree that the teacher’s guide can help teachers use their background information for teaching vocabulary and reading. The purpose of methodological guidance is to evaluate how teacher manuals could assist teachers with teaching techniques. The supplementary materials section addresses the use of audiovisual materials and additional exercises for teaching vocabulary and grammar.
The data was collected in the spring of 2018. However, before that, the researchers prepared a list of high schools in Tehran and contacted the school administrators to ask for cooperation. After explaining the purpose of the study, they could get the consent of 100 teachers to cooperate in the data collection procedure. The researchers ensured the participants that their personal information would be kept confidential. One of the researchers referred to each of the participants in person and asked them to mark the checklist. She was ready to answer the teacher-respondents’ questions (if any) and write down their opinions and remarks regarding the different items. Each checklist took about 10 to 15 minutes to complete.
The purpose of the survey was obtaining the teachers’ opinion regarding the teacher’s guides of the Prospect series. The following are the results for each section of the checklist.
General Features: Regarding the first question, “Does the manual help teachers understand the objectives and methodology of the text?” the majority of the participants believed that the teacher’s guides provided enough explanations about the objectives of the Prospect series (30% gave 4, 45% gave 3, 25% gave 2). This item received the mean score of 3 out of 4.
The second item, “Are correct or suggested answers given for the exercises in the textbook?” All teachers (100%) stated that the teacher’s guides provided all the answers to the exercises. The mean score for this item was 4 out of 4.
Background Information: The first question in this section asked, “Are teachers shown how to teach students to use cues from morphology, cognates, rhetorical relationships, and context to assist them in lexical inferencing?” Unfortunately, the answer of 75% of teachers to this question was negative; thus, they had given 1 to this question. The majority of the respondents declared that no such information was provided in the teacher’s guides. They asserted that although such information is beneficial, the manual does not advise teachers on how to help the learners infer the meaning of the words. This item received a mean score of 1.25 out of 4. The next question asked, “Is there a list of true and false cognates for vocabulary words?” Likewise, the respondents asserted that no such list existed in the books. This item received 0 out of 4.
Methodological Guidance: The first question in this section asked, “Are teachers given techniques for activating students’ background knowledge before reading the text?” Accordingly, 18% of the teacher’s gave 4 (excellent), 65% gave 3 (good), and 17% gave 2 (adequate) to this item, the mean was 3 for this item. The majority of the participants asserted that teacher’s guides for Prospects 1, 2, 3 provide not only background information about reading but also background information for many other activities like conversations.
The next question was, “Are teachers given adequate examples for teaching students to preview, skim, scan, summarize, and to find the main idea?” This question, as stated by the respondents, was not applicable because the reading skill was viewed differently in Prospect series and mostly, the skill was taught in an integrated manner.
The last question in this section addressed, “Does the manual suggest a clear, concise method for teaching each lesson?” This item was given ‘excellent or 4’ by 13% of the teachers, ‘good or 3’ by 75% of the teachers, and ‘adequate or 2’ by 12% of the teachers. The total mean score for this item was 3. In general, the teacher’s guides were considered to be providing straightforward guidance regarding the different parts of the lessons in the series.
Supplementary Exercises and Materials: This section consisted of three questions. The first question was, “Does the manual give instructions on how to incorporate audiovisual material produced for the textbook?” The teachers stated that Prospect series did not have visual materials, and only audio materials were available in the form of soundtracks on a CD. However, 75% of the teachers believed that adequate instructions were available in the teacher’s guides regarding the way the soundtracks should be used and 13% gave 4 out of 4, 75% gave 3 out of 4, and 12% gave 2 out of 4 to this item. Thus, a score of 3.01 out of 4 was allotted to the manuals on this item.
The next item asked, “Does the manual provide teachers with exercises to practice, test, and review vocabulary items?” In Prospect series, there was no specific section labeled as practice, test, and review for the vocabulary. Instead, the words were reviewed in the language function reviews. It is worth mentioning that Prospect series have a functional syllabus, mainly focusing on language use and real-life communications. In the review sections, previous language functions and skills are reviewed, which include the use and practice of the related words, as well. This criterion received a score of 3 by 15%, 2 by 70%, and 1 by 15% of the respondents since no specific attention was paid to the review of the vocabulary. The total mean score for this item was 2.
The last criterion asked, “Does the manual provide additional exercises for reinforcing grammar points in the text?” This item was evaluated ‘poor’ by all of the respondents and was scored 1 because the only available additional exercises were in the form of optional activities and homework assignments that were repetitive. In other words, the respondents asserted that although there were additional exercises, they were not adequate and did not vary. Moreover, the respondents believed that the manuals did not guide teachers regarding when to employ the optional activities, and it was not clear to what extent such activities were useful.
Summary of the Findings
Overall, the teacher’s guides were shown to possess an acceptable quality regarding the three sections of the checklist. The teacher’s manuals scored 3.5 for the general features (3 for the first item and 4 for the second item). Concerning background information, the obtained score was 0.62 (1.25 for the first item and 0 for the second item). For methodological guidance, teacher’s guides scored 3 (for both the first and the third items) while the second item did not apply to the series. The total score for the supplementary exercises and materials was 2 (3 for the first item, 2 for the second item, and 1 for the third item). Accordingly, it can be concluded that most of the scores clustered around 3 and 2, which indicates an acceptable quality for the teacher’s guides. However, the weakest point of the teacher’s guides was the provision of background information which requires the manuals to instruct the teachers on how to help the learners use inferencing skills and cognates for vocabulary learning. The most substantial aspect of the manuals was general information that led teachers to consider the objectives of the lessons, teaching procedures, and answers to the exercises.
Discussion and Conclusions
Teacher’s guides are a contributing factor in the methodology selected by teachers and the fulfillment of the curriculum. Assisting teachers in implementing new ways of teaching to meet the students’ needs is partially due to devising useful teacher’s guides. The choice of a good teacher`s guide indicates improvement as it is a way to manage and organize the teaching process more effectively. As Nunan (1988) stated, the organization and presentation of materials by teachers can affect learners’ view of language. Therefore, two crucial issues must be the focus of policymakers. First, materials developers should enrich the content of teacher’s guides and revise them frequently to meet teacher and students’ needs. Second, teachers should be encouraged to use the teacher’s manual and avoid merely relying on their personal experience in teaching.
The present study is by no means a comprehensive study regarding the evaluation of teacher’s guides. The instrument of the study was limited to Miekley’s (2005) framework. Other tools and methods of data collection may yield different results. Moreover, the current study did not make a distinction between experienced and novice teachers. Teachers follow developmental stages and gain experience as they engage in their profession, their needs change, and the new needs give way to new perceptions (Rashtchi & Khoshnevisan, 2019). Therefore, the comparison between experienced and less experienced teachers may suggest a different view in the evaluation of teacher’s guides. Another issue, which is worth considering, is that male teacher’ viewpoints were disregarded, which may limit the results of the study.
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