Critical perspectives on English Language Teaching textbooks: Culture and aspirational content

  • This paper presents critical perspectives on English Language Teaching (ELT) textbooks based on a synthesis of six articles, whose authors deal with critical analysis of textbooks in different contexts. The objective is to introduce how Culture and other aspirational content appear in ELT textbooks, in a critical perspective, which means reflect, consider different options, question general beliefs, and create knowledge.

    The conceptual framework combines sociocultural theory, which frames language learning as socially constructed and mutually negotiated (Lantolf, 1999), with critical perspectives that place social relationships and political realities at the heart of teaching and learning (Nieto, 2009), and that prioritize questions of social justice, access and equity (McLaren, 2009).

    The main hypothesis that orients this paper is that ELT textbooks create an “imaginary world” concerning culture, success, fame and other aspirational content to which common people rarely have access. The following questions are used as guidelines:

    (1) Why are culture and other aspirational content addressed this way?

    (2) What is the impact of this content on EFL\ESL students and teachers?

    The results show that aspirational content has been rooted in a neoliberal world-view, focusing on Anglo-American cultures, spectacular personal and professional success, cosmopolitanism, and celebrity lifestyle, which differ from students’ reality. Moreover, the articles synthesized demonstrate the impact of aspirational content on EFL/ESL students and teachers in terms of unrealistic expectations of language study outcomes and pedagogical difficulties respectively.  To mitigate some of these impacts, recommendations for practice in terms of using textbooks in a critical pedagogical way are presented.

    Keywords: English Language Teaching, textbooks, Aspirational content, Culture, Critical Pedagogy


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