Textbooks: blasted or blessed?

For the last few years, I threw out the textbooks for my Uni. class and concentrated on using videos as the text for my class.

I’ve been accused of being ‘irresponsible’. Am I?

Share your views below!


Yes, you are. I understand why you would want to do it and I’m sure you have a good system, but you still need to include the book in your class. (I’m assuming)You were told that this was the textbook for the class and class should be taught from it in some manner of your choosing. If your boss asks/tells you to do something, you do it. No discussion, no debate, till you have a problem or foresee one.

This is not a personal jab at you. You asked a question and I answered it in an honest manner.

What I would of done:
I would of taught the book and used the videos. The videos would of had clear identifiable benefits that I could talk all day about, while expounding the virtues of the textbook for reinforcement. I term this hijacking and find that manipulation is often more effective then outright defiance. You tout the effectiveness and show the results of your own way while still singing glowing praises of the material provided, no matter how dubious.

I also would of been quite friendly and humorous with my colleagues making me politically untouchable in the workplace.


Do not agree.

You were hired as a professional teacher. If your class was at the University level, it is not necessarily true that the textbook was “required”. Many times it is “provided” or “suggested” or “everyone else happens to be using it because they’re too da**d lazy to think of anything else” or “all the tests are written and ready to go” or “the publisher gave us a really great deal and it’s in color” or whatever.

I don’t know the specific situation of your classes (size, composition, etc.) But unless you’re in a fairly large English department teaching English majors, one tends to get an amazingly diverse bunch, in amazingly large numbers, in these “English classes” (often labeled “conversation”!) The thing that borders on irresponsible, IMHO, is the arrogance of the school in assuming that anyone can acquire English under these conditions.

If your situation was anything like mine when I was teaching at Taipei Medical College (now University), about all I could do was to try to leave them with a vaguely positive feeling about English. Since I had everything from students who couldn’t answer “What is your name?” up to real native speakers direct from the streets of LA, in groups of 50-60, it was a pedagogical nightmare. Now, of course, I would know how to handle it, but using the communicative method it’s impossible. And now I’m not about to be caught in that kind of situation. Trying to think of ways to actually teach meaningfully sapped my energy and my financial resources. It probably would have been more money and less stress to teach in some kindergarten.

Wouldn’t say irresponsible, but sometimes one must pay lip service to texts. Do they have the students buy them for the class? If so, they’ve wasted their money if they never open them up. In this event, perhaps you could assign portions of the texts for homework or review work, or spend around ten minutes per lesson.
Can you not choose your own text? If not, can’t you serve on a panel of teachers that have some say so on this?
More than anything, I think it’s a political issue rather than one of responsibility. If your students are learning and passing the regulated exams by using your methodology, I don’t see how it can really be the uni’s business unless it IS politically motivated.
Also, if you’ve been doing this for a few years, how come they’ve just now caught on?

A little bit more info.

  1. we can choose our textbooks at Uni. - every year we can choose which books we can use. So when I use the term ‘threw out’ I guess I meant eschew. somehow threw out is more evocative!

  2. the students didn’t buy them before class.


I guess my resentment of textbooks stems from a number of problems that they have (or seem to have)… I am NOT talking about books that teach children, though may find echoes of the same issues in those books, too.

  1. characterless dialogues - who cares
  2. lousy intonation patters - you know what I mean!
  3. issues of no concern to students
  4. pallid, pointless grammar lessons
  5. globalized books that nothing excitement
  6. nothing for students to relate to emotionally
  7. lack of serious issues for discussion.

The only reason that I can find in support of using textbooks are.

  1. programmed vocabulary and grammar
  2. pre-prepared exercises

The offenders are in my book…
David nunan’s Listen In series
Soundbytes (to some extent)
New Wave series


There is a phenomenon in Taiwan. Students(I too) like to fix their eyes at books so teachers will always need a book to soothe the stress of eye contact(not with you but books)

If the purpose is to boost their English learning, removing books is good for them. It will develop the ability to see/hear in person not through book reading.

I agree with ironlady’s " try to leave them with a vaguely positive feeling about English" If you do create such ambiance, they can find a way to master English and your students will follow what you teach ,even jump from a rooftop.

I think a good learner wioll always want something to take home and look at - I know I do. If you’re going to just use video, make sure you have good handouts to go with them, including the key dialogues.