Textbooks in the TESOL Classroom: To Use or Not to Use

For the past 35 years, there has been an interesting debate over the use of textbooks in English language learning context. Naturally, there are three camps, those who support the use of textbooks, those who do not support the use of textbooks, and those who believe it depends. In this post, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using textbooks as well as tips for those who want to use textbooks but with flexibility.


Good textbooks have a coherent curriculum within them that provides all the essentials needed for teaching, such as activities, assignments, media and clearly written text. This is priceless information especially for those new to teaching who do not have the prior experiences and or resources to teach a class without a textbook.

Most students actually prefer some sort of textbook as well. It allows them to track their progress by seeing what they have done and what they still need to do. There is a sense of pace as the class moves through the text. Even if the student neglects to read the textbook it still serves as an anchor throughout the course.


Textbooks can be ridged if they are stubbornly adhered too. This can become a serious problem if there is something in the approach of the book that the students struggle to understand. Even a great textbook may not be able to meet the needs of a particular group of students.

Textbooks can have other issues as well. The book might be expensive, it might be too heavy or big for students, and or the textbook might also lack user-friendly features.

For Those on the Fence

Some want to use textbooks occasionally, for those here are some tips below

  • Replace only parts of the book with what you want- Some teachers use pieces of a textbook while replacing topics that do not work for them or their students. This is a reasonable compromise between total rejection and acceptance of a textbook.
  • Modify- Sometimes, teacher modifies a chapter or topic within a textbook instead of replacing it. Perhaps they add another activity or replace an assignment. Other options include changing the order information is presented, adding to a chapter, and leaving information out that is in the chapter.


Textbooks are part of education. Some appreciate this while others are looking for alternative approaches. Teachers and students will need to work together in order to see how textbooks can benefit the learning experience.

3 thoughts on “Textbooks in the TESOL Classroom: To Use or Not to Use

  1. Pingback: Textbooks in the TESOL Classroom: To Use or Not...

  2. didee22

    I have taught English at university, college and privately. I now have my own language school and I thoroughly endorse the use of textbooks and indeed I often used them in the past as part of the language courses I taught. As you point out though, they are a resource that are better used to bolster the materials you are using for a particular course or student – not something to be used solely and rigidly over long periods at the expense of student progress. A good textbook can be useful for the teacher to create a structure for classes and as you say, are generally liked by students who, if using one, can see how they are progressing.

    1. Dr. Darrin

      Good point. I think we need to remember that every teacher has their own style. What really matters is that the students improve regardless of the use of textbooks or not


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