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Page 1 English Language Teaching Vol. 5, No. 7; July 2012

ISSN 1916-4742 E-ISSN 1916-4750 64

Textbook Evaluation: EFL Teachers’ Perspectives on “Pacesetter Series”

Minoo Alemi1 & Nikan Sadehvandi1
1 Department of Languages & Linguistics, Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran

Correspondence: Nikan Sadehvandi, Department of Languages & Linguistics, Sharif University of Technology,
Tehran, Iran. Tel: 98-919-704-7757. E-mail: [email protected]

Received: April 4, 2012 Accepted: April 17, 2012 Online Published: July 1, 2012

doi:10.5539/elt.v5n7p64 URL:


The present paper is an attempt to evaluate Pacesetter Series (Strange and Hall, 2005), an EFL course book series,
in four levels of starter, elementary, pre-intermediate, and intermediate, being currently instructed at several
language institutes in Iran. The purpose of this study is to determine the appropriateness of the series in Iranian EFL
contexts. Litz (2000) questionnaire was exploited to examine the series thoroughly in all essential aspects. Sixty four
EFL teachers rated the series. The results of descriptive statistics indicated that there is an overall consensus among
the teachers that Pacesetter rightly addresses the needs of the learners in a communicative curriculum. However, two
salient points are still worth further addressing. The first issue is that the series does not sufficiently underscore the
speaking skill. The other concern involves the incorporation of European culture in every skill and skill-related
activities as it may cause frustration and bafflement on the part of Iranian adolescent foreign language learners since
they are unfamiliar with certain aspects of the target language culture. One way to remedy the two aforementioned
issues is that the teachers using this series can think of other substitute exercises to solve the problem.

Keywords: textbook evaluation, pacesetter, Litz questionnaire, EFL teachers in Iran

1. Introduction

EFL textbook markets are replete with various appealing materials published by different companies, thus making it
even harder to choose one over the other. This profusion makes the evaluation of textbooks indispensable. Ellis
(1997) also underscores the need for course book evaluation. Correspondingly, many researchers have evaluated
different textbooks through the application of checklists and questionnaires. Thus, analyzing different textbooks
seem to be of central importance to the selection and exploitation of the most prolific and contextually appropriate
material. In the similar fashion, the present paper is an attempt to evaluate Pacesetter, an EFL course book series
being currently instructed in EFL contexts. The series, which comprises four textbooks, levels beginners, elementary,
pre-intermediate, and intermediate respectively. Although, the series is an admittedly well-organized piece of
material to underscore the needs of adolescents, it was perceived by the researchers that it still may suffer from
certain drawbacks with regard to its application in an EFL context.

1.1 Review of the Related Literature

There is a vast body of literature on textbook selection and evaluation in an EFL setting.

These studies mainly revolve around the exploitation of textbook evaluation checklists. Kayapinar (2009), for
example, in evaluation study of two textbook packages, namely, opportunities and New English File incorporating
134 teacher’s survey results, points out that there is not an overall positive view of the aforementioned course book
packages among teachers and the course books must be adapted in a way to meet learners’ needs and interest at
nationwide scope. He suggests that the materials used in the teaching process should be evaluated on a regular basis
to be kept renewed.

In another study by Dominguez (2003), the representation of gender in examples, dialogues, and job positions in
both texts and examples of New Interchange Intro were examined. As mentioned in the paper, there is an upsurge in
ESL system of Canada to adopt the series due to its perceived uniqueness. Hence, the study aimed at establishing the
appropriateness of the New Interchange Intro for diverse multination dwellers of Canadian cities. She concluded that
the New Interchange Intro was a worthwhile source for the teachers as it takes into account both multicultural and
multiracial settings. Dominguez highlights the soundness of the textbooks for considering learners’ settlement and
integration needs especially in beginner levels and offering a balance in portraying the two genders.

In a different study, Litz (2005) evaluated English firsthand 2 applied in all beginners EFL classes in one of the

Page 2 English Language Teaching Vol. 5, No. 7; July 2012

Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education 65

universities of Suwon, South Korea to find out its suitability for the intended language program. The data was
gathered from eight teachers as well as five hundred students using two course book evaluation questionnaires and a
need analysis survey questionnaire. The findings suggested that the weak points of English Firsthand 2 are few and
far between in a way that are overshadowed by many other advantages that the book has to offer. The book is
believed by Litz (2005) to be appealing for many English language teachers and learners. It encompasses a great
number of supplementary materials. The logical organization of the textbook in terms of coherence and clarity
boosted by a topic-based notional-functional syllabus with the aim of facilitating communicative competence was
another advantage mentioned by Litz. The textbook applied a multi-skill syllabus to integrate the four skills along
with the development of vocabulary and grammar and offered teaching and learning strategies which promoted
top-down and bottom-up listening exercises and process versus product approaches to writing. EF2 was believed by
Litz to be communicative on the whole in that it constantly supported an activity approach towards teaching and

Applying Cunningworth’s four guidelines, Ranalli (2002), also, evaluated New Headway upper-intermediate which
was instructed at the Foreign Language Institute of Yunsei University in Seoul, Korea. He revealed that the textbook
follows a present-practice-produce approach to learning as units of the book offer a semi-authentic context for
examples and the target language patterns ending with controlled and semi-free exercises. He also maintains that the
methodology of the textbook is too preoccupied with the knowing of grammatical rules and developing analytic
knowledge which hinders further learners’ preparation for unplanned discourse and predictable achievements in
language ability. Moreover, Ranalli holds that although inductive learning leads to learners’ motivation and better
comprehension, the book seems to be encouraging a modified inductive approach to learning per se. In terms of
adaptability, he believes that the book might be exposing some restrictions on both teachers and learners to adjust
the content.

Intriguingly, textbook evaluation has been practiced in the Iranian context, as well.

Raseks, Eslami, Esmae’li, Ghavamnia, and Rajabi (2010) have evaluated four ESL textbooks: Top Notch,
Interchange, Headway, and On your mark at elementary-level in two phases applying Mcdonough and Shaw’s
internal and external evaluation in order to find out which one is a better option for an EFL class. The findings of
their study suggested that Top Notch provides learners with more motivating themes and topics in comparison with
the other three textbooks under scrutiny. However, the layout and units are not parallel to what is stated in the table
of contents while the other three books do exhibit such quality. The dialogues in On your marks are shorter and more
comprehensive for a beginner learner than the other books, but the book provides reading sections that are rather
unchallenging for the intended audience. The New Interchange also presents the key vocabulary under each unit title
at the end of the book, in a proper order, however its topics revolve around American culture thus introducing
unfamiliar concepts to outsiders. Finally, although Headway contains authentic listening tasks, the pictures portrayed
in Headway are black and dull for the intended audience.

Interchange third edition has also been evaluated according to Littlejohn’s framework in another study by Sahragard,
Rahimi, and Zaremoayyedi (2009). The study was set to find out the values of the newest version of Interchange in
particular, the correspondence between the newly developed and widely used Interchange textbooks, third edition,
and their stipulated objectives, and the strengths and weaknesses of the series. The findings of their study indicated
that the Interchange series (third edition) owns several pedagogical values nonetheless, it suffers from certain
drawbacks. The tasks of the series can be considered productive with regard to promotion of communicative
competence and are promoting in that they give learners the opportunity to personalize the newly learnt pieces of
language through production. On the other hand, the series lack of auditory and visual activities could render
disadvantage since it does not exploit sensory channels in the course of learning. Furthermore, there exists a gap
with regard to ‘fiction’ such as personal accounts, tales, etc. Sahragard et al. (2009) assert that the book seems rather
unsuccessful to develop communicative competence as the ultimate goal which the authors claim the textbook is
striving for.

Riazi and Mosalanejad (2010) studied English textbooks instructed at three high schools and pre-university level to
examine the learning objectives embedded in them applying Bloom’s taxonomy. They reported that the higher-order
learning objectives are very much included in the pre-university text book under study.

1.2 The Objectives of the Study

Since there has been no study to explore Pacesetter in an Iranian context, the major thrust of this study is to fully
evaluate the series. To this end, the study addressed the following questions: 1.What do Iranian EFL teachers think
of Pacesetter series in terms of its appropriateness and suitability in Iran EFL educational setting as measured
against Litz Teacher Textbook Evaluation Form? 2. What are the strengths and weaknesses of Pacesetter series in an

Page 6 English Language Teaching Vol. 5, No. 7; July 2012

Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education 69

communicative in that they attempt to foster fluency in the learners. In addition, the series seems to offer other
activities that are more obsessed with accuracy. Questions that require learners’ controlled answer, fill-in-the-blank,
scrambled words, and matching are good illustration for these types of activities offered in pacesetter series. Most of
the raters believed that the book has pursued a balance of activities approach to teaching and learning, thus taking
into account the importance of accuracy and fluency to cultivate language acquisition.

The tasks designed in Pacesetter series such as role play, acting out, filling out forms, writing letters, completing
tables, information-gap exercises, jigsaw puzzles, etc, are deemed to promote both a meaningful and communicative
practice of the target language.

The series puts forth a range of activities which tap individualized performance as well as working in cooperation
with peers. Those activities that are more drill-like and less communicative require learners to work individually and
check the answers with other students afterwards whereas the less controlled freer activities entails working in
groups to produce the responses as well as to check them.

A close analysis of the textbook revealed that the new grammar as well as vocabulary is introduced in a motivating
and authentic context in that they reflect the needs of learners to communicate using the language offered in an
authentic context resembling that of the target language. Furthermore learners are encouraged to acquire the
language through discovery learning and negotiation of meaning. As mentioned earlier, the book encourages
students to work in cooperation with others which in turn leads to students’ further motivation.

Litz (2005) implies that those activities that do not require the group interaction evoke independent responses. In
other words independent-response-activities require students to check the answers in the groups upon doing them
individually. The raters agreed on the fact that the Pacesetter activities promote creative, original, and independent

The presentation of each skill is complemented by the appropriate skill tasks. The internalization of newly
introduced language takes place, as mentioned before, by an equalization of controlled and freer activities, that is,
the students should first practice the target structure in more controlled activities and then proceed to another stage
where they must apply what they have just learnt to talk about the things in real life. In addition, the target structures
organized in a recursive manner, in that, they are repeated in each level of the series with the aim of rectifying
mistakes in the learners’ interlanguage, thus establishing the target structures.

Teachers were mostly in harmony that the activities in the four textbooks can be easily substituted and modified.
With regard to the Iranian context of use, some activities in Pacesetter series fall short of expectation and ultimately
need to be modified or excluded. Fortunately, there is a great chance of modification and substitution of some
activities with those that are deemed more productive by Iranian teachers.

Table 4. Descriptive statistics for Activities sub-sections

N minimum Maximum Mean Standard

Activities1 64 3.00 5.00 4.14 .72

Activities2 64 3.00 5.00 4.19 .74

Activities3 64 3.00 5.00 4.47 .67

Activities4 64 3.00 5.00 4.00 .83

Activities5 64 2.00 5.00 4.00 .83

Activities6 64 3.00 5.00 4.28 .71

Activities7 64 2.00 5.00 4.19 .74

Valid N (listwise) 64

3.4 Skills

As shown in Table 1, the mean score and standard deviation of skills are 3.95 and 0.26, respectively that shows
teachers had the same view towards the presentation of skills in the textbooks. This section focuses on tapping the
raters’ opinions as to whether the textbooks under study take into account those skills that the teachers and the
learners need the most, whether these materials equalize the inclusion of the four skills, whether they pay attention

Page 7 English Language Teaching Vol. 5, No. 7; July 2012

ISSN 1916-4742 E-ISSN 1916-4750 70

to the sub-skills, whether they provide occasions for the practicing of natural pronunciation, and finally, whether the
series centers an integration of the four skills (see Table 5).

It has been perceived now and then that the young learners at language institutes are virtually willing to possess
some degree of speaking ability upon the completion of two or three courses. In other words, they take their pride
from being able to orally communicate in English. In addition, the teachers might be eager to accept the superior
role of the speaking skill over the others since it might aid them to maintain the dominant language of the class, that
is, the second language. To this end they may also need to take advantage of the opportunities offered in the
textbook to promote this skill among the learners and to assist learners to gain the ultimate satisfaction by using the
language to speak. Nevertheless, a close examination of the units in each textbook and the findings from the raters
(M=3.8, SD=1.03) revealed that heavier weight is attached to listening, reading, and writing at the expense of
speaking. In other words, activities centering speaking might seem to be insufficient in number (see Table 5). The
problem can be remedied through designing proper substitutable and supplementary exercises that tap the speaking

As the result shows in Table 5, there is a variance in responses to balance of 4 skills in this series. One reason could
be attributed to the importance placed on writing, listening, and reading. A balanced integration of the four skills is
one of the authors’ proposed testaments to support the textbook’s communicative methodology and underlying
theoretical grounds. Nevertheless as stated earlier, the provision of the tasks centering speaking skills might be less
than those incorporating other skills.

Moreover, grammar and vocabulary have been taken into account in all of the skills and in fact the skill-based
activities of the textbooks seem to revolve around these two linguistic elements. In the two initial levels the
skill-based activities assess the learners’ comprehension and production of simple bits of the language. However, as
the grammar and vocabulary of the textbooks become more complicated, the book offers more challenging activities
with respect to each skill.

The series, on the whole, gives value to the practice of natural pronunciation. In each textbook, the ‘Useful English’
section is designed to provide patterns of natural stress and intonation. The ‘Pronunciation’ section is also an activity
designed for this purpose. Moreover, the listen-and-repeat drills provide a chance for the rehearsal of each sound.

Pacesetter series contains exercises that integrate the four skills as in Pacesetter starter (page 43): “Read the
description of the drink and make a drink for the competition. From the box, choose the things you want in your
drink”, or the following example borrowed from Pacesetter pre-intermediate (page 72): “There is something very
unusual about three of these vegetables. Listen and complete the chart.”

Table 5. Descriptive statistics for Skills sub-sections

N minimum Maximum Mean Standard

Skills1 64 2.00 5.00 3.80 1.03

Skills2 64 2.00 5.00 3.80 .928

Skills3 64 3.00 5.00 4.00 .70

Skills4 64 1.00 5.00 4.00 1.18

Skills5 64 3.00 5.00 4.19 .51

Valid N (listwise) 64

3.5 Language Type

The mean score and standard deviation of language types are 4.24 and 0.12, respectively (see Table 1).The results
show that most teachers were satisfied with the type of language employed in the series. The Language type
component encompasses six items(see Table 6) that largely evaluate the view of the raters on the authenticity of the
textbook, whether the language of the textbook is at the right level for the intended learners, whether the progression
of the grammatical points and vocabulary items are appropriate, whether the grammatical points are presented in
conjugation with brief and easy examples, whether the functions presented in the textbooks typify those that the
teachers and the learners will probably use, and finally, whether the language of the textbooks puts forth a variety of
registers and accents.

Page 11 English Language Teaching Vol. 5, No. 7; July 2012

ISSN 1916-4742 E-ISSN 1916-4750 74

of its appropriateness and suitability in Iran as EFL educational setting and to spot the strengths and weaknesses of
Pacesetter series in an Iranian EFL context. The result revealed a striking number of benefits in applying the
Pacesetter series; however, it suffers a few numbers of shortcomings. It is worth mentioning that the category which
the EFL teachers were the most satisfied with is practical considerations and the category which EFL teachers were
the least satisfied with is skills of the book. With respect to the inadequacies of the series pointed out by this survey,
language teachers should take responsibility and provide the opportunity for the learners to remedy the problems
with substituting more culture-bound activities, to supplement tasks revolving around the speaking skills, and to
offer natural examples of non-native accents through the use of authentic materials. In conclusion, language teachers
should assume responsibility for compensating any deficiencies of any certain textbook since no textbook is perfect.


Cunningsworth, A. (1995). Choosing your coursebook. Oxford, UK: Heienemann.

Dominguez, L. M. (2003). Gender textbook evaluation. MA thesis, Centre for English Language Studies, University
of Birmanham. Retrieved from

Ellis, R. (1997). SLA research and language teaching. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Guarentio, W., & Morley, J. (2001). Text and task authenticity in the EFL classroom. ELT Journal, 55(4), 347-359.

Kayapinar, U. (2009). Coursebook evaluation by English teachers. Inonu University Journal of the Faculty of
Education, 10(1), 69-78.

Litz, D. R. A. (2005). Textbook evaluation and ELT management: A South Korean case study (Doctoral Desertaion).
Retrieved from

McDonough, J., & Shaw, C. (2003). Materials and methods in ELT: A teacher’s guide. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Ranalli, J. C. (2002). An evaluation of New Headway Upper-Intermediate. University of Birmingham. Retrieved from

Raseks, A. E., Esmae’li, S., Ghavamnia, M., & Rajabi, S. (2010). Don’t judge a textbook by its cover: Textbook
evaluation in the EFL settings. The Journal of International Social Research, 3(14). 448-461.

Riazi, A. M., & Mosallanejad, N. (2010). Evaluation of learning objective in Iranian high school and pre-university
English textbook using Bloom’s taxonomy. TESL-EJ, 13(4), 1-14.

Richards, J. C. (2006). Communicative language teaching today. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Sahragard, R., & Rahimi, A., & Zaremoayeddi, I. (2008). An in-depth evaluation of interchange series (third edition).
Porta Linguarum, 12(1), 37-54.

Strange, D., & Hall, D. (2005). Pacesetter series. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Page 12 English Language Teaching Vol. 5, No. 7; July 2012

Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education 75

An Analysis of English Business Letters from the Perspective of
Interpersonal Function

Bo Xu1
1 School of Foreign Languages, Leshan Normal University, China

Correspondence: Bo Xu, School of Foreign Languages, Leshan Normal University, Binhe Road 778#, Shizhong
District, Leshan, Sichuan Province, China. Tel: 86-0833-2185269. E-mail: [email protected]

Received: March 15, 2012 Accepted: March 28, 2012 Online Published: July 1, 2012

doi:10.5539/elt.v5n7p75 URL:


The Purpose of the present study is to find out the features of English business letters. Halliday’s systemic functional
linguistics is used as the theoretical framework, mainly, interpersonal fucntion. The English business letter (EBL) is
an important written text used for international business communication and it has its own features of text. This
paper explores the interpersonal function of EBL in terms of mood, modality, interaction and negotiation and finds
that EBL has its unique interpersonal features.

Keywords: English Business Letter, interpersonal function, mood, modality

1. Introduction

Communication has always been highly regarded in commercial circles. In line with the means of communication,
business communication can be generally divided into two types: oral communication and written communication.
Indeed, written business communication by means of business letters plays a very vital role in establishing and
maintaining business relationships both within a firm and with external contacts.

Nowadays English business letter Texts (EBLTs) are indispensible in international trade. A growing number of
people use EBLTs in business transaction. Universities and colleges in China offer the course of EBLTs writing to
train students’ EBL writing skill. To master the interpersonal features of EBLT is very beneficial for those who learn
or use EBLTs.

The Purpose of the current paper is to find out the unique features of English business letters from the perspecitve of
interpersonal function. Halliday’s Systemic Functional Linguistics is employed as the theoretical framework, mainly,
interpersonal function (Halliday, 2000). In the paper, the qualitative analysis is the major research method adopted
for the study with a quantitative analysis as a supplement.

The English business letter (EBL) is an important written text used for international business communication and it
has its own features of text (Chen Dongchun, 2003). Based on the core theory of Systemic Functional Linguistics,
i.e. interpersonal function, the paper makes a interpersonal function analysis of the features of English Business
Letter Text (EBLT). EBLTs have the salient feature of courtesy and consideration. In this paper, only body part of
EBLT is analyzed in terms of mood, modality, interaction and negotiation. The corpora of the paper are composed of
nine types of English business letter which are most frequently used in business transaction (16 EBLs are omitted).
The corpora of the paper are selected from EBL textbooks both at home and abroad.

2. Literature Review

Many scholars both at home and abroad have conducted researches on English business letters. In China, Wang
Xinguo (1997), Li Xuansong (1997), Chen Dongchun (2003), Li Ming (2004), Xu Ju (2004) and Li Junru (2006)
conduct researches on EBLTs from the perspectives of linguistic features, textual structure, stylistic characteristics
and genre analysis. Liu Jianfu (2004) explores one of the most important functions of language: phatic communion.
He Wei & Pang Yunlin make a study of 30 English business letters communicating bad news, in order to reveal the
linguistic devices realizing the interpersonal function (He Wei & Pang Yunlin, 2008).

Gimenez (2000) investigates whether the spoken nature of e-mail messages has already started to affect business
written communication. He makes an analysis in respect of the register and context of the language and at the style
used in commercial electronic mail. Leila Barbara et al do a survey of how English is used for various
communication purposes in the Brazilian business setting, namely, different types of business organizations

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